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Our Journey to Real Food – Making our own Breads

Real Food Bread

Our very first step that we took to moving toward real food was changing to homemade whole wheat breads.   I never really liked store bought bread…it just tasted gross.  I bought it because it was easier, but about 3 years ago the bread we bought changed their recipe and it was even worse.  I decided then and there that I would never buy sandwich bread again.   I started doing this long before I read about real food.   Then a year ago, when I started to switch to real food, I realized I still bought hamburger buns, taco shells, English muffins, soup bowls, chips and crackers.  I needed to change because I didn’t want these highly processed foods any more.  Have you looked at the ingredients list on your store bought bread?    Go look at it.   How long is the list? Can you pronounce any of the foods listed?  Do you really want to feed yourself or your family with these ingredients?  I know I didn’t want to.

It was time to switch to all homemade bread!!!   I was already making sandwich bread twice a month and so I needed to tweak my schedule a little bit to add the extra bread.  I must admit, that I really I love making bread!!  You could kind of call me a bread fanatic!!!  I love kneading it….it is a good stress reliever…and I love watching it raise.  It is so fun and the smell of it, when it is cooking is so dreamy!!!  It is a ton healthier for you and it tastes so much better.  Your family will get down and worship the ground you walk on, when you bake homemade bread!!  I am just a little passionate about homemade bread, which is why I am writing this today.

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I know that some of you may not like making bread like me and “I know you are thinking…are you crazy?  I don’t have time to add something else to my already hectic schedule?”  I know it is just another thing to add to you long list of things you should be doing, but believe me it is so worth it!!  Will you have failure breads?  Yes, you will and I still do too!    It will be in those times you laugh and say at least I tried!  I know if you just add it in to your schedule you will be able to make time for it.    If you really hate making bread…then use a bread maker…it is so easy, all you have to do is throw the ingredients in and the machine does the rest.   I still use the bread maker to make whole wheat bread for toast and for when I am in a hurry.  There are also some artisan breads you can make in 5 minutes.  They are super yummy and fast and easy to make.  I found it on the website artisanbreadinfive.com.  Go and check it out I have really enjoyed baking that bread and it is so easy and everyone has an extra 5 minutes to spare!!!   I use the whole wheat recipe that I got from their book, Healthy Bread in 5 minutes a day.

Have I convinced you yet?

I usually have a bread making week each month and then I put it all in the freezer to use throughout that month (I do however have to make 4 loaves of sandwich bread and English muffins twice a month).   I look at my menu to see what breads I will need for the month and I start baking ….So my bread making week starts on  Monday  with whole wheat sandwich bread and while I am waiting for it to rise I make whole wheat English muffins.  Tuesday, I make whole wheat taco shells and pitas.    These are my staple breads that I use every month and if I have hamburger buns or soup bowls on the menu then I make those breads on Wednesday.  It really doesn’t take that long…I usually am able to mix it up and let it rise while I do something else.  You can really pretty easily fit it into your schedule.  I get my kids involved because they always say how bored they are, so I make it a fun activity we do together.  They enjoy mixing and kneading the bread and making pitas is their favorite because with the oven light on you can watch them puff up…it is so cool.

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I do other breads too but I don’t do them once a month; I just do them along with dinner.  These include things like pizza dough, corn bread, bread sticks, rolls, French bread, etc.   I will be honest, I don’t like cooking dinner very much, but I love to bake!  So in order to get me to actually want to cook dinner I add bread to it, to make it fun for me!!!  I know it sounds weird, but when I am making the bread with dinner it just makes it so much less painful!!

Along with the changeover to whole wheat bread we switched all of our pancakes and waffles to whole wheat too.  We always made these homemade but out of white flour.  We slowly added wheat into the dough to get our kids used to the idea and now it is all whole wheat with just a tablespoon of white flour for the pancake dough.

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Give it a try to see how you do….if you just start slow with just sandwich bread, then you will taste how yummy it is….you will want to make more and more.   You will realize, like I have, how it tastes so much better and how much more flavor homemade bread has.   I think back on all the years I was missing out on homemade whole wheat breads and just buying it…yuck!!!    I could never go back to store breads now that I have started making all my own!!!   I know once you get started there will be no turning back…you will love it as much as I do.

Keep checking back because I will be posting each week one of the many bread recipes that I use..so you can try it too.

Monday Harvest Report – How to Ripen Green Tomatoes

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We had another beautiful fall week this week but that all came crashing to an end on Sunday!!  Temperatures went from 80 on Saturday to the high 50’s on Sunday.  That means frost this morning or if not this morning then tomorrow morning!  I know you will think I’m crazy but I’m glad to see frost!!  The last month our garden has been so overwhelmed with aphids and leaf miners.  I’m glad to see freezing temperatures to get rid of all the dang bugs!

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Saturday, in anticipation of the upcoming frost, Valerie and I spent the morning ripping out the two gardens.  There wasn’t much left at the borrowed garden, just a few tomato plants.  It turned out that some time this week there was frost at the borrowed garden.  Everything was dead!  It took us a couple of hours to rip out all the tomato, pepper and cucumber plants at home.  Now as you can see the garden looks all barren and sad!!  The only things left are a few broccoli plants, some parsley and the 3 winter beds of lettuce, spinach and carrots.

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Here’s a basket of goodies that we picked from all the plants we ripped out.  4 pounds of small cucumbers (I think I’m going to try to make a 1/2 batch of pickles) a few pounds of peppers, some baby zucchini and tucked underneath are about a pound of Sun Sugar tomatoes.

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Also we brought in and weighed the last two pumpkins.  They will spend the rest of the week outside in the sun so they can finish up ripening, but they are about ready for Halloween!!

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This is actually the biggest picking of Raspberries we have had all year from our brand new patch!  Just enough to put on a few waffles for breakfast!  We also got a small picking of strawberries.  I think based on what I could see we may have one more picking next Saturday.

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And of course ripping out all of the aphid infested tomato plants meant we had a ton of tomatoes!  We sorted them into 3 boxes, red, orange and green!  I counted the box of ripe tomatoes and the “orange” ones in this weeks totals.  All the partially ripe tomatoes will sit together in that box for a week or so and should ripen up.  The ripe ones will go into a few fresh tomato recipes this week and the left overs we will freeze for use during the winter.  We already have over 60 bottles of tomatoes canned so we are trying the freezer method as well this year.

So how are we going to deal with all 25 pounds of those green tomatoes??  In order to have green tomatoes ripen we follow the following steps:

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1.  Don’t bother with the small stuff!  While we are going through our tomato plants we only pick decent sized tomatoes.  It’s not worth the bother with all the millions of little tomatoes.

2.  Sort your tomatoes well.  Any tomatoes that are showing even the smallest sign of ripening need to be in a box by themselves.  Ripening tomatoes (and many other fruits) put off a chemical that causes other tomatoes to ripen.  If one of your tomatoes is ripening and you leave it with the others they will all start to ripen.  We like to pull any ripening fruit out and keep it separate that way the whole box doesn’t ripen at once.

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3.  After about a week of being indoors put all your green tomatoes in open boxes (or just on a table top) only one layer deep.  Again this keeps the ripening from spreading too quickly.  Keep your tomatoes in a very cool spot.  We like to keep ours in the garage where it is cold all winter but never freezes.

4.  As the tomatoes start to ripen, like I said above, separate the ripening fruit from the green.  We have found that if we do this we get a nice slow ripening process over the course of a couple of months.  Some years we have had garden grown tomatoes as late as New Years and have used them to make salsa!  Of course if you want them to ripen sooner then you can leave a ripening fruit in the box with the others or bring them in the warm house where they will ripen much sooner.

5.  Keep your expectations low here guys.  These are NOT the vine ripened mouth watering beauties you are harvesting in August and September.  We often compare them to store bought tomatoes.  They just don’t have the same flavor and texture that their vine ripened counterparts have.  But they are home grown and organic, and are perfect for soups and casseroles in the early winter months!

 

Here’s our harvest totals for the week:

Borrowed Garden (Last harvest of the year)
Tomatoes – 4.50 lbs

Home Garden
Pumpkins – 23 lbs
Peppers – 2.25 lbs
Zucchini – .75 lbs
Cucumbers – 4 lbs
Tomatoes – 43 lbs
Strawberries – .50 lbs
Total – 73.50 lbs

That makes our annual total from the home garden 692 lbs!  With the green tomatoes that will ripen over the next couple of months plus the little bit we will get from the fall broccoli and the winter cold frames we may break 725 pounds before year end!  I have to say I’m pretty happy with this total, it’s not bad for our first full year of gardening at the new house and easily matches all but our very biggest years at the old house and we have half the land here!

We will be joining several blog hops this week including the Tuesday Garden Party at an Oregon Cottage, Garden Tuesday at Sidewalk Shoes, The Homestead Barn Hop at The Prairie Homestead and of course the Monday Harvest Report at Daphne’s Dandelions!

8 Garden tasks you should be doing this Fall

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Fall is the time to get your garden ready for spring planting.  If you tackle a few important tasks now in mid fall then your spring gardening will be so much easier.  So here’s a quick list of those last minute items you should take care of before winter sets in!

1.  Be sure to tear out all of your dead, dying or spent plants. 

This seems pretty basic but a lot of people get busy this time of year and never get around to pulling out all those old tomato plants or corn stalks.  Good hygiene is an important part of a successful garden.  Leaving old plants all winter in your garden gives lots of pests great places to hide.  Slugs and snails especially are looking for a nice warm spot to spend the winter, don’t give them somewhere to hide.  Many other pests will over winter in plants left in the garden.  Be sure you either dispose of all this seasons’ plants or even better compost them!

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2. Be especially careful to get rid of any diseased plant material. 

Tomato plants with sick leaves, that kale plant that is just covered in aphids, or those squash vines covered in powdery mildew.  All of these types of plants should be thrown out NOT composted.  Many of those types of diseases are carried in the soil.  If you compost those plants the problems will just be transferred to other parts of your garden.  Also be sure to completely clean up any loose leaves from diseased plants and get them away from your garden beds.  It’s also a good idea to do one last good weeding to get rid of any perennial weeds that might make it through the winter.

3. Do any tilling or turning of your beds now! 

If you beds need a tiller run through them or if you just need to turn the soil with a digging fork, fall is the best time to get that done.  In the fall your soil is usually nice and dry and easy to work so do all of your tilling now.  Then when spring comes you won’t have to wait for the soil to dry before you can plant.  All your beds will need is a quick work over with a rake and they will be ready for your spring peas, lettuce and Cole crops!

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 4. Add compost

No matter what your soil type, it needs more organic matter.  A good quality organic compost will improve almost any soil type.  And this time of year most of the nurseries and even the big box stores are trying to get rid of the left over’s.  So compost can often be bought at a big discount.  Try adding an inch or two of compost to all your beds before you till them or turn the soil.  Your plants will thank you next spring!!

5.  Rougher organic materials

If you are planning on adding grass clippings or leaves to your garden, fall is the best time to do that as well.  It takes longer for these rougher materials to breakdown in the soil.  While they are breaking down the bacteria doing all the work takes up nitrogen from the soil robbing your plants.  Till these rougher items into your garden in the fall and they will have all winter and early spring to breakdown and improve the soil before you start planting in the spring.

6.  Drain Hoses and Water systems

Be sure to drain any garden hoses that you have been using all summer.  Simply lay them out flat and then pick the hose up and walk along hand over hand with the hose above your head.  This will force all the water out the other end.  If you have drip systems or underground sprinklers in your garden, be sure they are all drained and winterized as well.  Also be sure to disconnect hoses from the hose bibs or they will cause the pipes to bust in your house if they freeze!!

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7.  Bring in all pots, decorations and movable structures

Winter weather is very rough on clay and plastic pots.  Stack them together and store them in a garage or shed.  If you don’t have that option then put them in a protected corner and cover them with a tarp!  Tomato cages, trellises and other garden structures should also be put in a protected space.  This will make them last a lot longer.  Also don’t forget your garden gnomes and other nick-knacks, their paint will last many more years if they spend the winter indoors!

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8.  Sweep for garden pests

As winter really gets closer spend some time in the cold part of the day searching your garden for hidden pests.  Look for slugs, snails, ear wigs and other critters and try to root them out of their hiding spots and destroy them.  The more of those little guys you get rid of this fall the fewer of their babies you will have to deal with next summer!

I know you may be a little tired of gardening right now but trust me you will be happy next spring that you spent some time this fall cleaning up and prepping your garden.

 

What garden tasks do you prefer to do in the fall?  Did I miss any?

Our Journey to Real Food

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Our journey to real food. . . . I am not sure where to begin.  My husband and I have always wanted to eat healthy.  We chose what we thought were the best alternatives for our family.   We don’t drink soda except on vacation or a few holidays and we tried to pick the most healthy breakfast cereals.  Let’s just say we didn’t eat a lot of junk food.  I always made sure my kids were eating their vegetables and fruits.  We never have liked buying a lot of produce from the store because of all the chemicals/pesticides that are used on them.  We decided long ago that we would plant a garden and get as much of our own fresh food as possible.  We have had a garden consistently for about 18 years.  Rick then took some classes and became a master gardener and then became an expert at winter gardening which helps us have our own fresh vegetables year around!  This is really how we began our real food journey by just doing our own garden.  We wanted to provide our own healthy organic food.

Our next step happened about 4 years ago when we slowly started switching most of the flour we use from white flour to whole wheat.  Two years ago we switched from store bought whole wheat flour to flour we grind fresh ourselves.

It was about a year ago that I was actually sitting down and watching TV(that doesn’t happen often).  I was watching a talk show that had Tosca Reno on it.  She was talking about her eat clean diet.  She also talked about how much sugar is in our diets and how it has become a drug that we are all addicted to.  I went to the library and checked out all of her books and started reading.  Most of her books talk about eating real food and about paying attention to the labels of the food you buy and look at  the sugar content.  Rick also had just finished reading a Michael Poland book.

We both started talking and when we would go buy our groceries we started looking at the labels of everything.  Wow!  I was shocked to learn how much junk was in the food I was eating.  I couldn’t even pronounce most of the ingredients.  What in the world was I feeding my family???  I thought we were eating pretty good but oh was I wrong.  My favorite book of Tosca Reno’s was “The Eat Clean Diet for Families and Kids”.  This was the best book for me because it helped me by giving me a simple guide to eating cleaner for my family.  She made it seem more manageable and affordable.  I also then started searching the internet for ideas of how to eat better.  I read blogs of other people who have tried to change to real food.  One of my favorite blogs was of course 100 Days of Real food.  Thanks so much to that blog . . .so much help and info and recipes to keep our family going.

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I want to share with you for the next few weeks our family’s experience with this journey toward real food.  I want to let you know how we started and what worked and didn’t work.   I must admit it wasn’t an easy road to take at first and we had a lot of struggles.  We have a house full of almost all teenagers and they have resisted our change of diet quite a bit.  We at first tried to do it all at once and it just didn’t work.  We decided that it would be best to start slow and change what we ate every few months . . . so the teens could adjust!  We are not perfect at eating real food all the time and we have our setbacks and yes, we are still trying to take some foods out of our diet; but we are trying and I think that is all the matters!!!

I love how we are eating now!!!  I feel better . . . I feel healthy and I have so much more energy when I put the right kinds of food in my body.   Has it been easy?   No!  But it is so worth it, once you get used to it.  I hope for the next few weeks as I post about this, that our practical approach to eating real food  will help some of you out there who are thinking about it and want to try it.   If you are ready to make the change,  decide now and go for it . . . believe me you will never regret it, nor will you ever want to go back to eating the way you did before.

So please check back often.  I will be posting a new article about our real food journey every week for the next month or so.  Next weeks post will be on our conversion to baking 100% of our own breads.

We will be sharing this post on several blog hops this week including:

The Yuck Stops Here

The Real Housewives of Riverton

Foodie Fridays

Monday Harvest Report – Still harvesting tomatoes!!

Wow!  I mean WOW!!!  The weather last week was absolutely perfect!!  Sunny and in the low to mid 70’s all week with overnight lows in the 50’s.  You just don’t get any better than that!  And here it is October 20th and we still haven’t had our first frost!  That is so unusual for us.  There have been years when we have had snow by this point in October.

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The main advantage of no frost is this!  We are still picking ripe tomatoes at a pretty good rate.  This plants are still looking pretty good for this late in the year, and despite a aphid infestation they are still producing strong.

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Here’s the big picking for the week which came on Friday evening.  14 pounds in this box.  Combined with a few from the borrowed garden we had 20 pounds again.  That was more than enough for another batch of tomatoes but we are out of bottles so instead this box is going to be used fresh all week in a bunch of yummy soups!!

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I was ripping out the last of the pumpkin vines on Saturday when I came across this little surprise.  I had totally forgotten that back in July I planted a small hill of zucchini in a empty spot.  This was an experiment to see how late I could plant zucchini and still get fruit.  I planted this on on July 23rd.  Only a few weeks later the pumpkin vines over ran this section of the garden and I promptly forgot this plant was even there!  Well it turns out you can get fruit planting that late.  There is one nice sized fruit that I picked Saturday and another is set and should develop as long as this weather holds.

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The kids were excited to see the zucchini and they all begged Valerie to make the chocolate zucchini bread recipe that she discovered last week.  Okay lets face it, this recipe isn’t really healthy but it sure is delicious, I will have to get her to post the recipe soon.

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The warm weather is also helping our very late planted lettuce crop.  All of these plants are finally well established and starting to grow again but all the rainy weather in August and September really set back our fall garden and I’m afraid it is going to turn into a spring garden instead.  We’ll see, but our window for growth is really getting small.  I think I may end up overwintering all these plants instead of harvesting them this fall.

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We had a nice little picking of strawberries again this week.  I think we may have one more picking at the end of the week and then they will be done for the year.  The patch is in a spot where it doesn’t get much sun this time of year so  they are really slowing down.

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I also noticed that the fall broccoli is starting to head up.  Now we need a good frost to sweeten it up and kill all the dang aphids that are attacking the plants!!

Not pictured are another zucchini and a few cucumbers that were picked throughout the week.

Here’s this weeks totals:

Borrowed Garden
Tomatoes – 6 lbs

Home Garden
Zucchini – 3 lbs
Tomatoes – 16 lbs
Strawberries – .75 lbs
Cucumbers – 1.25 lbs
Total – 21 lbs

Our total for the home garden is now a respectable 618 pounds which really is pretty good considering we didn’t get any melons this year from the home garden.  The other big news is that our tomato total reached 157 pounds.  That exceeds last years total by a pound and gives us our biggest tomato harvest ever!!  And we will really shatter the record because I’m sure we will get at least 10 to 15 more pounds this week!

We will be joining several blog hops this week including the Tuesday Garden Party at an Oregon Cottage, Garden Tuesday at Sidewalk Shoes, The Homestead Barn Hop at The Prairie Homestead and of course the Monday Harvest Report at Daphne’s Dandelions!

 

Monday Harvest Report – Winding down for the year

Wow I sure love this time of year!! The weather is perfect! We had mid 70’s all week long with nice cool but not cold nights. I’m starting to see the leaves turn here in the valley. The mountains are about done, I can still see the yellow Aspens but most of the other colors are gone. Down here in the valley we are starting to see lots of red, yellows and orange!
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I brought this box of tomatoes in on Wednesday and Valerie just sighed!

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When I brought this box in on Saturday she just about cried!! We are kind of “tomatoed” out at the moment!! We have canned 55 quarts so far this year and these two boxes will give us another batch of 7. I think we will try to do this one last batch and then any others we get will either be eaten fresh or given to neighbors. I spent some time in the garden Saturday cleaning up for the fall and there are still quite a few tomatoes that are close to ripe. The weather is looking cooler for the coming week but not so cold that we have to worry about frost, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see another 20 pounds of tomatoes.

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Here’s our pitiful celery harvest for the year. We only had 4 plants to begin with but for some reason 3 of the plants bolted to seed early in August, long before they were ready to harvest. So this is what we got from the only one that didn’t bolt. 1.25 pounds of very small stalks. i think the celery really suffered from our crappy clay soil. Next year I’m going to try some fresh seed and a spot with a lot of compost!!

We had a few cucumbers and one zucchini. The cucumbers are pretty much done for the year. There are 4 or 5 more small ones on the vines that I will leave an see if they get any bigger, but the cool weather pretty much put an end to them. The zucchini on the other had still seems to want to produce. There is one other fruit that is about ready to harvest and I noticed a couple more that have set!

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We finally were able to harvest a few Crenshaw melons from the borrowed garden. 7 this week. Ripeness is questionable on these. Most of them still have a lot of green on them. But they are soft on the blossom end (which is how you pick a Crenshaw) so we have been picking them.

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We are letting them sit in the garage for a few days before we open them and I’m not counting them in my totals unless they are use-able when we open them up. So far we have cut up 3 and given away another 2 and they were all great!!

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Here’s the fun harvest for the week! We picked a total of 70 ears of popcorn! Our youngest daughter and I sat out on the patio on Saturday morning and shucked all of them. Of the 70 ears more than 50 of them are really good sized. They weighed in at about 1/3 pounds each. The other 20 or so were smaller but still great!

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Since there is not rain in the forecast for the week we are going to leave them out on the patio in the sun to help them cure. I’m actually really excited that we were able to get such a good harvest. Of course we will use most of this for popping, but you can actually use pop corn as a grain. You can just grind it up in your flour mill and use it as corn meal. I kind of like knowing that. If the zombie apocalypse ever happens at least I know we can grow a grain crop in our garden!! :)

We also had a few small hand-fulls of raspberries and about 1/2 pound of strawberries this week.

Here’s this weeks totals:

Home Garden
Zucchini – 1.75 lbs
Tomatoes  – 18.50 lbs
Strawberries – .40 lbs
Cucumbers – .50 lbs
Celery – 1.25 lbs
Peppers – .25 lbs
Popcorn – 17
Total – 39.65 lbs

Borrowed Garden
Tomatoes – 6.50 lbs
Crenshaw Melon – 35 lbs
Total  – 41.50 lbs

That brings our Annual total in the home garden to 597 pounds and 610 pounds at the borrowed garden.  1,207 pounds is just crazy!  Of course almost 400 pounds of that are melons the bulk of which were sold.  But still 1200 pounds!!  What a great year!

We will be joining several blog hops this week including the Tuesday Garden Party at an Oregon Cottage, Garden Tuesday at Sidewalk Shoes, The Homestead Barn Hop at The Prairie Homestead and of course the Monday Harvest Report at Daphne’s Dandelions!

Chip Dilemma – Making your own Homemade Tortilla Chips

Chip Dilemma

Homemade salsa…ahhhhhhh….. need I say more.  It is one of my favorites!!  We just can’t wait until those first few tomatoes start to ripen so we can make homemade salsa.  It is so yummy when it comes from your own garden tomatoes.  It has so much more flavor!   The only problem with salsa is what to eat it with?   My kids love chips and so do I, but have you ever looked at the ingredients list???

We have started to eat real food now and so I wanted to find a way to make my own chips.  I wanted to still get the yummy, salty, crunchy goodness like the ones from the store.  I looked around on the internet for some ideas and came up with a recipe.   I even tested it out on our extended family.  We had a birthday party at our home and I had chips and salsa as a snack.  No one could believe that these were homemade chips.  They thought for sure they were store bought.  I even had chips from the store that I put out just in case no one liked them.  Everyone ate up the homemade chips and left the chips from the store alone.   They really liked them too!!  It is so super easy!     I had no idea how simple it was, otherwise I would have been making them all the time.

 

Homemade whole wheat tortilla chips

8 whole wheat tortillas- I roll them out pretty thin. (We use our Homemade Tortilla’s)

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Spray tortillas with olive oil spray or brush on

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Layer 4 tortillas on top of each other and cut in triangles with a pizza cutter.

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Arrange single layer of tortillas on cookie sheet.   I end up using 3 cookie sheets.

Shake some sea salt on them.   Cook at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, remove the tray from oven and turn the Homemade chips over and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes.  You will need to watch them closely so they don’t burn.

Once they are done let them cool, they will crisp up as they cool.  And voila you have your own yummy homemade chips to snack on.   I don’t even feel that guilty eating them because they only have 4 ingredients and are so much healthier for you than those greasy gross chips from the store.  So go ahead and indulge and enjoy that salsa and homemade chips!!!

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We will be sharing this post on several blog hops this week including:

The Yuck Stops Here

The Real Housewives of Riverton

Foodie Fridays

 

 

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