Baked Pork Chops with Apple Onion Chutney

I trust everyone has recovered from their Super Bowl merriment! I have plenty of party finger foods on deck to post but today I wanted to post a tasty dinner that I did tonight! I have been playing with this recipe and finally found an incarnation of it that I think is just too good not to share. It is pretty simple, ingredients I had on hand and didn’t have to go shopping for, but tasted like I spent all day on it. I was able to make this in one pan since I used a large cast iron skillet.  If you do not have an oven safe skillet, then have a baking dish on standby. I paired this with buttery white rice and bacon roasted french green beans. It was a hit.

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Baked Pork Chops with Apple Onion Chutney

6 pork loin chops about 1/2 inch thick or more

1 yellow onion cut into strings

2 small gala apples, remove core, peel on, medium dice

1/2 cup white wine ( I used a chardonnay)

4 cloves minced garlic

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 1/2 cup diced baby Portobello mushrooms (I prefer Portobello for the flavor but white mushrooms work)

Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons butter

Mrs Dash Table Seasoning

Extra Virgin olive oil

 

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Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Blot the pork chops dry with paper towel to help the seasoning stick and to brown. Drizzle oil on to the skillet, about 2 turns around the pan. While it heats, season your chops on both sides with a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. I also used Mrs Dash Table Seasoning for extra flavor but you can skip this step. Brown each side for 2 to 3 minutes. Be sure to sear the edges also. Set aside on a plate.

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In the same skillet, drizzle some more olive oil, again about 2 turns around the pan, and saute the onion slices. I cut my onion from stem to top so it makes two half moons, and then cut into strings.

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Once the onions start to caramelize (get a golden brown around the edges) add the apples and garlic.  The apples have the skin on, this will help keep them together. Once the apples brown and give off liquid, add the mushrooms. As you stir, be sure to scrape the bottom of your skillet to get the flavor bits from browning the chops.

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Once the apples are just soft and the mushrooms are browned, add salt, pepper, butter, wine, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, and vinegar. Bring to a simmer and place the pork chops on top of the mixture. Nestle them in so they are surrounded by the chutney.

Place whole skillet (or baking dish if you had to transfer) into the oven for 20 minutes or until the pork chops are cooked thru.

When serving, be sure to spoon the chutney and sauce on top. If you wanted to serve with mashed potatoes, I’d make a cornstarch and water slurry to mix in before placing the chops back in the pan to bake. This will thicken the sauce for potatoes without using flour.

I will post the green beans in a separate post.

Happy Eating!

 

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Sweet Tooth: Blackberry Hand Pies

I’m not much of a pie gal. I am a cookie, cake, brownie baking kind of person, mostly because chocolate is involved more often than not.  I have to be in the mood to bake a pie and making a whole big one goes to waste more often than not.  I first tried making hand pies this Christmas for my cookie boxes for family.  I found a simple recipe using boxed pie crusts and pre-made cherry pie filling.  They turned out well enough and were convenient to keep in a Tupperware container or pack for hubby’s lunch.

When I was making baby food this last time, I thought about doing a blackberry/apple sauce.  After I tried the berries, they were just a little too tart to put in Avery’s pouches.  I don’t want to add sugar for her if I don’t have to.  I had contemplated making a traditional pie, but to bake the first crust, let it cool, bake again, etc, was to labor intensive and I was in the mood for quick satisfaction, I decided to try making the hand pies with fresh fruit and see how it turned out.  This is purely an experiment that happened to have paid off. My next mission is to try a mixed berry or apple for giggles. This method can really translate into any filling you want.

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Blackberry Hand Pies

1 box of refrigerated Pillsbury pre-make pie crusts (2 crusts in a box)

3/4 c. granulated sugar (if your berries are on the sweet side, switch to half a cup instead)

2 tbsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 small lemon, juiced. ( it helps to roll the lemon on the counter or microwave for 30 sec to get the most juice)

2 c. blackberries, washed and drained

1 egg beaten with a tbsp of water

decorating sugar or cinnamon sugar combo

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with your rack set in the middle. Prep a cookie sheet or sheet pan with parchment paper or a silpat. The juice will run no matter what you do so a pan with a lip is best. You can also use a cupcake pan for these pies as well which I’ll show below.

Take 1 refrigerated crust and carefully unroll it. Leave it out on the counter first before gathering your other ingredients.  Fresh out of the fridge, the dough can crack and break.

In a medium bowl, mix your blackberries, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and lemon juice. Fold until the berries are all coated.  Be careful not to break up the berries, this will make the syrup really thin and hard to spoon.

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Take a circular cookie cutter, cup rim, or a mason jar lid like I used and punch out circles in the dough.  You should get 6 or 7 circles.  Helpful trick: if you re-roll the scraps, you can get another 3 circles out of the dough which will give you about 5 pies.

For the double crust pies, fill the circle with 4 or 5 berries and some juices. Take the egg and water mixture (egg wash) and brush the edge of the bottom round. This will help the top seal. Take another crust round and slightly stretch it so that it fits over the berries with a little lip. Grab a fork and use it to pinch the two pieces of dough together.  You can get really creative with this, you can use a ravioli crimper, fold the edges over, use a spoon for a scalloped edge, the sky is the limit. Once filled, cut small slits in the top to prevent a bubble over, brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with decorative sugar or cinnamon sugar for added flavor.

For the cupcake pan method, grease your tin with spray or butter, whichever you prefer. Place a dough round in the bottom as you see below. Fill with berries and juice until the edge and bake.

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Bake for 12-15 min or until the crust is browned. The cupcake tin method may take a bit longer since there is more filling. Cool and serve with ice cream or whipped cream or both! I’m partial to the single crust option which allows for easier topping additions.

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These are perfect to make ahead and freeze, can make them the night before for an event or make a batch to later enjoy in the hot summer months. Plus they are the perfect size for kids to enjoy.

 

 

Breakfast of Champions, Biscuits and Country Pepper Sausage Gravy

On the weekends is the best time to enjoy a hot breakfast. No one has to go anywhere, morning pajama lounging until 12pm is completely acceptable. This morning was such a morning and after I had my usual coffee (mama go-go juice), I made one of my hubby’s faves, biscuits and gravy.

I first got the recipe from one of my best friends when we were roommates years ago. She was taught how to make this amazing breakfast by her family. Of course, I’m sure the original recipe called for home-made biscuits as well. Now a days though, I only make biscuits for things like chicken and dumplings or my chicken pot pie recipe that has a biscuit crust. Mostly due to drop biscuits being super easy, mix and drop. Home made punch out biscuits are time-consuming since I tend to be a perfectionist.

After making this recipe a while, I’ve added my own twist. I’ll include the original ingredients she taught me to use.

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This morning’s ingredients

As you can see, I use the canned biscuits in the buttermilk version. The southern kind work as well, however I would stay away from the flaky layers. They don’t absorb the gravy well and don’t have the right texture.

Cook biscuits according to package. I prefer silpat mats or parchment paper for easy clean up. My silpat mats I got at Costco. They usually have them around the holidays and you get 3 sizes in one pack.

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County Pepper Sausage Gravy

You will need:

1/4 cup salted butter

3 1/2 cups milk (original recipe calls for whole milk, I use 2% since I use a lot of butter)

4 tbsp flour

1 roll of sausage ( you can use any kind of meat here, wild game, seasoned ground turkey etc) I like the Jimmy Dean country breakfast sausage or the Sage version

1 can of biscuits

2 tbsp ground black pepper

4-5 good shakes of The Pepper Plant hot sauce (original recipe doesn’t call for this, but we like the extra spice)

*side note on The Pepper Plant hot sauce, this stuff is AMAZING! It is made in Gilroy, CA and has quite a few different flavors. We use the original or chunky garlic for this recipe. Works great as a marinade, finishing touch in sauces etc. It isn’t a regular hot sauce flavor, not nearly as much vinegar after taste as others. They also make a Chipotle BBQ Sauce and a dry seasoning as well. I could seriously make a whole blog just about this stuff so I’ll stop, but it is worth it to keep in the pantry.*

With a skillet on medium-high heat, add sausage to the pan and brown. As you break it up, try to leave some larger chunks as well for texture.

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Once browned, add the butter. Some other recipes may call for you to remove the meat or drain the fat, but I don’t and it turns out great.

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When the butter is completely melted, sprinkle the flour on to the meat mixture to make the roux.

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Make sure the flour is fully incorporated and cooks down for about a minute. This will take the raw flour taste out of it. Then add your milk a cup at a time. I usually eye ball. You want the milk to leave sausage peeking thru. You may need more, or less, depending on your pan.

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This is the look you’re going for with the milk

Once the milk is added, put the pepper in and the hot sauce if you are using it. If you like less of a kick, use only 1 tbsp of pepper and skip the hot sauce.

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Stir well together. While stirring, bring to a simmer. Reduce to medium and cook for another minute or two to thicken. Be sure to stir regularly.

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Once the back of your spoon does this, you can turn off the heat. Let it stand for a minute before spooning onto biscuits. If you prefer a thicker gravy, continue to let it simmer on medium-low for another minute or two.

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Voila! A nice hearty breakfast that is pretty quick to make, easy to clean up, and makes great leftovers. This also makes a great casserole to prepare the night before and just warm up in the morning. I can do a recipe on that as well, leave a comment below if you’d like to see it.

Kid Corner : Applesauce Pouches

Before I had my daughter, I swore up and down that I would have a normal delivery, breastfeed exclusively, only do cloth diapers, wash all her clothes in Dreft detergent all the time, and only make her food myself. These were all things I thought I could control no matter what happened. I learned very quickly, kids always do things on their own terms, no matter how old they are!

Long stories short, I had to have an unplanned C-section, she had to go on formula 3 days after birth, cloth diapers lasted until our move, and her clothes get washed in the same detergent ours do. Reality hit home fast that I was not in control and never really would be. The one thing I was able to hold out on was making her food myself. I will admit that when the pediatrician said we could start her on solids, she did have Gerber pre-made food for about a month. She was taking in small portions, about 2oz at a time, and we were trying to figure out what she liked and didn’t like in addition to the stress of moving.

After everything calmed down, I was able to purchase the items to start making her baby food at home. Once you get in the practice of making your own baby food, it is easy to translate into snacks and foods as they grow. Instead of buying pre-made pouches for on the go snacks when they are in kindergarten, you can customize flavors for them so they are the envy at the lunch table. But that is far into the future for us.

The pouches I made today are apple only, however I have done apple with pear, berries, sweet potato, the possibilities are endless. You can use this system for fruits, vegetables, meats, pastas etc. Based on what you prepare will dictate price per ounce. Thepennyhoarder.com outlines the costs of making your baby food at home very well on their site. This saved me the headache of finding out per ounce information.

I didn’t start making her baby food for the price as much as I did for the content. As I looked at foods on the shelf, I noticed a lot of things had a shelf life of 2 years! To me, that was a little scary. The nutritional value is different as well. For example, Gerber Second Foods – Apple (for unsupported sitters) has 60 calories, 5mg of sodium, 14g carbs, 12g sugar in each serving which is one 4 oz container. Homemade Unsweetened Applesauce is only 52 calories, 0mg of sodium, 12g carbs, and 6g sugar per 4 oz serving. It may not seem like much but when you think of how much of it they are eating overall, it promotes good eating habits.

Making baby food really is easy once you have your set up. You cook the foods, puree (or leave chunky depending on how old your tot is) and put in the pouches, ice cube trays, baggies, however you chose to store it. For her eating stage right now, I use pouches.

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My set up

I use the Infantino system as it was a relatively inexpensive investment to start with, has the attachable spoons, and not really infant specific. Infantino Squeeze Station cost $20 on Amazon, Target, and Toys R Us. The 50 count 4 oz pouches cost $15-$20. The spoons you attach cost about $3.99 for a two pack with a handy holder to keep them together in the diaper bag.

I decided to get a little food processor instead of getting the infant blenders out there because it is a multi-tool in the kitchen. Nuts, spices, salsas, etc, not just baby specific. I have a Ninja blender I love and decided to stick with them. The Ninja Express Chop Food Chopper costs $20-$35 depending on retailer.

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Peel
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Dice

Last night, I peeled and cored my apples, diced them into half in chunks and set them to simmer on the stove in just enough water to cover the apples.

I checked them with a fork, when the tines slide in easily, remove from heat and leave to cool. I put them in a Tupperware container and put them in the fridge to finish today.

Place in the puree method of your choice and blend.

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Cold apple chunks ready to go

Once pureed to your liking, spoon into the cylinders.

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Pureed to perfection

Spoon into the cylinders. Be careful not go above the top notch, don’t go to the purple lip. This will cause your pouch to over flow.

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1 pouch down

Depress contents in cylinder until it fills pouch and after sliding out, put the lid on it. Be sure to label with date made and contents.

I got 11 pouches with 9 apples.

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I strongly recommend working with cooled foods. This is why I put mine in the fridge overnight until I packaged it. If you have to work with hot or warm foods, be sure to put the pouches in the fridge over night to cool them down before putting the freezer. This will reduce the ice crystals and freezer burn making them taste fresh.

Here is my stash. I have quite a few flavors stocked up. I like to go to Costco to get produce and spend one of her nap times making the pouches, that way I’m not making them all the time and have a variety to chose from.

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To use, just pull out the day before and put it in the fridge. I pull out 2 new ones for the next day when I get her settled for dinner at night. If you prefer ice cube trays, I recommend getting a food saver system (it is a great money saver for any and all food) as a way to keep them fresh also. The system came with a handy magnet to put on the fridge for when to eat reference.

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A lot of this stuff is a no brainer, but I wanted to be sure to include everything from start to finish.

I’m always looking for new food combinations, what kind have you tried? Please leave a comment for combos! Be sure to follow my site so you can stay caught up.

**I am not sponsored by any of these products. Everything used was purchased by me**

Chicken Tortellini Soup and the Sick Hubby

Good evening my people! I’m guessing your kids are in bed, significant other is either in bed or wrapped up in their own project or tv show. The house is quiet. It is the perfect time to grab your phone, tablet, or laptop and check on your favorite websites and social media. I’ll join you with my own glass of wine and a pretty rocking recipe.

Yesterday, hubby spent the day doing his handy, around the house chores. He capped off a pipe under the house, mowed the lawn, etc. He was sneezing a majority of the day (and yes, I told him to take an allergy pill). I was secretly hoping it was only his allergies. unfortunately, given the season it is and that he is a pipefitter and outside a lot, he is down with what I hope is only a cold. He woke up this morning congested and drippy at the same time.

I find a good hot soup, with chunky veggies and protein, tends to help shorten that sick feeling, along with decongestants and night-time meds. I don’t know about your husbands, fiances, boyfriends, significant others, but the men in my life don’t seem to take soup unless they are restricted to sitting or laying down. “That’s sick people food!” to which I reply, “YOU’RE SICK!”. Then since I’m the one cooking, they have to give in.

Chicken Tortellini Soup
The finished product

Here is my recipe for a good, hearty soup that isn’t too brothy so they feel like they are eating something substantial. I first made my chicken stock from scratch because I planned to make soup early enough in the day and had a roasted chicken leftover in the fridge. I was able to make this while doing laundry, tidying up, vacuuming, tending my 7 month old, etc. So it really isn’t labor intensive. Just can’t forget it is on the stove.

Chicken Stock

1 chicken carcass (I used a roasted chicken that still had a good deal of dark meat left)

1 heart of celery (about 5 stalks broken up by hand and the little leaf parts in the middle)

4 large carrots (don’t worry about peeling them, just give them a good wash, break by hand)

1 large onion, cut into quarters

1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

1 tablespoon herbs of provance

1 tablespoon garlic powder

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon crushed black pepper

2 quarts of water

Put the chicken bones in a large stock pot, I have an 8 quart that works great for this kind of stuff. Cover with water, depending on the pot you may need more or less than listed, it is ok to eyeball. Add onion, carrots, celery, bay leaves and seasonings to the pot and place on high heat until you get a good rolling boil. Reduce to medium-low. I let this go for 4 hours, tasting every so often to add more seasonings or water if needed. You can also do this in a crock pot if you don’t want to watch a stove during the day or want to make it over night, just set to low for 8 hours.

Place a strainer in a large bowl that will catch all the stock ( I did this in my sink to void mess) and pour contents of your pot into the strainer. If your chicken had a good amount of meat on it like mine did, save the veggie/chicken mix to get meat out of. Set stock aside to use for soup or any recipe that calls for chicken broth/stock.

I also make a veggie stock from scratch regularly out of kitchen discards. Please leave a comment if you would like a more in depth explanation of that.

Chicken Tortellini Soup
Preparing the Broth

Chicken Tortellini Soup

Time for the soup making! You will need:

Your afore mentioned chicken stock ( I got about 2 quarts out of mine).

2 cups diced cooked chicken (light or dark meat)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup diced yellow onion

1 cup chopped carrot ( I cut on the diagonal for a chunkier veggie but you can dice if you prefer)

1 cup chopped celery (on diagonal as well)

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 bunch of Bok choy chopped (you can use baby bok choy but the regular was less expensive)

1 package of Roasted chicken tortellini (I use fresh pasta, I think it tastes better than dried)

1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

1 tablespoon herbs of provance

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon crushed black pepper

2 teaspoon chicken bullion

1 10.5oz can cream of chicken

1 10.5oz can cream of mushroom

In a large stock/soup pot, place 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Add your diced chicken seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper. You can use pre-cooked chicken and skip this step but I think it builds the flavor nicely as we are going to use 1 pot for the whole recipe. Remove chicken when browned and set aside.

Add the second tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and once it starts to shimmer on medium heat, add your diced onions. They will need to turn translucent but not brown. You may need to turn down the heat depending on your stove. Once they are starting to soften, add the chopped carrots and celery. Stir together. Once they start to soften, add the poultry seasoning, herbs of provance, salt, pepper, and chicken bullion and mix until the vegetables are coated. Add your minced garlic.

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Adding herbs and spices

At this time, add your cans of cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups. Stir and once combined, add your homemade chicken stock or canned broth. If you use a canned broth, you may want to add more herbs of provance and poultry seasoning. Be sure to taste to make sure it doesn’t get to salty. Bring the heat up to medium-high and let it simmer.

After a 10-15 minute simmer, add your cooked chicken and bok choy. Once you add these, set your water on to boil for the tortellini and prepare according to package directions. The brand I used said to boil for 7 minutes. Once the bok choy is soft but has a little crunch left, remove from heat. At this point you can add the tortellini to the pot of soup or you can keep it separate. If you add it, the pasta will absorb a lot of the broth, especially when refrigerated. I keep it seperate and place tortellini in the bowl and pour the soup over.

Chicken Tortellini Soup
Almost there!

Serve with a crusty bread for dipping or you can make my herb buttermilk quick bread. The bread is the one thing my husband always asks for when I make soup. He just loves it, can eat half a loaf to himself. Please comment below if you would like the recipe for that as well.

This recipe is mostly off of memory. I took a recipe off pinterest and re-arragned it to customize it to what tastes we like at home. Remember to taste the stock and soup as you go! Only you know what flavors you like and don’t like. This recipe made enough for dinner for 2 plus 4 lunch portions.

Well, it is my turn to get some rest. Thanks for stopping by! Tomorrow is mom’s turn to relax a bit. We all know if the mom is out of commission, everyone suffers! Trying to avoid the sickies.

What broom did I fly in on?

IMG_20170811_091754_271To answer that question, it was a dollar store broom. Partially because the expense of relocating myself, a baby, a husband and two dogs was more than we had anticipated. The other part is because there is a dollar tree across from my new house and really….. you can go completely retail therapy nuts at dollar tree and spend like $20.

We moved to our new town a few days before Halloween. Thanks to the fact we didn’t really have a lot of our own things to move, aside from my husband’s tool collection which greatly out numbers my shoe, purse, AND makeup collection. We had a group of friends and family that were so amazing, driving the 2 hours each way to help relocate us. I was so happy when we were able to sit down and not be driving.

Life was in the middle of an uproar.  To set the scene of crazy going on, my husband and I were married a year prior in November of 2016. We took care of my elderly Grandfather since we had lost Grandma a few years prior. Sadly he wasn’t doing so well and he decided it was time to go into an assisted living facility due to his health. This prompted our house search.

Now, we are from the Bay Area in California.  If you are not from there I need to give you an idea of how expensive it is. We had to look 2 hours north-east of San Jose, CA to find somewhere we could afford to purchase and have me stay home with our little girl. Yeah…. 2 hours! My sainted husband drives this commute every day. We pay half of what some people pay in rent to own our own place. No one could buy anything out in the Bay Area!

So while house hunting, getting a place picked out for Grandpa, getting his house cleared out, moving us our to our new place, having a 5 month old, and my parents moving at the exact same time, life was smacking us in the face big time. It’s final straw was shortly after we had moved in, we lost my Grandpa at 87 years of age.  His health issues were just too great and he decided he was ready to be with Grandma.  With everything we had going on, I still haven’t really processed his loss, but that is a story for another time.

Fast forward almost 3 months later, the house is almost put together, finally got my office/craft/kids play room in some kind of shape to sit down at my computer.  Thankfully during this whole thing, my little Avery is a very calm and happy baby.  She’s such a dream that I am terrified for when we decide to have number 2! That is when they pull the switch and the second one is complete opposite.

This blog is mostly for me since I am a stay at home mom, in a new town.  I can only talk to the dogs and baby so much before I start to wonder if my mental faculties are waning.  I will sprinkle stories, recipes, shopping finds ( I am in love with couponing and finding great deals) and craft/DIY items all around this website.  I hope you’ll stick around and go on this journey with me!