Friday, May 30, 2014

Sifting Through Life: Why I Left The Church

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!

This is a two part post.  The first part was shared last week and can be read HERE.

This is my experience as a member of the LDS Church (mormon) who decided to leave.  I still have a great number of friends and family that are active members.  They are amazing individuals with strong testimonies of the doctrine and practices.   I respect a handful of people that I hold as dear friends who stood by my side during this time in my life.  They may not have agreed with my changed ideas but they always loved me without judgement.  They know who they are and I am eternally grateful for their friendship.

The answer to the question "why" is a simple one. I changed.  That is the bottom line.  I tried to be something that I no longer believed myself to be, a good mormon.  I could not, in good conscience and fairness to myself, god and my family, stay in an organization that I no longer felt connected to.  I wish the answer was something more profound but it is not.  Change is what influenced me to leave the church.  I could have stayed and tried to dance to the music that I no longer felt connected to, but in the end I could not betray myself, my family or the Being that continues to guide me.

Change is what led me to make the hardest decision I have ever had to make.   I knew with this one choice I could lose the people that mattered the most to me.  Our family has grown through this experience but not without some heartache attached to it. This was never our intention but it did happen.  Words have been exchanged in anger and frustration, judgements have been made.  My hope is that time will heal the hurt on both sides.

I can only speak for myself and express my own opinions in regards to the questions below.  I appreciate all types and forms of spirituality. I am not angry towards the church in any way.  I still have the missionaries over every week for treats and conversation.  I still have visiting teachers that have become great friends.  I think that our spiritual journey can be found with a variety of people, friends, conversations and expressed views when what we are looking for is joy, love and acceptance.   Discovering these feelings again, through the most familiar and unfamiliar places, has made this journey an adventure.

I have come to believe that spirituality is a very personal journey.  I also believe that organized religion is not for everyone.  I now have a clearer vision of who I am and in what image I was created.

I just am.

I want to be.

I will become.

I will try to answer some of the questions I get asked the most.  I know that this is a short list and there may be other questions and comments.  Feel free to leave those in the comments below.  I just ask that the comments be respectful.   We are all walking a different path and what works for one person may or may not work for another.

Were you offended? 

This is the first assumption made, mostly by those who are too afraid to ask us themselves, why we left. I was offended, not by the doctrine,  but by the people that lived a dualistic lifestyle.  I believed in a system that had worked for me in the past and was, at that time in my life, crumbling around me.  I felt like I was a caged animal.  Have you ever trapped a wild animal and watched its reaction to being confined?.  This is how I felt.  I began to melt down.  Emotionally and spiritually I was cracking at the seams.  I was finding it hard to trust and see people for the good they were doing.  We were all making mistakes and those mistakes were all that I could see.  I wish it was different but at the time it was not.

Did living in Utah contribute to you leaving the church?

I don't believe it did.  Our mistake was moving into an area that was predominately one voice.  There was not much diversity.  For the most part, we had the same foundation and belief system. With that being said, our interpretations of the gospel varied.  This created, at times, a hostile environment.   The same people who were our neighbors were also our co-workers, church friends, restaurant servers, mail carriers, police men, etc....  As a community we did everything together.

It was wonderful and confusing. As a group we could celebrate, come together as family but that same group could rip into your soul and leave you feeling worthless, judged and hurt.  People, myself included, are human.  We make mistakes.  Trying to see beyond the faults and humanness of people is a complicated matter in a community that thinks of themselves as righteous.  Someone is always judging.  It never stopped.

We judged and, in turn, were judged.   We played the game too.  We woke up one day and realized that we were becoming something that we did not like.  We did not like who we had become because it was not in teaching with what we had been taught.

Did you lose your faith? 

 I love this question.  We have been told so many times that we "just lost faith".   That we breathed in satan and our lives were taken over and that our faith was not strong enough, we were told that we were/are weak.

The reality of this is that we renewed our faith and realized that the church, the doctrine and people, were not in line with who we had become.  We were searching for something more personable.  We were seeking after spirituality.

The concept of organized religion was losing its appeal.  We felt like we were living a lie.  We no longer wanted to lie to ourselves and to the universe.

We never lost our faith.  If anything, it grew stronger the day we looked at our lives and ourselves and decided to be religious for the right reasons.

Are you worried about your kids salvation?

The day I stopped going to church I also kept my kids from going.  Why?  I won't mince words.  It was not a healthy place for them to be.  They were confused with the religion. People were not happy with my decision to not go anymore and they talked.  A LOT!  The things my kids tell me now makes me sad and brings me to tears.  Humans can be hurtful when they don't understand the full situation.

My kids have had a strong foundation.  We have raised them to think and believe for themselves.  I encourage them to ask questions and to question everything when it comes to religion.  As it stands now our two older kids are agnostic.  Isabella has the sweetest spirit and believes in God.  She has not been exposed to the concept of organized religion and probably won't until the choice is hers.

I don't worry about my kids spiritual journey because I believe that this is a personal and individual matter.  They have enough knowledge to seek after a path if that is what they want.  We will never hold them back or judge them for trying or finding something other than what we believe.

What about your husband?

It is true that I decided to leave first.  Cory's decision to leave the church was his own.  Let me repeat that because there are some deep speculation amongst family and friends that I made him leave.

Cory left the church on his own.  Of course we talked and discussed every decision that we made in regards to our future in the church.  I knew this is not what he signed up for when we married, at the time, 23 years ago.  I encourage him to keep attending if this was his desire.  I encouraged him to stay true to what he believed. I never asked him to leave.  NEVER.

Were politics involved?

Yes.  We became more empathetic with the world around us.  This changed the way we saw people, situations, economics and politics.  We became more and more liberal and this was not received well.   The rights of all people have become very important to our family.  Proposition 8 was hard to watch while living in Utah.  It did contribute to the process of us leaving the church.

Are you happier? 

Happiness is relative.  I was happy in the church and I am happy out of it.  I find myself happier with who I am today, more so, than when I was an active member.  I am more at peace.  I feel that I am honest with myself which allows me to be happier each day.

Are you going back? 

I never thought I would leave.  I don't know the answer to this question.  Right now my answer is no.  I don't care to be involved in any organized religion.  Time may change this feeling and if it does, then yes, I may find myself seeking out a church to attend.

Where does your faith stand now?  

Today my faith is my own.  It is not tied to any organization, to any schedule, to any group of people. It is not tied to a list of do's and don'ts.   My spiritual journey is evolving daily.  I am learning to listen to that small voice that guides me.   I continue to study and read things of a spiritual nature that allow me to grow daily.  I won't stop being faithful to a higher source but I will think long and hard before I find myself committed to a religious organization in the future. I never want to feel the pain and heartache I felt when I left 4 years ago.

I hope this answers some of the questions of why we left.  It is complicated, especially to those that have found comfort and spirituality inside a church that they love.  There was a time that I was angry, hurt and heartbroken because of how my family and I were treated.  I lost people that I thought were our friends.  I went through a very dark period trying to figure out what went wrong.  In retrospect, I now believe that this journey, I found myself confronted with,  taught me so much about myself, my family and the power of a Celestial Being.

I never thought I would find myself saying that I am glad I had this experience of leaving and discovering. Discovering who I am and finding what is really important to me.  My family will always be my first priority and if, I decide to return, it will be to an organization that accepts ALL members of my family and not just a few.  Looking back I know that I could not have done it without the support of my faith in a higher power, the support and loving care of my husband and kids.

I was told that we would never be happy if we left.  We were told that our souls would be lost forever and our family was sentenced to eternal damnation unless we returned.  We were told a lot of things that we just don't believe anymore and that are simply not true.  Fear is a terrible weapon that is used to hold people hostage to a supposedly greater life.  The church is not for everyone and the ideal of free agency needs to be practiced and not just preached from the pulpit.  There is no such thing as unconditional love if it is always given with conditions.  People have strong opinions and this is one subject that they have felt entitled to voice it loud and clear.  We have heard their words and listened to their advice.  Now it is time for them to let us live our life and stop trying to drag us back to something we no longer believe in.

I love this quote, "Not all those who wander are lost", a line from the poem All That is Gold Does Not Glitter, written by J. R. R. Tolkien for The Lord of the Rings.

We are not lost.  Our family is in a much better place emotionally, financially and spiritually. We are very happy.  Our lives are blessed beyond measure.  We see that our lives are inspired and protected by a higher source.  We recognize this and say thank you daily.  

Written by Sherron Watson

Thursday, May 29, 2014

3 Recipes using Gluten Free Toufayan Tortillas

One of the perks of writing a food blog is the occasional surprise box on my door step.  I have been welcomed home by a variety of fun-filled boxes that feature cheese, meat, potatoes, OXO products, figs, Udi's products and more.  

I was approached by Toufayan Bakeries to sample some of their products.  My name had been referred to them by a mutual friend (thanks Debra from Smith Bites) and I was thrilled to try out the tortillas.  I remember Debra sharing some pictures of using the tortillas and I was drooling.

These tortillas are AWESOME!  I put them to the test.  I deep fried them to make Cinnamon and Sugar Chips.  I buttered the outside and made Steak and Cheese Quesadillas AND Steak and Spinach Wraps.  I also used the Tomato flavored tortillas in a casserole with cheese, ground beef and red sauce (not pictured because we ate it faster than I could grab a plate to photograph--next time I guess).  I also froze a few bags and thawed them to room temperature.  The picture of the Spinach and Steak Wrap were the frozen wraps.  The process of freezing the wraps did not affect the quality, in my opinion.

I tried four flavors: Original, Spinach, Savory Tomato and Garden Vegetable.  Each one had great flavor and texture.  My family could not tell they were gluten-free because they rolled with ease and were not brittle.  This is a trait we find with some brands.

I like to make most of our food from scratch but there are times when we are out camping, at sporting events, or invited to a last minute get together with friends.  I don't always have time to whip up a batch of fresh gluten free tortillas.  In fact, I don't have a great recipe to make them from scratch.   For these reasons I will buy this brand in the future for quick meals.  

Eating the quesadilla was nice.  I was able to go to the refrigerator and put together a fast lunch and I like that idea.  I used left over london broil from the night before and some shredded cheese.  We try to eat as little processed (boxed or package) food as we can.  These tortillas have made the list and we will be buying more, freezing them and using them for simple and quick meals.

The recipes below can be used with any tortillas.  We eat gluten-free and so the recipes will have that specification listed but use what your family prefers.

Thank you Toufayan Bakeries for letting my family sample some of your gluten free products.

NOTE:  I was not paid to offer a review.  All opinions are my own.  I was sent 4 packages of wraps to try and review.  I decided on my own, to write a post about this product.  

Cinnamon and Sugar Tortilla Chips
Makes about 2 1/2 cups of chips

3 tortillas, cut into rectangles I used the Original Toufayan Gluten Free Tortillas
2 cups high heat oil for frying
1/4 sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

NOTE:  I did not specify the type of oil because you can use the oil you prefer for deep frying.  

1.  Bring oil to 375 degrees in a tall pot.  The oil will bubble so you want a pot that can handle the  rising oil.

2.  Add cut tortilla strips. Using a slotted spoon, push chips around in oil to make sure the tortillas are not sticking together. Fry until brown.  They cook very fast.

3.  Remove chips to a bowl and immediately toss with cinnamon and sugar.

4.  Serve  or store in airtight container.

Steak and Cheese Quesadilla

2 tortillas, I used Toufayan Original Gluten Free Tortillas
1/2 cup leftover steak, cubed small
1/2 cup shredded Fontina Fontal Cheese (sweet, creamy and smooth cheese)
butter, for pan frying

1.  Heat a large frying pan.

2.  Butter one side of each tortilla.

3.  Place one butter-side-down tortilla in hot pan.  Sprinkle with cheese and beef.  Add second tortilla, butter-side-up.

4.  Pan-fry each side until golden brown and cheese is melted.

Roast Beef and Spinach Wrap, pictured above

1 tortilla, I used Gluten Free Toufayan Spinach Tortillas
1 tablespoon soft cream cheese
12 small spinach leaves, uncooked
1 very thin slice of red onion
4 thin slices of roast beef
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
butter, for pan frying

1.  Spread cream cheese all over spinach wrap.

2.  Layer wrap with: roast beef, spinach leaves, sliced red onion and grated cheese.

3.  Start on one end and roll to the end.  Use a toothpick to secure the end.

4.  Butter both sides of wrap.  Heat frying pan.  Add wrap.  I used a small cast iron egg pan to add pressure to the wrap (kind of like a panini press).

5.  Pan fry each side.  Remove and cut in half.

Written by Sherron Watson

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

10 Things we Bring when Camping with Baby and Asian Style Drumsticks

When I first met Cory I camped four times in my life.  I remember vividly going camping with my Dad over a short weekend with my sisters.  I went once with our 5th grade class in California with Mr. Zimmerman.  The last two times were with my uncle, aunt and cousins.

My Mom loathed getting dirty or having us dirty in any shape or form.  Dirt was not something we were ever encouraged to play in or be around.  I can't say it bothered me because I didn't know, at the time, how much fun it was to get dirty and muddy.

26 years of marriage has allowed me plenty of time to get dirty, muddy and enjoy camping.  My kids have a love/hate relationship when it comes to camping.  They love the experience of being in camp, camp food, camp hikes, canoeing and Smore's.  What they don't enjoy is the process of setting up and breaking camp down.  There are times I don't like it too..LOL

I think we have a pretty good system camping. We have learned a lot along the way.  Last weekend we took Finnley on her second overnight camping trip.  Sleeping in our trailer was much better than a tent.  Our bed's soft mattress  is more comfortable than the hard ground to sleep on. Much of the noise from outside was silenced by the canvas walls.

I can't say I had a perfect night sleep but she is becoming more adjusted to the idea each time we take the family camping.  She is our only baby, so far, that has not adjusted to having her schedule disrupted.  My other three kids had no problem sleeping in strange places, at different hours and with odd noises.

During the day Finnley is a gem.  She goes with the flow.  We bring a few things along that help us to keep her busy and entertained.  These items also free up your hands when I am trying to unload the car, make dinner or set up the trailer.  I found that this variety of items keeps her happy too.  I have included a few other items that are a must for our "home-away-from-home" excursions.

Keep in mind that Finnley is 8 months old.  My list is designed for babies that are between 5 months and 1 year of age.  Take your babies age and abilities into consideration when packing the car full of baby equipment.

1.  Port-a-crib is a requirement for us.  If nothing else can fit in the car but this, we bring this.  It allows us to put her down, contain her without worry, keeps her off the dirt and provides a place for her to safely sleep.

2.  Stroller's are optional but with Finnley we are learning that she will fall asleep on a walk in her stroller and this provides us a place for her to nap.  We brought the small umbrella stroller the first time and I felt bad that she was all hunched over while napping.  This last trip we brought the big-kahuna with us and she was a happy camper.  We actually got a nap in..YAY!

3.  Table high chair is a new purchase and I love it. We had one with our older kids and thought we could live without it--we can't.  I came home after our first trip and ordered the one you see in the picture.  It was awesome and she loved eating at the table with the family.

4.  Backpack (not pictured) was another easy to pack item that came in handy on our hike.  The stroller can't always go into the woods or on the trails.  She was able to snuggle right in and take a nap while we walked around the park.  Can you tell naps are an important part of her day, and mine too.

5.  Bug spray and Sunscreen is a requirement in Maryland.  The ticks and mosquitos are relentless when we are camping.  I try to buy the safest products I can for our family.  Bug spray with Deet is a must.  Lyme disease is a big problem on the east coast.  We take extra precautions of not applying it to her skin, we apply it to our hands and wipe it on her clothes.  We remove her clothes before she sleeps and wash her skin.  Please do your own research and make the best call for your family.  This is what works for us and our pediatrician has approved this method.

6.  Bottles and food.  I keep a plastic tub with all of Finnley's kitchen items stored together.  This insures that everyone at camp knows exactly where her stuff is.  I keep her favorite crackers, teething cookies, formula, Ella food bags, spoons, bowls, bibs, bottles, bottle brush and formula in one dollar store bucket.  I know it sounds like a lot and now you can see why I try to keep it all together.  I bring enough fresh bottles to last the stay of the trip (1-2 days) OR I boil water and sterilize them at camp.  I do this on longer stays.

7.  Blankets and bedding are pretty simple.  I bring a fresh blanket for each day.  I have learned that the blankets can get really dirty from unexpected encounters with tire swings, canoe rides, hiking trails, baby barf (it happens), drool and smoke from the fire.

8.  Clothes.  Always pack more than you think you will need.  Plan on layering your babies clothes.  Even the hottest day can have a cool evening.  Or sitting by the fire can feel warm and then you walk away and the air is chilly-nilly-willy.  <--thats cold!  Water.  Oh the joy of the unexpected deluge of water that kids find, even babies.  Sippy cups have a tendency to make the front of them quite wet.  Then I have the bug spray issue.  Sleeping is another set of clothes.  Diapers that like to explode at the most inopportune times.  So, yeah--pack a few extra changes of clothes.

9.  Toys are not required but it sure is nice when they have something that is familiar to them to hold and play with.  We have even purchased a few new things as an added element of surprise.

10.  Patience and realistic expectations.  This one is for Mom and Dad.  Camping with babies is fun. It is also tiring.  I find it nice to camp with other families.  This allows for many helping hands to keep babies happy.  We have four kids with a wide gap in ages and so I know that Finnley and I will not be able to do everything that is planned.  I do my best but I stay flexible.

I hope this helps when you decide to go camping with your little guy or girlie.  We love taking our kids into the wilderness and introducing them to the sites and sounds.

If you have any other suggestions, please leave them in the comment section for everyone to read.  As our kids get older our needs change and sharing what we have learned helps all of us that love to camp.

I will say that camping with kids, in general, is a ton of fun but Mom's get tired real fast.  I know this about myself so when it comes to the meals I try to keep things simple.  REAL SIMPLE.

These drumsticks are a family favorite.  I make them at home the night before and let them marinate until I am ready to grill them in camp.  I bought a new grill to go with our new tent trailer (well, new to us).


Our friends own this model of grill and I am really glad we bought it.  It is made by Coleman.  I like the fact that I can change out the grill tops for a griddle and a burner top.  I bought the coffee percolator too.  Kids, mommies need their coffee in the morning.  I keep our meat in a small cooler separate from the other food items.  I find that the our main cooler is opened a bajillion times through out the day. By placing the meat in its own cooler I can guarantee that it stays cold the hold day.  This little red cooler does the trick. (see pictures below)

I use heavy duty freezer bags to store the marinating meat in.  Storage bags will work but they are a bit thinner.  I have also used storage containers but I like the bags because when I am done I can throw it away and not have to wash ONE. MORE. DISH.

I love my little food tents.  I bought these for $1.00 at the Dollar store a few years ago.  They are great for keeping bugs and little fingers out of the food until you are ready to devour your delicious meal. My kids are always extra hungry when we camp so I make extra food.

Asian Style Drumsticks

Makes 15-18 drumsticks, large family pack

1 large family pack chicken drumsticks
1 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce, use gluten free if you need too
1/4 cup Oyster Sauce
1-3 teaspoons chili garlic sauce (spicy)
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
1/2 cup chopped green onion

1.  Combine everything in a large freezer bag or container.

2.  Marinate overnight or longer.  I have let it sit for 24 hours in my cooler.

3.  Spray grill with your favorite nonstick spray.  Cook drumsticks until firm to the touch.  Every grill is different so cook times will vary.

4.  Store leftovers in cooler or refrigerator.

Written by Sherron Watson

Monday, May 26, 2014

Asian Style Spiral Salad with Chicken

I bought myself a new toy for the kitchen: a Spiralizer.  I can't stop using it.  I tell you it is freaking awesome!

My kids can't wait to use it too.  They  eat more vegetables.  Heck, I am eating more vegetables.

The best new vegetable we have learned to LOVE LOVE LOVE-- are yellow beets.

They are my favorite.  Way better for a beet virgin like myself than the red beet.  Sorry red beet! I do love marinated red beets just not raw red beets.  Yeah, say that fast 10X's.

Maybe I am crazy and there is not a difference in flavor, but in my mind, the yellow beet, taste better.  It is a bit sweeter and not so earthy.

Before I went gluten free and started reading labels,  we used to eat this salad that had cabbage and a bag of Top Ramen.  I sort of miss that salad.  I miss the crunchy noodles, the crispy cabbage and the seasoning  from the packet.

After I made this salad I asked Cory if it reminded him of anything we have had before and he brought up the Top Ramen salad.  I had the same thought.

For some reason the dressing, the crunchy almonds and the spiraly vegetables made us believe that we were eating a very similar salad to the one we loved from our early days of marriage.  And you know that was a long time ago-- wink..wink

I added chicken for some protein and to help fill us up for dinner.  We are trying, and failing miserably on some nights, to not snack late into the night.

I committed a while back to eating more salads and this is one salad that the whole family has asked for several times.  It is a great way to involve your kids in meal planning, get them to try new vegetables and get creative.  Use any vegetable you want.

If you do get a Spiralizer (this is not a paid post-heck-they don't even know I bought one) I would recommend saving the tails.  When you put the vegetable onto the spiralizer you push and crank with one hand and hold the bowl with the other. The vegetable is being pushed through a metal tube and cut at the same time.  You are left with an assortment of "tails".  I tossed them into a baggie and froze them for when I make a vegetable broth or chicken noodle soup next.

This is a fun salad.  It is simple, and yet, you can do so much with it to add that gourmet flair.  I threw some black sesame seeds into ours for fun.


Asian Style Spiral Salad

Makes 4 adult servings
Prep Time:  25 minutes
1 carrot, peeled
1 red or green apple
lemon juice (for apple)
1 yellow beet, peeled
1 zucchini, peel left on
4 large red radishes, peel left on
toasted almonds, optional
black sesame seeds, optional
cooked chicken pieces, optional
Meat is optional for this dish.  Chicken, beef or shrimp work well.  This is a great salad to use any leftover meat in the refrigerator from the night before, this is what we do.

Makes 1/4 cup 
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
2 tablespoons Mirin.  
Mirin is a japanese sweet cooking rice wine.  It can be found in the asian section of most grocery stores.

1.  Spiral all of the vegetables into a large bowl.

2.  Prepare a small bowl with 1 cup of cold water and juice from half a lemon.  Spiral the apple and add to the lemon water.  This will prevent the apple from turning brown.

3.  Combine the two dressing ingredients into a jar with a lid.  Shake.  Pour over salad and toss.
4.  Salad is best served immediately.  Everything is crunchy and crisp.   Add any optional ingredients and toss again.  Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator and will soften a bit as it sits in the dressing.

Written by Sherron Watson

Friday, May 23, 2014

Sifting Through Life: The Church and Tuna Salad

Recipe is at the end.  

Sifting Through Life segments are about my life.   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!

I get asked a lot,  why we left "the church".  This is a subject that I have not written about.  It was a painful process and a decision that was not made lightly.  I spent 23 years of my life dedicated to the church.  I served when asked and we gave where it was needed.

I don't like talking about religion on an open forum such as this.  So why am I opening myself up? Because I need to so that I can move on.  It just seems to be a story that keeps reappearing in my consciousness every time I sit down to write a post.  I will only write two post about this topic.  This one and the next Sifting Through Life.

I see events in my life all lined up in a row.  Each with a brightly colored door.  To help me process these events I have been reading a few books on how I can open these doors from my past and process the emotion and information.  Two books that I enjoyed reading are  The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer and the second book is, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.  The books discuss ways of dealing with and sharing stories.  We all have stories to tell from our past and present. We can't control how others will react or feel when some stories are told.  It is for this reason I haven't talked about this experience in my life.  

Writing about a variety of experiences has helped me process the emotional attachments behind the events .  I am learning that once an event is past we still hold on to the emotion, good or bad.  Writing allows me to share with others, with the hope, that I have learned something along the way that can be passed on to someone else.  I guess I feel that someone out there might need to hear this experience.

So here it goes--

Today I want to share the journey that I took when I turned 18 years old and decided to find "something" that would help me. Help me do what?  I am not sure other than I recognized in myself that a change needed to be made.  I felt a movement taking place with in my mind and soul,  almost against my will, pushing me towards an unsuspecting path of courage. I wasn't sure what I was looking for but in the end I found a church.

I was searching and desiring for a place to feel welcomed, loved and safe.  I wanted to find a group of like minded people, where together, we could change the world (remember I was 18--we all want to change the world at that age).  I wanted to change me.  A place to fit in.  I was eager to learn from others and teach anyone who would listen.

The summer of 1986, I graduated from high school.  My relationship with my father was broken.  Not because he did not love me, or vice versa, but simply because life is complicated when you have parents that are divorced.  Grown-up things happen that affect the kids and this was our situation.  My sisters and I were the product of a messy divorce.

When I turned 18,  I decided for myself,  that I would take the opportunity to go and stay with my Dad for two months.  It was scary approaching my Mom about this subject.  I did not want her to feel in any way that I was betraying her-- but,  I felt that I needed to do this.  I needed to see if I was anything like my Dad.  Did we laugh the same?  Did we like the same foods?  I needed to feel like I belonged.   I was seeking for anything that made me feel like I had a place that was solid footing in a past that was full of turmoil and pain.

The summer I graduated from high school I planned nothing.  I kept my calendar open just in case.  In case of what?  Maybe a trip.  It made the decision to visit my dad an easy one.  I had the time to go to Las Vegas, NV and get to know my Dad.  I was seeking a connection to someone  I could relate to.

To make a long story short, I met my step-brother while in Las Vegas. He came to relax and enjoy the pool.  It was nice having a friend to talk to.  Through the next month we talked religion and studied a lot of text.  We had a ton of questions and together we were able to work out the answers.  He returned to Salt Lake City with a goal in mind.   We kept in touch and I learned that he had made the decision to be baptized in the church.

I found myself returning home full of hope and excitement.  I looked up a friend who I knew was a member of this church.  She helped me to meet with the missionaries and I was baptized.  It all happened so fast.  The first day I went to church was the day after I was baptized.

I felt like a new person.  I was told all of my sins were forgiven.  I was happy with my decision to join the church. I was embraced with a church family that made me feel loved and secure.

So what went wrong?

18 years later I found myself having a thought, a feeling, a look into my future.  This thought happened during a time when I was completely happy.  I could not have asked for anymore joy in my life.  We lived on a farm, we had our two healthy kids, a husband with a great job, and for the first time in years, I lived by my family and we were getting along.

"Someday you will leave the church?", this was the thought that I tried to push from my mind.

5 years later--I did leave.


Let me think about how to put my thoughts into printed words and I will get back to you on this question.  It is a story full of emotion.  I will try to answer some of the most asked questions that I get from our friends and family.  It's not a simple response with one answer.

There has been a lot of speculation, some of it true and some of it is not, but I will clear the air next time I post a Sifting Through Life piece.

It is time to get this door open, rummaged through, and forgotten; so I can throw the key away forever.

Tuna Salad with Fresh Dill and Lemon Zest

Tuna salad is a dish that can be made with two ingredients: tuna and mayonnaise.  Or,  it can be dressed up, like this one.  The fresh dill and lemon zest add flavor, color and texture to a simple dish with a gourmet feel.

3 cans of tuna, drained
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup sweet pickles, chopped small
1/4 cup dill pickles, chopped small
1/4-1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
zest from one lemon
1/2-3/4 cup plain greek yogurt or mayonnaise
salt and pepper, to taste

NOTE:  Use as much or as little of the dill.  The pictured tuna salad was made with greek yogurt but I also have made it with mayonnaise.  Again, use as much or as little as you want.

1.  Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.

2.  Serve as a sandwich or with lettuce leaves (pictured) or crackers.

3.  Refrigerate all leftovers for up to 5 days.

Written by Sherron Watson

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Browned Butter Noodles

Everyone has their favorite dish and this is mine.

I love the combination of noodles, browned-butter and Mizithra cheese.

With this recipe you can use homemade noodles or packaged noodles.  Wheat noodles or gluten free noodles.  Long noodles or short noodles.

Browned-butter and Mizithra cheese work with most noodle types.  In fact, I have yet to meet a noodle I don't like drenched in browned-butter. Okay maybe drenched is a bit too much; but not really.

Making browned-butter is easy.  Take a cube of butter (salted or unsalted) and melt in a small sauce pan.  Keep your heat around medium.  You can go up to medium high if you are going to watch the butter.  Burned-butter is not our goal and if you don't watch it closely this is what you will have.  The melting and browning process takes about 7 minutes.  Every stove will be a bit different so the cooking time may vary.  

If you make it often, you will learn the stages:  melted, bubbly/ foamy, two distinct layers,and finally, browned specks at the bottom of the pan.

Use the browned-butter immediately or store the rest in the refrigerator.  It will form into a hard disk.  I usually break off with my fork a small amount and melt it in the microwave for individual lunch portions. If you are not going to use it immediately, I would suggest transferring it to a bowl.  Even with the heat turned off the butter will continue to brown.

Are you wondering why I shot this with chopsticks when it is clearly not an oriental dish?  Our family uses chopsticks for most meals.   In our drawer we have a spot for the normal utensils: forks, spoons and knives.  We also have a spot for chopsticks.  I think I might have a slight addiction to buying them too.

We go to HMart once a month and I always come home with a couple new pairs.  My latest pair are black and gold.  I haven't shown the kids yet because I want to surprise them with a fun meal first.

I wanted the picture to show how we eat our food.  I could have used a fork,  but why when chopsticks are a bit more fun and more true to how my family eats our dinners.

Serve with your favorite vegetable or side salad.

Another simply gourmet dish that will WOW your friends and family.

Browned Butter Noodles with Mizithra Cheese

1 batch of homemade noodles or prepared noodles/pasta, cooked and drained
1 stick of butter, soft
1 cup of Mizithra cheese, grated
salt, to taste

1.  Prepare noodles according to package directions.  Set aside.  If using homemade noodles then bring water to a rolling boil, add noodles, boil under done, drain and set aside.

2.  In a small sauce pan over medium heat melt butter.  Butter will start to foam and then  begin to form brown specks at the bottom of the pan.  Watch closely as not to burn the butter.  Stir until the aroma is nutty and the butter is a nice golden brown color.  Remove from heat.  See comments above.

3.  Serve noodles tossed in browned butter or have guest pour butter onto noodles themselves (I have done both).  Add cheese--lots of cheese.

4.  Serve immediately.  Store any leftover butter in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

Written by Sherron Watson

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Roasted Carrots with Ginger-Honey Sauce

Carrots are a family favorite.  My kids love three vegetables: carrots, corn and peas.  

These carrots are a bit borderline as a kid friendly side dish or so I thought.  

I always make my recipes a few times before they are posted on the blog.  The first time I made these I used those fancy carrots with the pretty green tops still attached.  They usually come in a bundle of about 8 carrots and range in color from a red-orange to a yam-yellow.  
I buy them because they are pretty. I like pretty food.

Let me say that I should have bought three bundles because the kids loved them. My kids enjoy the flavor of ginger, lemon and honey together; I felt confident they would like them but, then again, getting them to actually try "just one" can sometimes prove to be more challenging.

Not this time. They swooped right in and gobbled up every single pretty carrot.

So I made them again, and again (you know for recipe testing purposes).

Just so you know, I used plain every day carrots for the other batches because Easter had passed and for some reason the cute bundles of pretty carrots were no longer available in my area.

Same result!  Kids ate them right up.  The one thing I had to do differently was cut the thicker carrots in half.  I tried to keep all of the whole carrots and pieces to about 1/2 an inch in thickness.

This recipe is simple and I like that.  Busy people sometimes need easy, delicious food. Oh, and pretty food too.

I have used these carrots as a side served with salad and chicken thighs and as an added garnishment for Carrot Peel Soup.   <-- That recipe is still being developed.  LOVE IT! Coming soon.

I would love to hear how your family enjoyed these tasty carrots.  

Drop me an email or comment on this post.


Roasted Carrots with Ginger-Honey Sauce

Makes 3 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Bake Time: 15 minutes

1 small bunch of carrots, remove green tops
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and pepper


3 tablespoons honey
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons butter, melted 
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Toss carrots with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes.  If you don't use parchment paper be aware that the sauce may burn to a cookie sheet if left in the oven too long.

3.  While carrots are baking, combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

4.  Remove carrots from oven and, using half of the sauce, brush over the carrots. 

5.  Roast for 5 more minutes.  The sauce should be bubbly and the carrots starting to brown.

6.  Remove carrots to serving dish and pour the remaining sauce over the roasted carrots.

7.   Serve immediately.

Written by Sherron Watson

Monday, May 19, 2014

Baby Back Ribs

There are times I find myself believing that I must live under a rock.  I have my ways when it comes to food preparation.  I think my husband would call it "tunnel vision" or my sister might say I am wearing horse "blinders".

Oh, this is not only in my methods of cooking but in my life too.

I am they type of person that could eat the same thing for breakfast every single day.  I order the same plate of food from all of the same restaurants that I visit.   I wear the same colors every day: black and white.

I find myself happy with simple things.  It makes my life easy to have set things in motion.


Every once in a while I go all "rogue" and switch things up.  It keeps my family on their toes and adds excitement to my rather simple life.  I wear color.  I order something different while out eating.  I break out in song.  <---I do that a lot!  It just makes me happy.  This one time I took the kids to have yogurt. The TV was playing Little Mermaid and it was at the point in the movie where Ursula was stealing Arial's voice---ahhh ah ahhhhhhhh, ah a ahhhhhhh--and to the surprise of my kids, I totally started singing it out loud. I burst out in song.

Speechless is a good way to describe my son's face.  It was awesome!  Mommy moment #45,677,788.

What does this have to do with ribs you ask?

I have been making baby back ribs for over 25 years. During this time I have used the same method that I learned early in my cooking experience.  My Mom always made them this way and so did my grandparents.  The thought never occurred to me that maybe there were other ways to make ribs and have them turn out falling-off-the-bone good!

Until a few weeks back, that is.

Oh and don't get me started on using rubs.  Another "something" I never use, until last week.

I tell you I am moving out from under this rock and living more! 

These ribs are tender, tasty and totally worth waiting for.  Baking them in the oven on low heat for 2.5 hours is well worth the wait to sink your teeth into a little slice of meaty paradise.

I have only used the rub that I am sharing here today but I am pretty sure that any rub that you use will turn out amazing because the tenderness is coming from slow cooking the ribs.  I have included as an option BBQ sauce--but you don't need it!  The rub and the meat are delicious together.  Only use the BBQ sauce if you want that messy-finger experience.

Let me know what you think.


Baby Back Ribs

2#'s of baby back ribs
1/4 cup of rub, recipe below
BBQ Sauce, optional

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Set aside your baking dish.  I used an old stone oven-proof bowl that I found at a thrift store a few years back.  It has a lid.  I would recommend a dutch oven or a heavy duty baking dish covered in foil too.

2.  In a small bowl combine the ingredients for the rub or use your own rub.

3.  Cut the ribs apart tying to leave enough meat on each bone.  Press each rib into the rub.  Your ribs will look pretty thick with rub and this is okay.  See picture above.

4.   Add all of the ribs to your cooking dish.  Cover with a lid or foil.

5.  Bake for 2.5 hours.

NOTE:  If you wish to add the BBQ sauce to the finish ribs, then drain off all liquid.  Brush with BBQ sauce and spread ribs on a cookie sheet.  Broil for a few minutes in the oven or add them to a hot grill.

Rib Rub
Makes a little over 1/4 cup

1/4 brown sugar
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

1.  Combine rub in small bowl.

2.  Store in air tight container for future use.

Written by Sherron Watson

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sifting Through Life: Simply Living or Living Simple

In 2009 Cory was laid off work.  We had endured 2 years of held paychecks (for months at a time), long hours and a promise that the company would recover.  We lived the rich man/poor man life.  We learned to stretch every dollar and penny and then finding ourselves holding a check for $25,000 dollars.

Promises, promises, promises! We put our faith in a company that he had worked for, I guess a total of 10 years.  He had developed a line of business that made them millions.  They were our family away from our relatives.  We trusted them.

Our lives were about to take twists that we had not planned for nor expected.  I remember laying on our brown leather couch.  My feet were propped on the arm rest and I was reading.  It was an early Friday morning and our weekend was about to begin.  We had plans to work in the yard.

Cory walked into our living room at about 8 am and said, "I am being laid off".  At first I laughed and told him to stop joking.  After the last two years this statement was not funny.  

He promised that he was not being funny and this was now our reality.  My stomach felt like it had turned into the ball of a volleyball game.  Bump, set, spike. repeat.  I felt sick.

TWO EFF-ING YEARS of being toyed with and lied too.  The day they let him go was the day they had secured the necessary financing for them to stay afloat.  We thought we were finally going to see the light at the end of this long tunnel we had been following.  With each turn, over the last two years, we thought the light was getting closer-- only to learn, that it was a match burning its last flame.

I will admit that I was dazed and shocked.

And then, I was pissed off.

Until finally, a few days after, we decided that we would survive.  Together we started figuring out what we would do to stay afloat.  Being a grown-up with responsibilities and kids kind of forces you to think clearer after a short time.  As much as I wanted to scream and throw a fit I knew that I had to hold it together.

What I miss the most about our Midway home...the flowers.  I hand selected ever flower for the yard and had a rainbow of blossoms through our short season.  This was a favorite of mine.
We lived in a small town and there was not going to be any work for Cory.  He had worked from home for years and this allowed us to live anywhere we wanted and this was the downside of living anywhere we wanted.

Over the next year (2010-2011) we experimented with several businesses.  Cory joined forces with a friend but the reality was that the business could not sustain to families comfortably in a small town. We decided that it was not going to work for us.  He found work with a company that took him away from home for months at a time.  He turned back into a "road warrior".

It was work and it was paying the bills.  I will admit that being a single Mom was not fun.  I longed for my partner to be by my side.  I craved his companionship.  I wanted our kids to have their dad at home--not traveling, calling in on Skype, parenting through text messages-- but with me.  HOME.

Through this process we learned to live on a budget.  A tight budget.  Every penny was being watched and all extras were being cut.  Our family was in a transitional phase of life.  We were seeing everything around us through different lenses.

I started seeing everything from a perspective of survival: friends, family, our religion, our   I reverted back to the early days of marriage.  We thought about three things: food, housing and work.  Our life was changing and we could either watch it from the bleachers snacking on a hot dog OR we could step onto the field and throw the next pitch.

We had to decide.

We made  a big decision.  We did so as a  family.  The decision was to leave Utah.  This was a decision made with a heavy heart.  Not just because we were leaving behind family, friends and faith; but because we were also leaving our planned future in the dust.  We tore up the blue print of our current life and picked up an Etch-a-sketch.

We had purchased our home 5 years before this time and thought it would be the home of our kids graduating from high school, hosting wedding parties, welcoming grandkids and golfing through our retirement.  We sank our savings into saving it.

Then-- we lost it.  We eventually lost our home.  That story will be told later.  This is about our decision to live simple and how we came to that point.

In one year, we turned off cable, stopped the paper, cut out any extra outings, stayed close to home to save on gas, adjusted my meal planning, gave less to charity and cataloged every single thing I owned.

I went through every single box, envelope, pouch, handbag and plastic bucket.  I had two piles.  One to keep and one to donate/sell.

WHY?  In order for us to following one dream we had to rethink and configure the dream of our past.
Our future was not going to be anything like our past and in order for that to come to fruition we had to retrain the way we saw our life.

Are we willing to give it all up to see what the future holds for us?

Could our kids handle this extreme change?

What will friends and family say?

Can we do this without failing?

The questions never stopped. Cory and I sat for hours discussing every single possible thing that could or would happen.  We savored our safe life, and yet,  felt the desire for change and adventure.

We wanted to simplify.

When everything was said and done this is what we wanted the most.  Our lives had become over scheduled, over worked, over structured...over everything.  We wanted it to all stop.

We only had ourselves to blame for this situation.  When it was all said and done, we were the only ones that could change it; the only ones that could pull us out of the mire and get us back on the path of our new life.  We sensed our future was bright.  We held on to the hope that this little pothole was just that..a small divot that required a slight course change, but not enough to divert us from being happy.

Our family, together, decided that we needed to start over.  We needed to down size.  Our budget was going to take some hits and we needed to be prepared for those days of living lean.

And we did.

We sold pretty much everything.  22 years of collecting stuff.  22 years of building the perfect family room,  saving for our baby grand piano, living in a place that was a play land for the rich and famous.

Our life, when it was all said and done, occupied a small storage unit.  I kept photos, scrapbooks, awards, a few baby things, the letters that Cory and I exchanged during his time in Iraq, wedding stuff, artwork from family members and a few pieces of furniture that were important to our family.  The rest was just stuff.  Stuff that I would eventually replace as we settled in our home in Maryland.  I learned that almost everything I sold could be easily replaced.  I learned a lot  the six months leading up to the estate sale and that year on the road. I learned what was truly dear and important to me.

Our home for one year. This was taken in Austin, Texas.
Cory and I decided in January of 2011 that we would live simply from that moment on, instead of simply living.  We had been living the supposed American dream: big house, lots of toys, multiple cars, nice vacations, fancy clothes, yadda, yadda, yadda...blah, blah, blah.

But who's dream was it?  Our parents, our generations, our warped sense of what it meant to be successful?  A dream that in the end left us feeling confused, used, like failures, and defeated.

Our new dream started in July of 2011 when we set off in a 30 foot travel trailer with everything we would need for one year.  We had our kids and our pets.  We had each other.  Life felt so good.

I remember the felling of freedom that I felt as we pulled away in our white truck to start this new phase of our lives.  I felt tired but achieved.  We had done it.  We felt complete, validated and new.

We changed the course of our life with a little bit of hard work, long hours, a change of mind set and the expectation that nothing was set in stone.

Life was about living to us. It was not about the never ending bills, staying in an unhappy place, pretending to be something that we were not.  We learned that this story was ours to tell and we would have the final say in how our story would end.

The ending is still being written as we live each day to the fullest.  We are striving to teach our kids about what is really important, hoping to achieve some financial recovery for our retirement, learning to stay well under our budget, and hoping, that when it is all said and done, we can say we did it our way.

Today we are living simply.  Our hope is that we do so with mindfulness to our current situation.  We want to live each day to its fullest and within our set budget.

I hope that my kids know that simply living has choices and consequences.  We made some bad choices and we are living with those consequences but we are doing so in a happy state of mind.

Our attitudes through this process evolved from anger and fear to joy and happiness.

My final thought--we are happy.  Our choice to change our destiny and live a simple life has brought us closer as a family and for that I would endure this trial of faith over and over again.

When the ride was over and we landed in DC we felt a sense of renewal.  We were starting over and it felt amazing!

Written by Sherron Watson

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Citrus and Dill Salad Dressing

I know that summer is right around the corner and in our family this means a lot more salads are made. I wish I was better about eating salads all winter long.  The truth of that statement is, I am not.  Eating salads in the winter months becomes a game of bait and switch.  I buy the salad stuff and think in my mind that the green leaves will make the perfect lunch and then at the last minute I switch it to some form of comfort food like pasta or soup.

Every time around November I have the same pep talk with myself and manage to blow all promises out of the water of a greener winter.

Am I alone in this?

I have found that having salad dressing in the refrigerator helps.  I usually don't buy bottled dressing because I like to make it from scratch.

I find making homemade salad dressing fun.  I like combining my favorite flavors together. This dressing happened because I was writing up a piece about creating a "spa life at home" for Capital Style Magazine.  I was asked to share several recipes that were light and incorporated fresh ingredients.

The process of making a dressing for your family is simple.  If you have a selection of fresh herbs, seasonings, extra virgin olive oil, and something to invoke flavor--you have the fixings to create a dressing.  I used Dijon mustard and citrus juices to create most of the flavor in this dressing.  I then added fresh dill to build on the flavor profile I created.

You can easily substitute the juice and fresh herb to alter the final dressing.  Juices that I have used in the past are pomegranate, orange, pineapple and mango.  Herbs that I have used in the past are basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, mint and cilantro.   Instead of using Dijon mustard you could try a different variety of mustards: sweet, spicy, whole seed, etc....

Mix and match ingredients to find the perfect salad dressing for your family.

It doesn't have to be complicated.  Just use what you have on hand or what you have already purchased to go into your recipe.  This adds layers to your dish when you can find, as an example, lemon used multiple ways throughout a meal.  At least, I like to do this.


PS:  I used this dressing for a salad that I made with salmon, lemon and dill.  I made the salmon into kabobs and served over a bed of lettuce.  The recipe can be found here. The kabobs are pictured above.

Citrus and Dill Salad Dressing

Makes 1/3 cup
Prep Time:  5 minutes

3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice
1 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon fresh dill, diced small
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1-2 teaspoons real maple syrup (sweetener)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1.  Combine all ingredients in small bowl.

2.  Whisk ingredients until well combined.

3.  Use immediately on salad.  Refrigerate leftovers for 1 week.

Written by Sherron Watson

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Yesterday was Mother's Day.  I had a splendid time with my family doing and going all day long.

We woke up early to hit the Farmer's Market in downtown Annapolis.  While downtown we stopped for coffee and crepes.  OH BOY were  THEY GOOD!  

I met a gentleman at his milk booth.  I was advised by the Italian bread man to go and get some freshly homemade butter.  In his opinion, it was the best.  I made my way around to the booths and stopped to talk to the Nice man.  You see, his farm is called Nice Farms Creamery.  He was young and enthusiastic about what he was doing.  He explained to me that the butter had been made that morning at around 2:30 am.  The milk had been milked yesterday from 30+ cows on his property, the cream separated in house and used to make the butter.  He had me at butter!  I went on to purchase a gallon of grass-fed beef milk. 

He took great measures to explain to me just how to drink his milk.  I needed to shake it before pouring each glass.  He also mentioned the color and possible taste variation due to his cows being grass-fed. The milk was a light yellow.  As for the taste, it was fantastic!  Cory said it reminded him of milk he drank as a kid.  

I am happy to have a local farmer that can provide our family with milk and butter. He is just over the bridge (Bay Bridge) from our home. I am able to get his goods at two different Farmer Market's in the Annapolis area.

I feel good about supporting local farmers in our area because they provide a valuable service to our community.

The day took us next to get new tires for our car.  FUN, huh?  Sometimes, despite a holiday, we still need to do everyday things.  The day before Cory took the car in for an oil change and the tires to be rotated.  The oil change was quick.  The tire rotation was an issue.  Our tires on the front were wearing good on the outside but the inside tread was rotted in parts.  We learned that our car, which is a 2008, was sold to us with 2002 tires!  UM, how does this happen?  

Our car was not safe to drive.  Cory immediately made an appointment for Sunday.  I think he felt bad because it was on Mother's Day but it did not bother me.  We were able to spend a few hours together while the kids were at home.  It was Finnley's nap time, Rye was studying, Drake was sleeping and Isabella was watching her favorite show.  

The day was proving to be beautiful. The temperatures stayed at around 75 degrees, the sun was shining and we had the whole day before us. As a group, we decided to head to the beach. Oh, we do love the sand and water.

I love watching the waves hit the shore and to hear the kids laughing as they splash and swim. Our two little kids are growing up with sand in their toes...and hair...and belly buttons...and everywhere. This makes me happy.

We returned home and watched a movie. I can't say that Phenomena was the best movie to watch on Mother's Day but it was a good movie. A true story about a mother who is forced to give her son up for adoption and the process of her discovering who he became. I don't want to give too much away.  The beginning is sad but by the end you are left with some sadness but a sense that this Mother felt that everything had come full circle.

It was lunch time and we were all hungry. I decided that I wanted to make something that featured the flavors of lemon and ricotta. I see these recipes everywhere and the flavor combination has my mouth watering with each picture that I come across. We made this recipe HERE for Lemon Ricotta Cheese Stuffed French Toast Crepes by Half Baked Harvest. They were delicious!

My day was perfect.  I enjoyed the time spent with my kids and husband.  I love how relaxed the day proved to be despite how busy we were.    

Our day ended with my favorite dip.  I love the combination of spinach and artichoke together.  I have tried a ton of recipes and for some reason they don't always taste great to me.

I decided that I needed to make my own.  I am looking for a lot of artichoke heart pieces--not just a small bit here or there.  I want to see the spinach.  I definitely want to taste the cheese.   The ingredients are all the same that you will find with any spinach and artichoke recipe but the amounts used for each recipe will vary.  This is how you attain the preferred flavor and texture that we are all looking for.

Honestly, I just want a powerful punch of flavor with each bite.  This recipe provides that for me and I hope that it does the same for you.  It is just as good warmed up the next day or prepared in a crock-pot to be served at a company party or friend gathering.

The key is to use the best ingredients that you can find.  I use a parmesan cheese that has been aged for 24 months.  It has a sharp and poignant flavor and smell.  I use fresh spinach.  I use fresh garlic.

By all means use the ingredients that you can find, just know, that the ingredients in any recipe can make or break any recipe.  

Enjoy this cheesy dip!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

1-8oz package of cream cheese, soft
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2  cup grated mozzarella cheese for dip
1/2 cup grated mozzarella for topping
1/4 cup sour cream
1-12 oz jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash of pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Spray the inside of a 7X11 or equivalent baking dish.

2.  Add all of the ingredients to a medium size bowl and mix well.

3.  Add mixture to baking dish and top with remaining mozzarella cheese.  Cover with foil.

4.  Bake dip for 30 minutes or until bubbly and edges are brown (see photo above).

5.  Serve with your favorite tortilla chips, pita chips, toasted bread rounds or crackers.

Written by Sherron Watson

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