Friday, June 13, 2014

Easy Zucchini Bake

When I say this is easy--it really is.  This picture was snapped in a hurry as my family was waiting to consume the dish.  It is one of our favorite quick meals.

I use this recipe for my leftovers in the refrigerator.  It is not uncommon for my kids to eat pasta with "red sauce" at least 3 times a week.  They love it.  Red sauce is any kind of Italian sauce. We make ours from scratch but using a jar brand is okay too.

I always have zucchini in the fridge.  We use them for our spiral salad, as noodles (see the marinara recipe) and in smoothies.  I just find that when I get down to two zucchini's it is almost not enough to do much with them.

I ground one pound of hamburger with 1/4 cup diced red onion, 2 cloves of fresh minced garlic and salt/pepper at the beginning of the week. This saves me a ton of time on busy nights to have this combination already pre-made and ready to go. With this basic ground beef mixture, I can whip this casserole up, add taco seasoning for taco salad, add it to a soup or make a quesadilla for the kids lunch.

Do you find yourself using left overs to make casseroles?  I feel like my Mom.  LOL

I know that some may find that a casserole is cheesy and creamy.  Well, I love those types too but we are trying to cut back on that and so this is the closest I get to cheesy--a little bit melted on top.

Whats with the guacamole?  Again, another leftover in the icebox.  It was awesome with each bite.  The zucchini had a bit of a bite and the guacamole was smooth and creamy.  Hey, there is that casserole yumminess right there, in the guacamole.

Easy Zucchini Bake

Serves 4

4 fresh small zucchinis, washed and halved
2 cups of cooked ground beef, seasoned (see comments above)
2-3 cups red sauce (homemade or store bought)
1 cup of mozzarella cheese, grated
guacamole, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  In a small casserole dish (7X11) line up the halved zucchinis on the bottom of the pan.

3.  Sprinkle the meat, then pour the sauce, and add the cheese.

4.  Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.  The idea is to steam/cook until the zucchini is tender.  The zucchini will produce a small amount of water at the bottom of the dish when baking is complete.

5.  Remove from heat, serve and top with guacamole.

Written by Sherron Watson

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Greek Pasta Salad

I love Greek food.  Annapolis just had its Greek Festival last week and we missed it. BOO

The primary reason we missed it was because taking a baby to the festival just did not sound fun to me.  I am usually up to packing Finnley to almost every event but the Greek Festivals are different.

The food is always soooooooo, did I mention, soooooooo good. The music is amazing.  I can never get enough of watching the dancing numbers.

The Greek Festivals is a day long event in my mind.  I want to stay and watch it all.  Take in the whole experience.

I am already planning next years visit.  Finnley will be older and can stay with a baby sitter, her older sister or come with us and nap at the festival.

To keep myself happy I made this Greek Salad with a nice greek yogurt dressing.  I love feta cheese and any type of olive.  The addition of crunchy cucumbers paired with the noodles is simply enjoyable.

I hope your summer is off to a great start.


This was from a few years ago.  We haven't changed much.

Greek Pasta Salad and Dressing

Serves: 4-6
Prep Time: 30 minutes

Salad Dressing

1 (16 oz) plain Greek Yogurt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
3 cloves of garlic

1.  Add all of the dressing ingredients to a high power blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Refrigerate while preparing the pasta salad.  

*Can be prepared the day before.

Greek Pasta Salad

1 (16oz) box of Penne Pasta, cooked
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
1 cup of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and halved
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup fresh dill
1/4 cup green onion, diced

NOTE:  I use my favorite gluten free pasta to substitute the regular penne pasta listed above.

1.  Toss the above salad ingredients in a medium size bowl.

2.  Add salad dressing to salad and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing and Salad

The family and I have been doing a lot of camping this spring.  We are trying to get out and beat the heat.  Maryland summers are hot and humid and the bugs are everywhere.  Ticks and mosquitos, oh my.

Spring and Fall are fabulous times of the year to explore new trails, hike to the falls, ride our bikes and take picnics in the park.

A few months ago I was asked to write up an article for Capital Style Magazine and share some lunch ideas with our readers.  I picked two things:  a salad and a soup.  This is my favorite salad.

I have ordered a chicken caesar salad more than any other salad on the menu.  I love the tangy dressing, crisp salad leaves, grilled chicken and ripeness of parmesan cheese.

In my mind it is the perfect combination.  I went to work on a recipe for the dressing.  I know that there are lots of them out there to be copied and tried but I enjoy the challenge of coming up with my own.  My own flavor profile.  I guess in someways I like the challenge, and sometimes failure, that recipe developing gives to me.

I was specifically trying to not use raw eggs.  I felt that I could get the same great flavor and texture by trying to use other ingredients.  I have nothing against raw eggs and love all types of caesar dressings. I had my kids in mind because they also enjoy this salad.

I have made this dressing several times in a variety of ways.  It turns out a bit different depending on if you hand mix the dressing or use a high power blender, like a Vitamix.  Personally, I like the hand mixed method best because you cans see the ingredients broken down into small pieces vs. having the dressing blended smooth.  Either way they both taste great.

A note about anchovies.  I was the biggest scaredy-cat when it came to using these salty little fishy-poohs.  I avoided them like the plague in my other attempts at this dressing and you just can't get the "real" flavor without them.  The recipe calls for 3-5.  If you are hesitant, use a couple, blend, taste, and add more if it needs it.  The flavor does develop as it sits in the refrigerator.  Five anchovies will grow hair on your chest--JUST KIDDING--but,  it is a very strong addition to the salad dressing.

I found these adorable lunch boxes for salads and soups at Target.  I tell ya, school lunch boxes have come a long way since I was a kid...LOL

I bought way too many for the photoshoot but now I have an assortment of fun lunch boxes for us to take camping and hiking this spring and next fall.


Caesar Salad

1 chicken breast, cooked
2 cups of romaine heart lettuce, chopped
Fresh parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup croutons  I make my own gluten free croutons at home
2 tablespoons Caesar salad dressing (see below)

Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing

Makes 1 cup
Prep Time: 10 minutes

1 large clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3-5 anchovy fillets
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
Black pepper to taste

1.  Combine all ingredients in a food processor or a high power blender. Or you can use a medium bowl and a whisk.  The dressing is not smooth but just as delicious.  See my comments above.

2.  Blend until smooth. 

3.  Store in refrigerator for up to 10 days.

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

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

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

Friday, May 9, 2014

Sifting Through Life: Popup Tent Trailer Makeover and Breakfast Burritos

Recipe at the end.

I love trailer life.  I must because I lived in one for a whole year with my family of five in 2010.  To make that dream come true we had to do a lot of soul searching and sacrifices to make sure we were making the right decision for our family and for our kids.

I still stand by our final choice of taking the trip and I have no regrets in doing so.  It was a time in our lives when we had nothing to lose financially.  Life presented a set of problems for us to overcome and we made the best of it.

I guess you could say we were handed a basket of lemons and we made a lemon meringue pie instead of lemonade.  Our ideas of thinking outside the box have carried there share of confusion from our close friends and family.  Living a nomadic life for a year was up there with "totally crazy!"

I will share more of our time on the road and the sacrifices we made to make that happen in a later post. This post is about our new trailer.

Our new adventure.

Sometimes I get these ideas in my head that seem so ridiculous that I wonder if I am actually going crazy.  It is not any surprise that when I mentioned to my older kids that I wanted to buy another trailer they immediately fled the room.  Teenagers and trailers are like mixing oil and water together or at least that is how my two see it.

To this day they won't admit that our time in the trailer was fun.  I secretly know that it was the best adventure we could have experienced with our kiddies.

I immediately explained to them that I was not shopping for a large trailer but a small one.  Something that we could use for weekends.  A small popup tent trailer that we could use to enjoy the outdoors without sleeping on the hard ground.  I wanted a place that we could escape to that would not cost us a small fortune each time we wanted to use it.

I needed a way to escape the doldrums of every day life.  My hope is that the kids will embrace this new trailer and join us for some fun family time.  I have a feeling I may be waiting a while for them to jump on board.  LOL

I can tell you who IS excited beyond belief.  That is Isabella.  Oh my, she is ready to leave yesterday and start living on the road again.  My little gypsy. I love her sweet spirit and willingness to experience life with wide open arms.

So how did I end up with this ugly trailer?  I am not too proud to admit that it was ugly, stinky and well used.  It needed TLC and a lot of it.  The transformation took a few weeks.

 I love it!

In February, a lady in our community, posted a popup trailer on our neighborhood site.  A lot of people had expressed interest in the trailer.  She had it priced really well.  I jumped at the chance to add my name to the long list of hopeful tent trailer owners.  I was a bit disappointed that after a few days there was not any response to me or any of the other neighbors.

Looking to the left when you walk into the trailer.

I accepted the fact that I was not going to get that trailer but it had the wheels in my head spinning.  I couldn't think about anything else.  Summer was quickly approaching and I knew that if I was going to get something finished in a short amount of time I needed to purchase a trailer soon.

Cory had just come home from a trip.  He was tired and overwhelmed.  I had been home with a new baby for five days by myself so I was in the same boat.  In my eagerness to win him over to the idea of purchasing a trailer I mentioned to him that I had bid on a popup trailer and was patiently waiting for the lady to get back to us.  I added, "wouldn't it be nice to have a place to relax in the woods?"

He was pleasantly accepting of the idea and we chatted about what we wanted and how much we were willing to spend on our little "home away from home".

Those dang budgets!  We set out to look at what something new would cost us.  I think we were also curious as to what new gadgets the market was selling this year.  Like with cars, trailers are always being improved with the latest and greatest new "thingy".

I found the tent trailers to be priced within our budget but I didn't want to pay that much for something I felt we could get used and update.  I love the renovation aspect of these DIY projects.

We came home with lots of ideas but no trailer.  The next day Cory took our rent over to our landlord and came rushing through the front door, out of breath, telling me I needed to leave right now.

Hold on just a minute there buster brown...why all of the rushing around?

 He had something to show me.  A trailer.  Okay then, lets go!

It turned out that our landlord's neighbor had a trailer for sale but we had to buy it right then for a $1,000 dollars or he was going to list it on craigslist for the original asking price of $1800.00  That was a huge savings in my mind and very much in our budget with a lot to spare.

To make a long story short, we bought the trailer.

First things first, it needed to be painted.  I came home and that night started searching for popup trailer renovations on Pinterest.  I started a board here.  I know this won't be my last project trailer and so having one area to keep track of my ideas is going to save me in the long run.

I had all of these wild ideas of going with a bright red color and then the reality of living inside of a drop of blood wasn't as inviting as I originally thought.  I stuck with white and I am so glad that I did.

It immediately transformed the inside to something new and fresh.  We used a primer to make sure that all of the brown wood was covered.  It took 2-3 coats on each surface.  I even painted the side bunk boards.

Along with the dingy brown interior the trailer had a musty smell.  I was thankful that the combination of painting the walls, cleaning the insides and washing all of the covers helped this to go away.

After painting the trailer I decided to tear down all of the curtains.  They were the original set and so thread bare in parts that I am surprised they did not fall off of the tracks themselves.  I had plans of also making new covers for each of the cushions.

It is amazing how little time I was able to squeeze out of each day to work on the trailer.  I became a bit discouraged in thinking that maybe I had bit off more than I was able to handle with a crawling baby under foot.

In the end it all worked out but the work did require me to take a weekend to paint the inside and a separate weekend to make all of the slip covers and curtains.   I believe I have slowed down at this stage of my life.

I toyed with the idea of going with a red, white and blue theme. I felt that since the tables were blue I didn't want something that would clash with this color.  I eventually found the color scheme that you see in the pictures.  I did not find the fabric in traditional places though.  I went to several fabric stores and could not find what I wanted.

Looking to the right when you walk into the trailer.
On a recent outing to Target we were going up and down the aisles and I found myself looking at shower curtains.  There before me was exactly what I wanted: greens and blues.  The stripe that you see on the table cushions is what inspired the rest.  I found everything else in the bedding and kitchen section of Target.

I have tried to put prices and short explanations on each photo so that you can have an idea of what I did and how much it cost.  Overall, the trailer was a $1,000 , all of the fabric and hardware estimated to be about $300 and I spent another $300 on things to put into the trailer: a new grill, a percolator, and new flash lights.  We still have to purchase new tires which we are estimating those to be about $200.00 for the pair.

I hope that someone will find this helpful.  I had a hard time find sites that I felt would help me to redo the trailer.  Let me know if you have questions and I will do my best to reply and answer them.


Bee Pillows: $40.00 for two fromTarget.

My kids would eat pancakes and bacon on every camping trip, but sometimes, especially if it is only for one night, I don't want to make a huge breakfast.

I make these instead.  I can pre-make most of the filling of the burrito at home.  This makes the morning assembling process much easier when you have tired and cold kids (or adults).

The only thing I make the morning of are the scrambled eggs.  This is just a personal preference, you could make them before without any issue.  I bring a pan, some butter, and the eggs.  I place my cast iron pan over the grate above the morning fire to preheat the pan.  I add the butter, eggs and cook until firm.

When the fire is ready I place all of the ingredients on the table along with heavy-duty foil squares.  Everyone gets a tortilla and they can start making their own burrito.  Use a Sharpie to tell which burrito belongs to who if you have a large crowd.

It is that easy.  These can also be made at home on the outside grill or inside the oven.

Breakfast Burritos

Makes 1 burrito

2 slices of bacon or 1 sausage patty
1/4 cup cooked hashbrowns
1 scrambled egg
grated cheese, optional
salsa, optional
1 flour tortilla, small

*If using large tortillas then you made need a bit more of the above ingredients to fill the burrito.

1.  Prepare heat source: grill, oven or open fire.

2.  Use heavy duty foil to wrap each burrito in.  Cut size according to tortilla size.

3.  Lay out the filling ingredients on the table.

4.  Have each person make their burrito.  Wrap the burrito's really well.

5.  Lay the burrito's on the heat source.  I would recommend not putting them directly into the fire unless you are willing to watch the closely.  Sitting them on some kind of grate works best.

6.  Let cook on each side for 2-3 minutes.  The cheese should be melted and the insides warm.

7.  Serve immediately.  Store leftovers in cooler.

Written by Sherron Watson

Donut Breakfast Casserole

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