Friday, March 20, 2015

Crockpot Italian Cabbage and Sausage ~ Easily Gluten Free

I make this extremely easy, inexpensive, and super tasty slow cooker dish quite often. It's one of my son's favorite meals with cabbage.

I don't have a picture of it, even though I made it again tonight.... mostly because it isn't as attractive as it is yummy.   ;)

With short and extremely easy prep and inexpensive ingredients... this recipe is definitely a winner!

I usually double the recipe.  It then barely fits into my 6 quart crockpot, but my family truly loves this and remember... the cabbage cooks down quite a bit.

Ingredients

(* See note below.)
1 medium cabbage
1 package of kielbasa ~ Gluten Free, if needed (I use John Morrell Polish Sausage)
2 cups tomato sauce (16 ounces)
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey

Directions

Slice cabbage. Place in greased 5/6 quart slow cooker. Slice sausage and place on top of cabbage. 

In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Pour over cabbage and sausage. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or until cabbage is tender.

* If I do not double the entire recipe, I will then get a larger cabbage and usually double the sausage.

I also have another yummy cabbage recipe that "Buddy" loves: Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls ~ Quick and Gluten Free.



Monday, February 23, 2015

Reno Special Athletes Cheer Team Needs Your Help Getting To National Competition!


The Reno Elite Diamonds are an amazing group of special athletes currently from the age of 8 to 19. The team is growing and at this time has 10 girls and 3 boys who have a wide range of special needs. If you are a regular reader of The Journey, you may recognize someone in the team pictures (although he has grown quite a bit lately). Yes, that is my son "Buddy" at the upper left in the top picture, as well as in the lower left picture and down at the left bottom portion of the picture over to the right. He absolutely LOVES his team and coaches!

The Diamonds are working hard to make enough money to be able to compete at a National Cheer Competition at the end of March in Anaheim. The Family Sock Hop I tweeted and posted about was a great success, but we still need quite a bit more money.

KOLO Channel 8 came to the Diamonds' practice this last week and produced this wonderful news piece.

The Diamonds have a GoFundMe page set up here! Be sure to check out the creative way one of our team moms wrote about their journey and their desire to compete in Anaheim. It has a Disney-twist, since they are really hoping that if we can get them to the competition that we can also take them into Disneyland the next day. Most of them have never been and it's definitely a dream of theirs. While the story is creative, it is true and heartwarming.

Tax deductible donations can be made for the team, too. You can contact me, another Diamond parent, or the gym for more information. Please remember to designate "Team Diamonds".

We can also really use your help in getting the word out. After you have checked out the video and GoFundMe page, please spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, in person.... anyway you can think of. There are even some handy little sharing links at the bottom of this post.

Please, help this special team get to Anaheim! Thank you in advance!


Death By Didgeridoo ~ Audio Book Review

{This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please see my disclosure policy.}

I have been given the opportunity to review the audio version of Death By Didgeridoo: A Jamie Quinn Mystery by Barbara Venkataraman.

I love to read and listen to cozy mysteries, because I prefer an intriguing mystery to solve without all of the gory details of the murder and/or the intimate details of someone's relationships. I can often share my cozies with my son, "Buddy". We sometimes listen to audio books together in the van. He also still loves for me to read to him... partially because of the cuddling that is naturally involved with me and our dog while we are reading. That is my favorite part, too.

This cozy peaked my interest because one of the main characters has Asperger's Syndrome and it is centered around music. My fourteen year old son has Asperger's Syndrome and music is obviously one of my favorite topics. If you didn't know that, you probably haven't seen my Music Adventures series.

First of all, you may be wondering, "What in the world is a didgeridoo?"

The didgeridoo is a musical instrument developed by Australian Aborigines. It's played by buzzing the lips and blowing (similar to how brass instruments are played). The didgeridoo is traditionally made out of an eucalyptus tree branch or trunk that has been hollowed out by termites.

You can watch and listen to a talented young woman playing a didgeridoo in the video below.

 
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NvXi18LmLU

But what about Death By Didgeridoo by Barbara Venkataraman?

I chose the audio version of this book to review, but I am going to break this review down into the book itself and then the audio version. I did not actually "read" the book myself, but I have listened to the audio version several times (especially in some particular places) in order to be accurate in this review.

The character development of the story was exceptional. I definitely felt like I personally knew all of the characters and could easily picture them. I also could easily see myself as a close friend of the protagonist, Jamie, if that were possible. She is so personable and someone that you would want to have in your corner.

Slight spoiler in this paragraph:  My only question in respect to character development has to do with all that was said about Spike at the very beginning. With everything we learn throughout the book... I would think that Jamie would have a slightly different view of him after everything was said and done, but nothing was ever mentioned about the few (but significant) respectable things he did (especially for her nephew). Jamie is telling about Spike after she has learned at least a little bit of these things about Spike, but there is no mention when she is describing him. I felt that she should have said something about most people not seeing the good things he did, especially because of the relationship between Spike and her nephew.

I appreciate the character development of Jamie's cousin Adam and his mother (Aunt Peg). I believe that Adam's characteristics and behaviors were "written" in a quite realistic manner. Several of his behaviors are common with people who are on the Autism Spectrum and who have Asperger's Syndrome, especially.

I loved how Adam's hyper-focus interests were showcased throughout, because (at least in our experience) this is a major part of the lives of those who have Asperger's Syndrome. Ms. Venkataraman nailed it in the way she weaved Adam's focus on music throughout everything in his life and how he used it to help him cope.

The feeling of being overwhelmed a lot as a mother of someone with some sort of special needs also came through with his mother's character. I did feel that she was a bit over the top at times when things seemed to be going OK (or she was thinking they were going OK), but there are some parents who are just a bit more tightly wound regardless of if they are parents to special needs kiddos or not. If Adam were much younger and/or was much lower functioning on the Autism Spectrum, I could see her being a lot more like she was. He was now 22 years old, however, and seemed to be pretty high functioning before the story began. Aunt Peg also has me shaking my head when she nonchalantly mentions something much later about something that turns out to be key evidence.

The story was wonderfully written and went at a quick pace. There were enough other suspects to keep you guessing and they were all handled in a plausible way. I enjoyed the humor scattered throughout and how realistic and open with her emotions our protagonist is written. It was also neat that the story takes place in Hollywood, Florida. I have never been to this location, but I used to have cousins-in-law from there.

It most definitely fits the genre of "Cozy Mystery" which clearly pleased me! My only "complaint" here is that it takes only 2 hours and 12 minutes to listen to the whole book. That translates into 111 Kindle pages. I honestly wanted the story to keep on going. This particular mystery was nicely finished, but I still want to know more (especially about Jamie and Adam). Thankfully, this is the first book of a series!

Now, onto my review of the audio narration by Carrie Lee Martz.

For the most part, I enjoyed listening to Ms. Martz throughout this book. I feel that she did Jamie and Aunt Peg well. My issues were with Adam and the private investigator, Duke.

The issues I have with Ms. Martz's portrayal of Adam are:

  • Adam is 22 years old. Even though he has Asperger's Syndrome, he is not going to sound similar to a 5 year old in regards to his pitch. The voices of  people who are on the spectrum change just like everyone else's voices. I honestly had to try to remind myself (after I first went back to see if I misunderstood his age) that Adam was supposed to be 22 years old. It was difficult. To enjoy the story more, it was easier to think of Adam as somewhere in the tween years. The voice was still too young for a tween, but his activities were similar to someone who was at least a tween, if not much older.

  • Although people who have Asperger's Syndrome are just as different as each other as those who do not... I have never met someone with Asperger's Syndrome with this speech pattern. Especially at the age of 22. MAYBE if Adam had a more "traditional" (for lack of a better word) form of Autism, he MIGHT speak this way, but I don't think so. He actually sounded as if he had some other developmental delay. Even the son of one of my friends, who is almost non-verbal and has Autism, doesn't speak in this particular manner. 

  • From what I have experienced, people who have Asperger's Syndrome often talk rather well (in fact, often better than neurotypicals). When they are talking about something they are hyper-focused on... watch out!  ;)   They are not often called "little professors" for nothing. Even those with some problem speaking on other subjects (putting the words together), can often just talk a mile a minute when it comes to something they love. Adam's speech pattern didn't even get more realistic at these times. 

  • The part where Adam was speaking with his doctor was actually my favorite part of Ms. Martz's portrayal of him. He still had a high and broken voice, but he very likely would have had a broken-type of speech to some extent in this circumstance. ~ By the way... This part was SO emotional for a mom of a teenager who has Asperger's Syndrome. I just wanted to go and hug my son when Adam started crying. 

Now for Duke, the private investigator:

I truly did not like the character of Duke at all the first time I listened to this audio book. When I thought about it, though, I realized that it could just be because of the narration of him. I was correct. 

After I listened again, I discovered that it was totally Duke's accent that was so irritating. He wasn't written that way. No, he isn't a great guy...lol... but I liked the character much more when I listened focusing on the words and not the way they were being said. 

So, what is my verdict?

I definitely enjoyed Death By Didgeridoo. I totally recommend that you check it out for yourself, but I honestly suggest the E-book version. I love the fact that there is a high quality cozy mystery series that has a main character who happens to have Asperger's Syndrome. I would love to see him grow even more in future books of this series. I do hope that they get much longer, though!  

If you get the audio version, just remember what I said and you can enjoy it, too. I have listened to it several times, occasionally fast-forwarding over a couple of parts if I'm in a mood that makes me easily irritated.  ;) 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this audio book for free in exchange for an honest review. This, however, did not affect my review in any way. I will only post my genuine opinions here at The Journey regardless of any form of compensation.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Our Gluten Free Thanksgiving

{This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my disclosure policy.}

This will be my second year of making a totally gluten free Thanksgiving.

My biggest tip is to think about what you and your family traditionally enjoy on Thanksgiving and see how you can change the recipes up a bit to make them gluten free.  You can then add in some new dishes wherever you find holes in your menu.

Be sure to watch for easily hidden gluten sources and products that have cross-contamination issues in production.

You can also simply use my menu below and skip the headache.  ;)

Our Menu


Main Meal:
Turkey ~ I'm using Jennie O's Premium Basted Young Turkey, which is Gluten Free.
Mashed Potatoes ~ homemade using unsweetened almond milk and a GF butter.
Gravy ~ I'm making this gravy. You can also use Mayacamas Gravy or this McCormicks.
Dressing ~ I'm using Glutino's Cornbread Stuffing this year with this chicken broth.
Country Potato Casserole ~ We're having 2 kinds of potatoes so everyone is happy.  ;)
Green Beans with Bacon and Onions ~ I use this BEEF broth (not chicken) & Kirkland's bacon.
Creamed Corn ~ Drain 1 can corn & mix with 1 can GF creamed corn. Add pepper & heat.
Dinner Rolls ~ Purchased at our local Gluten Free dedicated Haven on Earth Bakery and Deli.
Cranberry Sauce ~ Ocean Spray is gluten free.
Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Grape juice ~ All of Martinelli's juices are currently gluten free.

Appetizers:
Deviled Eggs ~ This basic recipe, but usually a bit heavier on the mustard and vinegar.
Pickles ~ Vlasic is a good brand that is currently gluten free.
Pumpkin Dip  with Tart Apple Slices~ I double this & we enjoy it for a couple of days!
Artichoke and Jalapeno Dip with GF Chips ~ I found this dip at Costco.
Veggie Tray

Dessert:
Pumpkin Pie in a GF Pie Crust ~ I use my mom's old Betty Crocker recipe & get my crust here.
Chocolate Pudding Pie in GF Graham Cracker Crust ~ Jello Pudding is GF & here is the crust.

What gluten free dishes do you make for the holidays? Please tell me in the comments section and leave a link if you have one.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


Monday, September 8, 2014

Loaded Baked Cauliflower and Marinara Meatloaf ~ Gluten Free and Low Carb

The Journey: Loaded Baked Cauliflower and Marinara Meatloaf ~ Gluten Free and Low Carb
We enjoyed this tasty dinner tonight. The Loaded Baked Cauliflower reminded me of a twice-baked potato casserole, but "Buddy" wasn't too impressed with it since he could taste something "strange" aka sour cream. He would prefer his cauliflower raw.... Thank you very much.  ;)

He really enjoyed the Marinara Meatloaf, though. He definitely wants me to make that again. I will be adding this to my repertoire of meatloaf recipes with my other two that we all love.

I will definitely make the Loaded Baked Cauliflower again, because it's crazy good! I will just have to make sure that I have some raw cauliflower on hand for Buddy when I do.

It's been a great week for hubby's and my taste buds and somewhat hard on Buddy's when it comes to cauliflower. I also made Easy Cheesy Cauliflower Gratin early this week. The good news is that Buddy has now decided that he likes the Gratin more than he thought he did after having the Loaded Cauliflower (since the Gratin was more simple and didn't have sour cream).    ;)

Anyway, here are the recipes:

Loaded Baked Cauliflower
Low Carb and Gluten Free


Ingredients:


  • 2 1/2 cups (1 lb) cooked cauliflower (I used frozen. Can cook in microwave until tender.)
  • 1 cup sour cream (low-fat or full-fat)
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese ~ divided (full fat works best - I used sharp cheddar cheese.)
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped ~ divided
  • 3-6 sliced cooked, crumbled bacon ~ divided (I used 6 this time.)
  • salt and pepper


Directions:


Pre-heat over to 350 degrees.

While cooking the cauliflower... Mix the sour cream, 1/2 of the green onions, 1/2 of the bacon, salt and pepper to taste into a medium bowl. 

Chop the cooked cauliflower into small pieces and stir into the sour cream mixture.

Now pour cauliflower mixture into a medium-sized baking dish and sprinkle the remaining bacon and cheese on top.

Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining green onions on top right before serving.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I originally saw the Loaded Baked Cauliflower recipe at Food.com.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The Journey: Marinara Meatloaf ~ Low Carb and Gluten Free

Marinara Meatloaf
Low Carb and Gluten Free


Ingredients:


  • 2 lbs lean ground turkey (or ground beef, like original recipe)
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce (no sugar added) ~ divided
  • 1/2 cup diced onion (white, yellow, or red)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese

Directions:


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a regular loaf pan or small baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix the meat, 1 cup of the marinara sauce, diced onion, eggs, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

Place the mixture in the pan, patting it down evenly with your hands to form an even top.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes.

Remove from oven. Drain any excess fat or liquid, and then top with the remaining marinara sauce and all of the mozzarella cheese. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes. or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. Drain fat from pan again and let rest 10 minutes before cutting into 8 squares.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I changed this meatloaf up a bit, but the original recipe was found at Low Carbing Among Friends. Basically, I changed the meat to lean ground turkey, doubled the onion, used yellow instead of red onion, and only used two eggs instead of three.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


These two dishes worked great together, too, since they both go in a 350 degree oven. I will definitely be doing these two again.

What are some of your favorite cauliflower and/or low carb recipes? Please share in the comments section below.



Monday, June 23, 2014

Conductor Jon Jon Becomes An Engineer

My family and I were so very fortunate this morning to be able to take Jonathan Dockins and his Dad, Jamey, over to the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola, California.

The little boy, known as Conductor Jon Jon (from his recent Make A Wish run over the Donner Pass as the railroad conductor), can now be called Engineer Jon Jon!

He ran the Southern Pacific 2873 GP9 road freight engine which is part of the "Run A Locomotive" program at the museum. My hubby was his instructor and his dad, my son, and I were his passengers. Jon's dad and I took a ton of pictures.

After his experience as conductor running over the Donner Pass and all of his other train-related activities over the last few days, he didn't need a whole lot of instruction...lol  He learned very quickly and didn't need reminded very much at all like so many people do when they are learning to run the locomotives.

It was an absolute joy having the chance to extend this opportunity to this wonderful family. Little Jon and the whole experience sure has left a lasting impression on me. Here are just a few more of the many pictures I took today. Enjoy!


He is definitely a natural!

Toot that horn.

This was one of the few times he drove by his dad and me in order for us to get some pictures from the outside.


If you look closely, you can see him in the window to the left.


Waving as he goes on by...


The men after a successful run! ~ Dad and Jon along with my hubby and "Buddy"

We then explored more of the museum for a little bit before we had to leave. It was a lot of fun and the boys got along really well. It was especially great to see them bond on the way to and from Portola. We just met for a short while, but I will never forget them.

Some of my favorite snapshots of "Buddy" and Jon's time together.

If you missed my earlier post about Jon's Make A Wish dream come true and his arrival in Reno, you can check it out here.

You can also check out My Experience Running A Locomotive.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Conductor Jon Jon Arrives in Reno ~ Make A Wish Dream Come True

This adorable, little one is not in our family, but was
also there to greet Jon Jon and had a great sign! 
Our family had the privilege of being part of the welcoming party for eight-year-old Conductor Jonathan Dockins when he arrived at the Reno Amtrak Station yesterday, June 20, 2014.

Hubby found out about it two days before and got right to work to help make Conductor Jon Jon's day even better. He worked with our state governor's office to get a proclamation and Jon Jon's big day to be in his honor in the state of Nevada. You can see a copy of the official proclamation by Governor Brian Sandoval here.

He also got some great goodies from his work place, Union Pacific Railroad, and from the Western Pacific Railroad Museum, where we are members and volunteer regularly.

It was an amazing experience! We thoroughly enjoyed being involved with even just the little part that we were privileged to a part of.

If you want to know more about Jonathan's story and his dream to drive a train through the Donner Pass, you can read more about it here.

Waiting for Conductor Jon Jon's Arrival at the Reno Amtrak Station

The crowd starts to gather in the Reno trench.

"Buddy" and Bruno from the Reno Bighorns pose together
while waiting for Jon Jon's arrival.

"Buddy" and several area teen pageant winners ~ He was a happy 13 year old boy!   ;)

They decided to have a goofy picture, too...

Bruno photobombed!

Archie photobombed Bruno's photobomb attempt....lol

Conductor Jon Jon's Arrival at the Reno Amtrak Station

Here comes Conductor Jon Jon!

Stepping out of the engine at the Reno Station.



Standing tall and looking proud.

Jon Jon getting some great goodies from Archie and the Reno Aces.

Getting a basketball and other goodies from Bruno and the Reno Bighorns.

Getting ready to have his picture taken with the area pageant winners. He was all smiles, too.  ;)

Jon Jon, his parents, and my hubby as he was introducing himself as the local union chairman,
gave him his card, and said something like that now that he is a conductor... if he has any concerns
about railroad safety, he knows who he can call.... It was really cute, but done in a professional way.

This was when Jon Jon and his parents found out about the Proclamation
from Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.

Jon Jon showing off his Proclamation with my hubby and BLET Chairman, Matthew Parker.
Matt Klink (Jon Jon's engineer for his trip to Reno) is seen in the back left in the red shirt and overalls.

Looking in his bags of goodies from the Union Pacific Railroad and the
Western Pacific Railroad Museum.

This was a fun time afterward when the news lady was getting a little more footage. Jon Jon then
signed a few autographs on some pictures.  By the way, if anyone knows if any part of this ever showed up
on the local news, please post a link in the comments. I cannot find it anywhere. Thanks!

This was an amazing experience and not one I will ever forget! It was actually a fluke that "Buddy" and I were even able to be in town for this event, because we were supposed to be volunteering at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum all day. It was only because we changed things around a few weeks earlier just so that Buddy could join his special needs cheer team with Reno Elite All-Stars (you can read about them here) when they all went to the Reno Aces game last night. I just keep thinking about how wonderful it is that all of this just fell into place so wonderfully! 

* UPDATE *

We actually had the opportunity to take Jon and his dad to the Western Pacific Railroad Museum where we very frequently volunteer in order for Jon to run the Southern Pacific 2873 road freight engine.... so now he is an ENGINEER!  Read about it here!