Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Quick and Easy Vegetarian "Fried Chicken" Summer Tacos

 Our family stays busy year round and in the summer, I think we are even more busy.  So I take the semi homemade approach to make this quick and easy meal.

Becoming vegetarian was a little scary.  I was afraid that I would end up eating the small old things, beans and rice, salad, and that meals would become boring.   Well thankfully that has not been the case.   My family has found that we really enjoy the Gardein products.   We have found that they help make meal time easier on those nights when cooking from scratch is just not an option for us.

I made these vegetarian fried chicken tacos last night for dinner along with a fresh pineapple relish. This is a recipe that can also be adapted for those who want chicken.

Summer Fried Chicken Tacos,

1 bag of Gardein chicken tenders  ( this can be made with real chicken tenders, store bought or homemade as well.)
mixed greens
multicolored shredded carrots
avocado, diced
green onions, chopped
pineapple relish ( see recipe below)
sweet and spicy bbq sauce  - (use your favorite brand)
flour tortillas

Bake the Gardein chicken tenders according to the bag directions.    While they are baking prepare your pineapple relish.

Pineapple Relish
fresh pineapple diced
1 small onion diced
1 jalapeno, diced and seeded
lime juice
salt and pepper to taste.

Once everything is ready assemble your tacos.  I like to add the shredded carrots, it just gives the tacos a little extra color and crunch.   The pineapple relish and bbq sauce give the tacos a nice sweet, spicy, and smoke flavor.

This is a quick 30 minute meal that the whole family will enjoy.

( The opinions expressed in this post are my own.  I did not recieve any payment, goods or services for this post.)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sleeplessness, Anxiety, and the weird things that keep me up at night (deadly spiders and celebrity Christmas trees).

I like many people who have anxiety know the joys that come with it.   I will be fine for a while and then WHAM!  I am  hit with periods of insomnia, panic attacks, and irrational thoughts.  This last week was nothing new.

So what was it that woke me up at 4 am? Deadly nocturnal spiders and Carrie Fisher's Christmas tree.  The swirling vortex of my mind usually reaches full swirl by 4 am.  Sometimes, I can calm myself and go back to sleep, other nights, forget it.  

What started this whole episode was a spider lurking in the corner near my bookcase in the bedroom.  I called my husband to come and look at it because I thought it looked like a black widow without the red.   I was convinced it was a deadly spider and it needed to be destroyed!  Well, we missed and the damn thing retreated back to the safety the crack between the wall and shelf provided.   

The damn spider was then living rent free in my head at this point.  After a quick Google search, I became even more convinced that it was a male black widow spider because they do have different coloring from the females.   So we went to bed, well my husband went to bed.   I did eventually fall asleep up but at 4 am had to go to the restroom.  Using my phone as a flashlight, there it was back in the same corner as before.  

Blurry eyed, I tried to kill the damn thing and missed again!  I woke up my husband with an explosive round of cussing the spider and more lights, every light in the bedroom to be exact.  They don't like bright lights and well, I was prepared to sleep with every light in the house on if I had to.

My husband had this idea to use a flat wooden lid that he wedged forcefully into the crevice and kill the spider that way.   After a few whacks that way, my husband declared the spider good and truly dead.  I think the spider is just laying in wait.  I am still not convinced the spider is dead ( I have seen Arachnophobia, I know what happens!)  UPDATE:  Admittedly my husband may have succeeded in killing the spider as it has not been seen in 2 days. Still, I am cautious.

After all that excitement, who can sleep?  Not this chick.  
I laid in bed staring at the ceiling which is just plain and boring.  I have lobbied for glow in the dark stars or something more visually pleasing then nothing.  But, my husband is like" just close your eyes".  I have explained that if it was that easy to just "close my eyes" and go back to sleep I wouldn't have this problem.

SOOO this brings me to Carrie Fisher's Christmas tree.

Carrie Fisher's  passing was  devastating to me.  She was my first real childhood hero as Princess Leia.  I wanted to be Princess Leia!   I named one of my daughters Leia.  I loved this woman, I loved her character, I would loved her books, I loved her other work.  I love/loved Carrie Fisher for everything else she did.   

Earlier in the week, I watched a video segment from GMA with her brother Todd Fisher.  The segment tours her home and talks about the upcoming estate auction of Carrie and her mother, Debbie Reynolds.  

Believe me, when I heard about the auction I downloaded the auction catalog. I joked to my husband I needed to sell a kidney so I could afford just 1 item that belonged to her.   I really would love one of her ugly children portraits. 

She was one celebrity I wanted to meet but it just never worked out.  Carrie Fisher would perform her "celebrity lap dances" nowhere near where I  lived and if she got close it was still hours of travel, planning, and large amounts of cash.  And the few times she got close, life got in the way.  So I waited and now she is gone. 

Back to the GMA segment,   As they toured her home the reporter asked Todd about her year around Christmas tree.  He explained how his mother took them to visit  actor Harold Lloyd, who had a year round tree and believed in Christmas everyday.  This had an effect on Carrie and she adopted the same.  

How does this effect me? Aside from wanting something from her home, I began to ponder my own feelings about Christmas. ( Here is where my mind likes to snowball everything.  As the snowball gets bigger, it begins sucking up anything and everything. )

 I have this love/ hate relationship with Christmas in general and this includes my tree. 

 In July, I will march into my local Hallmark store to buy my yearly supply of pop culture mini statuettes to adorn our tree.  One of them this year being  ironically a Princess Leia . She is on my tree in multiple variations of her character.  

In July,  I will love the idea of my tree.  Come the day after Thanksgiving, I will sigh and begin the decorating process.  Somewhere between then and December 25th, the magic will have faded and by January 1st, I am DONE!  I am ready to get the thing out of the living room and not look or think about it for another 11 months. 

But that's a lie!  because by May, I am stalking Hallmark for an ornament wish book to buy my yearly supply of ornaments again. Rinse, Lather, Repeat. Its a vicious cycle!

So then I started asking myself when and why did Christmas lose its magic?  Have I ever had a magical Christmas?  How do I get that same feeling and pure joy. 
As a child, I never liked Santa Claus.  I didn't like the idea of him sneaking into our home and for several years starting at age 3, asked that he just leave presents in our carport and I could open them there.
Everybody has a memory of their favorite Christmases. I don't.
At age 9 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and had surgery 2 days after Christmas.  I can't tell you what i got for Christmas that year.  There aren't any pictures, there aren't any memories other than that. After that year Christmas just seemed to be a motion you go through. 

When Black Friday rolls around the stress and anxiety begins waiting for something bad to happen. I have a list of holiday terrible (included on the list Carrie Fisher's passing).
 I will spare you the details because I am sharing this not for sympathy, but mainly to vent, ask myself hard questions, sort them out, and tire my mind for a little while so I can nap for an hour or two.

Christmas isn't supposed to be about money, but it is.  I don't enjoy Christmas shopping because I have a budget.  Then I go between feeling cheap and disappointing my kids because I can't be extravagant and then I stress about going over budget.  It is horrible but a modern reality. 
My husband grew up not celebrating Christmas and he is better at it then I am.  Am I burned out?  
My snowball is still rolling.  

I really don't like modern holiday traditions.
I hate elf on the shelf.  We have one of the damn little things. It was gifted to our children with good intent.  To you over achieving elf moms, I hate your elf and your pintrest pictures too. 

I hate gift cards. I get a gift card and never use it for myself.  I end up buying things for everyone else.  If you want to give me a gift, give me a gift not a damn gift card. 

Am I too cynical? Possibly. But something keeps me coming back year after year repeating the same cycle. Attitude vs. Gratitude.  Yes, i have a bad attitude about Christmas but I am grateful for my husband and children.  I try to make it happy for them.  

Everybody tells me I can't hate Christmas for my children's sake.  I keep my feelings hidden, which might be why I feel such overwhelming dread even now just thinking about this year's Christmas.  I do everything I can to create Christmas for them.  We bake, we make hot chocolate, we snuggle, we watch movies, we play games, I plan parties for them, we drive around to look at lights, we shop, we wrap. I enjoy that time together. 

I am envious of those with eternal optimism.  I feel defective because I don't have this in me.
 What am I missing?   
Help me Carrie Fisher, you're my only hope.  

Friday, June 16, 2017

Lidl US store Grand Opening

The new Lidl store opened yesterday and it was pretty great! There are a lot of fantastic opening specials.  You can check out their opening ad .
For those of you not familiar with Lidl, it is a German grocery chain. Think Aldi but, I have to say, better!  The company operates 10,000 stores in 27 countries and is making its way to America.   The local store was one of six that opened yesterday along the East Coast.  The stores are mainly located in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina with plans for 90 opening this year according to the company. 

Lidl offers lower prices and its own store brands in comparison very similar to Aldi.   They also offers "in and out specials" that are released every Monday and Thursday.   It can be items like shoes, inflatable kayaks, leather wallets, and charcoal grills.  These items change, so if you see something buy it quickly.    

So a few important things to know about the store:

Store Hours- Monday- Sunday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m

They do not accept manufacturer's coupons but do have store coupons available on the their store app. 

They accept cash, credit, and debit.  NO checks. 

You don't need a quarter for the grocery carts, but you will need to bring your own bags.  Lidl does not offer free bags.  But, during this opening weekend, they are giving away free bags while supplies last.    

The stores are very attractive.  Large windows line the entrance and checkout, making use of natural lighting.   Immediately when you walk in you are greeted by fresh produce and the most amazing smell of fresh baked bread and pastries.   

Fresh doughnuts were 3 for .99

Fresh baked croissants were .39 each.  I did purchase several croissants and they were amazing! The croissants had a rich buttery taste and if you just touched them crumbs would flake off. We made sandwiches last night for dinner with the croissants.  

The fresh baguettes still had steam coming off of them.

If you purchase fresh loaves of bread, you can get them sliced ready for sandwiches.  The bakery has a lot offer.  And of course, the lovely ladies who worked in the bakery were offering samples yesterday and nobody could refuse them!  

 The produce is stacked in its original shipping boxes.  Don't look for elaborate produce displays.  I was  impressed with the overall look of the produce.  There was a nice selection of organic fruits and vegetables.  

I picked up some produce items yesterday.

Fresh whole pineapple .89
Organic Bananas  .59 per pound
Lemons  .49 each
Limes .29 each
Mango .39

I did not really look at Lidl's meat selection.  Since my family is mostly vegetarian it isn't something that I shop for anymore.  But according to the sales ad, Chicken breast were 1.29

 I did however sample some of the cheeses and the store brand plain Greek yogurt with store brand granola and fresh blueberries.   The cheeses and yogurt were nice quality and I would probably purchase in the future.

Another drawing point is their wine selection.   Lidl offers inexpensive award winning wine.  I noticed that bottles ranged from about $3- $25 a bottle.  I did purchase a bottle of Moscato and but I have not tried it yet.

I also learned that Lidl does theme food weeks.  This week is Italian foods.  You will find in their ad that there is a lot of Italian food items specially priced.  One of the featured items is extra long 19 inch spaghetti noodles imported from Italy. Those packages are .99 this week.   I did pick up some of those noodles which I thought my children would have fun with.   You can see them in my  Lidl haul picture posted below.

So my total Lidl haul from yesterday was small.  I wasn't in need of many groceries so I just picked up a few items.   

1 bottle of Moscato wine
2 fair trade chocolate bars (1 milk chocolate, 1 milk chocolate with hazelnuts)
1.5 pounds of organic bananas
1 pineapple
4 fresh baked croissants
2 limes
1 lemon
1 fresh baked baguette
2 packages of imported extra long spaghetti
3 non gmo fruit leathers (not pictured)

Total: $13.83

My overall impression of Lidl is that I really loved it. I really liked it more then Aldi.  Granted I am not a full Aldi shopper either (I go to Aldi for 2 items on a regular basis and that is it.)   I still won't do all of my shopping here but I definitely will watch their sales ad for produce, bakery items, some miscellaneous grocery items and certainly any of their "in and out specials" are worth watching.  

If you have a Lidl that just opened in your community, let me know what you think.

(My review of Lidl Stores is my own opinion.  I did not receive any payment, products, or services for this review.)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Yellow Squash and Zuchinni Tart

Since the beginning of this year, my husband and I have decided to become vegetarian.  We had watched several food related documentaries, but the one that brought about the greatest change for us, was the documentary Forks Over Knives.    If you are interested in watching it for yourself, it is available on Netflix.

We have spent the last 6 months experimenting with various vegetarian  recipes.   My husband is not the easiest person to feed. In our family of 6, he ranks right behind our 2 year old as the pickiest eater.  It has been a challenge at times but we have also been pleasantly surprised.  

This recipe is a lacto-ovo vegetarian recipe because it does contain both eggs and dairy.  The Yellow Squash and Zuchinni Tart is modified from the Rainbow Rose Veggie Tart from the Food Network.


1 roll of Puff Pastry   ( I substituted with a ready made pie crust.  I have found that both equally well.)

15 oz of ricotta cheese

2 eggs    ( I use fresh eggs)

3 oz of parmesan cheese

1 pinch of nutmeg

1 pinch of salt

2 tbsps olive oil

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 tbsp oregano  (I varied from the original recipe by added more spices. see below)

1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp. Italian herbs
1/2 tsp. onion powder
 fresh cracked pepper.

Zuchinni and yellow squash sliced thinly with a potato peeler or mandolin.

For me, it is difficult to find the rainbow carrots at my local supermarkets.  To get them, I have to go to Whole Foods or another specialty market.  Right now, with squash and zuchinni being plentiful they are easy to get from local growers.


Unfold a puff pastry sheet over a tart pan.   Place parchment paper or tin foil over the middle and weight with beans or pie weight. 

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.  Remove parchment paper and weights and let cool.

In a bowl, combine eggs, ricotta, grated parmesan cheese, grated nutmeg, and salt.    Add grated mozzarella and spices.  Mix until smooth. 
  1. Slice strips of zucchini and carrots length-wise using a potato peeler or a mandolin. Place the slices in a bowl and cook in the microwave for 1 minute. This step will soften the slices and make them much easier to roll.
  2. Spread the cheese mixture on top of the tart base.
  3. Take one slice of a vegetable and roll it up very tightly—this will form the core of the rose. Take another slice and keep rolling. With around 2-3 slices you should obtain a decent-size rose bud. Place the bud in the center of the tart, pushing it down into the cheese. Keep rolling roses of different colors and place them one next to the other in a spiral formation.  This process is kind of time consuming and you can make smaller spiral 
  4. Brush olive oil on top of the vegetables and bake the tart at 375 degrees F for 50 minutes.

The finished product bakes up beautifully and highlights these seasonal vegetables.   I serve this with a mixed greens salad and some fresh fruit.  It makes for a simple and filling meal on a summer's evening.  

If you try this recipe, please leave a comment.  I would love to know what you think of it.  

Gravtopia Trooping (picture post)

It has been a while since I have worn my Admiral Ackbar costume, like 2 years but who is counting.   I love to wear it to events but with 4 kiddos sometimes I just don't get the opportunity.  But about 2 weeks ago, I had the opportunity to pull it and I had a blast.   Unfortunately,  I did not get to wear it very long due to the sweat inducing properties of latex.    But I did have fun afterward operating our R2 unit and jumping on the trampolines.

Here are a few pictures from the fun we had at Gravitopia, a local indoor trampoline and extreme sports center.

The foam pit... It's a trap!

It's a snack!

It's a TRAMP-oline!

And yes, cheesy puns come with the costume.

#admiralackbar, #starwars, #cosplay,#itsatrap,#starwarscostumes.

All pictures shown in the post are my original photos.  If you use one of my photos please give proper credit for the photo or link back to this blog post.