WFC & A Spelling Bee

Have you ever noticed that as we get older the negative voices from our childhood grow quieter while the positive ones become louder? All those embarrassing moments become funny, and all those things we used to hate about ourselves become the things we love the most. The hurtful things become less painful and we learn to cherish the moments that shaped us.

It’s been nearly 30 years since I met Mrs. Briney. She was a lifesaver for me in 6th grade as I awkwardly maneuvered through my first year in public school after being homeschooled for most of grade school. I recall my first day in her class as I sat stone still in my desk while everyone else was chattering as they unpacked their brand spankin’ new backpacks and put their shiny new books in their lockers. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, and it was obvious. Mrs. Briney made her way to me and smiled as she helped me settle in.

That wasn’t the only time Mrs. Briney would come to my rescue. It happened again in math class later in the year when she noticed that I was struggling with multiplication tables. For weeks, she would spend one-on-one time with me, teaching me cool tricks for learning those tables while the rest of my class worked on other projects.

When I was in 7th grade, I won our school Spelling Bee. Spelling was one of the few things that came easy to me, but I never set out to win a Spelling Bee. I think Mrs. Briney was more excited than I was about the win. I recall her encouraging me to study hard because she believed that I had it in me to win the county bee that was coming up.

The day of the Fergus County Spelling Bee arrived and I hadn’t studied a lick. I figured that if I could win the school bee without studying then I would be okay. I was right. I won the Fergus County Spelling Bee and have the picture to prove it. I’ve included it for your viewing pleasure. Oh…and that’s me with the hair, in case you couldn’t tell.


The first stop we made on our way home was Mrs. Briney’s house. Mom and I walked to her door and knocked. I will never forget the smile on her face as I showed her my 1st place trophy. She was SO proud of me! Again, she told me to study because she believed that I was capable of winning the Montana State Spelling Bee. Did I listen? Let’s just say, I made it through the first few rounds without any trouble. Then along came “RESERVOIR.” I will never forget how to spell that word as long as I live. I heard the dreaded “bell” and exited the stage feeling foolish and dreading telling Mrs. Briney that I hadn’t won. If I’d only studied.

Now, as I prepare for one of the biggest competitions in my culinary career, World Food Championships (WFC), I hear Mrs. Briney’s voice telling me to study and practice. You see, food sport is very similar to a spelling bee. There is no room for error. There are no second chances. One wrong move and it’s over. The only way to guarantee a performance that you’ll be proud of is to study and practice and study some more.

So, I’m feverishly testing, experimenting, practicing, writing and rewriting until everything is just so. I’ve never been so meticulous about anything in my life! But, I’ll have no regrets when it’s over. The icing on the cake is that my family will be at World Food Championships with me…all 5 kids, the hubby, and my parents. My mom and 17-year old son will be my sous chefs and we’re going to make some incredible memories and learn some valuable lessons that I can file away with the rest.


We’re Famous…In Case You Didn’t Know

In case you don’t know…our family is kinda famous. Not in the wealthy-recognizable-luxurious kind of way.  But, in the you-probably-heard-our-story-and-didn’t-know-it-was-us kind of way.

You see, a few years ago we had the honor of gracing the “Weird News” section of newspapers and were the subject of radio talk shows and newspaper columns around the world. Yes…the WORLD!

Strange and as embarrassing as this story is to share, there are lessons to be learned so hang with me until the end. Keep in mind that everyone involved probably has a different recollection of how things went down, but this is how my memory recalls the event (minus a few insignificant details).

NOTE: Reader discretion is advised for those with weak stomachs.

It was a dark and stormy night….no, not really (But, isn’t that how all good stories start?). It was actually a pleasant Spring day in Arkansas and my husband and his twin brother headed out to Greers Ferry Lake to enjoy some spearfishing. The wives and children anxiously awaited their return hoping they would bring home a bounty worthy of a good ol’ southern fish fry. I don’t recall the guys bringing home many “good” fish, but they did bring home a long-nosed gar.

For those who are unfamiliar with long-nosed gar, they are someone reminiscent of a small dinosaur. They are vicious looking creatures, have virtually no enemies and they are near impossible to eat. Yet, my hubby and brother-in-law decided that they wanted to see what gar tasted like. So, they brought one home. In the process of cleaning the fish they realized that it was an expectant momma gar. My hubby recalled a conversation he’d had with a man in our church in which he was told that fish eggs are fantastic to eat! Before I go any farther, remember that we live in Arkansas. People here eat strange things…squirrel, raccoon, fish eggs….so the idea wasn’t all that odd.

Much to the dismay of myself and my sister-in-law, the guys brought the fish eggs to my kitchen where they proceeded to batter and fry them in my Fry Daddy like any good southern cook would do. When the kids were offered a taste they shied away. Those that didn’t were forbidden to eat them by their mothers…except for my then 10-year old who was more than willing to do anything his dad was doing. The mighty fishermen and my son ate and ate. I wasn’t sure just how many gar eggs they had ingested until my son woke me up in the wee hours of morning. “Mom? I just threw up.”

Like any good mother would do, I jumped out of bed and went to my son’s room to clean up the aftermath. That is, until I saw the mess. I won’t go into detail because it makes me gag to even think of typing it, but you can probably imagine what I found.

My son was sick several more times through the night. The next morning I awoke to find my husband asleep on the couch. He had been sick during the night as well. I walked next door where my brother-in-law and his family was staying. He too had been throwing up all night. This wasn’t just a coincidence.

I went home and opened my laptop and did a quick Google search. “Gar eggs are extremely toxic to humans when consumed.” Two things went through my mind at this point:  The obvious “Why didn’t we Google this BEFORE the guys ate the gar eggs?” and “Phew! At least we’re not the only ones who have tried such a thing!” I found some comfort in the fact that somewhere somehow someone else thought to try to eat gar eggs, because how else would it be known that they are toxic to humans?

I immediately called our doctor’s office. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in their office that day. It’s probably fair to say they had never received a call from a frantic mother saying “What do I do? My kid ate toxic fish eggs!”

They kindly did some research and urged me to call Poison Control and consider going to the ER. I placed a call to Poison Control. By the time I got done explaining what a gar was I knew they weren’t going to be any help. However, they did suggest that I call the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission since they would probably be more educated about the fish.

This is where things went terribly wrong. Listen to me closely, friends. When someone asks permission to share your story and promises that it will only go out to a couple dozen newsletter recipients and that your story could save someone’s life….RUN! Hang up the phone. Block their number. Whatever it takes.

During the time that I was at the hospital with my son, I received calls from Louisiana State University and other southern colleges who wanted to use our story for scientific research. I granted them permission to speak to the doctors working on my son and granted them access my son’s medical records that included lab results from the bazillion vials of blood they took out of his little body that day. In the meantime, the doctors were certain that the toxins in gar eggs were cyanide-based. How did they reach this conclusion? It had something to do with a story about a dog that died back in the 1800’s after eating gar eggs. It took a phone call to the hospital from a knowledgeable professor from LSU to convince the doctors that the toxin was protein-based and would simply have to run its course through. Any anti-toxin they gave my son would do more harm than just letting his body heal itself.

It was a matter of hours before the AP got ahold of our story and it spread like wildfire. Apparently the “little newsletter” that Arkansas Game & Fish sent out had a larger recipient list than we were told.

The next day, we started receiving calls and messages from all over the country saying that they had seen our story on their evening newscasts. I tried to do some damage control, but it was a complete waste of my time. By the next morning, blogs, radio talk shows, newspapers and more were sharing our story.

What made the story so appealing is the fact that we live in Arkansas. If somebody from Oregon had eating toxic fish eggs it probably wouldn’t have been a big deal. But, the Arkansas Hillbilly connection was just too perfect. Another reason this story made headlines is because of my husband’s name. Darwin. He endured more “survival of the fittest” jokes after the gar egg incident than he’s heard his entire life.

The hoopla died down after a couple of days and the guys fully recovered. But, we learned some valuable lessons during that time.

  1. Never. Trust. The. Media.
    Ironically, I am now a member of the media. I write stories about real people every day. I often say that I’m a horrible entertainment writer. I have trouble separating real-life from news. Every time I write I see the face of the person I’m writing about. I think about how they would feel if they read the story that I penned. The pain of being misquoted and mocked is rough, y’all.
  2. Google Saves Lives.
    For real, y’all. When in doubt, Google!
  3. Laugh.
    Life is pretty boring without some great stories to share. The embarrassment about the gar egg incident has worn off, yet 7-years later the story still comes up almost weekly. How many people from rural Arkansas can say that they were a topic of discussion on a New Zealand radio show or appeared in a British newspaper?

The gar egg incident left us wiser and more careful…and with a fantastic story to tell for generations to come. We’ve taken screen shots, printed, and even framed some of the stories that went around about our family. The more time that passes, the funnier they get. As a matter of fact, my son and husband have grown prouder of the story over the years, somewhat owning it as a badge of honor. Can’t say that I blame them. They handled the situation with grace, unlike me.

If you are still aching for some good reading after this lengthy post, check out the links below for a couple of the best stories about our 15-minutes of fame.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I threw away the Fry Daddy. You know…just in case there was a stray egg in there somewhere. Maybe I’ll get a new one for Christmas…


Fish Eggs Do Not Caviar Make (Outdoor Life)

Arkansas Man Attempts To Win Darwin Award


Life Lesson: Never Leave On A Miss

a girl and her softball, glove, and bat

It was the summer before my freshman year of high school. I’d finally reached a triple digit weight, but my hair and feet made up most of it. I was awkward and introverted. But, I loved softball. Summer softball leagues were something I looked forward to every year.

This particular summer softball would change my life. I was playing on a co-ed team and was one of the team’s few pitchers. When I wasn’t pitching I was in right field…or on the bench. Needless to say, pitching is what made me love the sport. There’s no standing around. There’s constant action. It’s the perfect position for someone who can’t sit still (a problem I still have).

Our softball team traveled to other rural Montana communities to play once or twice a week. One afternoon at an away game, I was standing on the pitchers mound. And I was off. Bad off. I couldn’t manage to get the ball across the plate. I asked the coach to take me out, but he insisted I push through it. Throw after throw after throw I walked members of the opposing team. When my own teammates started sitting down on their bases and laying down in the outfield I began to plead with my coach to please take me out.

At one point the coach walked out to the mound where I was in tears…in front of two entire communities, no less. He told me something that I have never forgotten. He said that he wasn’t going to let this get the best of me. We all have bad days and we have to push through them. And, at that point there was no chance of our team coming back for a win, so the best thing he could do for me was force me to work through it. And I did.

I don’t know if it was the humiliation or the anger….LOTS of anger….that got me through the longest softball game of my life, but eventually I got a ball across the plate. Then another. And another. I’ll never forget the smile on my coach’s face and seeing him cheering for me when I finally broke through that wall.

When the game was over I ran to the bus and cried. I didn’t talk to any of my teammates during the ride home. Instead, I stared out my window and seethed. To say I was furious with Coach would be an epic understatement. But, as time passed I learned to appreciate what he did for me. 20-something years later that day still chokes me up when I think about it. Little did I know that one of the most humiliating day of my life would teach me such a huge lesson.

At least once a day you’ll probably hear me say something to my kids about never leaving on a miss. If we’re shooting free throws in the gym…we never leave the court on a miss. If we’re practicing volleyball serves…we never leave on a miss. If I’m learning to bake something new and the recipe is a major failure….I never quit on a miss. I make it again and again until I master it. It’s not about trying to be the best at something, it’s about never letting that something get the best of you.

To Coach: Thank you for not letting me quit.

Dreaming Big & Imaginary Blue Ribbons

It’s icy and cold here in Arkansas. Perfect weather for deep cleaning and reminiscing. I sat down earlier today and went through my cedar chest that holds a lifetime of photos, letters, and a gazillion other keepsakes that I can’t bring myself to part with. I came across a small stack of newspaper clippings from my brief stint as a columnist with our local paper. On the top of the pile was a story I’d written around the end of 2014. It is quite possibly my favorite piece of writing…in a strange, twisted kind of way. There’s no joy in admitting embarrassing moments and failures, but there’s something freeing about throwing them out there for everyone to laugh at. So, I wanted to share the story with you. Warning: It’s long. I write like I talk….a lot.🙂 Enjoy!


New Year’s resolutions. I don’t make them. I prefer short-term goals as I’m more likely to reach them. Not that I’m afraid of failure. Quite the opposite. I thrive on failure. Well…maybe thrive isn’t the right word. But, I’ve been rejected and suffered enough failure and disappointment in my life that failure doesn’t scare me anymore. A German philosopher once said “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger” (Thank you, Google). So, why not make some realistic goals? If we don’t reach them, so what? We’re stronger for trying.

When I was a kid I used to dream of being on Star Search. I never dreamed it out loud, just thought to myself how cool it would be. I had no talent whatsoever so being on Star Search wasn’t going to happen unless they were looking for uncoordinated, tone-deaf, scrawny middle-schoolers with bad hair. So, I decided I was going to be an astronaut until I learned that you had to be good at math. Through my junior high years I went through phases of wanting to be everything from a doctor to a news anchor. Too bad you had to be smart to be a doctor. My feel of public speaking nixed the news anchor thing.

Hmm…what’s left? CHEERLEADING! Yeah…cheerleading! Anyone can be a cheerleader! My freshman year of high school I decided to try out. I practiced faithfully and learned the routines and cheers. Four cheerleaders would be chosen for the varsity squad and four for the junior varsity squad.

Tryout day arrived. Eight spots were open and nine were trying out. We were to perform a group cheer, a cheer with one other wannabe, and a cheer alone.  No problemo! The judges were representatives from each class, the cheer coach, and a couple of teachers. The group cheer went great. The couples cheer was easy-peasy. As I walked out onto the gym floor for my solo cheer, I panicked. I thought I might pass out. I don’t remember the cheer. I don’t remember anything past “Ready? Okay!” I blinked and tryouts were over.

The nine of us waited in the hallway for results to be posted on the oversized bulletin board on the wall across from the secretary’s office. I got tired of waiting and went to my locker. Wouldn’t you know that they would post results while I was away? As I walked back down the hall, I saw the other girls gathered around the board giggling and hugging each other. As I approached, a few of them scattered. The others looked at me sympathetically and mumbled “Sorry, Tiff.” Seriously? I was the ONE girl that didn’t make the squad? Loser is not strong enough a word to describe how I felt. Humilibarassified pretty much covers it.

Sure…it hurt at the time, but I’m glad it happened. I feel like I’ve felt the worst possible rejection anyone could ever feel (at 14, I thought my life was over). So why not keep trying? And, try I did. I played every sport I could and sat the bench more often than I played until I grew into my feet. I joined every club and learned what it meant to be better. I rarely won anything and have a cedar chest full of red, yellow, and bless-your-heart-thanks-for-trying ribbons to prove it. But, you know what? Without losers there wouldn’t be winners. Think about it. There’s no joy in winning unless you beat someone, right? Every time I lost, somebody else got a certificate or trophy or blue ribbon to hang on their wall…or a spot on the cheerleading squad. You’re welcome!

While I may not be great at any one thing, I love trying. Cooking for instance. I don’t consider myself a fantastic cook or baker, I just do it because I love it. If other people like what I make, then great! If not, that’s okay, too. The most important thing to me is that my family likes what I bake. One of my daily goals is to sit down and have dinner as a family. Dinner time varies depending on hubby’s work schedule, ball games, etc. But, we try to eat as many evening meals together as possible and make them special.

What makes meal time special? Sitting around the table and eating together. That’s it. It doesn’t take fine china and a four course meal to make a meal memorable. My kids are happy with paper plates and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as long as we’re all sitting down together. No phones. No computers. Just good old-fashioned uninterrupted conversation. Every night that we eat together as a family is another virtual blue ribbon on my wall and trophy in my trophy case. Nobody else can see it right now, but I know it’s there. Those imaginary blue ribbons mean a whole lot more to me than any track award, student-of-the month certificate, or Pillsbury Bake-Off ever would. The cool thing is that those ribbons and trophies don’t only belong to me. They belong to my kids too. Only they won’t be able to see them until they’re grown and ready to start adding their own to the case.




Go Dairy Free Snackable Recipe Contest: Cherry Almond Ice Cream Cupcakes


YAY! It’s time for another Go Dairy Free recipe contest! I look forward to these contests so much that my mind runs with dairy-free recipe ideas all year long! This time the contest theme is dairy-free snacks. Woohoo! As a mom of 5 kids, snacks (especially sweet snacks) is kinda my thing.


When I first started creating dairy-free recipes it seemed overwhelming. No butter, milk, yogurt, cheese. Ugh! But, So Delicious products make dairy-free eating SO easy and truly SO delicious that I don’t even feel like I’m missing out. One of my favorite discoveries was So Delicious Dairy-Free Almond Milk Frozen Dessert (ice cream). Yummo! I knew right away that I wanted to use a frozen product for this contest, and I knew I wanted to make something so fun and delicious that my kids would go crazy for it. Hence…the Ice Cream Cupcake was born.

I hope you and your gang enjoy this frozen treat as much as we did!

Dairy Free Cherry Almond Ice Cream Cupcakes in Dark Chocolate Cups
Yield: 6
1 quart So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Almond Milk Frozen Dessert, softened
1 cup frozen or fresh dark cherries, cut in half plus 6 whole cherries for garnish
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli)
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1.  Place 6 cupcake liners in a standard cupcake pan.  Set aside.
2.  Place ice cream in a medium bowl.   Fold in 1 cup cherry halves.
3.  Scoop ice cream into prepared cupcake pan, dividing evenly among the 6 lined cups.  Use a spoon to press ice cream into liners.
4.  Sprinkle almonds on top of ice cream and place in freezer for at least one hour.
5.   Remove from freezer and peel off cupcake liners. Place cupcakes on a small foil or parchment paper lined baking sheet and put back in freezer while preparing chocolate.
6.  Place chocolate and coconut oil in small microwavable bowl.  Heat at 30 second intervals, stirring often, until chocolate is smooth.  Dip bottoms of cupcakes into the chocolate.  Place upside down on baking sheet. and put back into the freezer until chocolate is set.
7.  Serve with a cherry on top.  Enjoy!
Notes: Cupcakes may need to sit at room temperature for a few minutes before removing the liners.

Saucy Mama Recipe Contest: Around The World Bacon Wrap

Saucy Bacon Wrap

My mind won’t stop running. I’m kind of a spaz that way. When I’m working on a project or an idea I can’t think of anything else until I’m done. I’ve been known to make midnight runs to Wal-Mart for supplies/ingredients just so I can get a good night’s sleep. The project keeping my mind running right now is the Saucy Mama recipe contest. It’s not so much about the prize, but the challenge. I’m up against some heavy hitters for the fantastical (yes, that’s a word) World Food Championship prize from Saucy Mama, so I want to put my best, most creative foot forward.

I literally stood in my kitchen earlier today staring at the bottles of Saucy Mama goodies. Lips pursed, eyes squinted, and hands on hips, I brainstormed for a good hour before an idea came to mind. I used my 15-year old son as my sounding board and he ran with the idea. Between the two of us, we ended up with a simple, but yummy sandwich that we had for lunch, afternoon snack, and supper. It was THAT good!

What was my son’s idea? The Around The World Bacon Wrap. We took flavors/dishes from around the world and meshed it into one doozy of a sandwich. Using Saucy Mama Jamaican Jerk Wing Sauce we made JAMAICAN Bacon (say that 10 times fast!). We incorporated GREEK pita bread, sweet potato FRENCH fries, and AMERICAN cheese for a truly INTERNATIONAL sandwich. Creative, eh?

If you’d like to try Saucy Mama sauces yourself, check out Saucy Mama’s website here and let me know in the comments below what product of theirs you’d like to try. You can also comment on yesterday’s recipe post, Saucy Bird Dog Stuffed Baguette. That’s right! You can enter more than once, although only one comment on each post is allowed. Don’t forget to share the post. If you’re not lucky enough to win yourself, maybe a friend that loves you enough to share will win.  All comments on my Saucy Mama contests posts will be entered into a random drawing for 3 products of your choice! The winner will be announced June 1, so comment away!

On to today’s recipe…..


Yield 4 Servings

8 sliced bacon
1/2 cup Saucy Mama Jamaican Jerk Wing Sauce
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch strips
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
8 sliced bacon
1/2 cup Saucy Mama Jamaican Jerk Wing Sauce
4 pita bread loaves
1/4 cup Saucy Mama Honey Dijon Dressing
4 slices American cheese
1/4 large purple onion, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Coat sweet potato strips with coconut oil, then toss with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Place on a foil lined baking sheet and bake on lower rack of preheated oven while bacon is cooking.

Place a cooling rack on a large baking sheet lined with foil (this makes clean up a cinch!). Lay bacon slices on cooling rack and brush top side with Saucy Mama Jamaican Jerk Wing Sauce. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and turn bacon. Brush again with sauce and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and top with more sauce. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until bacon is beginning to get crisp around the edges. (Remember…the bacon will crisp up some as it cools!) Remove bacon and sweet potato fries from the oven.

To assemble wraps, place each pita loaf on a piece of foil long enough to wrap the completed sandwich. Brush what will be the inside of sandwich with Saucy Mama Honey Dijon Dressing. Place sweet potato fries along the center of each loaf and top with prepared bacon, onion, and American cheese. Bring up sides of pitas and overlap, securing with a toothpick. Wrap sandwiches tightly in foil and place in oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Enjoy immediately (after you remove the toothpick) and serve with additional Saucy Mama Honey Dijon Dressing, if desired.


Cheesy Italian Rolls – Healthy Spice Blends Recipe Challenge

Cheesy Italian Rolls

Coming up with creative lunch ideas is the pits! We’re a homeschooling family, and more often than not we’re in a peanut butter & jelly rut.  (Is it sad that my kids get excited about Ramen Noodles?)

A few years ago, I made my kids what we call “Cheesy Garlic Rolls”.  It was an almost-grocery-day scrambling-to-use-up-leftover-stuff kinda day.  I had roughly half of a bag of shredded cheese in my fridge, and very little else.  I whipped up a basic sweet roll dough and stuffed it with mozzarella, parmesan, garlic, butter, and random seasonings that just happened to work.  These rolls became a family favorite that the kids beg for on a regular basis.  I was kicking myself that they turned out so amazing because they’re a pain to make.  I should say, they were a pain to make.  Thanks to Healthy Solutions, I’ve found the perfect seasoning blend for these rolls that totally eliminates a couple steps!


A couple of weeks ago, I signed up to participate in the Healthy Solutions Spice Blend Recipe Challenge.  When I received my packet of Italian Meatball Seasoning in the mail, I knew it would be a perfect fit for my Cheesy Garlic Rolls.   My kids have already polished off two pans and let me know that this recipe beats the old one hands-down.  These are great alone or served with marinara sauce.

NOTE: For those of you looking for a healthier bread alternative, I’ve made the dough with half Bob’s Red Mill Unbleached White All-Purpose Flour and half Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Flour and they’re wonderful!


New1 Edit



3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup salted butter, softened and divided
1 tablespoon yeast
1 cup warm water
1 egg
2 teaspoons salt
4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 packet Italian Meatballs Healthy Solutions Spice Blend
2 cups finely grated part-skim mozzarella cheese

Place milk, 1/3 cup sugar, and 4 tablespoons butter in a large microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, just until milk is scalded.  Set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together warm water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes or until yeast is foamy.
Using a wooden spoon, stir egg, salt, and 2 cups of the flour into the milk mixture.  Stir in yeast mixture until well blended.  Add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough forms a nice ball. Knead the dough with your hand in the bowl until smooth. Cover and let rise until double.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place 1 tablespoon of butter in the bottom of 3 9-inch round pans.  Place pans in oven while it’s preheating to melt butter. This should only take a couple of minutes.  Remove pans from oven and make sure butter is spread evenly over bottom of pans.
In a small bowl, beat together remaining softened butter,  parmesan cheese, and Italian Meatballs Healthy Solutions Spice Blend.  Set aside.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a rectangle that is approximately 30″ by 15″.  Use your hands to spread seasoned butter mixture all over the dough, making sure to get butter all the way to the edges.  Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.  Starting with a long edge, roll dough up tightly.  Slice into 21 rolls and place 7 in each prepared pan.  Cover and let rise for 30 minutes or until rolls are touching in the pan.
Bake rolls in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until tops are golden brown. If desired, spread with additional butter as soon as you remove rolls from the oven.
Spice Collage New3 Edit

*Healthy Solutions Spice Blends are all natural, low carb, and contain on MSG, fillers, or preservatives.  Healthy Solutions provided me with the Italian Meatballs Spice Blend in exchange for my entry in this recipe contest.

I Would Do Anything for Guac

I attended the World Food Championships last November and was introduced to Chef’s Roll.  Chef’s Roll is a network for anyone involved in the food industry…..chefs, photographers, bloggers, you name it.  I put off joining because I don’t consider myself a chef and I certainly don’t make significant contributions of any kind to the food industry, but finally decided that it wouldn’t hurt.  The great thing about Chef’s Roll is that you can get started for free! Making a profile is simple and it’s a great way to journal your accomplishments and goals while getting your name out to other industry related people including casting producers and the like.

A few weeks ago, I saw that Chef’s Roll was sponsoring a guacamole contest, Guac ‘n’ Roll.  Entries were to be inspired by a rock band and song.  First of all, I don’t listen to rock.  It’s just not my thing.  But, I had plenty of rock songs from high school days to go off of.  Unfortunately for me, I was mistaken in thinking that it was a photo contest.  Argh.  I came up with a great photo idea to accompany my guac and song, I Would Do Anything for Love (Guac) by Meatloaf. Homemade heart shaped rosemary garlic crackers accompanied my mediocre guac and made for a great pic!   I’m sharing the recipe even though it’s basic.  Use your imagination to spice up this guac…..cayenne pepper,  grilled corn, whatever floats your boat.  Enjoy!





3 large Avocados from Mexico, peeled and seeded
3 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a large bowl, mash avocados with a fork, leaving some chunks. Stir in remaining ingredients. Serve with your favorite chips or crackers.

I used this recipe for Rosemary Crackers with Olive Oil and Garlic as a base for my crackers.   I used minced garlic instead of garlic powder and omitted the coarse salt and pepper for sprinkling.  You can find the recipe HERE.

Oven-Roasted Brussels, Beans, & Bonbon Taters



Confession.  This gluten-free thing hasn’t been as bad as I expected.  It helps that ranch dressing and string cheese are gluten-free.  Yay! I also had a small stash of recipes that were gluten-free, but I hadn’t ever given it any thought.  This recipe is a twist on one of those. While looking for an alternative side dish for Christmas dinner, I came across a recipe for roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut squash with a mustard vinaigrette.   The adults loved it, but the kids complained about the overwhelming vinegar taste. I loved it enough to keep going back and using as a base for other vegetable dishes.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made my version since deciding to go gluten-free.  The great thing about this dish is that prep time is minimal and I can make just enough for me or multiply the recipe to make enough for the whole gang.

While the whole family loves it, I make it most often as a late lunch or afternoon snack for myself.  It’s just sweet enough to appease my sweet tooth without the guilt.  Throw in the health benefits of Brussels sprouts, green beans, and sweet potatoes and you’ve got one dandy treat!

I hope you love this recipe as much as we do!  Enjoy!



Makes 2 servings


1 cup Brussels sprouts, halved (I used frozen and they work great!)

1/2 cup fresh green beans, cut in half

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

a pinch of ground black pepper

1 tablespoon spicy Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place Brussels sprouts, beans, and sweet potatoes on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.  Toss vegetables around to make sure the oil and seasoning is evenly distributed.

Bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.  I like to make sure the Brussels sprouts are cut side down during the last half of cooking so that they get browned and slightly crispy.

Remove from oven and prepare sauce.  Stir together mustard, agave nectar, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Drizzle over hot vegetables and toss lightly with a spoon until sauce covers the vegetables evenly. Serve hot.

NOTES: If using frozen Brussels sprouts, let them sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before cutting.



Anchors Aweigh! Coconut Almond Blondies

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I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Ever. I feel like it’s just setting myself up for failure.  But, when my husband was diagnosed with high cholesterol and we were told that my 9-year old daughter has thyroid problems, I knew I had to make some changes.  I’ve been intending to healthify my cooking to treat my Hashimoto’s disease, but never had the motivation….until now.  So, I started researching and trying to find ways to eliminate dairy and gluten as well as saturated fats.   I’m not gonna lie.  It stinks!  I hate having to cook this way. I like my sugar and bread and cheese.  It’s going to take me awhile to adjust. *sigh*

This morning, while researching healthy dessert recipes, I came across a recipe for Black Bean Brownies.  My gag reflex near got the best of me, but I finally decided that flourless, healthy Black Bean Brownies were better than no brownies, right?  I dug through my cupboards looking for black beans and came across a can of Bush’s Navy Beans (hence the recipe name).  I thought, “Hey! Why not blondies instead of brownies?”.  Here is the result. They were yummy. They tasted healthy, but so much better than I expected from a dairy-free, gluten-free dessert.  The only thing I’ll do different next time is throw in some dark chocolate chips or drizzle some on top.  Enjoy!

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1 3/4 cups raw sliced almonds

1 can (16 oz.) Bush’s Navy Beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (13.5 oz.) coconut milk

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup coconut flour

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats

1/2 cup brown sugar (you can substitute Stevia, honey, or your favorite sweetener)

1/4 cup almond butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Set aside 1/4 cup sliced almonds.

Place all remaining ingredients in a food processor.  Process until smooth. (Note: If you like a chunkier blondie, keep out oats and shredded coconut to fold in later.)

Press dough into lightly greased 8 x 13-inch baking dish.  Top with remaining sliced almonds.  Press the almonds into the dough slightly. Bake for 20 minutes or until edges are beginning to brown.  Allow to cool completely in pan before slicing.