What I Learned From 30 Days of Preparing A New Recipe Each Day

What I Learned From 30 Days Of Preparing A New Recipe Each Day

November Challenge.


I made it through my November Challenge. At the end of 30 days, I prepared a total of 36 “new to me” recipes. I found this challenge to be…well…challenging. I’m busy running a household and raising three teenagers and trying to keep a puppy from demolishing every scrap or paper or piece of plastic he finds.

If you missed the earlier rounds where I shared the recipes that I prepared, you can find them here: Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, Round 4.

I knew that I would always need a super simple back-up plan for a recipe on the days when life got in the way…and it did. Soccer season was still in full effect for part of the month and other things come up as they often do.

So I had smoothies fill that void.

I love smoothies so I wasn’t disappointed when I needed them to be my back-up, but I also didn’t want them to consume the majority of the month. In the end, I made 8 smoothie recipes. That is a little over 22% of the total of recipes prepared. I was happy that it fell way below 50% because going into the month, I thought there was a distinct possibility that it could be that high.

As promised, here are the final four recipes that I prepared. I intentionally did not prepare one smoothie. I have linked the recipes to my Pinterest account, which is where I stored them to easily find them on preparation day. I’ll share any substitutions that I made and how I felt about the overall recipe.

On with the remainder of the challenge!

November 27th.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip.

At this point, I was really hunting down recipes that would use items that were in need of use from the fridge. My biggest issue with fresh spices and vegetables is trying to get them all used up before the rot. I am trying to be conscientious of not creating so much food waste. I had fresh spinach that needed to be used. I love spinach and artichoke dip so you’d think that I’d have made it myself prior to this. And after this, I likely will! The only substitution I made was that I had sliced mozzarella and swiss left from the chicken cordon bleu casserole that I had made. I placed it liberally across the top in place of the 1 cup of mozzarella. I knew that since it was being melted, the fact that it wasn’t shredded would not likely be a problem. The dip was amazing! I ate it with some pita chips that I had bought to go with the feta dip, but I bought Tostitos the next day (since they are my preferred chip to dip) to eat the leftovers.

Assessment: Yummy win!

November 28th.

Quick and Easy Creamy Herb Chicken.

I needed to cook some chicken as well as use more spinach. We eat a lot of chicken so I am always looking for tasty ways to cook it. I had fresh tarragon and oregano and parsley that needed used, so I substituted that in place of the rosemary and thyme. I served it with mashed potatoes. It was so good. I don’t know why I don’t make gravies more often!

Assessment: Win!

November 29th.

Butternut Squash Brownies.

Yes, I am still working in that butternut squash. I thought it might be fun to do a dessert. I am a lover of brownies. In fact, as a teen, I would have my mom make me brownies instead of a cake. Miss Sunshine has followed in my footsteps. This recipe was quite frustrating as everything was given in grams. I understand why they did it. Apparently cups in the U.S. and the U.K. are not the same. I am not the type of baker who owns a scale.

The comments said that you could find conversions on google. I could not find one for the puree. At that point it was too late to abandon the project (had I not been doing this challenge, I would have abandoned it). I ended up using a cup of butternut squash puree. There’s a strong possibility that it should have closer to 1/2 cup, but to be honest, by this point I didn’t care.  I’m not 100% sure what “plain” flour is, but I used unbleached all-purpose flour. My conversion was 2/3 cup (pre-sifted). I used 1/2 cup (pre-sifted) unsweetened cocoa powder. I did sift the cocoa, flour, cinnamon, and baking powder. Can salt really be sifted? I had poured into the sifter without thinking. It did not sift. I measured the cocoa and flour pre-sifted because that way is less time consuming and I already had doubts about the recipe.

So how was it?

Surprisingly, they tasted fine. A little too dense. I added vanilla ice cream to the top of it. Would I make them again? No.

Assessment: Meh.

November 30th.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Tenders.

I had some more chicken to cook and our house is almost never without bacon.  All I can say is that these were Ahh…mazing! And so easy too!

Assessment: Total Win!

…and that’s a wrap on this Challenge.

So what did I learn?

I learned that food preparation and meal planning is time consuming. I already knew that, but that was why I was tending to fall back on spaghetti and tacos as my easy fix. I did find quite a few recipes that I will begin to make on a more regular basis. Even a few that were quick, yet added variety instead of always heading to those fall back meals.

Unlike my October Challenge where I am still meditating daily, or even my September Challenge where I am still conscientiously trying to reduce my plastics consumption, this challenge will take a much smaller role moving forward.

I still plan to make “new to me” recipes, but the pressure of it daily made me sometimes choose a recipe that I would not normally make. I feel better on a lower gluten diet and yet there were days that I chose to make pasta or a flour-filled dessert because I needed a new recipe for the day and that was the easiest one to create on that specific day. Had I not been challenging myself, I just would not have made a new recipe that day. There would have been more time to sift through recipes instead of settling.

The other side of that is that the challenge opened my eyes to so many new options and I found recipes that I’ve yet to make. I thought my grocery bill would skyrocket because I was buying so many fresh ingredients and some of the herbs and spices were not cheap. Yet my bill stayed the same, even perhaps slightly lower, and we were eating less processed foods. A win all around.

For me this was an arduous challenge, but one that forced growth.

And growth is the journey that I am on.

In any given moment we have two option: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. - Abraham Maslow

Let your light shine!



Recipes Tried In November – Round 4

November Recipes.

I still can’t believe that I have completed the process of making 26 “new to me” recipes.

Only 4 more days to go!

I was talking to my mom the other day and I told her that I thought I would crush my November ChallengeHer response was, “and do you know why?”. My reply was, “because I don’t like to lose?”

We had a good laugh about this fact. She reminded me that I was the reason that all of the grandkids are told “you know the rules right?” when playing board games with her. To which they respond “no throwing a fit if you lose”. I’m not really sure what her definition of a fit is, but she reminded me that if I was losing, in say Monopoly, it was very obvious that I wasn’t happy when I gruffly said “here then, take my money!”

I promise that I’ve learned a lot about losing gracefully since then.

However, I don’t want to lose against myself.

So I’m hoping to continue crushing my monthly “year of 40” challenges.

But you came here for the recipes!

If you missed earlier rounds you can find them at these links: Round 1, Round 2, Round 3.

As before, the recipes are linked to where I’ve saved them on Pinterest and I’ll share any substitutions that I made and what I thought of the outcome.

Here we go!

November 20th.

Butternut Squash Smoothie.

The one thing about making a new recipe a day is that quite often there are remaining ingredients…fresh herbs, fruits, vegetables…

I’m not a fan of food waste (even though I waste way more than I should) so I was looking for a smoothie to use up some butternut squash puree that I had. I suppose some people might just eat the puree. I just can’t do the baby food thing. Maybe if my teens were still babies… anyway!

I don’t have a “scoop” in my protein powder, so I used 2 Tbsp Organic Rice Protein Powder and my milk of choice, as usual, was Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk.

I still expected this to have the potential to be something that I would gag down. Instead, I found it surprisingly tasty and will likely make it again.

Assessment: Surprising Win!

November 21st.

Banana Almond Flax Smoothie.

My banana wasn’t frozen, but I added more ice. As the commenter on the pin stated, this had a milky consistency. I had made this smoothie in a single serving blender cup. Normally, I would have transferred it to the larger blender and added more ice to get the consistency that I prefer. I needed to get dinner started (still have to feed the hubby and teens even if it’s not a new recipe), so I chose to drink it as is. I don’t like milk. Even when the milk isn’t cow’s milk, I don’t like milky consistencies. I finished it, but not without trying not to feel grossed out.

Assessment: Add more ice and try again.

November 22nd.

Creamy Feta Dip.

This was the day that Big Mr had his wisdom teeth removed. I was also prepping some things for Thanksgiving, so I needed an easy snack. I didn’t realize that I did indeed have a lemon, so I used squeeze lemon and dried lemon peel. I served it with pita chips. Two of my kids asked if somebody had been sick in the house. When they discovered it was this dip, they refused to try it. I didn’t think it smelled awful. It tasted pretty good. Mostly the hubby ate it.

Assessment: I may look for other versions…but I also may not.

November 23rd.

Herbed Nut Roast and Mushroom Gravy.

My sister-in-law was doing all of the traditional cooking for Thanksgiving. I know…I’m so lucky! I made some pies, but wanted to bring something different as well. As luck would have it, this recipe came across in my emails. One of the people that would be at Thanksgiving Dinner is a vegetarian, plus I would like to try to incorporate more vegetarian meals into my life. This nut loaf is actually vegan.

I could not find cremini mushrooms at my grocery store, so I substituted baby bella. I also didn’t have fresh sage and substituted dry. In the gravy, there wasn’t dried porcini mushrooms, but I did find a Bistro Blend which contained oyster, shiitake, porcini, and black trumpet.

This was a time consuming recipe. When I went to put the mix into the loaf pan, it looked too dry to me. I did not have time to have anything go wrong, and it was a pricy recipe to create as well. I added enough water to have it stick together (probably less than 1/2 cup). The loaf held together when I transferred it to a serving platter at dinner.

The gravy threatened to do me in. It was no fault of its own. When I went to sprinkle in some pepper, the larger opening popped open and poured into the pan. That’s what I get using the measuring pepper instead of the pepper shaker. I took paper towels and blotted out the pepper that wasn’t covering mushrooms, dabbed the mushrooms… took a deep breath, put the tears back into their bay, and carried on.

The loaf was okay. I ate its leftovers. It was not my preference of foods. The gravy…Ahhmazing. I ate it on a baked potato after I ran out of loaf.

Assessment: I won’t be making the loaf again, but the gravy may become a new regular.

November 24th.

Lemon Garlic Zucchini Noodles.

I’ve been wanting a spiralizer for ages. I decided to purchase a cheap one to see if I would actually use it before considering the possibility of getting the Kitchen-Aid attachment for my stand mixer. This was the first chance that I’ve had to try it out. I considered an avocado pesto recipe, but I was missing a few ingredients.

This was hands down one of my favorite recipes….maybe one of my favorite recipes of the month. Proving that sometimes simple is the best.

Assessment: Major Win!

November 25th.

Healthy Shamrock Shake.

The recipe was more of a jumping off point. I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk instead of coconut milk. I added 1 Tbsp of coconut oil, just in case it needed some coconut taste. I probably would have used coconut sugar, but I had already added the maple syrup and vanilla extract so I didn’t want it any sweeter. The amount of mint called for wasn’t clear to me. I was trying to use up the mint I had remaining before it went bad. I probably would have used more, but I just prefer my minty items on the more minty side. It was creamy and tasted pretty good.

Assessment: Keep tweaking.

November 26th.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole.

This was so good, but so rich! In the future, I’d half the recipe and bake in a smaller dish and serve it with a salad.

Assessment: I wouldn’t make this on a weekly basis, but I would make it again.

Did you see any recipes that you found appealing?

Stay tuned for next week when I share the remaining four recipes and my thoughts on the recipe challenge.


Let your light shine!


Recipes Tried in November - Round 3

Recipes Tried In November – Round 3

November Recipes.

Happy Monday!

I managed to complete Round 3 of my November Challenge. 

If you missed Round 1 and Round 2, be sure to check those out.

As in the rounds before, I’ve included links to where I’ve pinned the recipe to Pinterest. I’ll also let you know if I made any substitutions and my opinion of the dish.

Let’s dive in!

November 13th.

Mexican Lasagna.

I didn’t write down how much salsa I needed prior to the trip to the grocery store (you’ll notice a trend over the week). 16 oz. is not 2 1/2 cups. I compensated the difference by adding more water to the mixture. I already had shredded cheese in a mexican blend so I used that. I’m sure I added more cheese than was called for since I love cheese. I did not add sour cream to the end of the cooking process. Some in the family don’t like sour cream. I added it to the top of mine prior to eating. I was going to slip in some butternut squash puree because I had some left over…but I forgot.

Miss Sunshine didn’t try it on account of the salsa and her dislike of tomatoes. The rest of us loved it.

Assessment: Into the family rotation it goes! I may work on tweaking leaving salsa out of a portion, but that will be trial and error with liquid requirements.

November 14th.

Greek Vinaigrette Dressing.

The next night was leftovers for those who were home. I made up a salad to go with the leftovers and decided to make this dressing. I still had some fresh oregano so I substituted that instead of using dried. Some comments were that they cut down on the amount of vinegar. I love vinegar. I’m the girl who will sit down and eat the entire bag of salt and vinegar chips. I thought it was fine. I had the hubby test it before adding it to the salad. He thought it was good as well. No teens were joining into the salad eating so I didn’t ask their opinion. Since I had leftovers for lunch, I only ate the salad and added feta cheese to the top of mine.

Assessment: Yum!! And no strange ingredients!

November 15th.

Mug Brownie.

Miss Sunshine had a final soccer practice this night. It was a “fun” practice and ended up being at a different location than where I originally thought it would be held. My chosen recipe of the night was more time-consuming so I put it off until the next day. This meant I needed a recipe to make when we got home from practice and it needed to be with ingredients already contained in my home.

That was when I stumbled across this recipe.

I followed it exactly. Luckily, I did have canola oil and that is what I used. I decided to use these CorningWare mugs that we sometimes use for eating soup. I wasn’t sure how much the mixture would rise and I didn’t want to have to clean out the microwave. A smaller mug would have been fine. I cooked it for about 1 1/2 minutes. Times will vary with different microwaves.

To my surprise, it was actually good. I topped it with my remaining Talenti gelato (the brownie cuts the milky taste), grabbed two spoons, and Miss Sunshine and I devoured it.

Assessment: This was a very quick and very easy recipe. I may make it on occasion for fun.

November 16th.

Spicy Ethiopian Lentil Stew and Indian Style Rice.

I had been planning this meal for some time.  The lentil stew requires a spice called berbere spice blend. I looked at my grocery store and could not find it. During a future spice shopping expedition, I did discover that they carried it… but had alphabetized it under “A” because its description on that label was African Inspired…berbere spice blend. At this point I had already ordered it from Amazon. I used a heaping Tbsp because I was worried about spiciness.

This recipe is pictured with a yellow rice so I found a recipe to make. My rice was not as yellow. I’m sure more turmeric would have fixed that.

Mr. D, the hubby, and I all tried both. We liked it. The hubby and Mr. D added sriracha because they like to abuse their tastebuds eat spicy food.

Big Mr and Miss Sunshine only tried the rice. Miss Sunshine thought the rice was a little bland. I could see what she meant, but have no clue as to why since it’s laden with spice. Big Mr doused his rice in sriracha and happily ate it.

I had the same experience as the last time I tried Indian food. It’s good, but after a bit it seems unappealing. I really think it’s cumin. The smell of cumin makes me sort of nauseous. Strange? Yes. But it is what it is. I will keep trying because the benefits are so good.

Assessment: While I wouldn’t make the stew weekly, I did like it a lot. I will keep working on a finding a rice that I actually enjoy.

November 17th.

Blueberry and Spinach Smoothie.

Normally I would not include this photo… but I have no others. Bear in mind, I’m not a food photographer and ignore its flaws.

My smoothie did not come out a purple as the author of the recipe. I don’t drink milk so I substituted unsweetened vanilla almond milk. This may have attributed to the color change or I may have packed my spinach tighter. I opted for honey. I also add ice because I like a slushy smoothie. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t care about the color so much as long as it tastes good. This one was tasty and packed with superfoods.

Assessment: Win.

November 18th.

Cheeseburger Casserole.

I needed a quick meal and this one said it took 30 minutes. Bingo! Here’s the problem when you are in a hurry. You don’t always read things fully. The hubby ran to the grocery store to pick up what I needed. I wrote 1 can of diced tomatoes. That’s what the recipe says on Pinterest…and it’s true…but when you go to the actual recipe it says 1 (28 oz) can. I didn’t discover this until I was ready to make the meal with my 1 (14.5 oz) can. So I did what any good cook does…I worked with what I had. I happened to find a 14 oz can of tomato sauce in the pantry and used that in place of the other portion of diced tomatoes. I’m sure this changed the overall end result, but nothing else could be done. It tasted like many other casseroles that are similar and I don’t think ziti is my favorite pasta shape because I don’t love it thickness.

Assessment: It’s not likely that I will try this again. I did not properly follow the recipe so don’t let my assessment sway you from trying it if it strikes your fancy.

November 19th.

Guacamole Stuffed Chicken Nuggets.

I don’t know what to say about these except that I loved them. I was a little nervous about the ground chicken because I don’t often use ground turkey or chicken. But I’m a huge lover of avocado and cilantro so they were right in the sweet spot of my palate. Big Mr. doesn’t like cilantro so he didn’t try them. The hubby said he could have done with a little less cilantro, but that didn’t stop him from devouring them. Mr. D liked them. And even Miss Sunshine liked them. I did read where somebody substituted spinach and I can see how that would be tasty as well. I will note that she reminds you to check the internal temperature which I did. I recommend cooking them on low because the outside appears done before the inside actually is.

I also like that these didn’t include wheat. I am once again going to be trying to cut back on that. I don’t have celiac disease, but I do have digestive issues. I’ve cut it out completely in the past (under my doctor’s knowledge) and I feel better when I eat less of it. Plus, for some reason I seem maintain an extra 10 pounds when I’m regularly eating wheat (my doctor thinks this may be due to the fact that when I am gluten free, I naturally eat less processed foods. That may be the case!)

Assessment: Major Win.

Did you see any recipes this week that you think you’ll end up trying?


Let your light shine!


Recipes Tried in November - Round 2

Recipes Tried In November -Round 2

November Recipes.

This round of recipes that I tried for my November Challenge were more along the easy-peasy lines. If you miss round 1 of recipes, you can find that here.

In Friday’s post, I talked about how insane my week decided to be. Yet somehow, I did manage to try out a new recipe each day.

Don’t forget… Each recipe title has a clickable link to the Pinterest pin of the recipe I used.

Ready to see if anything strikes your fancy?!

November 6th.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad with Herb-Citrus Dressing.

I was trying to get this one prepped and ready to go before I needed to take Miss Sunshine to soccer practice. I wanted it to have some time to sit and marinate in the dressing. If I’d had time to change anything, it would have been to cut the cucumber smaller.

If you have trouble finding chickpeas, you should also note that sometimes they are packaged by their other name: garbanzo beans.

My zester and I are not amicable friends. It like to keep the zest all to itself and insists that I take a toothpick to scrape off the zest.  I may have been a little short on the amount of zest called for. I also added 1 1/2 tsp of red wine vinegar and 3 dashes of salt instead of one. This was a personal preference decision. I also used kalamata olives in a brine over green olives. I am not an olive fan, but I do like kalamata olives in moderation. Plus, they are the hubby’s faves. He eats them as a snack.

I probably would have paired this with a soup, but it was a crazy day.

Assessment: Good enough to have again. I would prefer it as a smaller side to a meal.

November 7th.

5 Ingredient Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Bars.

But, wait! That looks like a photo of a quiche.

Yes, yes it does. Because it is. That’s what we had for dinner, but it was not a new recipe.

The bars were not photogenic. She does warn in the recipe about stirring peanut butter with oil separation. I do use natural peanut butter, but it doesn’t require stirring. My “bars” looked like a smooshed tootsie roll with puddle of oil in the dips. I did use walnuts in place of peanuts since I didn’t want more peanuts in the recipe. I don’t think this was the downfall of my recipe debacle.

I dabbed the oil off and ate them anyway. They were good. My “bar” had no real rigidity to it either. I would make this again, but would roll it into balls and eat them like energy balls.

Bacon and Cheese quiche recipe:


  • Frozen deep dish pie shell
  • 5-6 slices of bacon
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup milk (I use 1%)
  • 1 1/2 cup grated or shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt and Pepper (to your taste)

Use a fork to prick the bottom of the frozen pie shell. Bake in the oven at 375° F for 10 minutes. Cook the slices of bacon and allow it to cool. In a bowl, add the eggs, cream, milk, and salt and pepper. Whisk the ingredients together. Crumble the bacon into the bottom of the pie crust. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the bacon. Pour in the egg mixture. Do not overfill. Some pie crusts may be a little smaller than other. Bake in the oven at 375° F for about 40 minutes. I use a toothpick check in the center and consider it done when it comes out clean.

Assessment: Ugly…but tasty. The bars, not the quiche. The quiche was pretty AND tasty.

November 8th.

Pineapple Avocado Green Smoothie.

I wanted to try a green smoothie and opted for this because I had some pineapple that needed eaten. I substituted 1 cup of fresh pineapple along with 3/4 cup of pineapple juice and 1/4 cup of water in place of the frozen pineapple and water. I also added about 1/2 cup of ice because I prefer my smoothies to be slushy. I found it to be very tasty and reminiscent of a smoothie you would find at some smoothie chains. If you don’t like sweet, you may have wanted to cut back on the amount of pineapple juice and had more water.

Assessment: Yum. Green Smoothie addition. Check!

November 8th.

Thai Curry Vegetable Soup.

I substituted powdered ginger for fresh. Mostly because I forgot it and wasn’t going back to the grocery store. I also did not add fish sauce and due to that choice, omitted the brown sugar as well.

I found this to be tasty, but lacking something. Maybe it was because I opted against the fish sauce. I don’t like fishy things so that component isn’t going to change.

When I lived in Florida, I had a friend from Thailand and she said that she could eat both spicy and stinky (fishy) because one parent was from the north and one from the south.

She used to make this amazing salad that had Thai peppers, which she grew outside the kitchen window. She would set aside mine with one Thai pepper, while she and her other local girlfriends who were also originally from Thailand would eat it with 4-5 peppers. All the while, I’m drinking glass after glass of water to take down the fire in my mouth. Sometimes she would add fish sauce to her plate of food. They used to joke that one of the women couldn’t eat really spicy or stinky (I can’t recall which) because she was from the city.

It was interesting to hear about how different areas ate their food in different ways.

But back to the soup…

Mr. D thinks all soups and salads should have some form of meat so we decided to see if adding some small shrimp would add to the overall taste. I do think that it made a difference and could see adding chicken as well. Otherwise, I felt it needed some more flavoring. The hubby, Mr. D, and I all tried this recipe and were in consensus on our thoughts.

Assessment: Tweak the recipe to find a way to impart more flavor. Thai food is very flavorful so I’m not sure as of yet what the missing component is.

November 9th.

Apple Pie Smoothie.

I had already decided to make this smoothie when I saw that somebody had commented that it was so gross.

I didn’t have time to look for a new recipe so I decided that it wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve had something gross and I’d give it a go. The only thing that I changed was that I added 1/2 cup of ice for the slushy consistency. Also, I always use unsweetened vanilla almond milk. I didn’t think it tasted gross at all. I’m not sure it tasted like apple pie either. I had Miss Sunshine try it. She didn’t think it was horrid, but she didn’t think it tasted like apple pie.

Assessment: Not bad. I’m not sure it’ll be in my rotation. I typically use smoothies to pack in a bunch of vitamins and minerals in a tasty drink. Most of these ingredients, I’d rather just eat on their own.

November 10th.

Mint Chocolate Chip Smoothie.

The recipe was my inspiration for this smoothie, but I did not follow the recipe. Miss Sunshine and I were trying to finish up the packing to head down to Greensboro for her soccer tournament. I had mint leaves left over from the chickpea salad, so I created a concoction with ingredients I had in the house.

My version:

  • 1/2 cup ice
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • Large handful of spinach (I have a big hand. It was over 1/2 cup, but probably less than 1 cup)
  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp mini chocolate chips
  • Slightly less than 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 1 banana

It looked like wheatgrass so I added a few frozen raspberries and mint leaves to the top for appeal. I don’t usually care for chocolate drinks. I do, however, love mint. The drink tasted good enough to finish. Miss Sunshine thought it was okay. We both agreed that the chocolate overpowered the mint. Not that the chocolate tasted bad, we just would have preferred the mint notes to come through more. The chocolate chips settled into the chopped pile toward the bottom. As a side note: the raspberries enhanced the flavor.

Assessment: Less chocolate. More mint. Try again.

November 11th.

Banana Bread Overnight Oats.

No photo. No love. It’s me. Not them.

I needed a recipe that could be made at the hotel. Overnight oats seemed to be the easiest option. There may be versions that I would find that I love, but that day it wasn’t this one. I like oatmeal, but I eat my oatmeal with a slight amount of orange blossom honey. On the occasion that I’ve eaten it at a hotel breakfast buffet, I add a tiny amount of brown sugar and slivered almonds. This was too sweet for me on that specific morning.

Assessment: While I haven’t ruled out overnight oats, I think I might like berries over bananas.

November 12th.

Cream Cheese Stuffed Dates.

I expected to be home from Miss Sunshine’s soccer tournament earlier than how life turned out. I did not plan ahead for a recipe. Not one to proclaim defeat, I worked with something quick and easy that I had in the house. I had some Medjool dates and I put a dollop of cream cheese inside, drizzled a little orange blossom honey across the top and crumbled a pecan. It was the perfect mix of sweet and not. You’ll find this isn’t exactly like the recipe. I’m sure that version is just as tasty. Also, I find that all honey tastes differently. I’m obsessed with orange blossom honey. This is because I grew up near orange groves in South Florida. This honey has a very distinctive taste. I can find it at my local grocery store or I pick some up when I return home to Florida.

Assessment: Great appetizer or snack. Definitely going into the rotation.

Did you see any recipes that you might give a try?

I’m hoping that this week is a little less chaotic and I can try more main dish recipes.

Stay tuned.

Oh…and Miss Sunshine and her teammates were U15 Champions!


Let your light shine!


Recipes Tried in November Round 1

Recipes Tried in November – Round 1

November Challenge.

Even though we are only 6 days into November, I’m still excited that my November Challenge is going well.

Since my review of making a recipe a day would be a rather cumbersome read at the end of 30 days, I thought that I’d break it into smaller posts and fill you in on how it’s going along the way.

Indoor lighting and food photography are both areas in which I’ve spent little time, perhaps I’ll get the hang of it by the end.  I still prefer outdoor lighting if I can manage to take the finished product out to photograph!

I’ll be including the Pinterest link to the recipes that I’ve made and will include what changes or substitutions I made, along with my general thoughts on the recipe.


November 1st.

Colada Morada

I mentioned in Friday’s post, that the process of making it had some interesting mishaps.

The reason that I started the month with this recipe is because Miss Sunshine was bringing this for her Spanish Class party.

Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is a holiday similar to All Saint’s Day. It is a time of remembrance of friends and family who have died. The recipe that she signed up to make is actually an Ecuadorian recipe and they celebrate Dia de los Difuntos, or Day of the Deceased, and it is celebrated on November 2nd, the day of her class party.

Finding the ingredients was not an easy matter. We do not have many nearby Latin groceries. After two specialty grocery stores and a Latin grocery, I made substitutions to part of the recipe.

I could not find lemongrass leaves or lemon verbena leaves, so I substituted the zest of 1 lemon along with 1/8 tsp of ginger. I did not find cinnamon flower. I omitted the star anise. I do have star anise extract from a recipe Mr. D made for Spanish Class. It smells like black licorice, which we did not enjoy.

I also substituted passion fruit juice for the narinjilla. The recipe does list this as a possible substitution and I purchased it at the Latin grocery store.

The last substitution I didn’t know was a substitution.  I got very excited that the Latin grocery store had Azul (Blue) corn flour. I thought I was looking for Purple or Blue (not black).

The recipe took me close to 2 hours to prepare. Interestingly, this was for a grade in Spanish Class. Miss Sunshine was toward the end of the line for sign-ups, hence the intricate recipe. While I was working my way through the recipe, I was quite jealous of those who signed up to bring cups.

Colada Morada is a spiced berry drink. It has a thickened consistency. Miss Sunshine likens it to a ketchup consistency. I’m not sure if that’s accurate or if smoothie might be a better word.

I found it to be quite tasty. Miss Sunshine didn’t love it. However, our connoisseur of all drinks sugar, Mr. D, said that it was so good that he might have to drink the entire pitcher.

Assessment: Win

November 2nd.

Mexican Rice.

When Miss Sunshine got home from school, she mentioned that somebody had brought in Mexican Rice and that it was sooo tasty. We were having tacos for dinner and I decided the rice would be a perfect complement.

She mentioned the tasty rice was yellow. Not one recipe I found for Mexican Rice was going to produce yellow rice, but I forged ahead.

I made no substitutions to this recipe. The rice was a little stickier than I would have liked, but overall it was good.

I am not a big fan of rice, but am trying to find recipes that can make me a fan. The hubby and Mr. D liked the rice. As I suspected, Miss Sunshine did not. She is not a fan of tomato-based foods (yes, she eats ketchup… but no, she does not like spaghetti or pizza).

Assessment: Meh

November 3rd.

Key Lime Protein Smoothie.

When I saw this recipe, I thought… yum, yum, yum!

I love Key Lime Pie.

If you don’t make it yourself and you’re ever in Florida… Publix grocery store makes the best Key Lime Pies. They also make amazing sub sandwiches in their deli

….makes me miss home.

My food processor has a juicer attachment, otherwise you might go through tons of limes (I don’t have access to key limes in Virginia, just regulars) to get to 3/4 cup. I used 4 limes.

My consistency looked pretty watery so I added more ice. It still did not look like the author of the recipe’s photo.

After I photographed it (paper straws, ya’ll…still avoiding plastic straws), I had my first taste.

It was so sour that I could feel my stomach puckering from the tartness. There was no way that I could drink the entire thing with it tasting like that. I added some more almond milk and it did not cut it enough. I had spent $3 just on limes, there was no way that I was dumping this thing out. I added 2 Tbsp of Almond Butter and that cut down the tartness enough to make it palatable.

Conceptually, I love the thought of this smoothie. I will probably tweak it more (way less lime, maybe some banana to thicken….) until I find a version that I love.

Assessment: Fail, but hope for the future.

November 3rd.

Spaghetti Squash with Bacon, Spinach, and Goat Cheese.

I felt bad that the smoothie was only for me, so I decided to make a second recipe that day. Only the hubby and I ate it. The boys weren’t home and Miss Sunshine refused on the grounds that she thought it looked gross.

I followed the recipe, but used feta instead of goat cheese. I tried goat cheese once long ago and didn’t like it. I would not have ruled out trying it on a portion of this meal, but the store I was at did not have goat cheese so that ruled that out.

I also used more feta than the recipe calls for. Probably about 3 1/2 oz instead of 2 oz. Why? Because I love cheese.

The hubby and I love, love, loved this. We will be adding this to our dinner lists.

Assessment: Major Win.

November 4th.

Zucchini Fritters and Creamy Lemon Aioli.

The hubby had to go out looking at cars with Mr. D so I took Miss Sunshine to her soccer game. The town is about an hour and 45 minute drive from us and the game was in the middle of the afternoon. It was raining on the drive there. It started raining again during the last 25-30 minutes of the game. While I was lucky to be under an umbrella, wearing my Hunter rain boots, and covered with an afghan throw (since it was about 45°F), Miss Sunshine was playing in the pouring rain. They beat the other team 10-0 and finished their season in first place in their league.

To warm our insides, we stopped at Starbucks on the drive out of that town. Miss Sunshine got Hot Chocolate and I opted for a Pumpkin Spice Latte. We both ordered them “No Whip Cream”. We could see that hers did have it and had them scoop it out. I could not tell if mine had melted or if it had been made correctly. We order them “No whip cream” because the whip cream causes a tickle in the throat and (at least for me) that tickle creates heart flutters. I still don’t know if there was whip cream in it or if something else in the pumpkin spice (I don’t drink fancy coffee often) triggered it, but I had an issue with the drink.

The last thing I wanted to do after driving 2 more hours in the rain and feeling off was make a giant recipe. I followed the recipe on the fritters, except that I fried them in avocado oil. I had leftover cilantro and I love cilantro so I used that instead of parsley in the aioli.

The hubby and I ate them for dinner. In the future I would use them as an appetizer or a side, which was my original intention… but, you know….tired. He didn’t love the aioli. It wasn’t anything about the recipe. I just don’t think he would love aioli unless it was used on shrimp or something similar. I’m often not a fan of mayonnaise based dips. I did like the dip, but would have liked multiple dip choices for the fritters.

Assessment: Try again and with differing dips.

November 5th.

Whole Wheat Butternut Squash Banana Bread.

This was the recipe that I was originally going to make the day before.

I roasted my own butternut squash and made a puree (my squash took closer to an hour to be tender). I could not find Whole Wheat White Flour. After some digging, I found a post where the author had reached out to King Arthur Flour (which is the brand that I happen to use) to find the difference. The difference is in the type of wheat berry that is used and would be a lighter colored flour. It stated that they could be used interchangeably in recipes so I used Whole Wheat Flour.

I also made my own pumpkin pie spice, since I already had all the spices needed. The oven was already preheated to 350°F for the bread, so I put the crushed walnuts in the oven while I mixed up the other ingredients. I haven’t toasted nuts before, but I put them in for about 10-12 minutes. Being toasted definitely added to the overall taste.

Breads are where my love of recipes reside. My paternal grandmother taught me to make banana bread when I was young. I learned over time how the batter should look in order to create the bread with the perfect level of moistness. How to know when the bread was done. To savor the scent as it wafted through the kitchen. To taste the balance of sweet, but not too sweet, in the warm, buttered slice. To feel a sense of pride when my family devoured the bread and proclaimed its appetizing appeal.

Banana bread is still my go-to bread of choice, but I do enjoy branching out and trying other creations.

I found this recipe to be delectable!

Assessment: Win. To be added to my breads recipes.


Did any recipes catch your eye?

Any that you might be tempted to try?

Stay tuned for the future rounds of recipe trials!


Let your light shine!


Mimosa?  Yes, please!

Sparkling wine….orange juice….and….strawberries. 

During these long days of summer this sounds like a little slice of heaven.

I know, I know…

Wait, it’s supposed to be champagne.  No,  there’s triple sec.  Is that a Buck’s Fizz?  Are you sure you have it right?

I think mimosa sounds nicer whether there is triple sec, Grand Marnier, grenadine, or whatever else anyone wants added. Because of that, I will always call the pairing of orange juice and champagne (or sparkling wine), a mimosa.

This mimosa was part of the brunch that I had at my painting day.  The orange juice and sliced strawberries were in a punch bowl.  There was the option of adding a sparkling wine, in this case  a Moscato Spumante, if you wanted a mimosa.

Mimosas are typically created based on your alcohol preference.  A 1-1 ratio of champagne (or sparkling wine) and orange juice is considered “middle of the road”.  Like a little more alcohol?  Make it 2-1, with more champagne.  A little less of a fan of alcohol?  Make it 2-1, with more orange juice.  Easy as that!

Summertime and fresh, ripe strawberries… sounds like a perfect pairing to me!

I’m thinking this recipe is the perfect excuse to gather up some friends, pair this with a little food, and join in with lots of smiles and laughter!


Let your light shine!



*This is my first time entering a photo for Frank’s Tuesday Challenge over at Dutch Goes the Photo, but this was in my archives and the theme is orange this week.  I’ve loved looking at the amazing entries each week!  I’m also entering it into the WordPress weekly photo challenge for details.



Signs of Summertime

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Summertime is basically upon us.  My boys are finished with school, having high enough grades and low enough absences to be exempt from finals.  My daughter is on the countdown with half days to finish out the middle school year (exemptions are only for high school credit classes).

We are starting to make our summer plans.  Yes, I am a slacker when it come to planning far out into the future.

For me, one of the signs of summertime is watermelon.  Cool, refreshing, and, if picked just right, so sweet!  According to this chart by the  USDA-Florida, Georgia, California, and Texas account for over half of watermelon production. I used to pass watermelon fields all the time as a child.  Picking a good one is key!  Watermelon does not ripen after harvest so it is important to look for a bright skin.  You should also look for a cream colored area on its “belly” where it sat on the ground.  You can also thump it and listen for a hollow sound.  For me, this is the best indicator of ripeness.  I’m far from an expert and hate when I pick wrong.  Too pale, and there is no flavor at all.  Too ripe, and it feels like gritty mush in your mouth.  I learned how to look for one that when cut open would be deep red and dripping with juice.  Messy, yes…but, well worth it!


When I was a child, we used to have watermelon seed spitting contests amongst the younger relatives.  I went on vacation with my grandmother when I was about 10 or 11.  It was me, Jami, and a friend of hers.  We went to Ohio and have lots of crazy tales for another day.  We stopped to visit my Great Aunt on the way home.  She lived in Lake City, Florida.  We had been in the car for a long time and were a little antsy.  The adults gave us some watermelon and sent us outside. In hindsight, this was to get us out of their hair!

We went outside to eat watermelon and our cousin, who was 15, joined us.  We decided to have a seed spitting contest.  I’m actually pretty good at sending them a good way, but I wasn’t really a match for a 15 year old.  Somehow, the game began to evolve into spitting seeds at each other.  The sun was beginning to set and we were barefoot, running through the sand and grass, spitting seeds at each other.  The 15 year old had an unfair advantage of this being his home.  We lost him somewhere in the twilight, until chunks of watermelon began raining down from the sky.  Following the arc of the projectiles, we could just make out that he was high on a branch in the giant oak tree.  We declared this an unfair advantage as we were not tall enough to grab the lower branches.  We decided to join forces, the three of us sending chunks of watermelon high into the sky hoping that one would connect with him.  He scrambled out of the tree and we scurried after him, a trio on a mission.  We were filled with such exuberant joy at the freedom of being a child on the run.  We were filled with a hidden satisfaction that we were deemed cool enough by the 15 year old for him to join in on our escapades.  In the end, our hair was sticky and matted and dirt covered our feet from running through the dusty sand.  The adults laughed as they took in the messy sight and it was a wonderful end to a magnificent day.



My kids have always liked to eat watermelon in hand held pieces, cut from the rind.  Over time, I found a method that made it most efficient for me.  I quarter the watermelon. Then, I make slices through the quarter.


After this, I slice lengthwise through the peak (hence the large knife)


Then, I am able to slice the watermelon along the bottom to release it from the rind (by the way, I’m a lefty if the knife direction seems strange to anyone)


And then I can just slide it off the rind and into a bowl.  I try to always keep some in the fridge for the kids and their friends to grab after a day in the hot sun.


What are some things that signal the beginning of summer for you?

Let your light shine!


Chicken Basil Meatloaf & Roasted Cauliflower

Next up on our trying out some new recipes was Chicken Basil Meatloaf.  I went to my new favorite go-to recipe source PaleOMG.  The recipe can be found here.  I did make some changes.  It calls for fresh parsley, but I had this amazing basil that my niece had grown in her garden, dried, and given me for Christmas.  So I used 1/3 of the amount that it called for.

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Recently dried basil

It also calls for parsley.  I didn’t have any….what?!  How is that possible?  I don’t know either, but that was the fact.  I looked around for what you can substitute.  Everything said parsley doesn’t add much taste, but didn’t give me an alternative.  So I did what I do best, I improvised.  I made an executive decision and added 1/2 tsp. of tarragon and 1/2 tsp of dill weed.  I think this was a good decision because while we all liked it fine, something still seemed lacking.  Now that may have been because I didn’t use fresh basil, but honestly I can’t imagine it having a heavier basil taste.  It also may have been because it was ground chicken and we all have this mindset of ground beef in a meatloaf. It did throw the boys off a little. The recipe does say that you can choose to use different meats instead.  I would probably make it again, but will tweak the recipe even more and then decide if it stays in our rotation.



I made roasted cauliflower with the meatloaf.  I had a partial head, probably 1/3 of one.  I put about 2 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil into a bowl and put the cauliflower on top.  I sprinkled it liberally with salt and tossed.  I knew that I wanted something else for some flavor.  I looked through my spices and decided on sage.  I ended up using an 1/8 tsp of sage and the dark green color made me feel like that would be trouble and nobody would eat it.  I decided to add an 1/8 tsp of tumeric.  I try to add tumeric anywhere that I can sneak it in since the curcumin in it is an anti-inflammatory and so many western diseases are caused by inflammation.  I was still a little nervous about how it would go over.  I put it in the oven with the meatloaf at 375 F for about 25 minutes, watching for browning.  If I was cooking it alone, I would have done 400 F for 20 minutes.  Next time, I will mix the spices with the oil before tossing the cauliflower into it. Everybody loved it and I will make again.  I was so excited that my little experiment turned out so successfully. DSC_0950

Do you have a favorite place to find recipes or any recipes that have turned out better than expected?  I’d love to know!

Let your light shine!


Sweet Potato Meatloaf

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Sweet Potato Meatloaf

I’ve decided that maybe I’ll be Paleo-ish.  Yes, I like this term better.  You might remember that when I decided to go wheat-free, my husband decided to jump on my healthy bandwagon, but he prefers the paleo version of life.  Well, I cook the meals and while I am mostly trying to accommodate (sorry, but beans and rice and chili are my go-to easy meals in this house, and don’t qualify as paleo).  Tonight, I decided to once again try a PaleOMG recipe, savory sweet potato meatloaf.  The recipe can be found here.  I was a little nervous because it is a recipe that calls for raisins (yes, you read that right, raisins).

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Cooking up the bacon.  Oops!  I cooked it all instead of half.
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This is a bloated raisin.  Check out the recipe and you’ll know what I mean.

At first I thought I might leave them out, then I thought I’d put them in only 1 of the 2 loaves.  In the end, I just put it in both loaves (mostly because I was too lazy to separate them out!). I did mess up the recipe (I do that sometimes when I’m not sure on my first go round).  I cooked all the bacon and mixed it into the loaf, instead of half cooked and the other half layering the top.  Maybe it would have been prettier that way, but I don’t think it affected the overall recipe.  I served it with some spinach that I sauteed in the cast iron skillet that was still a little coated in bacon grease ( I am loving using my cast iron pan.  It was a wedding gift….so we’ve had it forever and I’ve used it more in the past year than in the 16 prior).

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Sauteed spinach

Everybody in the house loved it.  I eat mine with mustard, everyone else is a ketchup fan.  My daughter even had seconds. Which if you knew how limited her food selections were, you’d know that it was a rave review for this new recipe.

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Yum!  Definitely a hit!

Let your light shine!


Paleo…Round 2


Last night I made buffalo chicken casserole.  If you are looking for some good recipes you should check out Juli Bauer at Paleomg

This is what spaghetti squash looks like…..like spaghetti


She gives the recipe there in a sneak peek at her cookbook.  I’ll be honest, even though I’d heard of a spaghetti squash, I had no idea what one was before this meal.   The meal ended up with mixed reviews in the house.  My daughter didn’t try it (which I planned for ahead of time) because it was too spicy for her taste.  One son ate it because it was dinner and the other son liked it.  My boys did eat it as more of a dip style using Frito’s corn chips.  I tried it with the corn chips and it did change the taste, mostly by reducing the amount of heat in my mouth. My husband loved it, eating to his heart’s content.  It was definitely a meal that I would make again.

Real life at its finest.  I don’t have a shiny oven.

I had some of the leftovers for lunch today.  I melted shredded sharp cheddar cheese on the top.  Why? Because I’m total cheese addict!  But it was so good!

We are getting prepared for a big snow here in the Blue Ridge mountains.  School has already been cancelled for tomorrow so I will be practicing my yogic deep breathing to maintain my sanity!

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Oh, and this will help too!

Let your light shine!