Category Archives: Food & Drink

Wholesome, homemade, unique and inspiring recipes for real life.

Grocery Budget Challenge
June 25

A few weeks ago on Facebook, somebody posted this.

Fast Food

At first I was irritated. Then I was disgusted. Finally, I was irate.  Are there really people that believe this garbage?  So I commented and obviously what followed was a somewhat heated exchange between two of us who were absolutely horrified at the ridiculousness of this statement and a few others who were defending the statement.  Now don’t get me wrong, we have definitely been through the drive-thru window at times, but my personal opinion is that American kids and adults are obese because people simply are not taking the time to prepare their families healthy and affordable meals.  Yes, even for “busy” families on the go.  I mean seriously. It takes the same amount of time to sit in line at a drive thru as it does to whip up a quick sandwich, fill up a bottle of water and put it in a lunch sack with a piece of fruit.  And if you have to go to fast food, who says you have to buy a bottle of water? Ask for a CUP of water…it’s free! Oh… here’s another idea…have your kid make his/her own sack lunch if you’re too busy!

One opposing opinion on this particular thread was that healthy foods are just so expensive and that families on a budget just can’t afford to eat healthy. Another person posted that they knew a single man who had a meager budget of $176 per month to feed himself and that it was nearly impossible for him to eat healthfully with that little to spend. What? Were these people for real?  So I shared a couple of links showing some price comparisons between one fast food meal for a family of 4 and a homemade meal showing clearly that a healthier homemade meal was cost comparable or even less expensive. Yikes! Did that strike a nerve.  I got my ass handed to me by one person! Here’s where I’m at…eat what you want, but blaming obesity on the cost of food is just plain lazy in my current view.


But, I perhaps I AM naive. I am fortunate enough to not have to have a grocery budget but I also don’t go to the store and go crazy buying everything on the shelves either.  I almost never shop in the inner isles where most of the “cheaper” processed foods are kept but I am certain that I could easily feed myself tons of delicious, fresh and healthy meals on $176 a month. And sure, there’s always going to be someone who has a “special circumstance” when it comes to grocery shopping and cooking for themselves, but I’m talking about an average, able bodied, of normal intelligence person here. No excuses.

Sooooooo…just to prove to myself (and anonymous Facebook person) that I am not completely diluted and idiotic I decided to do my own grocery challenge in July. $400 for my family of 3 ($176 for each adult and a little extra for the child who eats nothing). I’ve been online checking out lots of folks who have done similar challenges. One family did a challenge for $170 for the ENTIRE MONTH! Wow. They did theirs by raiding their pantry and the back of their freezers for “forgotten” food and supplemented it with their $170. So Smart!

I’ve decided to design my challenge similarly, but I want to see how it is to have to start from scratch because I know a lot of people don’t have freezers or pantries full of forgotten food. One of the goals I have for my household is to make it a center of production, not consumption, therefore, I will use what’s already in my pantry and freezer and deduct from my budget what I would have spent at the grocery store.  And it HAS to be primarily lean meats, vegetables & fruits, and whole grains. No Wonder Bread for us.

So here goes! Starting July 1 I’ve got $400 in cash only to spend for the entire month. And I will take the debit card out of my wallet so I don’t cheat. I’m not gonna lie…I’m kind of excited for this! See you next week for an update!







French Country Sunday Dinner
April 1

For Christmas 2013 I was stumped for creative gift ideas for my parents and in-laws because I am sooooooo over buying stuff. So I came up with the idea to buy them each a case of wine and treat them to a home cooked gourmet dinner one Sunday per month. They each bring a wine from their case that pairs with the dinner I am serving. It was so well received that I basically got brow beat into doing it again this year. I will say its a lot of fun but a lot of work, too. I really enjoy being able to practice some more advanced cooking skills as well as creating a beautiful dining atmosphere. It’s putting effort into the little details that means the most to me.

I hadn’t planned on sharing about this latest dinner, but as the evening came together on Sunday it ended up being one of my favorites. I didn’t take any meal prep photos or notes. The photos are from my phone. Unstaged and unfiltered. But it was such a lovely evening that I just wanted to show how easy it is to turn an ordinary dinner into a really lovely experience by adding just a few thought out details. Again, this was all unstaged and photographed in real life so please disregard some of the background faux pas.

I love setting up little areas for beverage self service. A beautiful glass bottle for the wine and some fresh flowers in a vintage vase set the stage for the French country theme.

Random appearance of free range chickens also adds to the country ambiance, but those are probably harder to come by for most folks.

We got this adorable, handmade, navy and yellow floral picnic linens for our wedding almost 11 years ago. We don’t do a lot of picnicking but they sure came in handy to to add a little color and texture to the tablescape. They matched the daffodil and white tulip centerpieces (in vintage milk glass frogs) perfectly. I didn’t have enough matching napkins so I just alternated with accent green napkins. Which just happened to match the super cute yellow and lime chair cushions I got from Tuesday Morning a few weeks ago. Can I just say how freaking awesome that place is. If you’re into nice but inexpensive home decor and haven’t ever been there, I recommend you get there ASAP.


I’m a huge fan of a beautifully presented cheese plate. I kept it simple and elegant and served it on a cake stand – Brie cheese, grapes, cured meats and freshly baked bread with pomegranate paste. I could easily eat just these for dinner any day.

I slow cooked Beef Bourgiugnon for the main course and served over rustic mashed potatoes with a side of French cut green beans. The recipe is perfect as is and I didn’t change a thing except I used 2lbs of meat instead of the 3lbs it called for. There was plenty for 7 people with lots leftover, too.

For dessert, I prepared a Ghirardelli chocolate mousse and topped it with homemade whipped cream. Like I said, I didn’t plan on blogging about this so there are no photos, but trust me, it was To.Die.For. Click here for the recipe.

I hope this inspires you to add a few special touches to your next family dinner. I know my family loves it and I’m sure yours will too.


Eat More Sandwiches
February 26

When it comes to sandwiches lately, I’m obsessed. We’ve been traveling a lot recently and I’ve been taking every opportunity to get in on some serious sandwich action. And I’m not talking Subway or PB & J on Wonder Bread. I’m talking stacks of delicious grilled cured meats and quality cheese piled onto fresh baked bread, like this Manhatten (+bacon) I shared with Farmer at New York City Subs in Hood River, Oregon this last weekend. When it comes to sandwiches I don’t restrain myself.
Or this custom stack of fabulous on homemade rosemary bread from Evening Rise Bakery in McCall, Idaho.
IMG_0667.JPG Fresh. Bread. Only.

But the one that started my sandwich madness was The Fat Lenny at Prodigal Son Brewery in Pendleton, Oregon. Oh Lord. I didn’t take a picture because the pure gloriousness of it put me into a sandwich consuming trance and it didn’t even occur to me until there was only 4 bites left. Go there and try it, like, yesterday.

So now I’m home and, well…you can guess the rest. Here’s an original straight from my kitch.

Taking these pictures was super hard because all I wanted to do was shove it in my face.

Here’s the ingredients. Divide them evenly, or whatever.

2 Fresh Baked Ciabatta Rolls
4 Slices Deli Turkey And 6 Salami Slices ( I use organic meats from here.)
Two Fire Roasted Red Peppers
Marinated Artichoke Hearts
Sun Dried Tomato Mayonnaise (Semi-homemade. See below)
Arugula & Spinach Salad Blend
Optional: 2 Slices Provolone Cheese



For the Sun Dried Tomato Mayonnaise, simply take your favorite mayo and mash in some packaged sun dried tomatoes with a fork. It will be chunky, so if you prefer a smoother texture use a stick blender to combine them. I chose a lower fat mayo this time. I normally don’t care for the taste but with the addition of the tomato it tastes really good.


Now toast your bread, mayo up BOTH sides of the roll and make yer sandy. (You’re smart folks and I’m sure you don’t need a step by step on making a sandwich.)





So it’s my birthday tomorrow which means I am really excited. But not for the regular reasons like attention (ew) , parties or gifts. For me it’s all about the cake. Anyone who knows me well knows that I will do just about anything for cake. Anything. I’ve stalked many a wedding cake table in order to scam a third (or fourth, maybe) piece of a really good wedding cake. And I will definitely send The Girl or Farmer in to hoard cake for me, too. If you’re ever with me at a function with a fabulous cake, I can’t be held responsible for what happens if you leave your cake plate unattended. I’ve also been know to bail on a function if the cake is less than worthy or store bought (gagging). I’m very shallow, apparently. For my big “-0” birthday celebration last year I had individual mini cakes made for all my guests just so I wouldn’t have to share the cake.

I think about cake a lot. Like a lot a lot. I like to plan events in my head around what kind of cake would be served. No, they are not all my birthday but since it just happens to be my birthday here’s a few ideas for my loving friends and family to think about.

This cake. Fresh Strawberries & Cream Cake. This for my imaginary summer birthday brunch that we would have on my back porch on a lovely Sunday morning in June. If this doesn’t appeal to you then you’re definitely not invited and we probably just shouldn’t be friends. Unless you’re allergic. That’s the only acceptable excuse. Find this recipe on The Kitchen McCabe.

Tropical Vanilla Mango Cupcake. This gorgeous little cake is for my sunny, SoCal, beachside getaway birthday with my fave ladies. OMG…that color! So pretty and light, just like me (haha). Find this recipe at Little Sweet Baker.

Lavender-Honey Crepe Cake. So it’s not a traditional type of cake but I don’t discriminate in regards to the different cake genres. Besides , I’m obsessed with the lavender honey combo. Freaking amazing. This is for my breakfast (and lunch and dinner) in bed birthday. In a perfectly clean bedroom, I shall awake perfectly groomed in a perfectly uncrumpled bed and be served by Farmer and The Girl. The House That Lars Built recommends this for a Mother’s Day breakfast in bed. I would accept that option too.

Frostbitten Raspberry Cake. Yes, yes, yes. It is very similar to a wedding cake I once stalked and will be the feature of my elegant, late fall dinner party birthday at home. Served by candlelight with a delicious Oregon coast blackberry dessert wine. Thank you Vikalinka for this.

Traditional Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting from The Wandering Fig. Not terribly exciting to most, but for me it’s pure nostalgia and that makes it my number one pick. It reminds me of summer days at grandmas house because back then grandmas made cakes in the middle of summer just because. It’s family cake. And this is the best (and most likely to be real) party of all with me, Farmer and The Girl sitting at the kitchen table in corny ass party hats, eating homemade pizza and opening up cheap perfume bought at Rite Aid. Perfection. Happy Birthday to me!

Julia Roberts Cookies
February 13

I really don’t like Valentine’s Day and I’m pretty sure that’s one of the main reasons my husband digs me. That and that I do things like this (see below) in the kitchen. And even though I don’t care for Valentine’s Day, I deeply care for red velvet. And thin mints. And Oreo cookie filling (sans actual cookie). And Farmer and The Girl. Not necessarily in that order.


I named these crispy, minty, tasty morsels Julia Roberts Cookies, for a variety of reasons but mostly in honor of her famous dreamy red velvet evening gown and white gloves in one of my all time favorite movies Pretty Woman. And who could forget the famous red velvet armadillo cake in Steel Magnolias, another fav flick. Also, I have a girl/middle aged mom crush on her.


This year our family will be spending Valentine’s Day at The Girl’s ski race at Anthony Lakes Ski Resort. Although Farmer and I won’t be celebrating, I still like to do it up for The Girl, so I needed an original Valentiney treat that was going hold up for a few days before VDay as well as be sturdy enough to withstand some packing and travel. And since peppermint is one of the main crops we grow on the farm, I am constantly looking for ways to use the gallons of mint oil we have laying around. Thus, Julia Roberts Cookies were born. Red Velvet + Thin Mints + Oreo Filling. Yes, you read that correctly. The rest of your life will now be referred to as either Before JRC ( Julia Roberts Cookies) or After JRC. Enjoy!


I adapted and combined recipes from other sources that are referenced. If you are looking for something really quick, this is not the recipe for you but I promise that they are worth it if you’re willing to put in the time.

Remember that when you are combining the wet ingredients, the mixture will look a little curdled. It’s supposed to so don’t fret.


The picture above reflects the addition of the 3 TSP of food coloring. I wasn’t really happy with the color so I ended up adding 2 more to the dough as I was mixing to get the color I desired and I’m really happy with how they turned out. I also think could easily chill and roll out this dough to use your favorite cookie cutters. I normally would have done that because I hate non uniform shaped cookies, but in the interest of time I completely ignored my natural instincts and chose to log roll and slice.


One last thing. If you are using pure mint oil like I did, please please please please please make sure you keep the oil away from your eyes. I didn’t realize the I had a tiny bit on my finger and I scratched under my eye. It was no bueno. Safety first my friends.

Red Velvet Thin Mints
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup milk (any kind)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp peppermint oil or extract
3+ Teaspoons Red Gel Food Coloring

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. With the mixer on low speed, add in the milk, extracts and food coloring (add as much or as little coloring as you like depending on the intensity of red you desire). Mixture will look curdled. Gradually, add in the flour mixture until fully incorporated.
Shape dough into two logs, about 1 1/2 inches (or about 4 cm) in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 1-2 hours, until dough is very firm.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Slice dough into rounds not more than 1/4 inch thick – if they are too thick, they will not be as crisp – and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cookies will not spread very much, so you can put them quite close together.
Bake for 13-15 minutes, until cookies are firm at the edges. Cool cookies completely on a wire rack before dipping in chocolate.

Chocolate Coating
10-oz dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter, room temperature

In a double boiler, combine chocolate and butter. Melt together, stirring frequently until mixture is thinnish and free of lumps.
Dip each cookie in melted chocolate, turn with a fork to coat, then transfer to a piece of parchment paper or wax paper to set up for at least 30 minutes, or until chocolate is cool and firm.
Reheat chocolate as needed to keep it smooth and easy to dip into.
Makes 3 1/2-4 dozen cookies.

Cookie recipe adapted from Baking Bites.

Cookie Filling
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup butter flavor or plain vegetable shortening
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Using a mixer, cream the butter and shortening until fluffy. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla.

Flip half of the cookies upside down and top each with 1 level tablespoon of filling. Press the remaining cookies on top to make sandwiches.

Original filling recipe adapted from Food Network.