Monday, September 1, 2014

Crayon Art Sun Catcher #homeschooling

Monday came and we started our first day of homeschool for Isabella's second grade year.  I have to admit that this is the first year in almost 10 years of homeschooling that I felt a bit unprepared.  Call it experience or crazy but I felt that it would all fall into place, and it did.

I started buying this years school books in May and every month I added a new subject and purchased the supplies.  I had everything I just did not get around to creating a schedule until the night before. I didn't make a single copy this year.  Last year I copied and copied and then added a few more copies.

In fact I over copied and wasted a lot of paper.  This year I am not going to do that.  I have been copying the workbooks to save for the next round of homeschooling (remember we had another kidlet so I will be homeschooling well into my 60's) but I decided that the space gap between the two kids is too big and I will buy new books.  Heck, by then everything may be online.

The night before I sat down and went over the schedule with Cory.  I am excited for this new year.  We are introducing several new subjects that I think Isabella will find fun, exciting and challenging.  The new subjects are French, Cursive, and Latin/Greek Root Words.  The subjects we already do are: English, Math, History, Geography, Art, Reading, Spelling, Phonics, Health, Science and PE (she does 7 hours a week of gymnastics).  She also takes piano and a theater class.  We are planning a trip to London and France next spring.  We are learning French as a family.

We are busy!  Very very busy and she is socially involved in a variety of events throughout the year. We schedule as many field trips as possible because I believe learning is best done with a lot of hands on experiences and visits to related sites.  We live in a wonderful metropolitan area filled with historical sights, history museums, zoos, art museums, and theater venues.

By the end of the school year we are ready for our summer to be free--but we are not to that point yet--we just started.

I thought I would spend some time this year talking about our homeschool experience on my blog.  I run into a lot of people that have questions and I hopefully can answer some of those questions through the comments section. I also want to share some of our projects, what our days look like and hopefully inspire some future homeschooling familys.

At the end of July I went through all of Isabella's crayons.  I actually read every color and kept two of each color and bagged up the rest.  I found that at the end of the year we were stuck with a lot of the same colors and all the "good" colors were gone.  I still don't know what happened to the red crayons--LOL  She must use this color the most.

I searched on Pinterest for some uses for the used crayons.  I also thought about donating them to a preschool for some of their art projects.  In the end we decided to make our Sun Catcher.  It was easy and fun to make.  The messy part was the crayon shavings but I put a towel under the wax paper and this caught all of the stragglers.   I have a Pinterest board that I post most of our Homeschooling worksheets, project ideas and future ideas on.  Here is the link if you are interested in seeing which sites I use to get free sources for our curriculum.

This project does require adult supervision for two things: the ironing and the sewing on a machine. The rows of cut wax paper art can be tied together by using a hole punch and fishing line/string if you do not own a sewing machine.

Along with making the sun catcher we started our history study with the Roman Empire.  Isabella is fascinated by this time in history.  We went to the Renaissance festival as well.  The combination of these two events has inspired a lot of free thinking.  She made a laurel wreath and wanted to become a Garden Goddess or Fairy.  She made her own bow and arrows.

I love the creative process that homeschooling affords our family.  We are constantly looking things up, asking questions, researching and learning.  All summer we are learning but during school we get down to specifics and dig a little deeper.

Our school year is off to a great start!

Sun Catcher Project

You will need:

broken/extra crayons
wax paper
cheese grater
ironing board
sewing machine
12 inch stick/dowel or drift wood

Pictures for instructions are below.

1.  Turn iron to high heat.  Lay a towel on table or over ironing board.  You want to protect your board from melted crayon.

2.  Tear a piece of wax paper about 20 inches long and fold in half.  Open the wax paper and start to grate the crayon on the side laying closest to the towel or ironing board.  See pictures to see how much to grate.  The more you grate the thicker the sun catcher will be.  Thick pieces do not melt easily. When you have finished grating crayons gently refold the wax paper over the top.

3. Lay a thin towel on top of the folded wax paper. There are two ways to heat the crayon shavings.  1) is to "iron" back and forth.  This will BLEND the colors.  2) press down and wait a few seconds, lift, and set down again.  Repeat until the crayon is melted.

4.  Remove iron and towel to make sure the wax has melted.  It should be cool.  Set aside and make 3 more strips.  Use any color combinations that work best with your project.

5.  Cut the wax papers into any shape you want.  We used as much of the paper as possible.  Stack the cut pieces into three stacks.  If you are sewing this project, set your stitch link to medium (don't do it too small or you will cut the pieces in half) and sew the pieces together. I left about an inch in between each piece.  If you do not sew the project then you will need a small hole punch and some string to link each piece together.  (sewing is very easy)

6.  Tie the string to the top of the drift

wood so that you can hang it in your window.  Add three rows of sun catcher crayon shapes.

Written by Sherron Watson

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Antipasto Skewers #SundaySupper

Our Sunday Supper team has you covered when it comes to Platter Food.  When I think of platter food I think party, food, family and friends.

A celebration.

A gathering.

Time together.

Whether your next gathering is small or large, in home or away, fancy or casual; our list of platter food dishes will give you a ton of great ideas, suggestions and mouth watering recipes to make it easy for finding the perfect platter and party food.

A few weeks ago we were invited to a birthday party for our neighbor's little girl.  She had a swimming party at her grandparent's home and wanted CRABS.  Not just any crabs but Maryland Blue Crabs.  We were treated with a bushel of fresh steamed crabs.  In Maryland, this is the PERFECT platter food.   

Along with the crabs we were served an assortment of finger foods and beautiful platter dishes.  I didn't want to come empty handed and brought these Antipasto Skewers.   Antipasto means "before the meal", an appetizer.  We were treated to deviled eggs and a 7 layer Mexican Dip.

For my skewers I chose to include some of our favorite antipasto items.  I love the cipollini onions that are marinated in a sweet and tangy marinade, the mushrooms that are tart and spicy with italian dressing and my all time favorite, artichoke hearts. I planned on 20 skewers so I bought enough of each of these three items to add 6 or 7 to one-third of the skewers.  This gave some variety to the skewers so they were not all the same.  (see top picture)  To this I added some salami, mozzarella balls, tomatoes, olives and italian chicken sausage.

I served the dish with my favorite pesto sauce.

We all had a great time, our bellies were filled and wonderful memories were made.

Antipasto Skewers
Makes about 20 skewers

3 large Italian chicken Sausages, cooked and sliced into 1/4 thick pieces
1 container of small round mozzarella balls (they had about 23 in one container)
20 slices of your favorite salami
20 small cherry tomatoes
20 green olives
20 black olives
6-7 Cipollini onions (Olive Bar at Whole Foods)
6-7 marinated mushrooms  (Olive Bar at Whole Foods)
6-7 marinated artichoke hearts  (Olive Bar at Whole Foods)
Dressing or dipping sauce is optional

20 skewers--Mine were 10 inch wooded skewers, if you go larger, then you will need more ingredients

1.  Gather ingredients and skewers.  Find a large platter to add skewers to.

2.  Add ingredients to skewers in any order. Stack skewers on platter.  I alternated the rows so that they would stack evenly otherwise your tower of skewers will lean to one side.

3.  When done, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

It’s time for party food! Check out all these recipes for tantalizing trays you can make for your next celebration:

Savory Bites:
Antipasto Skewers by Simply Gourmet
Bite-Sized Meatballs by MealDiva
BLT Bites by The Life and Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybunch
BLT Canapes by Peaceful Cooking
BLT Crostini with Basil Mayonnaise by Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen
Blueberry Jam and Goat Cheese Crostini by Casa de Crews
Cajun Style Deviled Eggs by Peanut Better and Peppers
Charcuterie Board by Family Foodie
Cheese-Filled Apple Rounds by eating in instead
Coquilles St. Jacques by Nosh My Way
Crudites Tray with Copycat Hidden Valley Ranch Dip by Hot Momma’s Kitchen Chaos
Crunchy Tuna Salad Boats by A Mama, Baby & Shar-pei in the Kitchen
Cucumber Sandwiches by Momma’s Meals
Feta Zucchini Bites by Curious Cuisiniere
Gluten Free Thai Soup Shooters by Gluten Free Crumbley
Goat Cheese Stuffed Figs by Eat, Drink and be Tracy
Heirloom Caprese Salad by Shockingly Delicious
JalapeƱo Mac ‘n Cheese Bites by The Wimpy Vegetarian
Mostarda di Frutta by Rhubarb and Honey
Pimento Cheese Stuffed Peppers by Magnolia Days
Ploughman’s Platter for a Party by The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
Puff Pastry Cheese Sticks by Basic N Delicious
Rye Party Puffs by Kudos Kitchen by Renee
Southwestern Turkey Sliders by The Texan New Yorker
Spinach and Mushroom Pizza Bites by The Dinner-Mom
The Modern Relish Tray by An Appealing Plan
Tomato and Brie Bruschetta by Jane’s Adventures in Dinner
Tomato Basil Soup Shooters by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
Zucchini and Summer Squash Crostini by Hip Foodie Mom

Sweet Treats:
Alice in Wonderland Sugar Cookies by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
Baked Lemon Glazed Mini Donuts by Killer Bunnies
Chocolate Oreo Pocky Cupcakes, Cake, and Morello Cherry Buttercream by NinjaBaking
French Silk Shooters by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
German Chocolate Brownies by Wallflour Girl
Mini Banana Nutella Cheesecake Parfaits (#glutenfree option) by Cupcakes & Kale Chips
Raspberry Fools by The Foodie Army Wife
Strawberry Shortcake Dessert Shooters by The Redhead Baker
Vegan Caramel Truffles by What Smells So Good?
White Chocolate PB & Banana Bites by Take A Bite Out of Boca
Witchy Chocolate Mousse with Culinary Fairy Dust by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Sunday Supper Movement

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Written by Sherron Watson

Friday, August 29, 2014

What's in my Shopping Cart? #2

What's in my Shopping Cart is a way for you to peek inside my grocery shopping experience. My first published post in this series can be found HERE.

My final bill for this shopping trip:  $242.00  I have offered a few suggestions at the end of this post of how I cut corners when grocer shopping.

You may notice that it was a bit less than my projected $300 dollars that I normally budget.  The reason is we bought only two meat items.  I mentioned in my earlier post that we don't eat a lot of meat.  The meat that I bought at the beginning of the month has lasted us into this shopping excursion.

I spent the extra money that I saved on a few bulk items from Amazon: honey, maple syrup, gluten free soy sauce and a new Immersion Blender for the kitchen.  My hand mixer died.  These things are not pictured.

If we don't eat a lot of meat then what do we eat? Let me use the picture above to help you understand where the "main dish" would come from for our dinners in the form of vegetable dishes.

Spaghetti Squash--We love squash and this is a great way to use up our tomatoes from the garden and make a fresh tomato sauce to serve over the "noodles".  In addition to this I would serve rice for the kids (starch) along with a bowl of pitted cherries.

Portobella Mushrooms--I am in love with these.  I add some olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder and then grill them on the outside BBQ.  Amazing flavor, hearty "main course".  I would serve the mushrooms with sauteed spinach (hidden under the mushrooms), steamed carrots and marinated olives.

Napa Cabbage--This will be made into a vegetable stir fry using rice noodles or rice.

Basil Leaves--How can basil be the main course?  We love it on everything, including salads and pasta. I use my homemade pesto as the dressing for a dinner salad.  I will use a variety of the vegetables that you see and make a large salad for our family.  I still have lettuce from our last trip (not pictured).  If I have chicken or shrimp left over in the refrigerator I will also add this to the salad.  We eat a lot of salads for dinner.

Side dishes that I will make with some of the above ingredients include: Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad, Broccoli Salad,  lots of steamed carrots, sauteed zucchini dishes, and smoothies for our breakfast meals. We have one smoothie every day, including Finnley.

Juice is an interesting purchase for us.  My son is the only one that drinks it.  No one in my family, besides him, can tolerate orange juice or most juices.  He drinks one small glass every morning.  I don't buy juice because of the high sugar content.  We would rather drink smoothies filled with more vegetables and lots of water.

My kids eat a small amount of dairy.  I try to buy raw cheddar cheese for them to use.  They still love "orange cheese". I buy a few blocks each month for them to have on sandwiches, nachos or quesadillas.   They are kids and the color thing is a big deal.  Isabella is almost broken of the, "I need orange cheese".

Lunch meat is hard for us because I can't have nitrates.  We buy lunch meat without nitrates and nitrites but it is expensive.  I have decided to start buying whole hams and turkey breast roast and making our own.  I bought a meat slicer a few months ago and this allows me to cut all of our salami's, hams and turkey.  I bought the 2 pound turkey roast you see in the picture for $20.00.  It saves me about $15.00 dollars to make it myself.  I have been paying $16.00 per pound for lunch meat.

Eggs are a huge part of our diets.  We eat them daily in a variety of ways: omelets, scrambled, fried, hard boiled, and of course, for baking purposes.  If I can buy them from my local friend or the Farmer's Market I will, but for this week I needed to buy them from the store.

Frozen fruit is purchased once a month for our smoothies.  We didn't buy meat this trip so I knew that I would be well within my budget and picked up our frozen fruit for the month.

Compared to most families we do not spend a great deal of money on packaged food.  I can't figure out yet how we would not spend anything.  I have kids and they need lunches and they are not restricted in their diets and they want easy foods.  I try to have a few things on hand that they can "snack" on. Again,  my kids are not huge snackers and I believe this is because they eat meals made from scratch using fresh, whole ingredients.

Finnley has been a challenge to feed when we are out and about for the day.  I try to make all her baby food but for outings I do buy the Ella and Plum bags of food.  They are easy and mess free. Graham crackers, gluten free pretzels and cereal are just a few of the finger "crunchy" foods that we have tried for her when she needs a snack.  We tried the cereal that you see in the picture and it didn't work out too well.  They don't dissolve easily in her mouth.  Oh well, it was worth a shot.

Our kids love pretzels and I usually buy the cases of gluten free pretzels from Amazon but on this trip I needed a few things for my big kids to take to school. I bought a few of the bags you see in the above picture.

Let me know what you think. Is this a helpful update for you? What would you like to see in these post?  I try not to get too specific with brands in the post, but if you have questions then leave them below and I can try to answer them.

A few suggestions I use when I am trying to cut corners with my food budget:

1.  Buy in bulk.  I use Amazon Prime to save on shipping and for speedy delivery.  (this is not a paid post.) I really do use them A LOT.

2.  Allow extra money in your budget to buy items when they go on sale for future use.

3.  Shop with a list.  The days I go shopping without my list I usually spend more money then I had planned.

4.  Shop the perimeter of the store. I know you hear this frequently but it's true.  Everything in the center is packaged, canned or bagged.  We try to avoid the center aisles as much as possible.

5.  Eat more vegetable driven dishes.  Meat is expensive, especially organic grass-fed meat.  By eating less meat we have reduced our monthly food expense by about $200 dollars.

Written by Sherron Watson

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Honey Sesame Chicken #sponsored

Our summer is coming to an end and with that thought, I am already thinking about fall, back to school and our busy schedules. It is true that I homeschool  our kids and our time is a bit more flexible but I find that with more open time also brings more scheduled activities.  Isabella wants to be on the go every single day.  I am already tired thinking about September and October.

What brings me comfort during this busy time is knowing that I can prepare some healthy meals at home that feed my family and keep us out of the lines for fast food.  Chinese Food is something that I have not been able to enjoy for a few years because of the ingredients that are used. I have an intolerance for soy, msg and wheat products (noodles) and most pre-packaged foods (sauces and dressings).  I have missed the sweet and spicy flavors of some of my favorite dishes.  

To bring some of the "fast food" in to our home so that my family feels that they are not being deprived of the "finer things" I have been experimenting with a variety of dishes.  Honey Sesame Chicken is one such dish that was easy for me to convert because I could easily replace the sauce ingredients with a few gluten free/paleo cupboard items that I keep on hand.  The recipe I decided to use called for chicken breast.

I am in the habit of buying chicken thighs.   For this recipe I decided to follow the suggestions for white chicken meat and purchased Tyson® Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast.  I found that each piece of breast meat is hand-trimmed for convenience to save time and effort in my meal preparation.  It is nice when I am in a hurry to have the meat ready to cut and use in my recipe.

Tyson Fresh Chicken is a brand that I use in place of my locally sourced meat when I am unable to get to my farmer to restock my refrigerator or freezer. They are a company made up of real people who have been in the business for 75 years.  Their products are all natural* with no added hormones or steroids**.   Did you know that they provide the chicks and feed to local farmers throughout the country?  In fact, more than 4000 farmers throughout the US help Tyson Foods provide chickens to our local market places by using their own farms to raise them in. 

As an added bonus, Tyson Foods also carries a line of gluten free pre-made items to be used when your family is on the go.  This recipe when made with arrowroot starch and coconut aminos is Paleo; when made with cornstarch and gluten free soy sauce it is gluten free.

My Honey Sesame Chicken recipe turned out delicious and my family asked for seconds.  I can't wait to make this again and next time trying the Tyson Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs in place of the white meat.

Honey Sesame Chicken 
Makes enough for 4

1 1/2 pounds Tyson Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, cubed into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup arrowroot starch or corn starch
3 tablespoon honey
1/4  teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
3 tablespoons coconut oil, for frying

Honey Sesame Sauce:
We like extra sauce, so I double this recipe for my family.

2 tablespoons soy sauce, gluten free soy sauce or coconut aminos
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon arrowroot starch or corn starch
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (garnish)
2 green onions, sliced thin (garnish)

1.  Combine the first 8 ingredients for the Honey Sesame Sauce in a small bowl.  Whisk to blend.
Set aside until all of the chicken is cooked through.

2.  Combine the chicken pieces, arrowroot starch, honey, salt and pepper in a medium size bowl. Stir to coat each chicken piece.

3.  Heat oil in a skillet, add chicken pieces and cook until each side is golden brown. (See picture below.) Transfer chicken pieces to a wire rack until all chicken is prepared.

4.  When chicken is done cooking, transfer sauce to a small sauce pan. Heat sauce until it begins to boil, stirring often. Remove from heat when the sauce begins to thicken.  

5.  Add the chicken to a medium bowl and add sauce.  Fold chicken and sauce to coat each piece.  Add sesame seeds and green onions for a garnish.

6.  Serve with rice.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Note: Chicken must be cooked to an internal temperature of 170 degrees for boneless products and 180 degrees for bone in chicken products.

Written by Sherron Watson

Please share in the comments below your favorite "back to school" chicken dish.  I am always on the lookout for new recipes to feed my hungry family. Plus if you leave a comment you will be entered to win a gift basket full of kitchen gadgets!

For more delicious recipes visit

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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.
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Be sure to visit the Tyson Fresh Chicken brand page on where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

*Minimally processed. No artificial ingredients. 
**Federal regulations prohibit the use of added hormones or steroids in chicken.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pineapple and Turkey Curry #glutenfree

Ground turkey has become our new best friend.  I have switched to using more ground turkey and less ground beef.  I do this when I don't have access to grass-fed beef in my freezer or it is not on sale at the grocery store.  It is more cost effective on my budget and a good healthy choice for my family.

Our family would eat curry daily.   We do enjoy all types of curry.  My husband makes a great japanese style curry.  I lean more toward the Indian curry combinations.  I buy a good quality yellow curry powder for basic recipes like this one.   At H Mart (they sell Indian Food too) we are able to find a good selection of curry powders and paste in our area.  I wish I could find an Indian grocery store because I would love to add a few more ingredients to my cupboards with an Indian flair. H Mart only has a small aisle.

This particular dish of Pineapple and Turkey Curry reminds me of a dish I had in Hawaii when we were on vacation a few years ago.  We visited the pineapple farm on the island of Oahu.  Fresh pineapple from the islands was something I ate every day.  We found curry to be a popular dish is some of the local eateries around the islands.

I have added a few ingredients that we like in our curry's to make it our own.  Our garden is producing a lot of zucchini and this is a dish that features it well.  The green and yellow together just feel like summer.  This dish is gluten free.  To make it paleo don't add the peanuts, peanut butter or serve it over rice.  You could substitute the rice for cauliflower rice. You could use almond butter in place of the peanut butter.  A vegetarian conversion would be to eliminate the ground turkey and use a firm tofu instead.  Just dice the tofu into small pieces.  I use tofu often in our curry dishes for our vegetarian friends. 

Summer is almost over in our part of the states.  The Farmer's Almanac is forecasting a white and wet winter for the East.  BOO HOO!

This is a great dish to add to your family's dinner to remind you of summer and the warmth that the sunshine brings.


Pineapple and Turkey Curry
Makes 4 servings

1 pound of ground turkey
1/4 cup green onion, diced
1/2 cup zucchini, sliced and quartered
1/4 thinly sliced carrots
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2-3 tablespoons yellow curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 (13.5 oz) cans of coconut milk, full fat
1-2 teaspoons of honey, for sweetness (omit if using sweetened peanut butter)
1/2 (+/-) cup unsweetened peanut butter
1 cup diced pineapple (fresh or canned)
cilantro, optional garnish
whole peanuts, optional garnish

1.  In a large skillet melt coconut oil.  Add diced vegetables and cook for 4 minutes.  Add ground turkey and cook until meat is not pink.

2.  Add spices, curry powder, peanut butter and coconut milk.  Stir well and simmer for 12 minutes.

3.  Add fresh pineapple and serve immediately with rice.

NOTE:  This is a dish that you can adjust to your family's preferences.  Taste and cook as you go. My family likes our curry to be strong so I use the 3 tablespoons we also like the peanut butter so I might add more than the 1/2 cup.  Same with the honey, if you like it sweeter add a bit more.

Written by Sherron Watson

Monday, August 25, 2014

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

I go through a lot of pickles in our home. Every one of my kids enjoy sweet or dill pickles in our tuna fish, on hamburgers and on a good ham sandwich.  

I get tired of buying food that I can easily make at home and save a few hard earned dollars.  Pickles are not hard to make and they can be customized to how you and your family like them.  This recipe is a salty brine.  It has a good dill punch.  The juice is strong.  I make it with coconut palm sugar and this is why the brine is a brownish color.   I use coconut palm sugar in most of my recipes because it has a lower glycemic index than white table sugar.  If you would like to learn more about coconut sugar here is a LINK to some information.

I remember my grandmother always adding fresh pickles to her pickle jar. I was just a kid and never thought much about it until I made my own.  It worked.  I made a batch of the brine, added my pickles and let them get "dillified" and the kids started eating them down fast.  I bought about 3 more fat pickles, quartered them and added them to the brine.  The kids could tell the difference between the recently added pickle spears and the older ones.  It was easy.  I did this a few times and the brine held true each time.  The dill got a little sleepy and droopy but the flavor stayed the same.

This is a refrigerator recipe which means that this is not a processed pickle recipe.  It is not shelf stable. These pickles need to be refrigerated and will remain crisp. If processed with a hot water bath, then the pickles may become a bit softer.

I made two jars from this recipe.  I had a quart jar for the spears and I had a small pint jar for some slices.  This is just a personal juice and you can slice and dice your pickles however you wish: spears or slices.

Refrigerator Dill Pickles 

4 medium pickling cucumbers, cut into quarters

1 1/2 cups of white vinegar
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar or table sugar
2 cups of water
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon pickling spice
1 Tablespoon dill seed
3 cloves of garlic, left whole

1 cup of ice cubes
Handful of fresh dill

1.  Prepare cucumbers by slicing or cutting them into quarters.  Set aside.

2.  In a medium saucepan add white vinegar, salt, and water.  Bring to a boil and add pickling spice and dill seeds.  Remove from heat and add 1 cup of ice cubes.

3.  In quart jar add fresh dill, garlic pieces and pickles.  It will be crowded.  Once the ice cubes have melted and the brine is cool add the brine to the pickle jars.  The brine should be just covering the pickles.  They will produce some of their own water as the pickle.

4.  Store in refrigerator for 24 hours.  To be honest, we ate them after 4 hours but they are definitely better the next and the next and the next DAY.    If the brine is too salty for you, soak the pickle in water for 15 minutes and use.  We like a salty brine in our home.

5.  As mentioned above, when I get down to half a jar of pickles, I buy a few more and add them to the old brine.  It works great and saves a few pennies too.

Written by Sherron Watson

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Baked Rock Fish

I have lived in Maryland for three years and in this time I have baked, grilled and poached more whole fish than ever in my life time of cooking in the kitchen.

I love the experience that a whole fish brings to the table for my family. It touches on our senses: the smells are vibrant with the scent of the ocean, the visual beauty of a whole fish is exciting for the kids to see, the ability to touch and debone the fish at the table is once again, an exciting venture for our guest to enjoy and finally the ooohs and aaaahs that escape the mouths of friends and family are music to my home chef ears.

Rock Fish is a local fish that is caught in the Chesapeake Bay.  We eat a lot of this fish in the summer time.  I find the fish to be mild in flavor.  Not too firm to the touch.  A great fish to eat, use in fish tacos, or serve as individual steaks.

For this dish I layered the flavors to create the lemony sauce that I made from the melted butter, steamed green onion, lemon, capers and of course, any juice the Rock Fish provided during the baking time.

I have a few more whole fish recipes coming in the near future. I recently bought a whole Red Snapper and grilled that on our BBQ pit.

When I buy my whole fish I try to buy it as fresh as possible. In fact, if you know anyone that goes fishing, ask if they would sell you one, give you one or barter with you.  Living by the water we have fish markets that get fresh fish daily so this is easy for my family to find the freshest fish possible.  I usually have them remove the scales and gut the fish for me.  I will trim the gills when I get home.  I find this is the easiest for me but you are always welcome to do this task at home.

The great thing about fish is that there are an array of herbs and spices to choose from when baking or grilling your whole fish.  Each time I make a whole fish I mix and match what I have in the refrigerator.  Some herbs that I have used are dill, thyme, mint and flat parsley.  I like to use citrus. Sometimes its lemons, limes or grapefruit.  I like capers a lot and of course butter or ghee always make an appearance.

This is an easy recipe and the fish and sauce have rich flavors and make a lovely dinner.

Baked Rock Fish

1-2 pound rock fish
6 whole green onions
handful of fresh dill
2 lemons, juice from one and slices from the other
2 tablespoons capers
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons cream or coconut cream (from top of coconut milk can)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  In a baking dish (oval or rectangular-large enough to hold fish) lay your fish across dish.  My head and tail hung over abut 2 inches on each side and did not cause me any problems while baking.

3. Use a sharp knife and cut 4 slashes across fish. In each slash place a sliced lemon. Around the fish add the dill and green onion. Squeeze half a lemon over the top of the fish. Add the salt, pepper and garlic salt. Sprinkle the capers. Add the tablespoons of butter. (see picture) Finally add the water.

4. Place in oven uncovered and bake until fish is firm to the touch, 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and pour broth into a small sauce pan. Reduce the liquid for 5 minutes by bringing broth to a boil and simmering.

5.  When sauce has reduced add cream or coconut cream to the sauce.  Stir and taste.  Make any adjustments based on your taste buds.  

6.  I gently removed the fish from the bones to a small plate, added a few more capers and lemon slices.  Poured the sauce over the fish and served with steamed vegetables and rice.  The sauce can always be served on the side.

Written by Sherron Watson

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