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Food

Food is more than just something you put in your mouth to your fuel your body. Food is an adventure, a shared experience with someone you love, it’s traveling to a distant part of the world and it brings people together.

In our family are foodies. I come from a long line of foodies. We were taught to try everything and I’ve raised my daughters to try everything twice.

Here I will review different restaurants, share recipes and try foods that you may otherwise have never heard of or known about. My goal is to share all the good we discover and give my readers, and my family, exposure to different kinds of cuisines and tastes.

Food is something that connects all humans. We all need it. We all love it. The more we understand the foods of different cultures, the more we can understand it’s people and the world can always use a little more human understanding.

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Funny story, a few weeks ago, I started getting dizzy while driving. Scared the sh*t out of me…Okay, not so funny. Anyways, went to the doctor and surprise (no surprise I’ve battled eustachian ear issues my entire life) and I had not only an acute sinus infection (no surprise there either…chronic sinusitis is my life) but also had an inordinate amount of fluid in my ears (Duh, I could feel it sloshing around in there teetering between itching and hurting for almost 2 months…again nothing new). But the getting dizzy while driving my kids, was new and I did not like it. Is this perimenopause, menopause, cancer, dementia or low blood sugar?

Needless to say, that sparked a series of way overdue anxiety attacks.  I mean come on, I’ve kept my shit together pretty well these past couple of pandemic years but some things got to give. If we’re being really honest, and if you know me you know that I am, my first thought at the dizziness which I’ve never experienced in this way (in waves) was a brain tumor ( long story short, I’m chronically afraid that God is going to use my big brain and big boobs against me and in the end they will take me out #pandemictriggeredhypochondriac). My doctor assured me, “Nope, Debi your heart, lungs and everything else is fine but your ears are a mess.”

So I went on a high dose of antibiotics with a side of Diflucan (because what would an ear infection be without a side of a yeast infection to add insult to injury? I mean if you don’t get an itchy vagina to go along with your sinus pressure and vertigo, did it even happen?) and something for the anxiety that the dizziness triggered (what if I blackout while driving my kids and we all die?) but since I have high blood pressure (controlled but still diagnosed) that’s all I got…not a damn thing to dry up all that fluid stuck in my head.

Disclosure: Some of the products mentioned in this post were sent to me for review purposes. All opinions and gynecological misadventures are all my own.

Fast forward to the week I was finishing up my antibiotics and I woke up in the middle of the night, not once, not twice but three times soaked from my shoulders up in the middle of a full-on panic attack. Sorry to say, I’ve battled my fair share of demons in my life ( #fullymanicteensandtwenties) and I am not about that in my head life. It’s a dark and scary place and I’d prefer not to live there for very long. So, I did what any sane person would do, I called my doctor and my gynecologist because eureka…this bitch is almost 50 and maybe it’s time to admit reproductive defeat. Maybe I’m (gulp) perimenopausal or even menopausal. I mean, it could happen.

Ever since I had my hysterectomy in 2018 and have been living that 1 ovary life, I’m basically waiting to become reproductively challenged. I know this. Every day of estrogen is a gift. Shit, my baby sister went through menopause a few months after having her baby a couple of years ago and didn’t even know it ( God really said…you are done) so, me, being 5 years older, it’s just a matter of time.

Let me share some knowledge with you, I’ve always been an alpha ( if you know you know) if you got anywhere in my orbit, I would pull you onto my cycle ( ask my sisters and my daughters). I knew exactly when I ovulated ( day 14) and menstruated ( day 28), I could literally feel it. I haven’t had a period in almost 4 years because I don’t have a uterus but every month, I still get PMS and every other month, I can feel my ovulation. I know when my girls get their periods because I get their bloating and munchies.

However, my husband did good choosing in that crucial left ovary, right ovary moment ( it was decided after I was under because someone forgot to ask me before) because this girl, she’s a boss. She will not go quietly into that good reproductive night. Girlfriend is keeping us in the game but alas, those hot flash/cold sweats and anxiety, what else could it be. It must be the reproductive grim reaper coming for me.

I made an appointment with my gynecologist and left it to God. I resigned myself to the fact that I’m at the very least perimenopausal if not menopausal and it was time to get myself some estrogen, progesterone, supplement, patch or black cohosh (only not black cohosh because it would surely make this bipolar 1 manic woman full-on manic.periodt. and nobody wants that.)

Yesterday, I went to see Nina ( that’s my gynecologist, we’re on a first-name basis because we’ve been together over a decade and been through cancer scares, a miscarriage, a D& E, another surprise in office ( no anesthesia) D&C when she removed multiple cups of blood from my uterus after my fibroids literally tried to kill me and ultimately a hysterectomy and, I thought to myself, now….the death of my femininity aka the pause. But after an offer of Paxil ( no thank you…manic people shouldn’t take anti-depressants if they can avoid it) then estrogen, we resigned ourselves to the fact that our perimenopause or menopause journey together had begun but first, let’s make sure ( because I need proof for everything…how can I fix it if I don’t know what’s broken?) and we did a blood draw to get my hormone levels.

Guess what? Congratulations, I’m not perimenopausal or menopausal or any other pausal. I’m 100% normal hormone levels. To say I was surprised is an understatement. To say I was relieved is more like it because even though I know I am knocking on reproductive invisibility’s door, I’m not ready. Not really. The same way I wasn’t ready for my first period, my last period or any of my pregnancies because even though you read all about it and plan for it, you can never be ready but it still happens.

I feel like maybe this is the universe’s way of giving me a 5-minute warning, Debi, get your health in order because soon, it won’t be a false alarm and you need to be prepared so drink your milk, workout, eat more healthily, get that weight in check, moisturize, drink your water, play soduku and, for the love of all that is holy, make peace with your anxiety because one day those hot flashes and triggered panic attacks are going to be triggered by hormones (just like your migraines and hypomania used to be). I’ve never been so excited to just be “normal” whatever that means.

Here’s a list of some of the things I’ve been doing to prioritize me.

I’ve recently tried some new Reset 360 products to help increase my protein and reduce my carbohydrate intake. I’m a diabetic but I think it’s a pretty good idea for everyone to keep an eye on what’s going in their body.

Plant-based cookies

The Decadent Dark Chocolate Chip Cookie is a soft-baked plant protein cookie that tastes delicious and delivers healthy plant protein.

Bite fuel Power Bites

Double the chocolate, double the gains! These little guys are packed with so much chocolate that if you leave them in your milk, you will have chocolate milk after 5 minutes. They are soft, chewy, and really pack a chocolatey punch and each bag contains 18 gm of protein,

Super greens dietary drink

They’re called Super Greens because they are mega packed with superfoods like wheatgrass, spirulina, kale, spinach, plus 6 more! It makes getting the right amount of veggies easy. With Super Greens you can make healthy eating easy without struggling to eat pounds of vegetables each day.

All-in-one-chocolate shake

A plant-based protein shake that may help support overall health, ideal weight, & digestive strength. Creamy, delicious flavor that blends smoothly, and provides exceptional nutrition.

Superpower bars

Protein-packed, dark chocolate goodness with only 2 grams of sugar- sounds like a dream come true. With all organic ingredients and 10 grams of plant protein, this bar is the perfect anytime snack. 6g of dietary fiber in every bar keeps you satisfied for hours without weighing you down. keep these bars nearby during break times for a pick me up when there’s no time for a full meal.

I’ve also been cutting out animal byproducts as much as possible. I am not currently a full-time vegetarian but I do prefer vegetarian meals over meat options and it’s better for my health to choose leaner and cleaner foods. I love to bake so I’ve been swapping out regular flour, dairy

Organic Cacao Powder

LESS FAT and FEWER CALORIES: Chocolate is a staple in most households, but it can make people feel guilty because it is often associated with candy and sugary treats. Our Organic Cacao Powder provides you with a more nutritious alternative to regular chocolate. Our chocolate has the same great flavor as ordinary cocoa with the added benefits of organic cacao and less guilt.

Oatsome milk

NON-DAIRY MILK: Oatsome delivers a mild, creamy flavor—without dairy, nuts, added sugar, or any artificial ingredients. Now you can enjoy milk without discomfort from lactose or other components.

Coconut Palm Sugar

REFINED SUGAR ALTERNATIVE: Organic Coconut Sugar makes an excellent 1 to 1 ratio (spoon-for-spoon) replacement to refined white sugar. That means it’s easy to switch out white sugar or artificial sweeteners for BetterBody Foods Organic Coconut Sugar in simple meals and gourmet recipes. The possibilities are endless.

LOW ON THE GLYCEMIC INDEX: BetterBody Foods’ Organic Coconut Sugar is naturally low on the glycemic index. This means that it doesn’t raise your blood sugar as quickly as refined sugars do, so you can have the sweetness of sugar in naturally sweet coconut sugar without the associated insulin spike. 

PB fit peanut butter powder

  • POWDERED PEANUT BUTTER: All-natural PBfit has 87% less fat and almost 1/3 the calories of regular peanut butter. Made from roasted and powdered peanuts, it has real peanut flavor without the high fat.
  • PROTEIN POWER: With 8 g of protein in one serving of natural PBfit, you’ll get a boost of protein right before your workout. Add it to your morning shake or smoothie for a creamy peanut butter taste.

BBF oat Flour blend

This whole-grain, organic oat flour makes a great alternative to traditional flour for anyone with sensitivities to gluten or anyone looking to improve their diet. HEART-HEALTHY OPTION: Low in both saturated fat and cholesterol, oat flour is a healthy alternative to traditional wheat flour and also contains soluble fiber (1.2 g per serving).

Bowmar Butter

High protein cashew spreads. Flavors include peanut butter pretzel, cake pop, sugar cookie and buckeye!

Cashew Spread ( Cookie Butter)

High protein peanut, almond or cashew nut spread is a great way to add more protein into your diet.

These spreads all have 10g of whey protein and are a great alternative to other butters and spreads that are loaded with sugar and artificial sweeteners. available in cashew, almond, and peanut butter.

I’ve also started drinking my water, getting enough sleep, exercising, upping my moisturizer game and taking care of myself, mentally and physically. Maybe I narrowly escaped the pause for now but its coming for me ( and you too) so why not start preparing now?

And if you’re wondering about the mystery root of my hot flashes and panic attacks and what cured it? ½ a dose of Sudaphed 2 times a day, it was all caused by the fluid in my ears. It’s crazy what your body can do to signal that your check engine light is on.

What are you doing to prepare for the next phase of womanhood? Have you already entered perimenopause of menopause? If so, what is one piece of advice you’d give to those following close behind?

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How to Throw the Perfect, Quaint Holiday Celebration this CoVid Season , holiday recipes

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Anyone else in full-on fun, old-fashioned Christmas mode? The kids are finally on winter break. We’re all fully vaccinated and 3 of the 4 of us are boostered (come on 15-11-year-old age group) and we’ve all been home long enough to relax and be present. I don’t know about you but I’m basking in the glow of some Christmas lights right now, myself.

Christmas doesn’t look like it used to because so many of our traditions and celebrations are tied to getting together with friends and family and as we’re all painfully aware, CoVid has been renewed for yet another season. Omicron is coming in hot this holiday season.

Disclosure: This is a compensated post in partnership with S.Rosen’s Baking Company. But all opinions and love of fancy cocktails and food are my own.

I knew there would be no “normal” ugly holiday sweater party this year but I was hoping for at least a “new normal”-ish holiday get-together. I was really looking forward to small gatherings with family. I thought that if we were safe and most of us were vaccinated we’d be okay. But last week, my friend lost his father to CoVid and it was a cruel reminder that CoVid is still here and still just as dangerous as it was when this all first started and I’m still terrified of accidentally killing an unvaccinated person (especially one related to me).

Then this surge came and, as anybody with teens knows, it’s almost impossible to be 100% safe when teens are involved. They’re in school and they drive. They’re attached at the hip with friends and, at this point for many, boyfriends and girlfriends have entered the picture so it’s really hard to keep your kid unexposed.  You try your best but know that you can’t be 100% sure they haven’t been exposed, even in the best-case scenarios.

This means we absolutely cannot be around people who are unvaccinated for fear they will pass it to us or worse, we’ll pass it to them and they could die. I can’t take that kind of added pressure to my holiday celebrations so some awkward conversations are going to have to take place and there are some people that I’m not going to get to hug this Christmas.

On the other hand, that doesn’t mean we can’t still safely celebrate “new normal” style with an intimate gathering of vaccinated and boostered only family. So that’s what we’re going to do. We’re celebrating small but make it fancy and fun. I’m thinking tiny sandwiches, fondue and some cocktails a la Madmen pairs nicely with my Masters in marketing that I’m pursuing right now.

Here are a few holiday celebration recipes I’ll be using this holiday season. Perfect for Christmas, New Year’s eve or even those 6 crazy days and nights between when no one knows what day or time it is; where we all exist in our pajamas, nap and eat to our heart and stomach’s content.

How to Throw the Perfect, Quaint Holiday Celebration this CoVid Season , holiday recipes, whiskey recipes

Merry Meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 32 oz. Frozen meatballs
  • 10 oz. Steak sauce 
  • 1 Can jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1 tsp. Smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. Hot sauce (more to taste) 
  • 1 tsp Soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Smoked paprika

For Serving:

  • Sharp cheddar cheese spread
  • S.Rosen’s Party Entertainer Rye Bread
  • Diced parsley

Instructions:

1. Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a slow cooker. Stir to evenly coat. Cook on high for 3-4 hours.

2. Serve with the party rye and cheddar cheese spread on the side so your guests can build their own sandwiches.

How to Throw the Perfect, Quaint Holiday Celebration this CoVid Season , holiday recipes, whiskey recipes

Fun with Fondue

Ingredients:

  • ½ lb Gruyere (don’t use pre-shredded)
  • ½ lb Gouda (don’t use pre-shredded)
  • 2½ Tbsp. Cornstarch
  • 1 Cup lager beer
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • ½ tsp. Garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. Onion powder
  • ½ tsp. White pepper
  • ¼ tsp. Nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp. Rye whiskey
  • 1½ tsp. Dijon mustard

For Serving:

  • S.Rosen’s Party Entertainer Rye Bread
  • Diced apples
  • Broccoli florets
  • Cured meats

Instructions:

  1. Shred the cheeses and toss with the corn starch, trying to evenly coat.
  2. In nonstick pot over medium heat, bring the beer and lemon juice to a simmer. At this point add the dry seasonings.
  3. Add the shredded cheese a handful at a time, using a whisk to combine.
  4. Once smooth, add the, rye whiskey, mustard, and nutmeg.
  5. Serve in a fondue pot with plenty of options for dipping.

Snowman Cheese Ball

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. Cream cheese
  • 8 oz. White cheddar, shredded
  • 8 oz. Havarti, shredded
  • 1 tsp. White pepper
  • ½ tsp. Garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. Onion powder
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • ¾ Cup crushed macadamia nuts

Instructions:

  1. Combine the cream cheese, shredded cheese, seasonings, Dijon mustard, and 6 Tbsp. of crushed     Macadamia nuts in a large bowl. Mashed the ingredients together. 
  2. When the mixture is well combine, coat your hands in olive oil (to prevent sticking) and form 3 balls on a plate to form a snowman.
  3. 3. Coat with the rest of the crushed macadamia nuts, add nose, eyes, and buttons.
  4. Serve with S.Rosen’s Party Entertainer Ryes Bread.
How to Throw the Perfect, Quaint Holiday Celebration this CoVid Season , holiday recipes, whiskey recipes

Mini Rye Melts

Ingredients:

  • 2 Yellow onion, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. Butter
  • S.Rosen’s Party Entertainer Rye Bread
  • 14 oz. Package li’l smokies
  • Gouda cheese slices
  • Yellow mustard
  • Diced parsley for topping

Instructions:

  1. To caramelize the onion, start by melting 3 Tbsp. of butter in a small pot, then add the onions. Gently cook over low heat for about 60 minutes, stirring regularly. Raise the temperature slightly toward the end to promote some browning. Take off heat and allow to cool. Can be made the day before.
  2. Assemble the sandwiches on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Start with a spoonful of caramelized onion spread on the bread, top with 2 li’l smokies with each being cut in half to they lay better. Top with a ¼ of a slice of Gouda cheese. This can be done earlier in the day, just cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to heat and serve.   
  3. Heat oven to 350◦F and bake for 8 minutes.
  4. Top with yellow mustard and diced parsley. Enjoy!
How to Throw the Perfect, Quaint Holiday Celebration this CoVid Season , holiday recipes, whiskey recipess

Retro Rye Cocktails

We’re taken some retro cocktails and given them seasonal/modern twists to complement our rockin’ rye appetizers. We use rye whiskey in these drinks, but bourbon works as a substitute.

Happy Highball!
Combine 2 oz rye whiskey and 1oz. cranberry or pomegranate liquor then top with 4 oz. ginger beer.

Apple Manhatten
Combine in a cocktail shaker: 2 oz. Rye whiskey, ½ oz. apple brandy, ½ oz. sweet vermouth & 2 dashes bitters. Shake, strain & serve

A Festive Fig Old Fashioned

Ingredients:

  • ·2 oz. Rye whiskey
  • ·2 tsp Fig syrup (recipe below)
  • 3 Dashes orange bitters
  • Orange peel for garnish

To Make the Fig Syrup: Combine ½ cup of water, ¼ cup of fig jam and ¼ cup of brown sugar in a small pot, gently simmer until well combined. Remove from heat, strain to remove the seeds and allow to chill.

To Make Drink: Combine the first 3 ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until well chilled then strain into an old-fashioned glass over a large ice cube. Garnish the orange peel.

The most important thing to remember this holiday season is to be kind to yourself and enjoy what you can do and don’t linger too long worrying about the things you can’t. It’s all temporary and there is no rule that says we have to celebrate in a certain way. Look at it this way, you’re stepping out of your box and making new traditions. Happy holidays!

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Thanksgiving recipes, thanksgiving dinner, cranberry orange relish, thanksgiving sides

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Growing up, cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving dinner meant a gelatinous cranberry-ish colored substance in the form of a can. Really, it was like eating canned jelly. It was all I knew and I loved it. I’ve always been a sucker for a bit of sweet with my savory, as evidenced by my cranberry and brie bites addiction. I had no idea there was even such a thing as homemade cranberry orange sauce.

However, when I met the Big Guy, on our first Thanksgiving at his mom’s house, I tasted what could only be called cranberry orange heaven. It was absolutely nothing like the canned stuff that I had believed to be cranberry sauce for my entire previous 20-something years. It was like my mouth was tasting cranberries for the first time ever.

READ ALSO: How to Roast the Perfect Turkey

My mother-in-law bought a prepackaged deli style cranberry orange sauce by a company called Indian Trail. The little tub of sweet-tart-citrus deliciousness was magnificent and the flavors were incredibly vibrant. It was like eating color. The texture was jellied but not gelatinous. It was full-bodied compared to the canned stuff. To be honest, it was almost a dessert.

A couple of years later, the Big Guy and I were married and living hundreds of miles away from our families so we decided to host our first ever Thanksgiving dinner. It was all brand new. I was excited and terrified to take on the undertaking but it was time to make our own traditions, he and I. I finally felt like an adult. Just my husband and his wife and no parents around to do all the heavy lifting.

We made a list and made sure to include everything that we wanted in a Thanksgiving dinner. We were able to move away from the stove top stuffing and canned “cranberry sauce”. The one side dish that  I knew that I really wanted to keep from our mothers was the Indian Trail cranberry orange sauce. Only, when we got to the store, we couldn’t find it anywhere. After a frenzied scouring of the internet to save my Thanksgiving dinner ( because I was not above having my MIL overnight me the sauce from home) I found out that Indian Trail went out of business.

NOOOOOOOOO! I was so disappointed. Obviously, our first Thanksgiving was doomed. All I wanted was to host the perfect Thanksgiving for our family. We had gotten too big for our britches and Thanksgiving was ruined. There would be no Indian Trail Cranberry Orange Sauce for us. Or would there?

READ ALSO: How to Make Sweet Potato Casserole

Come on, y’all know me. I’m a Mexican, not a Mexicant. I did a whole lot of research and some trial and error taste testing and guess what I did? I created my own Indian Trail copycat recipe. All the same flavor and texture made at my house in a matter of minutes. And you know what? The homemade, from scratch recipe, is even better than the Indian Trail sold in stores version because it is fresh. All the bursting with flavors I was referring to earlier is timesed by 100%.

Here is my recipe for copycat homemade Indian Trail cranberry orange sauce recipe.

Ingredients

1 bag (12 oz.) fresh cranberries

1 whole orange including peel/rind, seeds removed

1-cup sugar

Instructions

Chop all of the ingredients in a food processor or a food grinder and stir to mix. Refrigerate until ready to use. Be sure to let it drain a while to remove the excess liquid before mixing it with Jello. The entire time it takes to process this mixture is about 5 minutes.

Ingredients

2 (3 oz.) pkgs. raspberry Jello

2 1/2 c. boiling water

Cranberry Orange Sauce

1 cup crushed pineapple with juice

1 cup of finely Chopped Walnuts or pecans

Instructions

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in Cranberry Orange Sauce, pineapple and chopped walnuts. Pour into mold. Refrigerate until firm ( 4 hours). I usually make this the night before Thanksgiving.

READ ALSO: How to make an Easy, Elegant Thanksgiving Tablescape

Serve on Thanksgiving along with all of the traditional sides you love. Your family will thank you for it. This year will be year 15 that we’ve hosted and I just had a hysterectomy and we’re still cooking because I can’t go back to canned cranberry sauce and Stove Top. It’s not just for Thanksgiving. This cranberry orange sauce is great for Christmas or really any dinner ever. Happy dinner!

What’s your Indian Trail Cranberry Orange Sauce side that you MUST have every holiday?

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Thanksgiving recipes, How to make sweet potato casserole, sweet potato casserole, sweet potatoes, Holiday recipes, turkey recipes, Thanksgiving

Of all the Thanksgiving Recipes I use my Sweet Potato Casserole is the one I’m asked for the most often. As Thanksgiving recipes go, this one is a favorite in our house. It’s based on the sweet potato casserole recipe made famous by the Grandview Lodge in North Carolina. We don’t spend every Thanksgiving in the Smokies but that doesn’t mean I can’t give my family that delicious home-cooked taste they’ve come to love. Below is the easy recipe for how to make sweet potato casserole recipe that has become synonymous with autumn in our house.

As far as Thanksgiving recipes go, this is the one must have ( aside from my Thanksgiving turkey recipe) that our family always wants me to bake. It also happens to be one of the side dish casseroles that people will ask me to bring to their assorted holiday functions. It is truly that good. I’ve even had family tell me that they would forgo the mashed potato recipes and Thanksgiving gravy for this sweet potato casserole.  It’s truly a Thanksgiving recipe favorite that your family will be asking for for years to come.

READ ALSO: Thanksgiving Recipes for the Perfect Holiday 

This is a bit of a Thanksgiving recipe secret so shhhh! It’s simple and delicious and people will think you were working in a hot kitchen all day. If you’re like me, you can even put it all together the night before ( to reduce the amount of kitchen time on Thanksgiving Day) and then just pop it in the oven for the last 45 minutes of your turkey baking time.

Best Thanksgiving Recipes: Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients –   How to make Sweet Potato Casserole

  • 3 cups sweet potatoes, baked and mashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk

Ingredients – Topping

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the first 6 ingredients.

Pour into a lightly greased 9 x 13-inch or two 9 x 9-inch baking pans.

In a food processor fitted with a steel knife, combine ingredients for topping until crumbly or use a pastry blender to cut butter into brown sugar and flour until crumbly.

Mix in the chopped pecans.

Sprinkle topping mixture over the sweet potatoes.

At this point, the dish can be refrigerated (covered).

Thanksgiving recipes, How to make sweet potato casserole, sweet potato casserole, sweet potatoes, Holiday recipes, turkey recipes, Thanksgiving                                Photo: Pinch of  Yum

Bake uncovered in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes until browned and bubbly.

READ ALSO: How to Make an Easy, Elegant Thanksgiving Tablescape

Let cool slightly before serving.

Enjoy with your other favorite Thanksgiving Recipes. This sweet potato casserole recipe will surely be a Thanksgiving recipe that you will come back to year after year.

Thanksgiving Recipes are the best. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving side dish?

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Back to School Brain Food Homemade Granola Bar Recipe

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

School is back in session and it’s in person this year. Let’s be honest, it is exhausting peopling these days, even for kids (especially those old enough to know better). My girls are back in school after the longest 17 months in the history of their world; pandemic problems even in the first world suck. They come home hungry and in need of a pick-me-up. I want to give them comfort and listen over a healthy snack. One of my girls’ favorites is my back to school brain food homemade granola bar recipe.

I’ve been making this recipe for almost as long as my girls have been alive. They’ve requested it more times than I can count and I’m not mad at them about it. I love them too. This granola bar recipe is quick, easy and 100% customizable and goes great in breakfast parfaits too.

There is something reassuring and organic about making food with love for your children and knowing what’s in it, no preservatives.  In fact, I just made a big batch earlier this week for their first week back to school! It’s Gabi’s first week in high school so I needed to give her all the comfort I could.

I used to make this recipe with the girls and we’d have a blast making it together and enjoying it as a snack with a huge glass of organic milk (wouldn’t do the hormones for my girls..but that is an entirely different post about precocious puberty). These granola bars also make a super awesome topping on French Vanilla yogurt.

Back to School Brain Food Homemade Granola Bar Recipe

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 3/4 cut shredded coconut
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips or raisins or other dried fruit of your choice!

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl.

Back to School Brain Food Homemade Granola Bar Recipe

Line 9×13 pan with foil and spread mixture.

Granola Bars Goodness

Back to School Brain Food Homemade Granola Bar Recipe

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, let cool a bit and then cut into squares.

Back to School Brain Food Homemade Granola Bar Recipe

Wrap in cling wrap and eat within about a week. They are still good after a week, but dry out a bit and become crumbly.

The best part is that it’s so customizable to your family’s taste by simply switching the nuts, dried fruits or adding peanut butter ( or whatever chips you’d prefer) into these delicious granola bars. I promise your kids will be begging you to make this back-to-school brain food homemade granola bar recipe. Eat it alone, with milk, in a parfait or with some fruit as part of a bowl; perfect for breakfast, on the go or an after-school or late-night snack.

What is your favorite back to school brain food recipe?

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Farmer's Market Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Spring is here. We’re a month out from the end of the longest virtual school year ever. The girls and I have all been working hard to make it off this struggle bus of pandemic living.  We’re in full survival mode and right now, survival means adding something to look forward to each and every day, even if that just means something as simple as a facial mask or some new recipes.

Jump to Recipe

We should have never left the house for spring break. What should have been a welcome reprieve from our pandemic isolation ended up with us catching a severe case of senioritis. If you know, you know. Think the last 2 months of pregnancy…get out. The worst part is that I have to be the adult and encourage my girls to just hang in there, it’s “almost over” when all I want to do is quit. Talk about mom faking it until we make it.

Disclosure: This is a compensated post in partnership with S.Rosen’s Baking Company. But all opinions and love of grilled cheese are my own.

To break up the monotony, I’ve been trying to get us safely out of the house more often. With the nice weather, that means more trips to outdoor venues, even if it’s just walking around the neighborhood pathways or the local Farmer’s market. But in doing so, that means not just fresh air but tiny, new adventures. Baby step adventures in travel, exploration and food and that feels just the littlest bit “normal” and I am here for it. Life feels new, fresh and exciting right now (just because it feels like normalcy may be possible again in the near future) and it hasn’t felt that way in a long time. I feel hopeful.

Delicious Farmer's Market Sandwich Recipes for the Whole Family, grilled cheese

Since we’re spending more time at the local Farmer’s market anyway, why not try some new recipes Farmer’s Market Inspired Grilled Cheeses?

Springtime is here and we’re craving something fresh. While all those fresh veggies can be absolutely delicious, they may not be everyone’s favorite food at the table. Though growing up, my mom’s grilled cheese was my favorite thing to eat. In fact, I couldn’t eat anything else during the first 6 months of my 1st pregnancy. Thankfully, my mom was happy to oblige and I’m happy to oblige my girls when they ask for my grilled cheese sandwiches.

But what about those fresh veggies you just bought at the Farmer’s market? Enter a unique mashup of grilled cheese and fresh veggies. These modular recipes bring together everyone’s favorite comfort food, grilled cheese with garden fresh veggies in easy to modify recipes. You can easily and quickly leave out select ingredients and customize each sandwich as needed for certain family members. Though we’d suggest NOT leaving out the bread and cheese – that could be a bit difficult.

Farmer’s Market Inspired Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipes

Fresh Asparagus and Spring Pesto Grilled Cheese

Ever feel like poor asparagus only gets used one way? Thrown on the grill and that’s about it, but we think this springtime veg is far more versatile than that! The key is cutting it up into bite size pieces to make this grilled cheese a fun, seasonal creation.
Servings 1

Equipment

  • Skillet
  • Panini Maker

Ingredients
  

For the Spring Pesto:

  • 2 Tbsp Toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 Cup Olive oil
  • 6 Tbsp Grated parmesan
  • 1/2 Tsp Roasted garlic
  • 1 oz Fresh Chives

Per Sandwich

  • 2-3 Stalks Asparagus ends snapped off and sliced into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 Slices Havarti cheese
  • 1 Slice Prosciutto torn into bite size pieces
  • Mayo to your liking
  • 2 Slices S.Rosen’s Farmer’s Market White Bread

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the pesto (this can be done the day before). Combine the pesto ingredients in a blender. Pulse until you reach the desired consistency.
  • Sauté asparagus pieces for 3 minutes on high heat, until you see it begin to brown. Take off heat and transfer to a separate bowl, stirring in 1-2 Tbsp. of the pesto (depending on how strong you want it). 
  • Heat skillet or panini maker to medium (we really like cast iron for this if it’s available, but if not, use a non-stick pan).
  • Assemble the sandwich: one slice of Havarti, top with the prosciutto, then the pesto coated asparagus, and more slices of cheese. Top with the second slice of bread after spreading a thin layer of mayo on it. If you’re making multiple grilled cheeses, assemble them all before you start griddling.
  • Place the sandwich mayo side down in the skillet. Spread mayo on the bread slice now facing up and cook 3 minutes, or until bread is toasty brown.  Turn and repeat.  Your stove top and pan may require slightly different cooking times.

For the sweet and savory Farmer’s market sandwich lover

Arugula Blueberry Grilled Cheese

Fresh Arugula and Local Jam Grilled Cheese

Maybe one of the most fun items to pick up at the farmers market is local jam, and with family favorite cheese Muenster, this combination creates a tasty and easy-to-make grilled cheese.  The arugula adds a nice peppery counter balance to the jam and makes this a more sophisticated sandwich for adults. As for the jam, we recommend the following flavors: blueberry, blackberry and apricot, but we encourage you to try your favorites! 
Servings 1

Equipment

  • Skillet
  • Or Panini Maker

Ingredients
  

Per Sandwich

  • High quality jam of your choice
  • 3 Slices Muenster cheese
  • Arugula Handful
  • Mayo to your liking
  • 2 Slices S.Rosen’s Farmer’s Market White Bread

Instructions
 

  • Heat skillet to medium (we really like cast iron for this if it’s available, but if not use a non-stick pan)
  • Assemble the sandwich: One and a half slices of Muenster (rip the half slice into pieces and spread around the slice), spread jam over cheese, and add a handful of arugula. Top with the second slice of bread. 
  • Spread a thin layer of mayo on this slice. If you’re making multiple grilled cheeses, first assemble them all before you start griddling.
  • Place the sandwich mayo side down in the skillet.  Spread mayo on the bread slice now facing up and cook 3 minutes, or until bread is toasty brown.  Turn and repeat. Your stove top and pan may require slightly different cooking times.

Farmer’s Market Sandwich that will fill you up

Bacon Chard Grilled Cheese

Chard, Apple and Bacon Grilled Cheese with Red Pepper Sauce

Chard always feels like that vegetable you should eat, but exactly how seems to be an issue. The answer is a grilled cheese! We also realize that chard might be a tough sell for some members of the family, but if you omit the chard, the resulting bacon and apple is still a classic grilled cheese combo.

Equipment

  • Skillet
  • Or Panini Maker

Ingredients
  

For the Red Pepper Sauce:

  • 4 oz. Jarred roasted red pepper 
  • 2 oz. Toasted slivered almonds 
  • 4 oz. Tomatoes (we used fire roasted from a can to keep it easy)
  • 1 Tsp Paprika
  • 2 Tbsp Parsley
  • 1 Tsp Roasted garlic

For the Chard

  • 1 Bunch Chard (rainbow or swiss)
  • 2 Tbsp Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp Neutral oil such as canola

For the Sandwich

  • 2 Slices Bacon cooked until crisp
  • 3 Slices Gouda cheese
  • 1/4 Apple thinly sliced

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the red pepper sauce (this can be done the day before).  Combine the ingredients in a blender. Pulse until you reach the desired consistency.
  • Prepare the chard in a medium sauce pan with a lid.  Heat pan to medium and add oil.  Once heated, add chard by the handful. It will cook down A LOT.  Stir the chard, apple cider vinegar, and salt. Cook for 6-7 minutes. Take off heat and set aside.
  • Heat skillet to medium (we really like cast iron for this if it’s available, but if not use a non-stick pan).
  • Assemble the sandwich: one slice of Gouda first, top with bacon, then the apple, two spoonfuls of sautéed chard, and finally, more sliced of cheese.  Top with the second slice of bread.  Spread a thin layer of mayo on this slice. If you’re making multiple sandwiches, assemble them all before you start griddling.
  • Place the sandwich mayo side down in the skillet. Spread mayo on the bread slice now facing up and cook three minutes, or until bread is toasty brown.  Turn and repeat.  Your stove top and pan may require slightly cook times.  
  • Serve with red pepper sauce for dunking.

Just remember, life might feel a little weird and different right now but you can still do some things that are “normal” like a picnic in the backyard with the people who live in the house with you or just take a delicious sandwich to the deck and eat by yourself, if you’ve had too much “together time” this pandemic. Either way, what’s your favorite fresh, Farmer’s Market sandwich recipe?

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easiest way to get protein without eating meat

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

I was a vegetarian for 10 years. To be honest, I am not a huge fan of meat even now after going back. It just isn’t my vibe. Sure, I love the occasional steak, burger, fish or chicken but mostly, I prefer anything else. I’ve taken a lot ethics and animals classes, joined PETA when I was 18 and it’s hard for me to enjoy eating pretty much anything with a face but I’m not here to pull anyone over to the vegetarian side. I just know that I’m not alone.

A lot of people are starting to think seriously about how much meat they eat on a daily basis. Some people have ethical concerns about how much animal products they eat, others are aware of the environmental impact of farming for meat, and others realize that a lot of meat in the diet simply isn’t healthy. Yes to all of this for me.

However, most people rely on meat for the vast majority of their protein consumption, which is crucial for healthy muscle growth amongst other things. So, what can we do to get the protein we need without as much meat or none at all?

A teaspoon of powder is all it takes

We all know the nutritional benefits of milk in the diet, with the calcium, iron, and other additions it has for your diet. However, making one replacement can help you not only get the same calcium but also add some protein to your morning glass of milk. Soybeans are a tremendous source of complete protein, meaning they have both protein and the amino acids that typically go with it in animal sources of protein. Of course, milk isn’t the only way to have your soy, but it’s an easy replacement to make and it tastes great.

All that power in one little bean

If you’re looking to live a healthy, active lifestyle and you need plenty of protein to make sure that your muscles are regenerating and growing as they should, then powdered protein may be something you’re familiar with. Not only can it help you up your protein throughout the day, but it can also help you replace meals if you’re trying to cut down on your portions.

Get nutty with it

Although not quite the same as soybeans (since they are not complete sources of protein), you should also look at the various ways you can use nuts more in your meals. This can include salads, soups, desserts, and snacks throughout the day. Peanuts have, per gram, the highest amount of protein out of all of the nuts. However, walnuts and hazelnuts also pack plenty of protein in their punch. What’s more, they also have a lot of those heart-healthy unsaturated fats. You shouldn’t eat more than roughly 30g of them a day, however.

Completing your proteins

Soybeans tend to be one of the few most readily available sources of complete proteins, which is why they’re the easiest to recommends. Others, such as rice and nuts, do not contain the amino acids that are also essential and typically come with animal proteins. If you’re ever worried that you’re not getting enough, you might also want to consider using amino acid supplements just to top you up. Getting it through your diet is more widely recommended, but the option is there just to err on the side of caution.

Getting the protein you need is possible without eating as much meat. Hopefully, the tips above help you see the alternatives to getting your protein when milk isn’t the.

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If you Wouldn't Drink Paint Thinner while Pregnant then Pass on Decaf coffee, clean label project

Do you love coffee? Is it something that’s part of your daily routine? I’ve been drinking cafecito bombon since I was a tween and sneaking sips from my dad’s mug since before then. Coffee has always been comforting in my life. Even now, one of my favorite things to do is sit on the back deck with the Big Guy and sip coffee over conversation or make TikToks while dancing around the kitchen with my teens sipping our whipped coffees. It doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold, caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee is comfort and enthusiastic support on all days and in all the ways.  But what if you found out that your coffee had toxic chemicals in it? Worse, what if you were pregnant and found out that your decaf coffee had paint stripper in it?

Disclosure: This post is a sponsored campaign in partnership with the Clean Label Project. All opinions and pregnancy experience is my own.

When I was pregnant, I kicked my coffee addiction. I gave up caffeine completely. A few times, I did treat myself to a decaf Frappuccino. We lived in Tennessee, 600 miles away from our parents. Some days during pregnancy, I really needed to be comforted and I thought it was safe to treat myself to a small decaf coffee. Was I wrong?

READ ALSO: Unexpected Pregnancy at 40

My mom has a heart condition. She doesn’t drink caffeine because it’s bad for her. She drinks decaf coffee twice daily. A lot of older people drink decaf coffee because caffeine is bad for them. Pregnant women drink decaf because caffeine is not great for development. There are several different kinds of medical and mental disorders that encourage those diagnosed to switch to decaf because it’s “better for you”. But what happens when the very thing that you are told to be healthier is terrible for you?

READ ALSO: Things no one tells you about pregnancy

Clean Label Project recently released findings on methylene chloride (the active ingredient in paint strippers), which is found in popular decaffeinated coffee. Clean Label Project has filed lawsuits against four national brands for false and misleading advertising and labeling. These brands claim that their decaffeinated coffee products are “pure and natural.” In contrast, Clean Label Project’s study showed that methylene chloride was detected in the decaffeinated coffee products of these brands.

I’m not saying that you can’t drink coffee. I love coffee. Just ask my Nespresso account. Seriously, coffee is still warm and comforting to me but, as I’ve gotten more label savvy in the past year thanks to my recent health scares, I am also more discerning about what I put into my body. There are always healthier options, we just need to be aware of all the facts and ingredients.

 

So what’s going on with decaffeinated coffee? Removing caffeine from coffee generally involves one of two processes: water-based vs. solvent (chemical) based. However, the FDA currently allows methylene chloride to be used in the coffee decaffeination process and brands are not required to disclose which decaffeination process they use on their labels.

 

 

Clean Label Project tested 25 popular brands found in major retailers for the presence of methylene chloride. Ten brands tested positive. The onus is on the consumer to demand chemical-free decaffeinated coffee.

 

The thing is we have enough to worry about when we’re pregnant or elderly or just trying to take care of our health without having to go in search of all the hidden dangers of every single thing we ever want to eat or drink. There shouldn’t be secret chemicals in our food that can poison us or cause harm to our unborn babies. You don’t have to just take it. You can take action and Detox Your Coffee.

If you Wouldn't Drink Paint Thinner while Pregnant then Pass on Decaf coffee, clean label projectIf you Wouldn’t Drink Paint stripper while Pregnant then Pass on Decaf coffee. If you don’t think paint stripper is acceptable in decaf coffee, use your voice to contact your favorite brands and demand that they make it safer.

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Torani Pumpkin PIe Puremade sauce, cheesecake, recipe

If girls are supposed to be made of sugar and spice and everything nice, I think I just might be made up of 90% pumpkin pie spice, the fiercest and feistiest spices of all. Seriously, it officially falls. The nights are cooler. The days are shorter. It’s time for leaves to change, cozy sweaters and denim jeans with boots and all the things pumpkin pie spice.

Disclosure: This is a compensated post in partnership with Torani but all opinions and my love of Torani syrups and sauces are all mine. #ToraniPuremadeSauce

Cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts. There is something about rich, creamy, smooth cheesecake that makes it worth my carbs. It’s by far one of the most decadent tasting desserts out there.

Being that it is Pumpkin Spice season again, fall, I love to enjoy it as much as possible. I know some people think that pumpkin spice is overrated but I’d say to them, if being basic is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Bring on all the pumpkin spice. I’ll try it every which way you can bring it.

When there are no recipes out there to eat what you want to taste, I say create your own recipe and that is what I did. I decided what could be better than two of my favorite things married to one another in perfect flavor harmony. I hope you’ll enjoy eating it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Easy Vanilla Cream Cheesecake topped with Torani Pumpkin Pie Puremade Sauce drizzle

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter or margarine, melted

Filling:

  • 4 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs

Topping:

I love Torani Pumpkin pie Puremade sauce because it delivers amazing flavor with the ingredients I love. No
artificial flavors, no artificial colors and no artificial preservatives and it’s so easy to use. Add a spoonful to your coffee, cocoa, latte or dessert. The possibilities are endless.

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450°F. Place a large pan filled with 1/2-inch water in the oven.
  • Make the crust:
  1. Mix graham cracker crumbs and cinnamon; add butter or margarine.
  2. Press crust onto bottom and 2/3 of the way up a 9-inch springform pan lined with parchment.
  3. Wrap a large piece of foil around the bottom of the pan.
  4. Freeze until filling is prepared.
  • To make the cheesecake filling: Use an electric mixer to mix cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, and vanilla.
  • Blend until smooth.
  • Whisk eggs in a bowl; gently add to cream cheese mixture.
  • Blend the mixture until eggs are folded in but not overworked.
  • Remove crust from freezer and pour in filling. Carefully place the cheesecake into a preheated water bath. Bake for 15 minutes; turn oven to 350°F and bake until top of cheesecake turns golden, about an hour.
  • Remove cake to let cool.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  • Cut and serve, topped with Torani pumpkin pie puremade sauce drizzled on top for just the perfect fall dessert.

What’s your favorite autumn dessert?

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roasted orange and lemon chicken recipe, lemon chicken, chicken recipe, Easter recipe

I’ve been cooking dinner at home a lot lately in an effort to get healthy and save money. I’d say those are pretty good reasons for eating at home. It gives me a weird mom satisfaction knowing how much my family loves my cooking. These are people who enjoy food and are not afraid to tell you if it’s not up to par. When foodies are silent at the dinner table save for the sound of lips smacking, it feels like an accomplishment. My roasted orange and lemon chicken recipe shuts them right up and I love it.

I like to make meals that are as free from preservatives as possible. The more natural, the better. Farm to table, no additives or hormones is our jam. We’re Midwesterners so we do love our comfort foods that remind us of growing up and well, if there are leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch, even better. I want all of that but healthier. Comforting without the guilt. Know what I mean?

READ ALSO: Avgolemono Greek Lemon Chicken Soup Recipe

Currently, my family’s favorite meal that I’ve been cooking is a simple, but delicious, roasted orange and lemon chicken with baked rosemary potatoes and steamed asparagus. I’m going on the record and humble brag that it’s scrumptious and almost obscene how easy it is to prepare. It’s practically idiot proof. I’m pretty sure I could teach my middle schoolers how to make this roasted orange and lemon chicken recipe and it turn out just as awesome as when I make it. It’s that easy. If you’ve seen my Thanksgiving how to roast a turkey recipe, you already know how easy it is.

roasted orange and lemon chicken recipe, lemon chicken, chicken recipe, Easter recipe

I’m going to be honest with you, Easter is right around the corner and I’m not a huge fan of the traditional ham dinner so I’m going to make this roasted orange and lemon chicken recipe. Who says we have to do things the traditional way? Create your own traditions. Eat what you want. You’re cooking.

Easy and Delicious Roasted Orange and Lemon Chicken Recipe

roasted orange and lemon chicken recipe, lemon chicken, chicken recipe, Easter recipe

Roasted Orange and Lemon Chicken Recipe

Easy to make ad deliciously moist roasted orange and lemon chicken recipe.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Resting Time 15 mins
Total Time 3 hrs 10 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 5-6 lb Whole Chicken
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 stick Unsalted butter
  • Olive Oil as needed, enough to cover chicken.
  • 1 Orange
  • 1 Lemon
  • Garlic Powder to taste

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
    Remove the innards from the cavity of the chicken.
    Put chicken in a roasting pan.
    Gently wedge your fingers between the skin and meat and slightly loosen.
    Place pats of butter inside the loosened area between skin and chicken meat.
    Slice the lemon and orange into slices.
    Place slices into the empty chicken cavity.
    Cover the chicken with olive oil and massage the oil into the skin. This helps to lock in the juices while cooking.
    Generously season the chicken with salt and pepper.
    After that, lightly sprinkle with garlic powder.
    Lastly, let sit for a couple minutes while you melt remainder of stick of butter.
    Massage melted butter onto the exterior of the chicken.
    Cover completely.
    Generously season with salt and pepper.
    Bake uncovered for 15 minutes in preheated oven, to lock in juices.
    Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
    Cover loosely with aluminum foil.
    Bake for about 30 minutes per lb.
    Remove from heat, and baste with melted margarine and drippings about every 45 minutes.
    Cook to a minimum internal temperature of 180 degrees F (82 degrees C).
    When done, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest 30 minutes before serving.
     
     
Keyword Roasted orange and lemon chicken recipe, lemon chicken, chicken recipe

READ ALSO: World’s Best Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

I’m thinking of pairing my Easter orange and lemon chicken recipe with garlic potatoes, glazed carrots, fresh rolls, fresh cut fruit and deviled eggs. Sounds like the perfect dinner to me. What’s your favorite Sunday dinner recipe?

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