Fermented Garlic Dill Pickles

I’ve made a lot of pickles over the past 25 years: garlic dills, sweet pickles, bread and butter pickles, pickled beets, mustard pickles, and even dilly green beans. I’ve made tons of cucumber relish and salsa too, but everything I’ve done in the past has been vinegar based. That’s great if you have a huge garden and want to preserve your veggies for winter storage. However, after working for a Paleo diet expert, I’ve come to the realization that I’m not getting much nutrient value from these types of pickles.

The best way to preserve your veggies and get the most nutrition from them is to ferment them. It’s so simple to do, and fermenting has been around forever. And the best part is when you eat fermented foods, you’re adding good bacteria into your digestive system.

It doesn’t take much for special equipment to ferment your veggies. I already had a ton of canning jars (although other jars will work fine). All I needed to do was purchase some air locks (can find a variety of styles on Amazon), and I was all set.

I wanted to experiment with some cucumbers before gardening season arrived so I could decide 1) if I liked fermented pickles and 2) how much garden to plant. Wal-Mart actually had a small bag of pickling-sized cucumbers, so I snagged those and proceeded to start my experiment.

I had enough cucumbers to do 2 quart jars of fermented pickles. One I decided to do as close to my usual garlic dill pickles as possible, and the other quart jar I experimented with some pickling spice. The recipe that was closest to my usual dill pickles turned out terrific, and my youngest son told me I had to make crocks of them this summer when we’re overloaded with cucumbers. These pickles did not last long. The second jar – not so much a success. It fermented as it was supposed to. I just didn’t like the taste of the pickling spice, so the chickens got a fermented treat.

For my experiment, since it was March and fresh dill just isn’t available in Iowa, I used a combination of both dill seed and dill weed in my quart jar, but come summer, I’ll be using fresh, probably a big head of dill per jar. I like lots of dill and garlic in my pickles, but if you prefer less, feel free to adjust the amounts. The red pepper flakes are also optional. Sometimes I would make my usual garlic dills with a small piece of pepper to kick up the flavor, but the pickles will taste just fine if you don’t want the extra heat. I also didn’t have any grape leaves or horseradish leaves ready in the garden yet since it’s March, but I do add them when available. However, these pickles were perfectly crisp without them, so if you don’t have access to the leaves, don’t worry about it. Just be sure to keep the salt-to-water ratio the same so that you have enough salty brine for the fermentation to take place.

The spices and brine recipe are for 1 quart jar. Double as needed depending how many jars of pickles you want to make.


Fermented Garlic Dill Pickles

6 to 8 pickling size cucumbers (whole or slice into chunks as you prefer)

1 to 2 cloves garlic, peeled

1-1/2 tablespoon dill seed

1/2 teaspoon dill weed

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Grape leaf or horseradish leaf (optional – this provides tannin to help keep pickles crisp)

For the Brine (per quart):

3 cups water (room temperature)

3 tablespoons fine sea salt (can use canning/pickling salt too)


To each quart jar, add the grape or horseradish leaf if using, the garlic, and the spices. Pack your cucumbers in tightly. Combine brine ingredients until the salt is dissolved, and pour the brine over the cucumbers.

Add a glass weight to the jar to keep the cucumbers submerged in the brine, and place an air lock to the top of the jar. Let the jar sit on the counter for 2 to 3 days out of the sun. How fast fermentation takes place will depend on how warm the room is. Ideal temperature would be around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, so if it’s wintertime, it will take longer, and fermentation will definitely speed up when it’s hot.

You’ll see the brine turn cloudy after a day or two. Don’t panic – that’s what you want to happen. It means things are fermenting as planned. After a couple of days, remove the air lock and the glass weight, and taste a pickle. It should be crunchy and full of dill and garlic flavor. If it isn’t, replace the glass weight and air lock, and let the jar sit for another day before re-tasting. When you’re happy with the pickles, remove the air lock and glass weight, place a different lid on the jar (I use a new canning lid and ring), and put the jar in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

Note: If you slice your cucumbers, the slices will ferment a bit quicker than if you leave the cucumbers whole in the jar. My whole cucumbers took about 4 days in mid-March before they were fermented all the way through, but my slices were ready in 2-1/2 days.


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Pressure Cooker Mexican Rice

For our Mexican-themed dinner the other night, I made Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas, and my oldest son asked to have a rice dish to go along side. Wanting something quick and easy, I used my Instant Pot and came up with my version of a Mexican-style rice dish.

Cooking rice in a pressure cooker is super easy, and it’s definitely how I cook rice now. No more guessing how long to cook the rice or having to keep a close eye on it. Just add the rice and liquids, add the lid, and cook. It’s that simple.

I didn’t remember to take a separate picture of just the rice, but I did get one with the entire meal plated.

Feel free to experiment with variations of spice in this dish. My husband doesn’t like super spicy things while my kids do, so this is kind of middle-of-the-road as far as the spiciness goes.

Pressure Cooker Mexican Rice

2 cups white rice (I used jasmine)

3 cups beef or chicken stock, whichever you have on hand

1 package taco seasoning

1/2 teaspoon salt, optional depending how salty your taco seasoning is

1 can diced tomatoes, including juice

1 can Rotel tomatoes, including juice

Whisk together the stock (or water if not using stock) and the taco seasoning until the seasoning is completely dissolved. Add all ingredients to the pressure cooker, and stir everything to combine.

Add the pressure cooker lid, remembering to seal the vent. Select the manual setting, and cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. When the beeper sounds, turn off the pressure cooker, and let it set for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, do a quick release to release any remaining pressure. Serve warm.

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Turmeric-Roasted Cauliflower

I love cauliflower, but usually when I buy a head, the guys get into it and eat it raw before I can do anything with it. This time, however, I wised up and bought 2 heads – one for them and one for this recipe.

I’d seen lots of roasted cauliflower recipes on Pinterest, and I modified one to our family’s tastes. I turned out pretty good, and there weren’t any leftovers, so I’d say it was a hit! I paired this with Lemon, Garlic, and Herb Salmon, and they really worked well together. I paired the two with a nice green salad – perfect Paleo meal 🙂






Turmeric-Roasted Cauliflower

6 cups of cauliflower florets (1 large head)

2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1/4 cup good olive oil

1/2 to 1 teaspoon turmeric (to your family’s taste)

Sea salt (to taste)

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick olive oil spray.

Place the cauliflower florets and the smashed garlic in a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, and stir to completely coat the veggies.

In a small bowl, combine the turmeric, sea salt, and crushed red pepper flakes. Sprinkle the mixture over the cauliflower, turning to evenly coat.

Place the cauliflower on the prepared baking sheet, spreading them out evenly. Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes, or until the edges are nicely browned, and the cauliflower is tender. Serve warm.

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Paleo Broccoli Slaw

I’ve finally come to the realization that I’m not a healthy person. I’ve always thought I ate a healthy diet. I ate plenty of vegetables and fruits. I ate chicken breast, usually without the skin (but not always!), and I tried to bake or roast other meats rather than deep-frying, although I would do that for a treat. I baked my own bread. I canned the fruits and vegetables that we grew in our garden. Basically, I was eating what I thought was a fairly well-balanced diet.

Then I went to the doctor. Yes, I’ve put on some weight over the last few years. I work from home on the computer, so I do have a fairly sedentary lifestyle, although I would try to get out and do yard work and walk on a halfway regular basis, though I know it probably was not enough. While I was definitely not happy about my weight (and subsequent BMI numbers), the thing that woke me up was my blood work.

I’ve had hypothyroidism for years, as well as undifferentiated connective tissue disorder and fibromyalgia. I’ve been prediabetic for just about as long. My blood work numbers finally screamed at me that it was time to take drastic action. How or what I was going to change I still wasn’t sure about, but I knew that something needed to change. Just so you know, my thyroid is completely out of whack. Conventional medicine says that a normal thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) range should be between 0.5 and 4.5. I later found out that the functional medicine range (more about how I found this out below) for TSH is between 0.5 and 2 or 2.5. Well, I blew both of these ranges out of the water, as my TSH came back at a whopping 20!

Knowing what I know about the thyroid, I knew this was bad news. The thyroid regulates what goes on in the body—so with this huge TSH number, it’s no wonder I was putting on weight, and it’s no wonder my blood sugar (A1c) finally jumped into the diabetic range. But I still wasn’t sure how to fix this. My doctor put me back on a higher dosage of levothyroxine said come back in three months for retesting. And that was it. I love my PCP because he always listens to me, but really? That’s all the advice you had for me?

Around the time I got this news from my physician, I picked up a new client out in California for some transcription work. The client was doing this online class and podcasts and needed some transcription work. I started listening to his class lectures, and when I started working for him, he was on a section about supplements and the HPA axis, which is the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis. While it was interesting material, it didn’t really seem like it pertained to me. I kept doing the work and going about my business.

Then he did a lecture about thyroid dysfunction and the differences between lab ranges of conventional and functional medicine and when each would probably decide to treat a patient. This was a lightbulb going off for me. This clinician said he would probably treat a patient, depending on all the factors of course, if her TSH was in the 2 to 2.5 range. And here I am with a TSH of 20. He also described different things that can influence thyroid dysfunction, so I decided to delve a little deeper into what other things this clinician talked about.

I decided to look up this clinician who I was working for and discovered that he was a leading expert in the Paleo movement. I read about his background, saw that he himself battled an unknown illness for years but found a way to improve his own health, and then I bought his book. If you’ve followed a Paleo diet or have done any research about it at all, you’ve probably heard of him or maybe have even read his book. It’s Chris Kresser, and the book that finally made everything click for me is The Paleo Cure.

I’d looked at the Paleo diet several times over the past few years, but I never really truly decided to do it because I love bread. I love pasta. I didn’t think I could go without these favorites and be able to cook or eat the way I wanted. After these past few months, however, I’ve decided that I can’t afford not to change and do this diet, so I’ve jumped onto the Paleo bandwagon with both feet. On July 1, I started doing Chris’ 30-day elimination/detox diet. I completely eliminated all sugars, dairy, alcohol, and gluten products. I threw out all the foods in my cupboards and refrigerator that are banned for the first 30 days. My youngest son, who has had GI issues of his own over the past year, is also doing this diet with me, although he’s complaining a bit about going dairy-free for 30 days, but he realizes he too needs to figure out why he’s ill when the specialists he’s seen over this past year have no idea what’s wrong with him.

I believe, although I don’t have any proof in terms of blood work, that both my son and I are intolerant to gluten. I do know my son does not have celiac disease, as this was confirmed by biopsy during his two EGD procedures. However, after listening to Chris’ transcriptions and reading his work, I believe my son and I may be intolerant to gluten, which may or may not show up on any lab test. The only way to determine if this is the case is to do an elimination diet.

So here we are. I have to re-learn how to cook. I have to find tasty substitutes for things I’ve always taken for granted: ketchup, soy sauce (for my son), bread, pasta. I’ll actually learn to make my own mayo, something I’ve wanted to do anyway but have been too lazy because Miracle Whip is right there on the grocery shelf. I’ll probably be fine with going sugar-free, although I do love to bake and will need to come up with acceptable substitutes for my favorite recipes to make them Paleo-friendly. But going without bread and pasta will probably be the hardest, but it’s the one thing I must give up to see if that is where my problems originate. Studies have shown that gluten may interfere with thyroid functions, and that really makes sense to me now.

On the plus side, my son is happy that this is a protein diet, and he can still eat steak and liver, two of his favorite foods. I’ve told him after the first 30 days we’ll gradually see if he can tolerate milk again, which is his biggest vice. If any reader has a favorite Paleo recipe they’d like to share, please feel free to drop me a line to share. Or if you have a favorite Paleo website, you can share that too. I’ve been all over the Internet and have found some good sources, but all new sources are welcome, especially if they have tasty, family-friendly Paleo recipes.

Our first few Paleo meals were nothing spectacular by any means: steak and mushrooms. Not that my son minded a bit!


paleo steak and mushrooms 2


I simply seared up the steak (grass-fed) and topped each steak with some mushrooms and onions that I’ve sautĂ©ed in a little bit of ghee (clarified butter) and seasoned with some garlic powder and black pepper. I’d normally saute the mushrooms in unsalted butter, so switching to ghee wasn’t hard to do, and quite frankly, I couldn’t taste a difference.

The next night everyone was together, so I decided to cook a Paleo meal for everyone. Unfortunately for my youngest son, he was forced to eat steak and sautĂ©ed mushrooms again (poor kid!), but I threw in a quick broccoli and carrot slaw to go with, and the meal was finished off with a nice chilled slice of sweet watermelon. Here’s the recipe for that salad, which was super easy to throw together since I used packaged broccoli and carrot slaw. Now some Paleo purists may say that honey is a no-no, but it’s on the “eat occasionally list” that I’m following, but feel free to eliminate this if you choose. Easy peasy, delicious, and Paleo-friendly.


broccoli slaw paleo


Quick Broccoli and Carrot Slaw

2 packages broccoli slaw (contains shredded broccoli, red cabbage and carrots

2 apples, cored and chopped (I left the skin on mine but you can peel if you prefer)

1/2 red onion, diced

1 package toasted sunflower seeds

3 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon raw honey

1/3 cup good olive oil (I used regular olive oil not extra-virgin)

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar


In a large bowl combine all the vegetables and the sunflower seeds, and mix together. In a small bowl (or a small Mason jar with a lid), whisk or shake (if using the jar) the mustard, honey, olive oil and vinegar together until completely incorporated. Pour dressing over the veggies, and stir until everything is nicely coated.

You can serve this right away, or you can chill it in the refrigerator while you’re getting your steaks and mushrooms ready.

Yield: About 6 servings
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Irish Dinner: Corned Beef & Cabbage and Bailey’s Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

We held our annual St. Patrick’s day dinner a few days late this year, but my family will eat corned beef and cabbage anytime I have the urge to make it. We have brined our own brisket to make corned beef, but tonight I used a corned beef I bought at the grocery store. It amazes me how many people have told me they’ve never cooked corned beef before. I think it’s the simplest dinner in the world to make—all you need is a Crock-Pot. Open package of corned beef, dump all contents into the slow cooker, and turn the dial to either low (6 to 8 hours) or high (4 to 5 hours) depending how soon you want dinner. That’s it. Easy peasy.

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For the cabbage, my folks traditionally did the boiled cabbage bit. It was okay, but it really is bland. I’ve since done my St. Patrick’s Day cabbage by frying it. Add a stick of butter to the skillet, cut up your cabbage however you like it (diced, sliced, etc.). Add it to the skillet, season with salt and pepper to taste, and let it cook until the cabbage is softened but not mush. Another easy peasy side dish, which is how I like them 🙂


corned beef and cabbage 2


For dessert, it had to be something Irish-influenced as well, and what’s more Irish than booze? Today I decided to make a Bailey’s chocolate chip cheesecake in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. It really was a toss-up between this and a Guinness dark chocolate cheesecake, but Bailey’s won out. This time anyway!

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I’ve made this cheesecake before. Be forewarned, though, the flavor of the Irish cream really comes through in the final product. A lot of recipes call for 3/4 cup of Bailey’s, which I used the first time I made this. If you love Bailey’s, you’ll probably be fine with it, but if you’re so-so or you only want a hint of the Irish cream flavor, you can definitely use less. I typically use about 1/4 cup of Bailey’s because I want to taste the rest of the ingredients, not just Bailey’s. This doesn’t have a ganache on top, but feel free to add one if you’d like — the more chocolate the merrier I say 🙂

The cheesecake pictures aren’t the best – still trying to find the best lighting in this new apartment, and the cheesecake itself decided to split after about 2 hours of cooking (of course!)  — but it tasted devine 🙂


bailey's cheesecake whole


bailey's cheesecake half pie

bailey's cheesecake slice


Bailey’s Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 to 12 crackers)

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon sugar

32 ounces (4 packages) cream cheese, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish cream liqueur (or other brand is fine)

4 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon good vanilla

1 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap the sides of a 9-inch springform pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Combine graham cracker crumbs, 1 tablespoon sugar and the melted butter. Press mixture onto the bottom of the springform pan. Set aside.

In a mixer, beat the cream cheese and the 1 1/2 cups sugar until smooth. Add the Bailey’s, and stir to combine. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and beat until thoroughly mixed. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla, mixing until just smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour cheesecake batter into the springform pan. Place the springform pan in a larger pan, and add water to that pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn off the oven, and leave cheesecake in the oven for an additional hour. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Top with chocolate ganache or whipped cream as desired.

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Chicken with Bacon Mustard Sauce

I’m always on the lookout for new and different ways to make chicken, whether it’s baked, grilled or pan fried. I was searching through my various pins on Pinterest and came across this pan chicken recipe from Julia’s Album, a site that has a load of terrific recipes. My sons are game to try new recipes, and since this one calls for bacon, I knew it would be a hit with them, and it was. They loved it. The recipe starts by cooking the bacon and the onion and then lightly searing the chicken. The chicken then poaches in the mustardy-bacon-onion-flavored chicken broth – absolutely delicious and simple to do!

I paired the chicken with some roasted asparagus. I’ve had spring fever really bad with all the nice weather we’ve had here lately in Iowa, and nothing says spring to me like fresh asparagus. Well, maybe rhubarb says “spring” a little bit more, but it’s still too early to harvest any of that! Anyway, dinner was a success, and I’ll be sure to try out more of Julia’s recipes in the near future – they all sound so good 🙂



chicken with bacon mustard sauce and asparagus 2

Chicken with Bacon Mustard Sauce

1/3 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

8 strips of bacon, uncooked, chopped (I used a double-smoked bacon for extra flavor)

1 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless

1 1/2 cups chicken broth


Combine Dijon mustard, paprika, salt and pepper in a small bowl to make a paste. Spread the paste evenly on both sides of the chicken breasts. Set aside.

In a large skillet, cook chopped bacon on medium-high heat just until it starts to brown. Remove back to a pate, leaving bacon fat in the skillet. To the same skillet, add the chopped onion, and cook in the bacon fat until softened but not browned. Remove onion to the same plate as the bacon.

Add 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil to the hot skillet. Cook mustard-covered chicken breasts on medium heat just long enough to lightly brown the chicken, about 4 minutes per side. The chicken will not be done yet, but you’ll continue cooking it in the next step. Remove chicken to a plate.

To the same skillet, add the chicken broth, and bring it to a boil, scraping the bottom of the skillet. Add back the bacon and onion, and mix well. Add back the chicken breasts to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, turning chicken once, until the chicken is fully cooked and no longer pink in the center.

chicken with bacon mustard sauce in pan 2

Serve with sauce over top.


Roasted Asparagus

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed of any woody stems

Extra-virgin olive oil


Black pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place washed and trimmed asparagus spears on a jelly roll pan. Drizzle olive oil over all spears, and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Toss the spears to evenly coat. Roast asparagus for approximately 30 minutes, or until the spears are slightly toasted.

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Sesame Chicken Thighs and Cheesy Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole

Sometimes a home cook needs a little help getting dinner on the table. Since I work from home, I’m always looking for quick recipes and dishes that allow me to make something homemade for my family that don’t take too much time to prepare. And sometimes work gets in the way, and I need a little help speeding up the process.


While I definitely prefer to make everything from scratch, sometimes time doesn’t always allow me to do so, and I turn to ready-made sauces from the store. Shortcuts I’ve found that my family likes are the cooking sauces from Campbell’s. Yes, I know I could make these sauces from scratch, but when you’re pressed for time but you still want a home-cooked meals, these sauces have been a real time-saver for me. We’ve tried the slow cooker Tavern Style Pot Roast and the slow cooker Apple Bourbon Pulled Pork, and we really like both of these. Last night I tried the skillet Sesame Chicken sauce, and instead of cooking the chicken on the stove, I used the sauce as a baking sauce. It was pretty good. The family said they liked it and would eat it again. I think I’ll kick it up a notch in the spice category next time, but overall, it was a win for dinner.

sesame chicken thighs 2


Baked Sesame Chicken Thighs

1 package Campbell’s Skillet Sauces Sesame Chicken

12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place the chicken thighs in the dish, and cover the thighs completely with the sesame chicken sauce. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 50 minutes until the juices run clear, or until the internal temperature of the chicken thighs reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving to let the juices return to the meat.


I did, however, make a homemade veggie casserole to go with the sesame chicken. I decided it was time to start working on the frozen veggies that I put up last summer to make some room for what I hope will be a successful gardening season this year. We try to grow broccoli and cauliflower each year, and I had a few packages left in the freezer that needed using. Cheese goes great with just about any vegetable, and this is a casserole I often make when I’m craving broccoli or cauliflower. Of course, you can use just one or the other, but I like to combine them. You can omit or adjust the mustard powder if you wish (or substitute a little prepared horseradish) if you don’t like the spice, but I like a cheese sauce with a little bit of kick, and the mustard powder provides this.

cheesy broccoli and cauliflower casserole



Cheesy Broccoli and Cauliflower Casserole

2 packages of frozen mixed broccoli and cauliflower

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 teaspoon ground mustard

Salt and black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Add the frozen vegetables to the baking dish.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the flour to the saucepan, and stir to combine. Cook for a few minutes to make a light colored (tan) roux. This will help thicken your sauce. Once you’ve reached a tan-colored roux, add the milk, cheese and mustard powder to the saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens to your desired consistency. Taste and season with salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the broccoli and cauliflower.

Bake casserole at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 50 minutes, or until the cheese sauce is nice and bubbly.


All in all, dinner was pretty good last night 🙂

sesame chicken and broccoli casserole plated

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Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

A favorite Thanksgiving side dish in our house is sauteed Brussels sprouts. I’m a lucky parent as my sons will eat just about anything – from liver and onions to spinach and these Brussels sprouts.

We like sauteed cabbage, and since Brussels sprouts are in the same vegetable family, one year I decided to try sauteeing some. Add some bacon and dried cranberries, and you’ve got the perfect side dish for your Thanksgiving dinner.

brussels sprouts and bacon

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed and sliced in half
5 bacon strips, diced and cooked
1/2 small onion, diced
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the sliced Brussels sprouts and diced onions. Cook the vegetables over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the Brussels sprouts are nicely caramelized and the onions are soft. Add the cooked bacon pieces and the dried cranberries, stirring to incorporate and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Mushroom Dressing

I hope everyone had a terrific Thanksgiving this year. We did, as we visited my parents for a short weekend. Lots of good food and conversation.

I’m late getting these recipes posted, as work has been a crazy, busy mess. I’m not complaining a bit, though. Being a freelancer, you take the work when it presents itself. It just has kept me too busy to blog this past month.

One of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes is mushroom dressing. I’ll admit I’m not a huge stuffing fan, probably because most recipes use celery. I like celery – just not in my stuffing thank you. About 20 years ago or so, I found a recipe for mushroom dressing in the Des Moines Register. I’ve made this recipe hundreds of times and have tweaked it along the way from the original one I first saw. My family likes this version, and I hope you do too.

mushroom dressing

mushroom dressing 2


Mushroom Dressing

1 pound fresh mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
8 tablespoons butter
3 cups chicken stock
2 packages of stuffing mix (plain, herbed or use day-old homemade bread cubes), about 5 cups
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, chopped
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning (omit or reduce amount if using seasoned bread cubes)
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the sliced mushrooms and sliced onions. Cook over medium heat until the mixture reduces and the mushrooms and onions are soft, about 15 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread cubes (or stuffing mix) with enough chicken stock to thoroughly moisten the bread. Add the cooked mushrooms and onions, the poultry seasoning if using, and the chopped water chestnuts. Stir until well combined and everything is moistened. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place dressing mixture in a greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned.

CrockPot Pulled Pork, Onion Strings and Dipping Sauce

After finding a nice buy at the grocery store on some pork shoulders, I decided to make some pulled pork in the Crock-Pot. When we have time, Kevin likes to smoke these on the smoker, but when we don’t have a lot of time, the Crock-Pot is a great way to get the same flavors without having to stand guard while it cooks.

I decided to use a dry rub on this pork shoulder and let the meat simmer in some apple cider vinegar. You can pass your favorite barbecue sauce at the table if you wish, but it’s great just as is.

Along with the pulled pork, I fixed a broccoli coleslaw and onion strings with a spicy dipping sauce similar to what you’d get in a steakhouse. I’ve listed the recipes separately, but my sons informed me you have to pile everything together on the pulled pork sandwich to make the perfect bite.

My sandwich:


Crock-Pot Pulled Pork

4- to 6-pound pork shoulder
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 cup paprika
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder

Trim off any excess fat from the pork shoulder. Mix together all dry ingredients, and rub onto all sides of the pork shoulder.

Pour the apple cider vinegar and water into the Crock-Pot, and add the pork shoulder. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or until the meat easily comes off the bone.

Shred the meat. Serve on buns with barbecue sauce if desired.

We recently got a new counter-sized deep fryer, and we’ve been trying all sorts of delicious recipes. When Kevin came home from work with some huge Vidalia onions (thanks Jeff!), I decided we needed to try Ree Drummond’s (The Pioneer Woman) recipe for Onion Strings. You can fry up as many onions as you wish – just adjust the ingredients to make sure you have enough flour mixture to coat all your onions. We love onion rings and strings in all shapes and forms, and this recipe is a definite keeper.


Onion Strings

1 whole large onion
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Oil for frying, between 1 to 2 quarts depending on the equipment in which you’re frying the onions
Salt and black pepper to taste

Slice onions very thin. Place in a baking dish, and cover with buttermilk. Soak onions for at least an hour.

Combine dry ingredients, and set aside.

Heat oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the onions in the seasoned flour mixture, and coat completely. Shake off any excess flour. Add the onions to the hot oil. Fry for a few minutes, and remove from the oil as they turn golden brown. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.


For the onion dipping sauce, I combined a couple recipes I’d seen to get the taste I was looking for. It has just enough spice so you can taste it, but it doesn’t overpower the taste of the onion strings. You can halve this recipe if just using it to dip onion rings, but the boys wanted sauce to use on their pulled pork sandwiches, so this makes quite a bit of dipping sauce.

Onion Dipping Sauce

2 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chili sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients, and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour to allow the flavors to marry together.

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