Happy New Year from DOVF!

Mental Health is a funny thing. It’s something that’s very important to maintain, but is not the focus of a lot of people’s lives. And it is something that can be looked at as a problem “other people have”, but not me. Actually, a lot of people suffer from anxiety or depression and not even know it, they just push their feelings aside in hopes that they subside. People may cope with their anxiety by spending money, drinking or eating, instead of facing what really has them upset. It can be a vicious cycle, and before we know it, we can be in a very dark place not knowing how to get out.

I’ve taken the past two months off from almost every aspect of my life: work, blogging, even cleaning my house! I needed some time to focus on my mental health, as I have recently been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, depression and have been classified as a manic spender. I was actually surprised by that last one! Even though I know I tend to spend more money than I should. I have really begun to accept that depression and anxiety are something I am going to have to manage the rest of my life. But, it’s a new year and I have some decisions to make! Or not make, I guess 🙃 but I want this year to be different! I don’t want to be anxious about my life, and I want to live as minimally as I can. I don’t want the stress of a job or big life decisions to be the focus of my thinking. Most importantly, I want to spend time in my kitchen, cooking and getting back to the foods I love the most, sharing them with the people I love the most. I want to spend hours talking with friends and family, over wine and foods I cooked from scratch. Playing games and talking deeply about God. I want this year to be about intentional relationships. The verse I have on this blog is Ecc 8:15 “eat, drink and enjoy the life God gave you”. That is what I want to feel deeply this year, I want to purely enjoy my life this year. That’s not a bad New Years resolution right?? What is your New Years resolution? I would love to know!

I’m looking forward to a year of cooking, blogging, fellowship and being mindful. I’m hopeful for a good, restful year. Happy New Year to you!

Foodie Highlight of the 2017 Holiday Season:

Family Weekend in Glenwood Springs, CO. I think we may have found a new holiday tradition! It was such a refreshing experience, swimming outside in the middle of the mountains in super cold weather, surrounded by Christmas lights! But this wouldn’t be a food blog without talking about a new food experience. Recommend by the locals, we visited Slope and Hatch for lunch, a gourmet taco and hot dog restaurant. A super tiny venue that was packed from the time we arrived to the time we left. The food was amazingly tasty! They had a unique menu filled with different varieties of tacos and hot dogs, definitely not your usual boring meal. I had to try both of their plant based tacos: a falafel taco and their coconut curry tacos. Definitely a change from rice and bean tacos. My favorite was the falafel taco, as I just love tzatziki sauce and fresh herbs! The coconut curry tacos had amazing curry flavor, but combined in a tortilla made this taco super filling. But totally worth it 😋

Until next time…

Bon Appetit!

 

Joyfully Sweet and Savory Pecan “Meatballs”


Chef Thomas Keller, an American Chef who is known at the French Laundry in Napa Valley, says that when making a recipe, follow the instructions to a “t” the first time. The second time, write down the recipe in your own terms, adjusting to your taste, cutting out or adding steps according to what makes sense to you. The third time, Keller says to make the recipe without any recipe at all, just by memory and tastes and hands. And at that point, Keller says, “The recipe is yours”. That is what I have done with a recipe I received from someone at church. Over the summer, our church had these “dinner for 8” groups, where 8 potential strangers in the congregation would get together for dinner three times over the course of the summer. One of those meals, a lovely lady brought what she calls “Pecan Nutballs”. They were phenomenal! Meatball sized nutballs, cooked in an apricot BBQ sauce. They were smoky and a little sweet. So tasty! And they had the exact texture of a meatball. I immediately asked for the recipe. I am not totally sure if this is “her” recipe, though it was typed out for me, and had corrections in her handwriting. I could not wait to make these for my family and make them a weekly staple in the Friedly home. Looking over the recipe, though vegetarian, they weren’t vegan. As Tom Hanks says in “You’ve Got Mail” (which is arguably the best movie of all time), this recipe needed some “tweaking”. 

After making it to a “t” the first time, and tasting how they were meant to taste, I started “tweaking” the ingredients and proportions. By the third time of making these tasty bites, this recipe had become mine. 🤗

Don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients, these pecan balls are actually quite simple to make! First, combine all of your ball ingredients into a food processor and pulse until a “dough” has formed.

NOTE: The original recipe called for cheddar cheese and egg in the recipe. I used brown rice (instead of cheese) and flax egg for the eggs. If you would rather use egg and cheese, use the same measurements I did for their substitutions! 

Roll dough, a little larger than a tablespoon (I just guesstimated), into balls and place in a 9×13 Pyrex pan. 

Now, make your BBQ sauce. Add all of your sauce ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Let the sauce simmer until it thickens . This step is important because it won’t thicken in the oven and you’ll end up with a thin sauce that doesn’t stick to your pecan balls.

NOTE: the original recipe called for 1/4 cup of oil in the sauce. I don’t mind using oil so much when I cook, but I kinda draw the line when the measurements add up to “cup” measures. You can use water if you like (if so, use 1/8 cup) or just add 2 TBS of oil, which is what I did. 

Once your sauce has thickened, pour over your pecan balls.

Cook in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. 

Top with Sriracha sauce (this step is not optional!) Serve over brown rice or egg noodles or eat them by themselves! Either way, you won’t be able to eat just one 😜. My hubby snacked on these while cleaning up after dinner! He just kept popping these in his mouth. 

Pecan “Meatballs”

Makes approximately 24 balls

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup whole pecans
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh chopped sage
  • 3/4 cup cooked brown rice 
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 TBS fresh chopped parsley
  • 3 flax eggs

Apricot BBQ Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 TBS oil of choice
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 apricot preserves
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 TBS brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 2TBS grated onion
  • 1/2 oregano 

Sriracha for topping

Make it! 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine all pecan ball ingredients in a food processor and pulse til a dough forms.
  3. Roll TBS size (or slightly larger) portions into balls. Place in a 9×13 Pyrex pan. 
  4. Combine sauce ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil and simmer until sauce thickens. 
  5. Pour sauce over pecan balls, cover and cook for 30 minutes. 
  6. Serve over rice or egg noodles. Or enjoy them by themselves! 

Until next time…

Bon Appetit! 

A Little Bit of Culture from Cincinnati, OH


It’s no secret that I love big cities. The culture of them, the busyness, the up tempo that seems to fill the streets. The many many restaurants, bars, wine clubs, coffee shops, sports arenas, marketplaces, performance art venues and street performers, museums, parks, residences of all status ‘and businesses that make up a big city. There is usually so much to explore and not enough time to do it in. That was my experience in Cincinnati, OH. There is real urban, city feel to Cincinnati. I could have easily spent a whole week there and still have not seen and done everything the city has to offer. I spent really, 2 days there. But in my two days, I walked around the city, soaked in all that was going on around me, and ate some pretty good food. I had some very tasty wine (Malbec was my wine of choice in the Queen City), ventured into a coffee shop or two and wondered through a couple of farmer’s markets. I also found my way to the CAC, the city’s Contemporary Arts Center, which offers free admission to all. I have gone back and forth with how to share this part of my trip with you, the culture and life behind the city of Cincinnati. What I would really love to do is to just share with you the pictures I took, and do my best to explain what they are, how they made me feel, any history behind them and what they mean to and/or the city. 




 

There was a ton of personal art around the city. Some would say that a bit of it was graffiti, but I thought it just showed the culture of the city, and some history. I just wish I would have taken more pictures of it!

Over-the-Rhine was my favorite part of the city, hands down (and I stayed by the river!). It was an actual neighborhood in the middle of the city. It reminded me a lot of the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, CO, where the businesses were on the ground level and residences were above the business in these old, original architectural buildings. I ran into a couple guys while riding the street car back down to my hotel, who had lived in the city for over seven years. They said that that was the purpose of OTR, to have the residences be above the businesses. Ideally, that’s where I’d like to live if I lived in the city. Of course, I would like to love above a coffee shop ☕️😝😋 I loved all of the old architecture in this city. I love residence buildings that have fire escapes! There’s so much beauty and history inside all of those old buildings that are being made new again.



Cincinnati was a real fascinating place to visit. While researching the city before my trip, I was intrigued by its history. How fast it grew as a city, not only in population, but in politics, literacy, and education by the end of the 1800’s. The role it played in the meat packing industry, emerging as a leader in pork manufacturing. And the huge impact the Ohio River had in settlers traveling to Ohio, Kentucky and Sourhern Indiana. Many businesses, hotels, restaurants and taverns were quickly built along the river to help accommodate those traveling along it. Farmers would use the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to send their crops down to New Orelans, which was their biggest market at that time. Beginning in the 1830s, ethnic Germans began to settle in Cincinnati. German and Irish immigrants mixed with Americans from both North and South to create a very diverse and worldly population, not to mention adding diversity to the food in Cincinnati! 

Today, many major corporations have their national or regional headquarters in Cincinnati, companies that include Procter & Gamble, Kroger, Cinergy, Macy’s Inc., E. W. Scripps Company, Totes Isotoner, and American Financial Group. Cincinnati remains the cultural center of southwestern Ohio, northern Kentucky, and southern Indiana. The city boasts two major professional sports franchises, the Cincinnati Reds and the Cincinnati Bengals. Numerous theaters operate in the city, including the Aronoff Center for the Arts — home of the Cincinnati Ballet and the Cincinnati Opera– the Emery Theater, the Taft Theater, the Showboat Majestic, the Playhouse in the Park, the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, and Music Hall. 


More than one hundred art galleries exist in the city and the surrounding area. The most prominent ones are the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Contemporary Arts Center, and the Taft Museum. The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is known for its successful breeding programs. The parks! Court Street Park, Garfield Park, Fountain Square, Riverfrotnt Parkand Sawyer Park, all give its walker by’s a glimpse into the city, and it makes you feel like you’re home, at least for me they do. I feel home in big cities, on park benches in the middle of car horns and birds chirping, of chaos and peace. That’s where I find the most joy. 

I learned something about myself during this weekend in Cincinnati, or maybe I was just reawakened to it. Two things I know deep inside of me. One: I love, I mean seriously love, cooking, and trying new food. And I loooove sharing food and hosting people in my home, having them around my table, feeding and serving them, nourishing my soul with my closest friends and family. And even though I’m stuck in a place of fear and sorrow when it comes to opening up my home, I know I can get back to a place where I am comfortable again. I just need time. I always want my door to be open, and my table available for anyone who wants to come over. And two: I really enjoy and almost need to help people, in some capacity, and it was brought back alive inside of me as I wrote this blog post. And I know that’s why I enjoy my job at the hospital so much, because I am helping people, I am serving people, unconditionally serving them, at a time when they are probably the most vulnerable they will ever be. And I know there are vast amounts of ways to serve people other than at a hospital. My husband and I are actually working on a way for me to be able to pursue both of these things, these two passions, in one capacity. How can I cook, travel and taste new adventures, while serving others? Well, we have a pretty good idea what that’s going to look like. 😝🤗
Until next time…

Bon Appetit! 

Red Lentil Pasta Salad 


Oh this last weekend was busy! Company, work, more company and a going away party for our former pastor and his family, as they are moving on to the next chapter in their lives: to be missionaries in Marseille, France. The party was held at our old church in Brighton, CO, and it made venturing back up there bittersweet. The church building looked amazing, and being there brought back a lot of memories. But seeing all of the people we used to go to church with, was worth the drive for sure. The dinner was a potluck, and I signed up to bring a salad. I was going to bring my go to kale salad, but as I got my kale out to make the salad 20 minutes before we had to leave, I noticed it was bad. And I had no other greens to make a full salad. Soooooo now what??? I looked in my pantry and found the perfect solution: I could make a pasta salad. But the only noodles I had that weren’t spaghetti noodles, were either red lentil noodles or black bean noodles from Trader Joe’s. I went with the red lentil noodles, and with a little creativity (and what some may call their kitchen sink) I through this bad boy together. I was very happy with the noodles, as they already had a slight peppery taste, perfect for a pasta salad. Yum!! 


Cook the red lentil pasta according to the instructions on the package and rinse with cold water to cool. Do not over cook. Then, add chopped cucumbers, radishes, carrot peels, one can sliced black olives, and chopped fresh cilantro and parsley. 

Mix up your salad dressing (olive oil, apple cider vinegar, agave nectar, lemon juice from one lemon and two garlic cloves, pressed). Add dressing to salad and toss to combine, making sure all of the noodles are covered with the dressing. Nothing worse than a dry noodle! 


After you toss your salad with the dressing, add your last ingredient. Your secret ingredient….baby arugula. Bam!!! Arugula just adds another dimension to this salad. With the noodles having a slight peppery taste, the arugula compliments this salad well, and really adds to the flavor of the fresh herbs hiding in the background of this salad. And the pucker tartness from the vinegar and lemon juice in the dressing, mixed with the noodles and crunch from the cucumber, really made this salad refreshing and flavorful. 


Red Lentil Pasta Salad- Gluten Free! 
Serves 6:

Ingredients: 

  • 1 bag red lentil pasta from Trader Joe’s 
  • 1-4 ounce can sliced black olives
  • 1 cucumber chopped
  • 4 radishes sliced 
  • 2 large carrots peeled
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro 
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley 
  • 2 handfuls of baby arugula 

Dressing: 

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 TBS agave nectar
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed 

Make it!! 

  1. Cook the red lentil noodles according to the package. Do not over cook. Drain and rinse with cold water to chill noodles. Put noodles in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add olives, cucumber, radishes, carrots, chopped cilantro and parsley. 
  3. Mix dressing ingredients in a mason jar, then toss with salad well to combine.
  4. Add arugula to salad and toss . 
  5. Enjoy!!! 

Until next time…

Have a fabulous day! 

BBQ Chickpea Quinoa 

Our church has been hosting some international business students the past couple of weeks, and some of the congregation have been helping in providing meals for them. I signed up to provide them with lunch after church on Sunday. And of course, given my passion to please everyone’s tummy, I couldn’t just bring them sandwiches. Nope. And I also wanted to show them that American food doesn’t have to be fried, salty and processed. So I put my thinking cap on and thru this bad boy salad together. And in the process, I created another recipe for my recipe vault….that can be viewed by anyone on the World Wide Web. Huh, I may need to think about changing the name….

SIDE NOTE: I also made this group my homemade no bake cookie balls check em out!

Any who, everyone knows that BBQ pairs well with all types of meat, but what about beans? And quinoa? You bet it does!! Paired with cilantro, avocado and scallions, you have a wonderful, fiber and protein packed salad that’s sure to keep you full, and of course make your tummy happy! Mmmhmmmm! I love this recipe: it’s simple, clean (especially if you want make your own BBQ sauce!) This salad works great as a potluck addition, or as a nice Sunday afternoon lunch. I hope you enjoy it! 

First, toss quinoa, corn, black beans, chickpeas, chopped cilantro, and scallions in a large bowl and toss well to combine. If you’re making this salad ahead of time (day before), and if you’re like me and you worry about ingredients spoiling too soon, hold off on adding your scallions until you serve the salad.





When ready to serve the salad, mix BBQ sauce into the entire salad or per serving, it’s up to you. I add it per serving if I’m eating it at home, but obviously at a potluck it may be a good idea to toss the salad with the BBQ sauce, unless you want to stand there while everyone goes thru the line and give instructions. That may be fun 😉. Top the salad with scallions (if made ahead of time), avocado and dairy free white cheddar cheese. 


BBQ Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Serves 4-6

Ingredients: 

  • 3 cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 avocados 
  • 1 cup cooked black beans
  • 1 cup fresh corn 
  • 4 scallions
  • 1-2 cups cooked chickpeas (amount to taste)
  • Your Fave BBQ sauce
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • Optional: dairy free shredded white cheddar cheese for topping 

Make it! 

  1. In a large bowl, toss together all of the ingredients except BBQ sauce and avocado 
  2. When ready to serve salad, toss with BBQ or add sauce per serving. Top with avocado and dairy free cheese, if using. Eat up! 

Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart.

Until Next time….

Bon Appetit! 

No Bake Cookie Balls-Secretly Healthy! 


I came across a recipe from Happy Mothering about 4 years ago for no bake cookie balls. My life hasn’t been the same since! They are that good. I have come across other versions of cookie balls, disguised as energy bites, or no bake cookie heavens. But, I always come back to these. Whenever I need a quick, nutrient dense snack, dessert or potluck dish, I make these little bites of nutty, chocolatey goodness. I have used the idea from the recipe above to create my own. I hope you like it!

 

You will need almond butter, peanut butter, honey, ground flax seed, gluten free quick oats, and chocolate chips. Mix ingredients and any optional add-ins in a large bowl. Mix well, and make sure all oats are mixed. If dough is crumbling, add more honey or nut butter. Cover and chill in refrigerator for one hour. 

Remove from fridge and roll tablespoon sized portions into balls. Store cookies in an air tight m container in the fridge. And try not to eat them all at once!! Enjoy! 

No Bake Healthy Cookie Balls
Makes 16-20 balls

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups gluten free quick oats
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter, creamy
  • 1/2 cup almond butter, creamy
  • 1 cup ground flaxseed 
  • 3/4 cup raw honey (maple syrup will work if need it to be vegan)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (not optional!)
  • 2/3 cup Optional Add-ins: raisins, shredded unsweetened coconut

Make it! 

  1. Mix all ingredients in a medium sized bowl, make sure all of the oats are mixed in. If using maple syrup, you may need to adjust amount because of the difference in consistency. If mixture seems dry and crumbly, add more nut butter. Mixture should stick together. Cover and chill in the fridge for up to 1 hour. 
  2. Roll TBS sized portions of mix into balls. Store in an air tight container in the fridge. 

Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart.

Until next time…

Bon Appetit! 

Simplifying Meal Time: 1 Month Meal Plan for the Busy Mom


Ok, so it’s the end of July. It’s hot, kids are starting to get bored, and moms are getting, well, anxious for school start. Which for us, is about 3 weeks away….so why not think about how to reorganize life when the little “monsters” go back to school?? Yes, we mom’s long for the days when the house is quiet again, and we have the “me time” we seem to have less of during those warm, summer days. But, with those quiet days, come the hectic evening schedules…sports, after school activities, youth group, band practices; all the coming and going from “thing to thing”. And the craziness leaves a lot of moms feeling unorganized around meal time, asking the age old question: “what’s for dinner?” I find that if I don’t plan ahead, have my meals planned out and ingredients bought, we are hitting Chipotle or Panera Bread for dinner, or even ordering pizza. And as yummy as those places are, it shouldn’t be our go to meal during our busy season. 

I am a list maker. I make lists for everything. I feel a huge accomplishment in my days when I can cross something off of a list. Lately, I have been making a to do list at the beginning of the week, listing all of my chores, food prep and meals I need to make for the week. I keep it on the counter right next to the coffee pot (the fuel to power my madness). And each day, I cross off a few items, and by the end of the week, my house is clean (well mostly, I’m not superwoman), my meals are made, food is prepped and a relaxing weekend awaits. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of life worked out so wonderfully? At the mercy of lists? 

Meal planning has been one of the legs I stand on in life. It’s helped me learn to just buy only the ingredients I need for those meals and not over spend….okay sometimes (most of the time) I indulge in some kind of chocolate, but that’s neither here nor there. One thing I have found is that, for me, the more simple my meals are, the more likely I am to make them on a regular basis. Rice and beans, for example, is a very simple thing to make, and have in my pantry on a regular basis. Something else that works well for my family, is making meals that I know my kids will eat. Why add the stress of making something for dinner you know your kids will push away and not eat? Now I’m not saying to make a week of chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese and pizza for dinner, no sir! But if your kids like, oh spaghetti for example, make a point to keep a back stock of noodles and sauce in your arsenal of food, for those busy nights you need a 10 minute miracle dinner. Make life easy on you, while you are still keeping your kiddos fed with healthy, home cooked meals. 

summer meal plan


When planning out my meals for the week, I again, make a list! Also, I find what works for me is to plan out meals for the whole month. What?!! I bet you’re thinking I’m crazy, how can I plan out 30 meals ahead of time?? I mean, how much time do I have??? Well, not much, I promise you. But what if I told you I only plan out meals for one week, 7 days, and repeated those meals for the month?? It doesn’t sound so hard now, right? It almost sounds doable… Well, that is how I plan my meals, I figure out a week’s worth of easy, healthy and sometimes fun meals for dinner, and stick to it on a weekly basis for about a month or so, which is usually when we are all sick of them and we are forced to move on! 

Now, the only way that this type of meal planning works, is if you pick meals that are easy to make, and most importantly, meals that you enjoy. Dinner becomes very stressful real quick when you have hungry young, kids who refuse to eat what is on their plates. Too many nights have been spent in my house teaching kids to eat what’s on their plates. So I try and cook what I know they will eat, and go from there. Busy ,week night dinners are also not the time to make a 50 step, 20 Ingredient dinner. You will make it once, and cry because you had to cook it while juggling homework, kids arguing, bottom wiping and diaper changing. No way. Save those meals for when your husband is home and he can man the battle station while you cook with ease…and a glass of wine 😝. Busy weeknight meals should consist of 1-2 crockpot OR pressure cooker meals, you know that new contraption that can cook any meal in 3.5 seconds?? Teehee SIDE NOTE: about presssure cookers, who doesn’t think of the scene from Back to the Future II, when the future McFlys “hydrate” a pizza in their super machine in like 10 seconds… while cooking with their pressure cooker? I know I do, and chuckle. Bah! Ok, back to work… Next, your weekly meal plan should also include at least one maximum of 5 Ingredients meal, something simple, healthy and yummy. This is where rice and beans come in for us. Rice, beans, salsa, avocado and done! Next, utilize your leftovers! Intentionally make more food so the hubby can have lunch the next day or two at work, or plan a leftover night to devour what you’ve made throughout the week. That’s less cooking for you! Lastly, plan for one night a week eating out. Trust me, if you don’t plan to eat out, odds are that that’s all you’ll do because you’ll need that break. But if it’s planned, you have something to look forward to, and you know that break is coming. Ok, lets meal plan! 

                                                              One Month of Meals:

Breakfast and lunch are usually some variation of the same meals, everyday, 7 days a week. That way, I know exactly what to buy at the store, and know every morning what my kids are having for breakfast, and what I’m packing for school lunch. No frantic pantry search, just an easy morning (hopefully). Every now and then, I’ll pack something special in their school lunch, or buy muffins for breakfast (gasp!), but those times don’t happen often. 

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with dried fruit and honey, and bowl of fresh fruit 

*weekends only: cereal with almond milk OR homemade pancakes. My kiddos like the pumpkin seed, flax and granola cereal from Nature Valley at Costco. And I buy Coaches Oats from Costco as well. I buy 2 bags at a time to keep my pantry stocked for a while.

  • Lunch: Sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly/or honey, OR veggie sandwiches), veggies and fruit

                                                                Dinner:

I start my meal plan on Saturdays for a couple of reasons: I do my shopping on Fridays, and we get paid on Friday, so my grocery budget resets. It’s just easier for me to have meals start when the budget starts. 

  • Saturday: Pressure Cooker/Crockpot Meal OR Freezer Meal *
  • Sunday: Pecan “Meatballs” with Sweet and Sour Sauce 
  • Monday: Rice and Beans
  • Tuesday : New Recipe Night!**
  • Wednesday: Rice and Beans
  • Thursday: Pressure Cooker/Crockpot Meal OR Freezer Meal
  • Friday: Eat out!

*Freezer Meals, along with crockpot meals, should be a staple in any busy mom’s meal plan. They help relieve the stress of cooking, and are always a good option when you need that quick, go to healthy meal. I utilize frozen meals on nights I have to work. They work perfect for me when I’m tired or if the hubby is in charge of dinner. If you can, try and find meals that freeze and cook in your crockpot when you’re ready to use them. Here’s a good freezer meal resource. A lot of the meals that you already make on a regular basis; soups, pancakes, burgers, casseroles, even vegan “meatballs” can be made in advance and frozen for later use. I usually pick a meal or two I like to make, triple the recipe and make it for dinner one night, while freezing the other two portions. Or pick a weekend day and spend an hour or two prepping freezer meals. Whatever works best for you! Sure does help this busy mom to have freezer inventory!

**Tuesday night is the one night of the week that we don’t have anything going on; no sports, church, work, school activities and such. It’s the perfect night for me to try out a new recipe! And who knows, I may find a new family staple to add to the meal plan 😉 I don’t do this type of thing with every meal plan, but some days I need a change and to try something new. 

I stick my meal plan on the fridge, right next to my chores list and under my grocery list. 😝🤗 they should all really be together, don’t you think?? 


I hope this helps all of the busy moms out there, or at least gives you an idea of how to start meal planning. It is so worth it to have meals planned out for those busy times in life! 

Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart.

Until Next time….

Bon Appetit! 

Cochino Taco, “Such Dirty Deliciousness”


For the duration of the summer, every Friday our babysitter comes over and watches my kiddos for me, so the hubby and I can go out, or so I can go grocery shopping. Being a mom of three kids, trying to do all my grocery shopping with my kids, it’s well, hard. I feel rushed, and therefore buy more unnecessary items. Then there’s the “mom can we buy this? Or, “don’t touch that!” And of course, the needing to potty whilst mid shopping or needing to change a diaper. During the school year, I did my shopping while two of my kids were in school. So nice. So, having 4 hours to myself, every other Friday, to get my grocery shopping done (I’m actually buying what we need for two weeks, making only having to go to the store once every two weeks amazing!), makes me feel almost functional. 

During my latest grocery outing, I snuck in lunch as well. Every time I drive to work, I drive by a little taco place that’s located in the neighborhood right by the hospital. Remodeled out of an old gas station, and known for its eclectic mix of Mexican street food, Cochino Taco has become a real go to place for lunch and dinner, and are now open for brunch on the weekends. Every time I drive by, I think to myself “man, I need try that place out”, while looking at a packed house. Founded by 3 guys who know and love food and have roots to Mexico City, as well as Denver CO, Cochino Taco has definitely become a must try taco place. 


Walking into the establishment, I was surprised to see it was an actual restaurant. I thought, because of its size, that it would be more like a Chipotle, order your food at the counter then sit and eat or take it with you. 


They have a generous size dining room, with a smaller open kitchen off to the right of the dining area, an outside patio, and a bar, which is where I sat as it was just me. And of course, I had to try one of their house margaritas. What’s a taco without a margarita? 🍹😀

 I tried one of their orange and cucumber margaritas, with triplesec, tequila, agave nectar and freshly squeezed orange and cucumber juice. No one ingredient over powered the other, which can be the case when you use really strong flavors in a drink. Oh man….it was refreshingly outstanding! And it may have been a little strong…😋

Their menu is pretty simple: starters, a couple salads and a whole page devoted to….Tacos! Under witty titles, their tacos are divided into categories on the menu, based on what meat is in them. I of course, chose to eat from the “ain’t no meat tacos” category. 


I was told that if I was super hungry to order three tacos, as the tacos come one to an order. Well, I was super hungry, so I ordered two tacos and an avocado tostada. I indulged in tacos called the “fungus among us” hahaha! And filled with grilled shiitaki and cremini mushrooms, crispy onions, corn, tomato salsa and cilantro, I gotta tell ya, these tacos were so delicious and flavorful! There was a little crunch from the onions and corn, but the bite was creamy and smoky from the grilled mushrooms. The tacos came out by themselves on a small plate, and each taco had 2 mini corn tortillas to it, which I learned is how traditional soft corn tacos come in Mexico. It allows for extra “structure” to the taco as corn tortillas can be soft. I just used the extra shell for the stuff that fell out of my taco as I ate it to make another one! I know we’ve all wished to have an extra shell for the leftovers that fall out of our taco….I know I’m not alone in that, because who wants to eat taco filling with a fork? 😝😝

Now, when I order a tostada or make one at home, there’s not much crunch to it and it actually can be a little one dimensional with the re fried beans or guacamole making the tostada shell soft as it sits. Well, this avocado tostada was anything but your typical soggy tostada. Let’s first start with the shell…it was again, made from the mini corn tortillas, and dusted with a spice mixture made in house. And nope, they wouldn’t let me know what was in it. This dust turned my fingers red but I didn’t care! It also added a nice spice to my tostada. On top of the shell was a heaping amount of guacamole, lime, and 3 ingredients that added that extra crunch to my bite: jicama, radish and seasoned quico crunch, which tasted just like corn nuts to me. This was far from a soggy tostada! Every bite had crunch and flavor, a little spice thanks to that little bit of red dust you lick off your fingers at the end. So good. 

The bartender set a bottle of Mexican hot sauce right in front of me when my food came, and I topped my tacos and tostada with it. Normally I prefer a more traditional salsa on my Mexican food, but I could not get enough of this stuff, it was sooooo good! And not too spicy.  However, the food by itself didn’t really need help in the flavor department. 😜

While I was devouring my meal, I couldn’t help but notice that the wall behind the bar was lined with different kinds of pigs…a lot of pigs. I inquired, of course, and the bartender told me that Cochino means “pig” in Spanish. But not a traditional pig, more like a naughty word you call someone during a brawl, a “filthy pig”. I thought to myself “ok, you named your restaurant after a filthy word”…awesome. But the food still rocks tho! I learned after doing more research on this awesome place, that the pig actually holds special meaning to the restaurant’s founders, who have been dubbed “the 3 pig heads” on social media. 😆

Sitting by myself at the bar, not needing to rush through my meal, was such a recharging experience. Which brings me to dessert. Dessert was a must for me, as who could pass up what was on their dessert menu: caramel filled churros and Mexican spiced chocolate ice cream. 

I asked the bartender if he could make me a half order, as I couldn’t eat a full one. He totally hooked me up! The churro was filled with a delicate, creamy caramel, and paired with the crunchy, cinnamon sugar outside, it was the perfect sweet bite my mouth needed. 

Then, there was the ice cream. Telling my husband about this ice cream, my mouth began to salivate. 🤤 Spiced with ancho-chili and cinnamon, the ice cream was so creamy with a subtle spice that left a burn in the back of my throat. The dairy that was in the ice cream was just enough to tame the heat factor of the spices, but kept you wanting more and more with the rich chocolate. It was literally a spicy, rich, chocolatey ice cream. And I was told that the company who makes the ice cream, makes it just for Cochino Taco. Such a perfect end to my lunch! 

If you’re ever in the neighborhood by Swedish Medical Center in Engelwood, CO take the time to stop and try a taco or two at Cochino Taco, your tummy will be very happy you did!

Until next time….

Bon Appetit! 

Culinary Adventure: Bircher Muesli

The hubby and I had the pleasure of staying at the Four Seasons in Vail, CO this past month for his annual Director’s Retreat. I gotta tell you, I’ve never felt more fancy! This trip, I chose to lock myself in our hotel room, order room service and just relax. It definitely saved us some money compared to last time!

view from our hotel room


I had an amazing salad for dinner the first night, and as the room service server was picking up my dirty dishes, I inquired about the best thing on the menu to have for breakfast. Her face lit up as she was telling me about their Bircher Muesli. She said it was absolutely phenomenal and that I had to try it. So of course, I did!! And her recommendation was spot on, in fact, I think her enthusiasm was dialed back a bit for it! It was a fantastic, unbelievably good breakfast. 

Coupled with my French press coffee, I couldn’t have asked for a better meal. The best way I can describe it is that it was a bowl of cold oatmeal, more like an oatmeal soup, with almond milk, fresh fruit, yogurt and nuts. And the flavor was just out of this world good. It wasn’t too sweet, and it was so creamy.  Until that morning, I had never heard of Muesli before. 


Muesli is a breakfast and brunch dish based on raw rolled oats and other ingredients like grains, fresh or dried fruits, seeds and nuts, that may be mixed with cow’s milk, soy milk, almond milk, other plant milks or yogurt. 

There are so many different ways to eat Muesli. Bircher Muesli, aka Swiss oatmeal, is named after its creator, Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Brenner. He created it in the 20th century for his patients as a health supplement. The history behind how and why Bircher-Brenner created this food is fascinating. He believed that apples cured him of jaundice as a young man, and therefore was very vocal for trying to get more fruits and vegetables into his patient’s diets. 

I enjoyed the Bircher Muesli I had in Vail so much, that I immediately sought out in search for the perfect recipe to make at home. I found two that were very close to what I was looking for. The first recipe uses chocolate chips and mashed bananas and raspberries to their oats and almond milk. The second recipe, uses raw almonds, raisins, chopped apple and yogurt. I took elements of these two recipes to create my own….that’s not cheating is it?? 😝👩🏻‍🍳

Well, heeeeerrrrreeee we go! 


I like the method the first recipe uses, to begin by smashing your bananas and raspberries together in a bowl. 


Next, add your plant based milk and stir. 

Then, add your oats, sweetener and seeds. Stir to combine all of the ingredients well. Make sure your seeds are salt free! Cuz that wouldn’t taste good in the AM 😝

Cover and let it sit in your fridge over night. 

When I took the muesli out of the fridge the next morning, it looked amazing! The oats absorbed most of the milk, so I added a little bit more to give it a soup like consistency. Then I topped it with more raspberries, some blueberries, sliced apple, and a drizzle of honey. It was pretty close to what I had in Vail. It was creamy and not too sweet, although I did feel like it was too good to be oatmeal! I mean it’s hard to eat oatmeal that isn’t jam packed with brown sugar , am I right??!! I could taste the smashed bananas, they added just the right amount of sweetness to the muesli. The crunch from the apples, blueberries and seeds just completed my bite! Next time, I think I’ll add peanut butter and let it sit in the muesli overnight. I’m sure that would add just another dimension of flavor! 

Bircher Muesli 
Serves 4

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups Organic quick oats
  • 3 cups almond milk (I used unsweetened vanilla)
  • 1/2 cup raspberries 
  • 2 over ripe bananas
  • 4 TBS maple syrup, honey or your fave liquid sweetener
  • 2 TBS chia seeds
  • Handful pumpkin seeds 
  • Handful sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup of blueberries
  • 1/2 chopped apples (Granny Smith work the best!)
  • Optional: 2-3 TBS peanut butter or any nut butter 
  • Optional: 1 cup dairy free vanilla yogurt

Make it! 

  • Start by adding the bananas and raspberries into a medium sized bowl and smash them together til all clumps are gone. 
  • Add your milk and stir. 
  • Then add your oats, sweetener, seeds, chia, yogurt and nut butter if your using it. Cover and allow to sit overnight in your fridge. 
  • Divide into bowls, mix in more milk if needed and top with blueberries and apple. Enjoy!! 

Until next time….

Bon Appetit!