The Half-Crunchy Mama

Trying to live a natural life with balance

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Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Frittata

I love channeling my Gram in the kitchen when I use her old cast iron skillet. In fact, there are a lot of times that I’m cooking when I feel like she’s with me, especially around the holidays. I have several of her pans and skillets, but this cast iron one is by far my favorite. I miss her a lot (she passed in 2009, just shy of her 93rd birthday), but I feel her presence every time I use it. My mom says that my fried egg sandwiches taste just like Gram’s and that is the best compliment ever. I don’t use this skillet as often as I should and would like to, but it’s the best thing for frittatas, frying foods (not that I do that very often), and cooking/braising meat. It’s 10.5 inches across and 2 inches deep. Made in the USA, as was almost everything back then.

In case you missed my Cheesy Broccoli Egg Muffins post, breakfast is my favorite type of food and I would eat it all day long if I could. My favorite way to eat breakfast for dinner, or brinner, is in the form of a frittata. To me, frittatas are so much tastier than an omelette and way healthier than a quiche. And you can make up any kind of frittata combinations you want! Trust me, I do it all the time. This combination was created based on what was in the fridge since I was feeling too lazy to get to the store. We love all salmon, especially lox, and I usually have a thing or two of goat cheese in the drawer. Easy peasy.

The easiest way that I have found to deal with packaged lox (the pieces can be very sticky to each other) is to take the slab of slices and cut them all in long strips.

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Frittata | The Half-Crunchy Mama

Then I loosen them up and separate them as best as I can. I hate when they all clump together in the egg mix and you are left with huge bites of smoked salmon in random places of the frittata and nowhere else.
Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Frittata | The Half-Crunchy Mama

 The same thing goes for the goat cheese. I have struggled a few times with how to handle the brick of cheese that I usually have in the fridge. Of course if you buy or have goat cheese that is already crumbled, this next part won’t apply, but it’s cheaper to purchase this way and now I have a trick to share.

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Frittata | The Half-Crunchy Mama

I cut it up while it’s still in the package. Goat cheese is so soft and very difficult to cut no matter what way you want it to be, so I have learned to do it this way if I want it to be close to the size of crumbles. I make cuts both vertically and horizontally in the package, and everything stays in the plastic until I’m ready to dump it in. It still isn’t as perfect as prepackaged crumbles, but you never know what else might be included in those packages to keep the cheese clumps all nicely separated.

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Frittata | The Half-Crunchy Mama

Now I’ll talk about my butter. Unless I’m about to do a bunch of baking for a party or something that will involve a lot of butter, I usually only purchase Kerrygold from the store. If you have time and patience to make your own or spend extra pennies on something better, by all means. For me and my cheap, half-crunchy bum, I’ll go with this one. And I swear it tastes different than the rest of the ones in the dairy case at your regular supermarket. When using cast iron, I don’t bother with anything of low quality. My pan is perfectly seasoned and I’m afraid of using anything that isn’t close to what it has been used to its whole life. You know, like food. Not “organic,” not “non-GMO,” not “grass-fed,” “free-range,” or “rBGH-free” because these things never existed back in Gram’s day. Animals and crops were naturally raised and we dealt with bugs and disease. People still ate. Farmers were respected. People didn’t have all sorts of crazy allergies to food and the environment, and the general population was not nearly as sick as we are today. Okay, I’m getting off my soap box now. Sometimes I just have to rant and get this stuff out.

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Frittata | The Half-Crunchy Mama

Back to the recipe. After prepping the salmon and cheese, it’s time to get going on the onion and garlic. Chop a small onion finely and mince two cloves of fresh garlic. Melt 1 Tablespoon of butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and saute about 3 minutes.

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Frittata | The Half-Crunchy Mama

 While they are sauteing, whisk 10 eggs in a large bowl with 1/4 milk, if you do dairy, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper. If you don’t do milk and have nothing else to add in its place, use a tablespoon or two of water to help make the eggs fluffy. Add the sliced smoked salmon, the goat cheese, and 2-3 Tbsp dried dill (fresh is WAY better if you have it, but I was all out) to the egg mixture.  Pour egg mixture over the onions and garlic, slightly stirring to combine.

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Frittata | The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Turn the heat up to medium high and cook until the edges start to firm and climb up the side of the pan a little and bubbles start to appear.

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Frittata | The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Transfer it to an oven preheated to 350ºF and bake for about 25 minutes. It should look nice and golden on the top when finished, and a toothpick should come out clean from the middle.

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Frittata | The Half-Crunchy Mama

Slice and serve! It goes well with a nice green salad with a mild dressing.

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Frittata | The Half-Crunchy Mama

 One last shot to show how well a wonderfully seasoned pan can work. It helps that this pan is older than me and that I have loved on it just as my Gram did. Once you get used to using one, you will be in love as much as I am.

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Frittata | The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Salmon Goat Cheese Frittata

This simple recipe can help you get dinner on the table in about 35 minutes with very little prep work. It goes well with a small side salad for dinner, and the leftovers are great for any meal!

  • 6 ounce package of smoked salmon, sliced into small strips
  • 4 ounce package of goat cheese, cut into small pieces (or packaged crumbles)
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp butter, lard, or oil of your choice
  • 10 eggs
  • 1/4 milk (or other liquid, I’ve only used water)
  • 2-3 Tbsp dill (dried, but fresh would be better)
  • 1/4+ tsp sea salt
  • 1/8+ tsp fresh ground pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp butter in a deep or large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Once melted, saute onions and garlic for about three minutes.
  3. While onions and garlic saute, whisk together the eggs and milk/liquid, salt, and pepper. Add salmon, cheese, and dill to the eggs and stir to combine.
  4. Pour egg mixture over the onions and garlic, give a quick stir, and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook until the edges start to firm and climb up the pan and bubbles start to form.
  5. Transfer pan to the preheated oven and bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown on top and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Serve with a lightly dressed green salad. Enjoy!

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Musings from a perfect Sunday

Yesterday was one of those days. The ones where I’m really treasuring moments with my Sugar Bee. It’s partially to blame on PMS; not only the fact that by itself I get a little sappier than usual, but that with the arrival of these emotional days comes the realization and acceptance that yes, my cycle is coming again. Not that I really thought anything was going to change this month, but you never know. God works in mysterious ways, and He knows that I am trying my hardest to leave this all in His hands. I succeed most of the time. At least I think so. He’s probably tired of hearing from me, but it is what it is.

This graphic that I posted on my Facebook page has to do with the rest of it. I scheduled this post on Saturday to come through yesterday morning. I didn’t know what my day would be like. Hey, I’m not a fortune teller or else I’d be hella rich right now. I had no idea how much this was going to speak to me as my day wore on. And it spoke loudly.


Every other month or so, The Russian has to work second shift at his job on Saturday and Sunday. This was his weekend. Of course I let him sleep in as I do most Sundays, he is also working very hard right now; working full time by day and going to college full time at night. He’s way short on sleep, so I let him sleep until 10 yesterday morning. (For the record, I can count on one hand how many times I have slept until 10 in the morning since Sugar Bee came along. The answer is ONE.) Yesterday, I really didn’t mind letting him sleep in.

All week long, I feel like I’m dragging this kid from one place to another; school, the store, Gigi’s or the nursery so that I can exercise, gymnastics, doctor appointments. We never stop moving. On Friday mornings we tend to laze about a bit since her gym class this school year doesn’t start until 11. Then along comes a Sunday like this. If The Russian isn’t working, it’s usually, “Where are we going to go today? What park should we go explore? Are we going to brunch? What is the plan for today?” I get it. He doesn’t see her (us) at all these days, so when Sundays come, he’s excited to do something. And that’s very sweet. What he doesn’t understand is that I’ve been running all week doing all of the millions of things that I do on a daily and weekly basis, including my actual job, and sometimes I might just need a little nothing time. To be honest, I’m actually not very good at nothing time, but I’ve learned how to force myself into it after having a kid. It might be that it comes along so rarely now that I’ve learned to appreciate it. A lot. And I’m appreciating it for Sugar Bee. This is what the first two-and-a-half hours of our morning was like yesterday.


I could not have asked for more. I was so relaxed, with nothing to do (aside form the tons of things that I could have done around the house that I was purposely ignoring) that I had drank the entire pot of coffee before I told her to go wake up her papa. We hung around, sitting on the couch, watching some TV, chatting off and on, and just snuggling. Doing nothing. It was so lovely and peaceful. My cup runneth over. Perfect Sunday morning.

After The Russian left for work, I figured I had better get Sugar Bee and I dressed so we could leave the house and go do something outside for a little while. I knew there was something going on at the the square, so I looked online and saw that it was the 20140928_135800Whole Hawg Happenin BBQ and Music Fest. Perfect! Lunch, music, and fresh air, just what we needed before nap time came. So off we went. We had a great time eating and listening to music, and our good friends came to meet us a little while later. My friend managed to get a few pictures of Sugar Bee and I, pictures that actually aren’t selfies/usies for once.  After getting a taste of her first snow cone (I shudder to think about the sugar and food coloring, but hey, we all survived eating that crap, right?), it was soon time to leave…and way past the start of her nap time. As usual, I rocked her to sleep, but this was one of those times when I thought my chest was going to explode out of love. Her little arms wrapped around my enormous-feeling rib cage took my breath away. I had no work to rush back to, no conference call coming up to distract me from this moment. What a perfect day we were having.

While she napped, I worked on a recipe post (that will now get published after this one), enjoying some quiet time to focus on my work here. I am finding such joy and inner happiness when I can actually get a new post out. I wish I had more time and hope that one day I will. I have so much to talk about and to share, and even more recipes! When she woke up, I wasn’t ready to finish working. A long time ago, I committed to making Sundays the day I don’t turn on my computer. I was always successful with it until I started this blog and my Facebook page. 🙂 I am still pretty good about sticking to it most Sundays, but I’ve decided that this makes me happy and if she’s sleeping anyway, what difference does it make? So I offered her a choice of two of her favorite (monitored) activities, painting or dough, and set her up in the kitchen to play with her “play dough.” I need to take a half-crunchy minute here and share that there is this great company, eco-kids, that makes awesome products. Their eco-dough is made with all natural ingredients and essential oils, and is gluten free. Did you know that regular old Play-Doh is not safe for kids allergic to wheat? And it can make your pets really sick. I have a lab that is under two years old, so that was also a driving factor in buying their product. Made in the USA, too!


photo by Shannen Yauger Photography

Back to the story. So after dinner, it was business as usual. Bath, milk-couch, stories, and then bedtime snuggling. And that’s when the day and feelings all hit at once. When we have real quality time together, just the Bee and I, things can really be so amazing. She really is a part of me, taken from my body. The connection we have is almost like an electrical current sometimes. The Russian likes to make jokes about how when she was a baby, she always knew when I got home or even just walked by her room because she would start stirring in her bed and often wake up. This still happens at three years old. I have been starting to think that it’s not necessarily that she’s acting up when I’m in a mood, but rather she is feeling my emotions and is my mirror. She doesn’t know what to do when I’m not myself….whoever that is. When I am feeling really awful, just holding her in my arms or giving/getting a good squeeze from her takes it all away and actually makes me feel better. It’s incredible, really. She is my only. And I am hers. As I rocked her, thinking about the saying that I had posted above, I could feel the tears start to sting my eyes. The next thing I knew, she moved her arms from around my ribs up to my neck. The tears silently fell as we rocked in the dark. She squeezed my neck and I wanted to sob for a moment, amazed that this little person knew exactly what I needed at that point in time. And then she took all the distractions from my thoughts, about the passage of time, my worries below, my yearning for another chance to do this all over again. She alone quieted me and my spirit. My angel.

I work from home. When she’s not at school, she’s with me almost every other minute of the day. We have a strong bond, and I love it. But it also worries me. Yes, I would love to have a gaggle of children, but I’m already of advanced maternal age, so as I said earlier, it’s in God’s hands now. Yet I want to give her a sibling. For so many reasons, none of which I think my husband understands. He may not ever and he may not even be able to.

The Russian is an only child. He was also the only grandchild on his mother’s side, and they helped raise him. His aunt did not have children of her own, and she loves and cares for him as if he were hers. She’s the reason and way that he came to America, and her love for him is something fierce. But as you can imagine, he might have been a little spoiled (and still kind of is). I have found through my life that a lot of onlies have some qualities that those of us with siblings don’t have, and vice versa. I’m not comparing only children to those with siblings to be negative, rather I’m just stating my observations and opinions based on my own personal experiences of my close to 40 years on this revolving orb.

Growing up with a brother or sister, you are rather strictly encouraged to do things like share and apologize. Now sharing is something that can be worked on through things like school, and I can go either way with this one, really. I mean, how often are we expected as adults to share our stuff with another person? The apology part is one that has been an issue with The Russian and I. My thoughts are that without a sibling in your life, you don’t get as many opportunities to understand that an apology isn’t only about being sorry for something that you did. You can (should) be sorry that something you did or said made someone sad and that warrants an apology, regardless of whether or not you are sorry for the actual act. It’s called empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. We are usually forced to say that we are sorry to our siblings, if for any reason but to appease our parents, but we are still learning valuable lessons that will transfer over to all of our future relationships, romantic or platonic, such as honesty, communication, humility, and owning up to doing something wrong. In my opinion, the most important thing that apologizing teaches us is forgiveness, not only forgiveness of others, but of ourselves.22432_437215065701_3235817_n

I want Sugar Bee to learn this piece. I am trying my best to model this for her and many other things that I deem important for her social development; the areas of social development that are often facilitated by having a sibling. (Read this article to get more insight into my thoughts.) She’s doing very well in the apology department and I’m not ashamed to take credit for that one on my own. I have apologized to my kid for more than my share of less-than-fabulous-mom moments. I talk things through with her when I apologize and it really looks like I’m getting through to her. She even tells me why she’s sorry when she apologizes, so I think this one’s a win. For now.

Aside from these few social aspects that I’m touching upon (I could babble about my observations on this topic), there are two other huge things that make her being an only a struggle for me to accept sometimes. Of course from a financial perspective, one child is great. Especially in a world when both parents often have to work and are not necessarily doing it because they want to. Hell, I would love to be doing this full time, be freed up to do all sorts of things with my kid, coming up with new recipes, and a ton of other things, but this is where my life is, and it is what it is. And it suits me right now. Add a second child in to an already overachieving life that doesn’t get much help from the other half because he has no time or energy, and people would probably think I had lost my mind if I came out and said I was knocked up. But I would love it and make it work, because I always make it work.

So one of these fears of mine is that she ends up spoiled. Like badly spoiled. A little here and there is fine, but I know me and how I am. I know that I am a tough mom and I have expectations, sucks for her for having a mom that used to teach preschoolers, but I can’t control how crazy in love I am with this little blond creature that IS the center of my universe, no matter how much I try and hide that fact from her. She is feisty and strong, independent and smart, and she’s going to give me a run for my money every day for the rest of my life. I have to give her lots of attention. This is the only way that I can teach her to channel all of her outstanding qualities, to focus them to work in her favor, and help her to develop into the strong woman that I know she will be. It’s all about balance, but I still worry. I only want the best for her, and that includes not being a spoiled brat.

Then there is my biggest worry for her – being alone when The Russian and I are sick, dying, or dead, when one of us is gone and the other isn’t capable of much. Yes, I’m being melodramatic and this is hopefully far, far away from now, but it’s a real thought. We are guaranteed nothing in life and we never know when we will leave. When both of my grandmothers passed away (a week apart), I watched as each of my parents turned to their siblings. They had someone else to lean on, to fully understand what they were going through, to mourn with. As much as my relationship with my own sister has been hot and cold through the years, I know we will have each other when the day comes with each of our parents.

I don’t want Sugar Bee to be alone. She won’t have me to lean on. I won’t be able to help her or give her advice. My own mortality won’t allow that. A friend and I talked one day about this very subject as her parents are aging and it’s all on her. I don’t want my sweet girl to have to make decisions about our care by herself and to have all the responsibility on her shoulders. I want her to have someone to share the burden. The Russian’s aunt approached me about having another child and is aware that I’m all for it, and have been since Sugar Bee was about one. She also agrees on my thoughts about a sibling, especially for when we are old. The death of each of her parents was rough for her as they were still in Russia and she was here. She told me that she didn’t know how she could have gotten through everything without her sister. When I explained that this was one of the main reasons I think it would be great for Sugar Bee to have a sibling, she understood even more. One can dream.

10612781_10154599168145702_6446323892731177138_nShe is growing so fast and no one can slow it down. As fast as she grows, I’m aging even faster. She will be off to kindergarten before I know it, and then I will blink and she will be graduating high school. How much longer will I get to have Sunday mornings like this, hanging out on the couch together? It won’t be long before she wants to go to the BBQ fest with her friends and not hang out with her mama. It’s life and change happens. I just worry I will hang onto her too tightly if she remains my only. I know I will struggle with letting go as she gets older and doesn’t need me as much, yet I hope to hide it from her as best I can. But I know she will know. She will feel it. She is the best thing that I have ever done in life. I just want to give her everything she will ever need. My only.


Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips

I have two very good friends of mine that have embarked on their own healing journey after (finally) listening to me and going to my naturopath.  I have some stubborn friends…that I love to death..and their stubbornness is working in their favor. My voodoo doc is really so incredible and I’m beyond thankful for all she has done for me and my family, and now I have been witnessing theCinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips | The Half-Crunchy Mama transformation within these two fantastic and important women in my life.

Their journeys are very different from mine, yet I have tried to give them all the support that I can. My journey was difficult for very different reasons and I didn’t have anyone aside from The Russian (who thought I was even crazier for a bit) and my mom who was all the way back in New York to lean on for support and understanding. I hope that I have helped raise these women up to meet their challenges as they are both very dear to my heart. For some, the natural path can be extremely difficult to walk. Especially when there are serious things to deal with.

Even though I have dietary things to follow (and I’ve been slacking lately and feel like crap), nothing compares to what these two have been dealing with. Interestingly enough, they are ridiculously similar in the way they need to eat, probably for the rest of their lives. I’m used to eating and making strange things for meals and snacks, so I always look forward to getting together with either of their families because with all of our dietary restrictions, we all eat the same way and there are no stupid questions asked like, “What are you eating these days?” or “Why can’t you eat (insert whatever)?” when trying to plan the menu and who is bringing what. No embarrassment, no feelings of needing to explain ourselves, just feelings of acceptance and a level of comfort that puts us all at ease.

So the reason for my post. These two can’t eat much these days. One of them is a lot farther along in her healing and has started adding some foods back in, but there are lots of things that will probably never re-enter her diet. And for my other friend…what a trooper she is trying to be. She keeps testing the limits of her “new” body, but finds out rather quickly that she needs to cut the crap out and find other ways to fulfill her cravings. This is where I come in. Or at least I’m hoping to.

Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips | The Half-Crunchy Mama

This past May, my gym had a contest going called “The Biggest Mover.” It was to see who attended the most classes for a month or something, I really don’t remember the rules, but all you had to do was have your instructor initial a paper and then you drop it in a box on the way out. Sure, why not? The first week (I think it ran for 6 weeks), I won that week’s prize. I think that was a random drawing, but I won a nifty gym bag that I have been using since.

I ended up winning the whole damn thing and my prize was the basket in this picture. I was actually pretty excited about it. The loot was 4 cans of coconut water (I don’t like plain ones, but whatever), a bag of goji berries, a bag of golden berries, a bag of shelled hemp seeds, a bag of chia seeds, and a great little cookbook. I have been playing around with the recipes when I have time, and have been hopeful to give my friend some snacking ideas. This one was a big hit with my other friend’s family, and mine.

So I thought she could eat sweet potatoes, but as I was writing this, she tells me she’s going to try and pull them. WTH? I’m putting this out there for her and all my Paleo folks as they are allowed sweets, as I like to call them. I literally told her in our Facebook message, “Maybe with the spices and chia seeds, you can handle them as those additions should handle the inflammation that it casuses. Just my uneducated-i’m-not-a-doctor-but-know-some-things opinion.” Then she reminded me that she can’t do ANY seeds. BULLSH#T! So of course she will leave them out, as will any of you that need to follow the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol for anyone that doesn’t know what that means) diet. Regardless of her leaving them out, at least she can quickly and easily make a potato chip that will satisfy both the need for sweet and salty, with a crunch!

There are a few other recipes from this book that I will be sharing as I work through the book and tweak ones as I see fit. One in particular has been a BIG hit with my other friend’s family and my own, and another I have fixed up a little to be easier to work with and enjoy. Stay tuned for more tasty recipes that can be traced back to this book.

Why chia seeds? Rich in fiber, omega-3s, antioxidants, and amino acids, and almost all the carbs in them count as fiber.

A 1 ounce (28 grams) serving of chia seeds contains:

  • Fiber: 11 grams.
  • Protein: 4 grams.
  • Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
  • Calcium: 18% of the RDA.
  • Manganese: 30% of the RDA.
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA.
  • They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.

Chia can aid in weight loss as they can help reduce food cravings by preventing some of the food that you eat from getting absorbed into your system. This blockage of calorie absorption makes them a great diet helper. They can help you feel fuller faster because they absorb 10 times their weight in water, forming a bulky gel. They are often used as hydration for athletes because the “chia gel” can hydrate the body. They may reduce your blood pressure as evidence has suggested that they can reduce blood pressure. They are rich in Omega-3s, and are the richest plant source of Omega-3 (the vital fats that protect against inflammation—such as arthritis—and heart disease). In fact, they contain more Omega-3 than salmon! They can also be beneficial for diabetics because chia seeds slow down how fast our bodies convert carbohydrates into simple sugars, and studies indicate they can control blood sugar, leading scientists to believe chia seeds may have great benefits for diabetics. And they are easier to digest than flax seeds, and don’t need to be ground up. Give them a try! Add them to yogurt, smoothies, baked goods, anything that you can think of. They are annoying and a pain to clean up (not to mention they can hang out in your teeth – pet peeve!), but they are worth it!

Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips

This is a great sweet and slightly salty, crunchy treat to replace store-bought potato chips. I go a little overboard on the spice quantities because we like flavor in this house. Figure out how spicy you want to make them. These are cheap, fast, and easy to make, and barely make it through the day in our house!

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 lb)
  • 3 Tbsp EVOO
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Few pinches of sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 300ºF.
  2. Peel the potatoes and slice into paper-thin disks, or however thin you can get them. A mandoline would probably be best for this. (I had success using the flat blade from my spiralizer after using a hand-held mandoline slicer last time that made the chips a little too thick and chewy.)
  3. In a large bowl, coat the potato disks with the EVOO and chia seeds. In a small bowl, combine all the spices.
  4. Spread the chips out in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet(s) and sprinkle the seasoning over them, and then sprinkle with salt.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp, flipping about halfway through. (I seem to end up baking between 30-35 minutes, so the time depends on your oven and how thick they end up being.)
  6. Store in an airtight container, if you don’t eat them all before nightfall. Enjoy!

Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips | The Half-Crunchy Mama


Why I’m not going to tell you that essential oils fix everything

Don’t get me wrong, oily friends. I am definitely in love, borderline obsessed, with some of the magic that these little oils have delivered for me and those in my life over the past several months. Essential oils can be very beneficial to us, but I just don’t think that they are a cure. Yes, I have read some testimonials and seen actual proof of healing, but I believe that those cures are the exception. Some of the wonderful benefits that I believe in include ridding the home of toxic chemicals for cleaning and freshening the air, boosting the immune system, providing natural pain relief, and easing a variety of symptoms from anxiety to insomnia, digestive issues and allergies to migraines, acne, and insect bites. The list is actually endless and if you ask me about what oils you can try to help aid with something that you struggle with, I’m positive that I can come up with a few ideas to try. Naturally.

Did you notice the words that I chose to use above? Easing a variety of symptoms. This is my point. It’s one that I could receive quite a bit of flack over from serious oilers, but I have to get this out of my brain. It’s actually making me feel a little crazy (there’s an oil for that) and I really want to tell everyone that the oils seriously CAN help and to give them a try, but don’t ignore me because you are judging and think this is some silly fad that only crazy hippies are a part of. Remember, I’m only half crunchy. This means that I don’t believe everything, especially anything that gets hyped up. I’m educated and consider myself to be a fairly intelligent woman. I don’t believe in miracle cures and I certainly trust that there is a time and a place for medications in our lives. Just not to the extent that we medicate ourselves in this country.

Here are my two cents on the subject of oils. In terms of our health, they help ease the symptoms that we experience. This equates them to medications in my book. Medications mask the symptoms, providing relief. They don’t fix problems, but they allow us to live comfortably or with the appearance of a healthier existence, think blood pressure medication, insulin, and other things that help people stay alive. Does going on insulin (not applicable to childhood diagnosis) or blood pressure medication “fix” the sugar or pressure regulation in your body? Or would diet, exercise, and addressing the why actually fix it? I’m speaking in general terms here, but I think you get my point.

The only way I am able to think about getting and maintaining a healthy body is following the way that I got here. After many failures with conventional Western medicine, I turned to functional medicine (my voodoo) and naturopathy. On my journey, I learned that we should only use whole food supplements to fuel and try to correct things that are missing from or are misfiring within our bodies. Whole food supplements are not the dead garbage that most of the population buys in the vitamin stores, but actual supplements that are made from food, herbs, and depending on the use, desiccated animal organs. Functional medicine gets to the root cause of the symptoms that we experience and can actually help correct, even retrain what is malfunctioning. I may have the same symptoms as my best friend, but our bodies are experiencing them because of completely different reasons. The supplements that we each would need to address and correct the issues will probably be very different. Individual treatment. I’m not going to say that this cures everything as that is way too strong of a word, but it comes as close as possible. And yes, some things have pretty much been eliminated from people’s lives or thrown into remission, including mine, but other things can be managed with supplements. I could babble on and on about this topic, but will save that for another time.

Aside from engaging in functional medicine, which included whole food supplements and homeopathics, NAET (allergy treatments), and BRT (body restoration technique) treatments, the deeper change had to do with my lifestyle – diet, exercise, drinking, smoking, the environment, and stress. We are a whole unit, a body, so why don’t we ever look at the bigger picture? Deep down, we can trace almost everything back to diet and exercise. (The environment has been playing a much larger role in our lives for the past few decades, but I will save that for another post.) I had already learned what foods work and don’t work in my body in the years before I started learning about naturopathy, but I didn’t necessarily know how or why my body reacted the ways that it did. I digress. Let’s get back to the oils.

Can oils help? I say yes. Emphatically! Things I have personally experienced and witnessed:

  • Deeper, more restful sleepHalf-Crunchy Mama
  • Little to no snoring (the Russian)
  • Relief from aches and pains (muscular)
  • Back pain relief
  • Anxiety gone
  • Calming atmosphere for the entire family
  • Less bloating
  • Increased digestive health
  • Clearer, healthier skin
  • Healthier hair
  • Insect bites disappear
  • Stronger immune system
  • Nicotine craving support
  • Increased energy and adrenal support
  • Allergies
  • Fighting colds and coughs
  • Safe and healthy cleaning in the house
  • Safe and healthy air purification and odor elimination
  • Hangover relief
  • Arthritis in pets

There are more, but that’s what I’ll share for now.

Do I ingest them? A few I do. I have found great results with bloating, cravings, and weight loss adding a few drops of grapefruit, lemon, and peppermint to my water. (I would only recommend ingesting Young Living oils as they are the purest available.) Those are the only ones that I personally have ingested, but I know a few people that have had amazing success with improving their gut health by ingesting others, like DiGize.

What do I love? I am obsessed with Joy. I huff this sh*t all day long. Okay, I’m not that bad, but some days it feels like it. It makes me happy and has really evened out my hormones…or at least it feels that way. The other one that I love is called Tranquil. I’ve been using it at night and I haven’t slept this good in a very long time.

Am I careful what I use with Sugar Bee? Of course I am, not only because of her age, but because she is so sensitive to everything around her. I almost always dilute them and only apply them to her feet as her skin is extremely sensitive. She loves them and has responded really well (future post). She will ask for her lavender for any bug bites and that is the only one that I don’t dilute. The huge, swollen bumps disappear before our eyes. I can’t debunk actual proof, as hard as I may want to. I was skeptical at first, even though my voodoo doc was helping guide me. It took a little time for me to get comfortable with them, and now here I am, spouting about what they can do.

Does the Russian use them? You bet he does. He has learned that all the crazy, crunchy crap that I do really does produce results. Lasting results. The proof is in the pudding as they say. Actually, I never knew anyone to actually say that outside of using it for a case like this, but whatever. Through the years, he has seen the dynamic changes in my body and how it operates, and this is no different. The results that he has personally had with some skin issues and his snoring alone has made him a supporter of this oil craze…that has been going on for decades in the real crunchy world. Other countries around the world have used essential oils to aid in treatments throughout history, and still do. Oils have been used for centuries, but to our society it just looks like another fad. It shouldn’t be this way.

Am I going to tell you to throw out all your medications, never go to a doctor, and only try to fix things with oils? Hell no. My daughter has a life-threatening allergy to pineapple. We actually have Benadryl in the house for the first time ever, but we MUST have it in the house, along with her Epi-pen. We are aiding the natural treatment of her other allergies using the oils and have been very pleased so far. Anything that can help!

If we can get away from all the pain medications that we take that make it even harder for our bodies to operate the way they are supposed to, I’m all for it. PanAway has helped me incredibly with my back issues and Deep relief is awesome for muscular things, including headaches and muscle aches from my workouts. This doesn’t mean that I’m never going to go to my back doctor again, but if I can save a little time and money without doing harm, finding relief when I need it, I’m game. I personally don’t take anything (unless I can’t move), but in general, we make our livers work so hard already without adding Tylenol, Advil, or whatever that has to get filtered through this important organ that we should jump at a form of natural relief. When you add in allergy medications, hormone replacements, anxiety and antidepressant medications, ADD/ADHD treatments…the list is endless…our livers get full of junk that make it weak, thus weakening many other systems in our bodies. We can look for other ways to support our bodies and help ourselves.

Will the oils help? Most likely. Will they fix the root cause? I don’t think they will. Some things they do and it’s obvious, like with Sugar Bee’s mosquito bites disappearing after applying lavender, a pimple clearing up with melrose or purification, warts and body tags leaving the body using Thieves and Frankincense. Most importantly, they can ease the symptoms of other aliments while you figure out the cause and find a way to naturally heal and help your body to thrive.

If we can get away from the barrage of harsh and toxic chemicals in our homes, stressing our respiratory systems, our brains, and our organs, then let’s do it. Bug sprays, household cleaners, scented candles, plug-in air fresheners, and so many other things that we don’t even realize are exposing us to chemicals on a daily basis, disrupting our endocrine and neurological systems.

I have had issues with household cleaners for years. It took me so long to realize why I would feel sick for several days after cleaning the house…weeks if I cleaned the oven. Thieves cleaner has been a gift from heaven for cleaning the floors, the kitchen, and my oven. I had to stop using the plug-in air freshener things when Sugar Bee came along. Her little body couldn’t handle them and what an improvement when we removed them from the house (not to mention the carpet in her room). We almost never use scented candles, despite how much I love the smells. Now that I have diffusers in the house, I don’t have a need for them. I can make my own scents to fill the house and they will have an added benefit (or 3 or 4 depending on what I’m diffusing) for us all. Even the pup! Peace and calming has been diffused every evening and now the witching hour in our house is all but gone. Bonus!

I would think that this society of instant gratification would love the oils right away because of how fast they work. I’m not exaggerating at all. I get relief in minutes, whether it’s emotional, physical, or physiological in nature. I have shared some of my experiences this far on my Facebook page and in one of my first posts the I have linked in a few places already, Snoring? Backache? Hangover? Allergies? Bug bites? My oil solutions (Part 1). Essential oils have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier as they are made up of such tiny molecules. Relief comes fast. We love them.

Give them a try. What have you got to lose?

If you are interested in trying one or two, visit my store at

If you want to get your own 24% discount on everything with no requirement to sell or order a minimum per month, sign up at

Ask me anything. I’m just here to help and share my knowledge.

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Creamy Veggie Tagliatelle (yes, it’s gluten free!)

How I came up with this recipe is twofold. It was partially due to what I was craving and knew I had in the house, and the rest was inspired by a recipe used for the photo on this box of pasta. I had found myself scoping out the egg pastas as I was craving some egg noodles, hoping to find some gluten-free ones so that Sugar Bee would be able to eat whatever I ended up making. All of the ones at the particular store I was at contained wheat. This was my very first time trying this brand (whether egg or plain pasta) and the success from this meal was the reason I ended up using this brand for my Eggplant Ragout one night. My thoughts that I shared in that post about choosing the spaghetti are identical to when I first picked this box up. In fact, I’m pretty sure that this was my first experience with Jovial pasta, but egg pasta IS different from regular (as regular as GF can be), so I think those thoughts are still valid here. I took one look at the box and between the “100% organic” and “Product of Italy” on the label, I was sold. Italians know what they are doing with pasta, glutened or not.

Creamy Veggie Tagliatelle - The Half-Crunchy Mama

Upon further inspection of the recipe on the box, I realized I had most of the ingredients at home and I could make a dish like this with minimal investment during this trip to the store. I was getting close to payday, so of course I was short on funds and looking to maximize my spending. This was so cheap, fast, and easy…just how I like my weeknight meals to be.

I took a large zucchini and julienned it, giving me about 3 cups of shredded zucchini. Then I sliced a sweet onion into pieces that mimicked the shreds. That was the extent of my prep work.

I melted 3 tablespoons of Kerrygold butter in a pan over medium heat. I threw in the onion and about 2 teaspoons of minced garlic from a jar, and sauteed for about 2 minutes. I threw in the zucchini shreds and about a cup and a half of  matchstick organic carrots from a bag (no prep!), tossing everything in the butter to coat. After adding some sea salt and fresh ground pepper, I let this all cook for about three minutes until the veggies started to soften a little, but kept their bright colors. I removed the veggie mixture from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving behind any leftover butter drippings.

Creamy Veggie Tagliatelle - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 I cooked the pasta according to the directions on the box and then returned the saute pan to the stove over low heat. I added 3/4 cup of regular whipping cream and a cup and a half of grated Parmesan-Pecorino cheese, stirring until the cheese had melted. I then returned the veggies to the pan, tossing to coat them well in the creamy cheese sauce.

After cooking and draining the pasta, I returned the noodles to the pot and poured the creamy veggie sauce over them, combining well to plate a perfect summer pasta dish.

Creamy Veggie Tagliatelle - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 The absolute best part? This dish reheated PERFECTLY, unlike a typical Alfredo or cream sauce that you would make for a pasta dish. Bonus!

Creamy Veggie Tagliatelle - The Half-Crunchy Mama


Creamy Veggie Tagliatelle

A jazzed-up version of a recipe on a box of pasta, with extra cheese, added garlic, and lighter cream. I would think you could serve this over spaghetti squash, too, in case you are living completely grain free.

  • 3 Tbsp butter or ghee
  • 1 onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic (I used jarred)
  • 1 large zucchini, julienned (about 3 cups)
  • 1.5 cups matchstick carrots (bagged is perfect)
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream (heavy cream not necessary)
  • 1.5 cups grated Parmesan-Pecorino cheese
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  1. Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, cooking for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the zucchini, carrots, salt, and pepper, and toss well to combine and coat in butter. Cook for 3 minutes. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Cook the GF tagliatelle according to package directions. When finished, drain and return to pot.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, return the saute pan to stove over low heat. Add the cream and grated cheese. Heat until the cheese is melted. Return the veggie mixture to the pan and toss to coat in the sauce, heating until warmed through.
  5. Pour creamy veggie sauce over the cooked pasta and stir to combine well. Serve and enjoy! (Even leftover!)

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We are both pretty sad after saying goodbye to the paci

It has been two weeks since giving up the pacifier and we are both still struggling a bit. All of us, I guess. But mostly Sugar Bee and I.

Bye-bye, paci. “When I’m three, I will have zero pacis.” She was telling everyone that. She would also talk about giving them to a friend’s new baby because she needed them more. I had done my best to prepare her and we talked about all of the events that surrounded her becoming a “big girl.” At the ripe old age of three.

I completely admit that I am guilty of doing lots of things that the old preschool teacher me of the past would want to slap me for. I still help her eat sometimes. She was still in a crib until just after her third birthday, and she still had a paci for sleep and those time she needed extra comfort. I can’t seem to get this stubborn kid to be independent enough with some things so I end up helping or doing them (slap); pottying without help with her pants (she knows how), getting dressed on her own (or at least only needing help), even shoes are often a discussion point (annoyance). Lots of other kids her age do these things already. I have milestones in my head from years of teaching and helping to raise other people’s children. I am aware that I may place more pressure in other areas as I can see what kind of brain she has, but for some reason I’m not pushing some of the other things that I should be encouraging her to do. Maybe I’m subconsciously trying keep her my baby just a little longer. I know that I am savoring moments, every moment,  maybe a little too much. No one has any idea what lies ahead and this gift from God may very well be the only one that I get to receive. Savor, I must.

I always wanted lots of kids (like 3 to 5), but things don’t always turn out as we planned. Our own plan is not THE plan, and that is possibly one of the hardest things I’ve tried to learn throughout my adult life. It is still a struggle for me. We had put off conceiving our first child when we found out the Russian’s army unit was going to deploy. And then they put off his deployment. Twice, if I remember correctly. So I lost a few of the easier-to-conceive years living by the the motto most military families are familiar with, “Hurry up and wait.” Sure, I could have gotten knocked up and handled pregnancy, delivery, and even those first weeks/months on my own if I had to. But I didn’t want to. I knew the awesomeness and wonder of babies, but the Russian did not. He never held one until she arrived (true of most men) and I didn’t want him to miss anything. I’m so glad that we waited because all of my experience didn’t prepare me for this kid. And I needed him so much those first months. Colic is no joke.

Now here I am pushing 39. I may never have another opportunity to experience these moments of being a mom to a preschooler, so I make the most of everything when I can. I know what you’re thinking…lots of women have babies in their 40s. Let’s be realistic here. I come from a line of women that didn’t have the easiest time conceiving, I delivered my first child at 35, I have a full-time career and the stress that comes with it, my husband is in school at night after working all day and we hardly ever see each other (or have energy to get together), and I’m already tired. Babies take a lot of energy. If it comes to be, I will be overjoyed. For now, I’m settling into accepting the fact that I may very well be raising an only child. I will save my thoughts on that for another time.

I’m slightly envious at times of true SAHMs that do not have a job (that they get paid for) outside of the millions of jobs we all have inside the home. Even my times with her in the house with me (after her morning preschool and nap are over) are often distracted by my computer/sametimes/conference calls and the myriad of things that I have to get done on a daily and weekly basis to run a household. So when nap time comes, I make the most of it. Putting her down for a nap has always been my favorite time of day. Yes, I still rock her her to sleep (slap) because I can. There are no other children that need me, and this allows me these precious times with her. It is the one time of day that I truly give her all of me…and I take plenty from her in return. I soak up her peaceful quiet and enjoy the sound machine in her room, temporarily able to leave my work on the other side of her door. Most days, this time is the only point in the day that I am able to do that, to completely focus in on her and her needs. And sometimes I can’t. There are days when I have to get her down earlier or do it in a hurry in order to make a conference call or get back to a really hot issue for work. I hate those days. The ones when I feel like I have to rush through this precious time that I’m trying to hold onto. I’m grateful for my job and my career, but I despise when I feel robbed of this part of my day. Evening bedtime is treated differently because she is left to fall asleep on her own so that I can return to my computer and finish working after the break for cooking dinner, giving a bath, reading books, and saying goodnight. Nap is our time together. I cherish it.

I watch her, peeking through my eyes as she finally starts to drift off. Then I just stare at her, taking in every part of her face, the way her hair falls, her breathing. Now as she lies there without the pacifier blocking part of her face, I am forced to see that she really is no longer a baby. I mean, she will always be my baby, but she really is growing up. I forced us into this with my thoughts and feelings that she needed to be out of a crib and was not supposed to have her paci anymore, and what better way to make it all happen than to tie everything together in one big event. Turning three. So we took away the beloved plug that we all didn’t really mind having around. She only was allowed to have it for sleep or when in dire need for comfort, and it had been that way since before she was two. It soothed her, gave her comfort when she was really upset, tired, or not feeling well, and the best part was how well it helped her sleep.

Did I do the right thing? I still don’t know. Here we are, just past the two week mark after losing the paci and she still seems to struggle at times, especially with falling and staying asleep. In the days since I started drafting this post, at least the sleep has improved for her, but other things have gotten worse. What concerns me is that she seems to have more of an oral fixation than I realized, regressing sometimes by putting toys or her hands in her mouth, even chewing on her nails a little. She’s looking for a way to soothe herself. Even her blankies aren’t enough….but those are only for sleep times. The paci has been her comfort through so many things in her entire short life that I can’t blame her. Maybe I should have waited longer and found a different way to say goodbye, but I can’t go back. We have made it this far and things are improving. Just a lot slower than I thought they would. I still have that last paci stashed away in her drawer, and I have fought the urge a few times to give it to her. We will fly in October for the first time without one. To be honest, just thinking about it makes me kind of nervous. She’s always been a fantastic traveler, but we also always had two pacifiers with us. I know it has always helped her with flying and that we will find another way to cope, just as we are finding ways to help her cope in her daily life. She still talks about her paci almost every day and I feel sad for her. And maybe a little guilty.

I’ll never know if I did right by making turning three, the big girl bed, and letting go of the paci a triple combo or not, but what’s done is done. She’s sad. It’s like she lost her best friend. And I am sad, too. I lost my baby. She’s growing up so very fast. And there’s nothing I can do about it.


Did you have a paci kid? What was the adjustment like? How long did it take? I would love to hear some of your experiences. Please share with me in the comment section below.

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Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

My creation for dinner Saturday night. A bag of frozen cooked shrimp, a few zucchini, some fresh herbs, and items that are always in the house gave birth to deliciousness.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

As I mentioned in my post for Creamy Zucchini Noodles, I love my spiral slicer. We love zucchini noodles and they are a healthy alternative to pasta for whole food and grain-free diets. So I made some noodles.

I took this next picture to share with you another of my favorite kitchen tools, the Microplane grater. I zested the whole lemon before squeezing all the juice, using both for the sauce.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

 Aside from making the noodles and handling the lemon, the only prep that was needed was getting the garlic ready for the mincer. My favorite kind of meals are ones that are fast, cheap, and easy. This one checks all of those boxes.

As usual, I tossed the noodles in olive oil that was preheated in a skillet over medium heat. I shook some salt and fresh ground pepper over it and cooked them for about 5 minutes until they softened, but were still a little firm. I removed the pan from the burner and set it aside.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

 Then it was time for the sauce. I melted 4 tablespoons of butter (I use Kerrygold) over medium-low heat and then added 6 cloves of freshly minced garlic, cooking for about 2 minutes. Then I added 1/4 cup of white wine, the lemon juice, and zest, bringing it to a boil.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

After about a minute or two of boiling, I added the thawed shrimp. I heated the shrimp in the sauce over medium until they were heated through. (You can tell when they are heated enough when they have shrunk a little and the sauce starts to boil again.) I removed the shrimp from the pan with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Then I added a tablespoon of gluten-free flour (Bob’s Red Mill), whisking constantly to combine. I also added a little salt and fresh pepper after the flour.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

Once the sauce had thickened, I returned the shrimp to the pan and coated them in the buttery lemon sauce.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

I threw in about 2 tablespoons each of freshly chopped parsley and basil from the garden, tossing well to coat the shrimp.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

I divided the zucchini noodles into our bowls and topped them with the Lemony Shrimp Scampi. Oh. my. It was so good that this is the fastest turnaround for a recipe post from me. Ever.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

The amount of shrimp should probably be for three servings, but I only had two servings of noodles (portion size is not something the Russian and I do well), so I would suggest that you add another zucchini to the noodles if you don’t want to eat 6 ounces of shrimp in one meal. Another thought that I had was it may not be easy to find a 12 ounce package of shrimp, so if you can only find a 16 ounce one, use two additional zucchini and increase all the sauce ingredients slightly. If you are friend of mine, you can probably eat the portions that this recipe makes – perfect for two!

  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into noodles with a spiral slicer (or julienne peeler)
  • 1-2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp butter or ghee
  • 6 cloves of garlic, freshly minced
  • 1/4 c white wine, preferably on the dry side
  • Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon (about 2 1/2 Tbsp)
  • Zest of one lemon (about 1 tsp)
  • 12 ounce package of frozen cooked shrimp, thawed and drained
  • 1 Tbsp gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp chopped basil
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
  1. Heat EVOO in a skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, salt, and pepper to pan and toss to coat. Cook for 5 minutes until noodles have softened, but are still firm and bright green. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Melt butter in another skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook for about two minutes until garlic is soft and fragrant, but not browned. Add wine, lemon juice, and zest. Bring to a boil and cook for about 1 minute.
  3. Turn heat to medium and add the shrimp, tossing to coat. Cook until heated through (when visibly shrinking and liquid starts to boil again). Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Add flour, salt and pepper (to taste) to the lemon butter sauce and whisk constantly until flour dissolves and sauce thickens.
  5. Return shrimp to pan, add fresh herbs, and toss to coat.
  6. Serve zucchini noddles topped with shrimp, drizzling extra sauce over the top. Enjoy!


Eggplant Ragout

Get excited!! It’s a true original from The Half-Crunchy Mama. I apologize to my readers (especially my Facebook fans that knew about this for a few weeks) for taking so long with this post. Back-to-back weddings, a few weeks with Sugar Bee out of summer camp, and my job workload has left me with about a dozen drafted posts that aren’t close to publication time. But hey, I’m finally getting this one out to you! Better late than never and I think you will find it was worth the wait.

I have varied my eggplant ragout so many times through the years. For this particular batch, I worked with what I had in the house. You can switch up the spices, add some red wine, use sauce from a jar, improvise! That’s what I’m always doing in the kitchen. About 95% of the time that I make this dish, it gets served over oven-roasted spaghetti squash. I couldn’t find one in Kroger and was in no mood to go to another store that evening, so I went with a gluten-free pasta. I kind of prefer it on the squash, but it will be just as delicious served over any pasta you choose (but I would go for the squash). There are a lot of things that you can do to make this your own. Hopefully, it will still look similar to this in the pan when it’s finished and ready to fill your belly.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

The most exciting part of making my ragout this time around was that it was made with two freshly grown eggplants picked right from my very own container garden.  #humblebrag One large one would probably be enough. Feel free to adjust the quantity of both the beef and the eggplant based on the ratio that you want to have in your sauce.

Peel, slice, and dice the eggplant.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

Dice it even smaller than this. I left them a little too big this time (about 1/2 inch dice), but it worked good for the photos 🙂 Put the diced eggplant in a bowl lined with paper towels, tossing with salt as you add to the bowl. It’s time to get the eggplant to sweat.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Let the salted eggplant sweat it out in the bowl while you prep the other ingredients. It should be nice and glistening with visible water droplets before it gets thrown into the pan.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

Chop and dice an onion. If you somehow missed this tutorial on the interwebs, it will forever change the way you cut onions. Next, mince up about 5 cloves of garlic….more or less depending on your taste. As I’ve said before, we love garlic in this house.

Heat your oil in a deep saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic to the pan, and saute until the onions are just getting soft, but not browned. I LOVE the smell that fills that house from just this part alone.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Throw a pound to a pound and a half of ground beef into the pan and combine, breaking it up. Add some Worcestershire sauce and/or red wine. Yes, I use the “unclean” Worstey sauce on just about anything beefy or pretending to be beef (like ground turkey).  I love the flavor. And I love wine which is why it’s often included in any meaty saucy concoction, but I actually didn’t have any red wine in the house. WHAT?!  Hard to believe, I know, and a shame that I didn’t have any to go along with cooking my ragout. I knew something was missing.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 While the meat is still a little pink, add your (hopefully) very sweaty eggplant to the pan.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Drizzle a generous amount of EVOO over the eggplant, as well as some freshly ground pepper, before combining with the meat mixture. Eggplant absorbs a LOT of oil, so don’t worry about going a little overboard with oiling it up in the pan. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook 5-8 minutes, stirring often, until the eggplant starts to get softer. (They will be releasing liquid as they cook.)

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

Add the fire-roasted, diced tomatoes, tomato puree, tomato paste, and all the spices. Taste a little of the liquid and add salt and pepper according to your taste buds. I can’t tell you how much to add because I don’t use much salt. Start with maybe 1 teaspoon of salt and several turns around the pan with the pepper grinder and taste it again. Continue until you like the flavor.

You will know it’s ready to simmer when it’s ridiculously thick and you can stand a utensil up in it.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Cover and simmer the sauce until the eggplant basically turns to mush. When you think that it’s getting close to being finished, get going on the pasta. If you are roasting spaghetti squash like I usually do, you should be about ready to take it out of the oven if it’s not already cooling off to get spaghettied.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

As I mentioned above, Kroger didn’t have any squash and I was pressed for time, so I headed over to the natural food section to scope out what GF pastas they had. They had a few brands that I don’t really care for because they do NOT reheat well and taste horrible as leftovers, so I was starting to get nervous about what I was going to do. Then I spotted this box:
Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Gluten-free spaghetti made in Italy? Well surely this must be tasty. After all, Italians know their pasta! I cooked it up and I must give it a RAVE review. I have tried almost every brand of GF pasta on the market and can tell you what tastes “real” and what to avoid unless you are going to eat it all right away (no leftovers). Not only did this taste amazing, but it reheats beautifully. Six thumbs up from this household!

After finishing the pasta (or making spaghetti out of the squash), it’s time to eat! This was the plate I made up for Sugar Bee.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Of course mine needed cheese. Fresh shredded Parmesan-Reggiano….yum.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

As usual, Sugar Bee approves!

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama













Eggplant Ragout

Be sure to dice the eggplant very small or it will take a long time for them to soften. You could also leave the meat out and double the eggplant for a vegetarian meal. If you prefer to make a casserole or want an idea for what to do with the leftovers, scroll down past the recipe details for a cheesy transformation! 

  • 1 large or two small eggplants, peeled and diced small (1/4 inch)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (several tablespoons, divided)
  • 1-1.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1-2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce and/or red wine
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 28-ounce can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 28-ounce can of tomato puree
  • 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 3 ounces tomato paste (about 3 ounces)
  • Pasta of choice or roasted spaghetti squash
  • Cheese for garnish, if desired
  1. Sprinkle peeled and diced eggplant with salt while adding it to a bowl lined with paper towels. Set aside to sweat.
  2. Heat oil (a few turns around the pan) in a deep saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions start to get soft, but not brown.
  3. Add ground beef and Worcestershire/wine, and mix well to combine.
  4. When the beef is still slightly pink, add the eggplant, fresh ground pepper, and drizzle a few tablespoons of EVOO all over the eggplant. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, for 5-8 minutes until eggplant begins to soften.
  5. Add tomatoes, puree, paste, and spices, and add salt and pepper to taste. (Taste a few times.) Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until eggplant starts to get mushy.
  6. When the sauce is almost finished, cook pasta according to package directions or spaghetti the cooled roasted squash.
  7. Serve ragout over pasta and top with cheese, if desired. Enjoy!
*Note: If using spaghetti squash, begin roasting it before making the sauce as it takes time to cook and will need to cool before handling. Here is a link to basic cooking methods. I cut in half, coat flesh with EVOO, and roast cut-side down in the oven at 375ºF for about 30 minutes, depending on size. When cool enough to handle, shred with a fork to make spaghetti-like strands.


Leftovers? Or maybe you want it to be a casserole instead?

Here’s a second meal you can make out of what is leftover or you can just continue here from where I ended the Ragout recipe.

Combine pasta and ragout in the pasta pot or a large bowl. Add to glass baking dish (I used an 8×8-inch one for the leftovers) coated with cooking spray. Pat down with spatula or back of spoon to flatten.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Add a layer of grated Parmesan cheese. I use a grated Parmesan and Romano blend that I get from Trader Joe’s.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Cover with about one cup of shredded cheese. I like the Italian blend one from Publix, but regular shredded mozzarella would be just fine.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Place in preheated oven and bake at 325ºF for 15 minutes. Switch on the broiler for the last minute or two to brown the top. Now you have another meal!

2014-07-19 18.56.48


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Things that I learned from a few days away from my family

1. I was missed almost immediately. I had taken three phone calls and we were barely halfway there. It was nice to be missed already. By both of them and likely the dog, but he can’t talk on the phone. The girls and I chuckled a little as there were also a few texts, but it was sweet. I was not annoyed. And I missed them, too. A little.

2. I was a little heartbroken at first. Kissing Sugar Bee goodbye as she slept in her crib, a first for me, was quite a shock. I had no idea that I would have such strong feelings at that moment about leaving her behind. I needed it. She needed it. We all needed it (my pre-trip post). But it still was very difficult for me. And it surprised me. As I drove to meet the crew I was traveling with, I could feel the distance growing between us. It sounds crazy, but the energy connection I have always felt with this kid is nothing to scoff at. Once the girls and I were on the road and singing our lungs out to Journey, all was good. I felt so much better. And almost normal. I had a most excellent time with the girls I drove and roomed with.

3. Age is just a number. I say this a lot, along with, “You’re as old as you think you are.” Truth. I was among the last ones standing each night. I might be old in comparison (I think the bride to be referred to me as her “older and wiser” friend), but I can still hang. I had ridiculous amounts of fun that weekend and was not feeling like someone pushing 40….whatever that is supposed to feel like.

4. While on the road, somewhere around hour 2, it dawned on me that this was my first ever trip with only girls in my adult life. I think the last time I went anywhere with just girls was high school. During college and up until last weekend, all the trips I have taken were coed. I have always seemed to have more male friends and was never much into lots of girly stuff, but I had a absolute blast on this trip…dancing, eating, pool, drinking, catamaran, nothing but fun with just a bunch of girls!

5. It is still possible for me to sleep in.  I was in bed until 10 a.m. I WAS IN A BED UNTIL TEN IN THE MORNING!! And it felt INCREDIBLE. Of course I had been awake off and on, but I actually kept falling back to sleep. It was amazing. I was up a little earlier on Sunday, but I wanted to get showered and packed so I wasn’t holding anyone up…and I was awake anyway, just enjoying the peace and quiet. I was a little worried that I would have a difficult time sleeping without the sound of the white noise in her room as even on nights when she stays overnight at Gigi’s house, I put the monitor on so I can hear the white noise. Yes, she’s three and we still have a video monitor. Judge me all you want, but my kid loves her bed so much that I would never know when she falls asleep or wakes up without it. Her sleep is a good indicator for the type of day she will have, so I’ve been a bit obsessed with her sleep. Perhaps it’s one of the results of dealing with a colicky baby. I still can’t believe I was in a bed until 10. THANK YOU GIRLS!

6. I have more of a caffeine (coffee) problem than I realized. I drink a pot of coffee every day. I work from home and my coffee maker has a stainless steel carafe to keep it warm for hours. The hotel had these little single-serve packet things. I kept going into the hall to ransack the maid’s cart for packs at a time. I have a problem.

7. I miss “dancing.” I have that in quotation marks because I am fully aware that I am a white girl. Zumba has at least taught me better rhythm, but I would never want to see video of me on a dance floor. We had a lot of fun that night with each of us on 3-4 hours of sleep and traveling that morning.

8. The Young Living Ningxia Red is NO JOKE. I seriously had no hangovers. And I should have. I drank a packet before bed, one in the night when I woke up to potty, and another when I got up in the morning. AMAZING. The oils helped, too, as I applied them at bed and in the morning. (See my previous post on some of my oil successes this far for what to use.) Totally helped the brain fog lighten up and get me on the road to feeling normal….once the appropriate caffeine levels were reached.

9. The house can survive without me. Yes, I came home to a mess, inside and out, but soup was cooking and wine was chilled thanks to The Russian. He does good sometimes. He gets a gold star for that one. He got another couple of gold stars for keeping the kid and dog alive, and the house was still standing. I could feel the relief emanating from him when I walked in the door. It’s nice to be needed. And it was nice to be away from that.

10. Seeing Sugar Bee for the first time in over three full days was completely anticlimactic. It was far from the reaction that I expected. I was hoping for the greeting that The Russian gets after coming home from work, on the rare occasion that she sees him when he doesn’t have school. Even when I get home from my Saturday job that I actually leave the house for, I get a pretty awesome greeting with running and joyful cries. She turned and looked at me from the couch, and then turned back around to watch tv. Ouch. I sat down next to her and she basically seemed to be avoiding me and not making eye contact. I was sure that this was normal, but it still hurt. So I just scooped her up and hugged and kissed her, telling her how much I had missed her. Before long, she was back to her old self and all about mama. The last three days had been a nice break, but I was ready to get back into my real place in this current life. And as always, the dog was overjoyed to see me. Nothing like the love of a dog. For real.

11. I needed to fast the next few days. I will get a post together about the different ways I fast and why, but my poor body sure as hell needed a break. I was so happy to get to the gym on Monday!

12. I realized that I need to do something like this at least once a year. My doc told me I need to do it once a quarter 😉 I really did have the best time. I almost didn’t go because of money. Things have been tight the past few months and we have a ton of things coming up (weddings, other travel, my HS reunion), but I found a way to make it work. I had some leftover bonds from childhood and cashed them in to pay for the bulk of the trip. That was all my money that I used for something that was all for me. I think that’s fair and it made me feel a heck of a lot better about spoiling myself with a weekend getaway.

My top favorite moments: the drive out to Charleston singing like fools and sharing about each other, the drive back to the hotel on our night out and singing our heads off while crammed in one vehicle, the catamaran excursion (who doesn’t love drinking on the water?), and getting to know a fantastic bunch of girls.

Thank you, ladies, for making my first weekend away from my family such a fantastic and memorable one.2014-07-26 20.20.02-1

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Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts. Yes, they are spelled with an ‘s’ on the end, as in the capital of Belgium. I didn’t realize that until I started cooking them as an adult. Usually people love or hate these little baby cabbages. We LOVE them. In fact, I have always liked them, even as a kid. My mom would cook some for dinner every now and then, and my dad and I were the only ones that would really eat any. My sister would hide hers in the bottom of her milk to escape eating the few that she was given. The ones my mom cooked weren’t even fresh and I still ate them. Crazy, if you ask me.

I make them all the time in a variety of ways, but they are almost always roasted one way or another in the oven. Roasting them makes them soften and caramelize a little to give them a slight bit of sweet. Through the years, I have fed many a friend at my house. Feeding people makes me happy. Silence at my dinner table fills me up, knowing that everyone is just enjoying the meal. All too often I have heard, “I can’t believe I am eating Brussels sprouts….and I like them!” People can always trust me, especially when it comes to food. I will never lie about food. I take food very seriously.

This particular night, I didn’t have my usual ingredients handy for my favorite and most popular Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans (with a few modifications), so I got creative. Balsamic vinegar adds such depth to foods, so I figured it should be a good choice for the sprouts.

First off is to wash the sprouts. Obvious, I know, but I mention this because I do a little more than just rinse them off. I let them soak for a few minutes in a bowl of water. Those layers of leaves can store a little more dirt than you would think. Then I take a few out at a time to the cutting board, cut the bottoms off, and halve them. The outer layer of leaves often fall off and that’s just fine. I usually want those to fall off because if they don’t, I remove them anyway. If leaves aside from those outer ones fall off, I just scoop those up and place them in the bowl with the halved sprouts.  They crisp up something delicious in the oven.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

 Toss them in the bowl with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and fresh pepper. Spread them out on a jelly roll pan (the technical name for this type of baking sheet) and place them cut side down.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Bake in a preheated oven at 375ºF for 20-25 minutes. They should look like this when they are almost finished:

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

 Add a few teaspoons of balsamic vinegar over them and stir with a spatula to spread it around. Watch out, though! The vinegar gets really strong on a hot pan and can burn your nose.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

 These are even good leftover…I like to eat my leftover sprouts right from the fridge.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Just one of several ways you can roast these baby cabbages up in the oven. The balsamic vinegar adds a complex sweetness to the sprouts. 

  • 2 lbs Brussels Sprouts
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  1. Cut the bottoms off of the sprouts and halve them. Discard outer leaf layers if discolored.
  2. Combine in bowl with EVOO, salt and pepper.
  3. Spread out on a jelly roll pan or baking sheet, cut side down.
  4. Roast in 375ºF oven for 20-25 minutes until somewhat browned.
  5. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over them and stir. Place back in oven for 2-3 minutes. Enjoy!