Epic Charcuterie Board

Epic charcuterie board ideas. You’ll love this simple to make meat, cheese, bread, fruit, vegetables and nuts appetizer. It’s an amazing no bake recipe for a huge wow factor! Epic Charcuterie Board Last year, I was in Sonoma with some of my food blogging friends. We had a blast working together to make this amazing […]

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Hocus Pocus Buns

Hocus Pocus Buns are delicious melt-in-your mouth cinnamon sugar covered marshmallows baked inside of a crescent roll until golden brown. When you bite into the warm bun, the marshmallow will have magically disappeared and how it got it’s name! Amazing Hocus Pocus Buns These easy to bake Hocus Pocus Buns are similar tasting to a […]

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6 Easy Baby Yoda Crafts and Recipes

Star Wars fans can get extra excited for The Mandalorian Season 2 with these out of this world Baby Yoda Crafts and Recipes! Make these crafts, you must! 6 Baby Yoda Crafts to Get You Excited for The Mandalorian If you’re looking for cute Baby Yoda Crafts, you’ve come to the right place! I’m excited […]

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Air Fryer Peanut Butter French Toast Roll-Ups

Serve breakfast fast with these easy Air Fryer Peanut Butter French Toast Roll Ups. Crunchy peanut buttery perfection! Sponsored by SKIPPY® Peanut Butter and Kroger Co.   Easy Peanut Butter French Toast Roll Ups Peanut Butter is one of my favorite treats! With all of the brands out there, SKIPPY® Peanut Butter is one that […]

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Easy Frosted Lemonade Recipe

This easy copycat Chick-fil-A Frosted Lemonade recipe is perfect for a hot summer day. A refreshing mix of lemonade with fresh squeezed lemons and vanilla ice cream. How to make a Copycat Chick-fil-A Frosted Lemonade Celebrate summer with this amazing frozen lemonade. I’ve made the most incredibly easy Copycat Chick-fil-A Frosted Lemonade that will take […]

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Passion Tea Lemonade

Easy Passion Tea Lemonade recipe by the pitcher made with Milo’s Famous Sweet Tea. Fresh blackberries make this the perfect summer drink. This post is sponsored by Milo’s Tea Company. EASY Passion Tea Lemonade Recipe This quick and easy Passion Tea Lemonade recipe by the pitcher made with Milo’s Famous Sweet Tea is the perfect […]

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Red White and Blue Ice Cream Sandwich Pops

Red white and blue ice cream sandwich pops are an easy patriotic dessert for the 4th of July or Memorial Day. Simple sprinkles make these extra cute! Red White and Blue Ice Cream Sandwich Pops Simple no-bake red white and blue ice cream sandwich pops are the perfect patriotic dessert for a festive 4th of […]

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I Wasn’t A ‘Bad’ Cook — I Was A Poor One

I’ve always been “that” person who rolls up to barbecues with my infamous store-bought veggie and fruit trays. If I’m feeling really fancy, I might even pick up some Kroger-brand sugar cookies, put them into my own Rubbermaid container like the trickster I am, and call it a day. I guess you could say that I’ve never been one to boast about my cooking or baking skills, because quite frankly, I’ve been led to believe that I have about as much culinary expertise as that of a drunken monkey. 

It’s not that I’ve yet to give cooking a real chance, because I have (the many burnt and undercooked casseroles my family has braved their way through is proof of that). It’s just that, up until recently, my family has lacked the time, space, and money needed in order to cook comfortably. 

We’ve lived in a “fixer upper” (my gentle way of saying a real dump) for years with the hopes that we could remodel it to sell in the near-ish future. When my husband and I first moved in, we bought our stove and refrigerator secondhand from our neighbors for $50 combined, if that tells you anything about our financial situation. And while I would never judge a person because of something as materialistic as their home, finances, or even the quality of their meals, personally, my cooking and dysfunctional kitchen quickly became a source of shame for me.

Our kitchen was so old that, no matter how many hours we spent cleaning it, it still looked dirty. Plates would shatter regularly because we didn’t have the space for everything, and slicing onions meant sitting on the floor with a raised flat surface and a cutting board. And don’t even get me started on the hell that is hand-washing dishes for a family of six every single day. 

Recently, though, things have started to look up for our family. We’ve paid off some debt, increased our income a bit, and my dream of restoring our kitchen has finally become a reality.

Throughout this season, I’ve learned something. After spending so much of my time believing that I was a bad cook without hope, it never occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t “bad” — maybe I was just poor and lacking what I needed. 

This isn’t to say that poor people = bad food… not at all. It’s just that, for me, as someone who didn’t have what was necessary to cook in the kitchen, the funds to get me there, or the experience built from a lifetime of growing up with a cooking family, the result of my family’s financial brokenness didn’t allow me the tools required to learn much of anything. 

I wasn’t able to afford the spices needed to add extra flavor and a little “zing” to dishes. I didn’t have good-quality meat. I didn’t have a dishwasher or the necessary plates, pots, and pans needed to cook for my big family. The oven was sketchy, the pantry and cabinet shelves were falling apart, and all of this made cooking for anyone feel like a complete impossibility. 

My husband and I aren’t “rich” by any stretch of the imagination at this point. In fact, nearly all of our extra cash flow has been directed into renovating our house. We still have a strict budget, take advantage of the clearance section, and have our moments where we stress out over money. I’ll be saving my pitch for the Food Network until a later date — but for now, we’ve finally been able to fix our kitchen up in a way that allows for smooth and stress-free cooking.

To so many of us, food is comfort. Whether it be a holiday, birthday, or even just Gram’s Sunday brunch, we all have at least one memory of how a home-cooked meal made with love made us feel warm and fuzzy. For so long, I wanted to love my family in that way. And now that I’m able to and learning how to do that, I can’t help but wonder how many other families are sitting where I once was — on the kitchen floor, slicing onions and longing to do just about anything to simply cook comfortably and “normally” for their family. 

An inability to work “harder” for the change desired isn’t the problem with people who are poor — poor people work hard for the things they have. Please, trust me, lower income families are anything but lazy. The problem is, it’s a struggle to obtain the things we need and desire when we’re constantly trying to catch up from last week. 

Living paycheck to paycheck makes it difficult to go to the grocery store and buy more than a few days’ worth of food. Because of this, it makes one cringe to think that you will wind up spending more money on things like gas, transportation and food items of a lower quantity, just because you couldn’t get everything you needed at once.

What so many fail to realize rings true: it costs more money to be poor.

Sure, it’d be more cost-friendly in the long run for families to buy their groceries in bulk, but this is unrealistic when so many parents can’t pull themselves over a financial hump. 

Feeding the family can become a day-to-day hustle, one that won’t even allow you to look toward tomorrow because there are hungry kids and an impossible kitchen to work with right now. From the get-go, being poor and cooking for your family can make you feel defeated before you’ve even begun.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Beyond seeing if your family qualifies for government assistance, churches, charities, Craigslist, furniture banks, and organizations such as Freecycle, an online group that allows members of communities to connect with those in need, are great resources available for a little extra help with appliances and everyday cooking needs.

Food insecurity is real, and it hurts. Having a dysfunctional kitchen is real, and it hurts. Knowing you will spend more money in the long run just so your kids can eat today is a real struggle, and it, too, hurts — parents have enough on their minds without worrying about how tonight’s meal is going to go.

We all move forward at our own pace and with a unique set of circumstances. But no matter our financial status, at the end of the day, we are all deserving of a warm, home-cooked meal made with love.

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Peppermint Chocolate Popsicles

Cool off with this easy homemade peppermint chocolate popsicles recipe. Adding York Peppermint Patties makes this a remarkably wintery refresh snack on a hot summer day. York Peppermint PattieS Chocolate Popsicles These easy peppermint chocolate popsicles are the perfect snack on a hot summer day! Since getting my fun new ice cream popsicle molds, I […]

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I’m Not Baking Fresh Bread Right Now, And That’s OK

I have to admit, by week three I’d started to compare myself with others—people baking bread in their white minimalist kitchens, their kids learning new languages and instruments, people organizing closets, and starting new exercise programs.

That first two days I was “on.” I had us up at the usual time, served both my daughter and myself a hot breakfast at 7:30 am and even had us take a brisk morning walk in place of our usual walk to school. I rang a little bell at 8:30 am and we said the Pledge of Allegiance. I gave “morning announcements.”

By the second night, I awoke at 3:30 am having a severe panic attack … something I am prone to and struggle with in a non-pandemic year since losing my husband suddenly when I was 34 and my daughter was not yet two. That was my body’s reminder to me to slow down and just get through. I spent the next day under a soft blanket watching Korean dramas. After that first week, I gave up all aspirations of trying to make this “new normal” feel normal. Because it isn’t, and it won’t be for a very long time. What we’re going through together, on a global scale, has been called a form of grief, and it is.

In early, raw grief, right after my husband died, no one expected anything of me. I lived in a grief cocoon where my bed became my sanctuary. Beside it was an overflowing basket of sympathy cards/checks that I would eventually reply to with thank you notes … but not for many months. Sitting in bed, I ate my mother’s famous Christmas cookies for breakfast on my husband’s birthday in December of that first year; it was the perfect ritual. Even though I had no TV in our apartment because I’d been strictly adhering to the no screens before age two guidelines of the APA, my toddler began watching DVDs given to me by a neighbor every morning beside me on the bed while I struggled to get up.

I did not drive anywhere for weeks because I did not trust myself to concentrate. I was not expected to cook — our church brought me meals for months. I was not expected to be productive in any real way. I showered, ate what I could, and took care of my daughter. Besides that, it was enough just to try to process the news — all of the shocking ways in which my life had abruptly changed. So why in a time of global grief would I expect myself to bake fresh bread?

While grieving is universal, every person’s grieving process is as unique as the relationship and loss they’ve suffered. Even though we’re all going through the same global crisis, all quarantines are not created equal. Some of us are single parents spending our day with a child or children with little to no adult contact. Some of us have four children who are entertaining each other amidst arguing. Some of us have elderly parents to care for. Some of us have family members on the frontlines who are risking their lives and living in constant fear of contaminating their family members.

Also, because we grieve who we are, our reactions to the same pandemic will look different. A friend who is a fitness teacher and a dancer is making and sharing brief fitness videos online each day. A woman in town is organizing activities to keep kids cooped up at home busy. Yes, some people are baking bread and cakes and muffins. I’m a writer, so I write.

I’ve also been cooking three meals a day. I even baked a banana bread and some muffins. I do try to get outside every day, and I’ve been jump roping on my driveway while my daughter sweeps nothing in particular off our steps. The first week I even posted a cute guide for well-being my daughter and I came up with online myself. Maybe people have been looking at me and comparing themselves. Who knows? In light of what’s going on right now, none of this matters.

As Joyce Carol Oates wrote in the epitaph of her memoir, A Widow’s Story, “Of the widow’s countless death-duties there is really just one that matters: on the first anniversary of her husband’s death the widow should think I kept myself alive.” I think the same applies during a pandemic. At the end of all this, that accomplishment wouldn’t be a bad epitaph to have.

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