Images & recipes © Christine Mercer-Vernon unless noted otherwise. Please play nice when sharing and give proper credit and link backs.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holiday Leftovers… Uses for Ham & Eggnog

Finally, the one week I have off every year is here!  Being a freelancer I work 24/7 so every year I schedule myself off with my clients Christmas through New Years and use that time to work on de-cluttering and 'spring cleaning'... and sleeping.

I'll be back posting next week but wanted to leave you with some ideas on how we've been using up some of our holiday leftovers.

Typically, the HE's family has ham for Christmas but this year they requested I make Lasagna, which I did, and meatballs, and documented so I can finally get a Lasagna how-to up on this blog.

I cooked up a smoked ham steak last week so we wouldn't miss out on it and served up the leftovers two ways…

And sliced up thin and scrambled up with some fresh farm eggs and herbs…

Simply slice thin and add a pinch of dried herbs, scramble and fry up in a pan with some bacon grease (if you have it) or other fat...

Each year eggnog makes one brief appearance in our house. I buy a quart from a local farm and drink one or two small juice glasses full, then I'm done with it.

To use up what's left you can simply replace the liquid in any baked goods with eggnog.

You can also make an Eggnog Latte by simply heating up your eggnog then combining it with equal amounts of hot medium to bold coffee. I did this, pretty good, but I'm more of a vanilla person.

The Jelly Bean has her BFF here today, so I made them our traditional cinnamon chocolate chip pancakes jazzed up by replacing the milk with eggnog, and bam… we had cinnamon chocolate chip eggnog pancakes.

Yesterday was the best though, we had Cinnamon Eggnog French Toast, I made it with both regular and gluten free bread (I made the gluten free first, no mixing of breads around here).

Pretty much a new favorite.


For every 2 slices of bread whisk up:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (or less if you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup eggnog

Add your bread, flipping a few times to soak up a bit of the liquid or just enough to coat the bread, we like our french toast squishy.

Preheat your skillet to medium, butter lightly. (I use a really well seasoned cast iron skillet which I had just oiled so I skipped the greasing)

 When the first side is browned, flip and brown the other side.

Serve topped with fresh fruit, or if you are addicted to Dandelion Syrup like us, have at it…

Wishing you and yours a very
safe, healthy and happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dear Santa, I want a bouncy house and...

Just when I think the jelly bean can't get any cuter, she does.

This is the very first letter she has ever written to Santa.

It has melted my heart.

It has made me shed a tear.

My baby is growing up and thinking for herself, and knows more what she wants for herself now than I do.

A bouncy house? I had no idea.

She did it on her own, with no prodding from us, shouting from the other room for spelling assistance.

I'll be crushed when the magic of Santa has drifted away like pixie dust.

We are not huge into buyings tons of gifts at Christmas. Consumerism isn't our thing.  We are not excessive in purchasing, we're thoughtful, we keep it for the kids.

This is the first year the jelly bean has been able to really have discussions about what all these holidays are and have an understanding of them and why we do them, and why it's important to help others who don't have as much, and appreciate more what we have and be thankful to have what we do, and not be excessive in our wants.

I'm so amazed at how fast she is growing and trying so hard not to miss a single minute of it.

Especially now, in this season of giving, because she is such a sweet, giving child. Thoughtfully making us little 'gifts' and drawings and wrapping them securely, very securely in scotch tape.

I love her scotch tape presents way more than a purchased gift, and I will treasure them forever.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Santa Claus This Is For You...

Reason #2,434 why having a child is so awesome… 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Holidays

It's been a whirlwind of busy busy around here.

The holidays usually are.

I've half documented a dozen recipes I meant to post then due to too much to do, never finished documenting them. So I've just decided to hold off until after the first of the year.

I post very infrequently this time of year anyway.

Since I am not sure about how many posts I will have up between now and New Years, I'll take the time now to wish you all a Wonderful Holiday.

We awoke this morning to a lovely dusting of snow, I'm ready for more .

Last night we went to Rocky Ridge Park's Christmas Magic, which if you are not local is simply the most incredible Christmas light display you will ever see.

I've been wearing my glasses, instead of contacts, which meant I felt completely drunk trying to walk through the blinking and pulsating lights. It was comical. This is what I saw without them…

The kiddos loved, loved, loved it.

There were lots of buildings to go through, all with little displays, some with food, and each had one of these spectacular stone fireplaces, complete with warm fire…

I want a fireplace like this.

But really it was about the lights. Seriously, the most lights I've ever seen.  Worth a trip if you aren't too far.

It's as much for adults seeking the wonderment of childhood… as well as for the kids. :]

I suggest if you go,get there as it opens, like we did.

Otherwise you can expect a very, very, very long wait to get in.  The line of cars snaking out the road when we left went on forever, and there is no where to turn around, so once you are in line you're stuck.

But even still, it's worth it to wait patiently. It really is magical.

Happy Holidays from my family to yours.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

Every once and a while the Jelly Bean puts her foot down about having something fun for dinner.  Generally, she requests one of three meals:  homemade pizza, spaghetti, or tacos.

Last night it was tacos.

When we really started paying attention to the foods we purchased, taco shells became a huge concern.  Having celiac, meant making flour tortillas was out, and quite honestly this is usually a 'convenient' meal for us so I didn't want to get into making my own shells.

Fortunately, our grocery store carries an organic brand called Bearito's. Organic means GMO free corn, which is super awesome.

Also, I haven't purchased packaged taco seasoning since I was diagnosed with celiac over 8 years ago, or maybe it was 9 or 10, I can never remember.

I'm seriously the worst celiac… ever.

I came up with this mix using standard spices and dried herbs that I keep well stocked in my pantry. When I have fresh ingredients on hand I sub them out for the dried versions, such as fresh garlic, onion and oregano.

But as the winter months drag on, I resort to my dried herbs and spices.

This is by no means and authentic mexican mix, but a pretty good americanized version. 

Play with the proportions to tailor it to your own tastes.

for 1 to 1.5 lbs of ground meat
[printer friendly]

  • 1/2 teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (or 2-3 minced cloves)
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder (or sub out 1/4 yellow onion or more to liking)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano, crushed (or chop up a handful of fresh)
  • 1 Tablespoon organic cornstarch*
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional (or more to liking)
  • 2/3 cup water

Mix it all up and add to pan once meat is fully cooked and browned, stir while adding, until thickened.

If using fresh onions and garlic, cook them with your ground meat.
side note:  I did want to mention that I have tried numerous other thickening agents over the years, such as guar gum, xantham gum, potato starch/flour, tapioca flour, and arrowroot. 
While they definitely did thicken the mix, these common substitutes produced a very gummy feel, and in some cases slimy, although still palatable, it was not very pleasant to eat. 
Generally, I keep a very simplified gluten free and regular pantry, therefore I try to use items from that basic pantry. 
Since I do use thickening agents for many other recipes, I find that despite the processed nature of cornstarch, it's still worth it for the trivial amount I use to seek out organic versions to keep in my pantry. 
I, of course, am always open to new ideas and suggestions of what other's have substituted for cornstarch.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Leftovers: Skillet Ham with Veggies & Fusilli

Watching my brother on TV the other night was super cool. Did anyone see it? He's crazy. Grabbing big ass snakes with his bare hands certifies him as insane.

But I love him anyway.

If you've been looking for me, I'm currently buried under a ton of work [of which I am grateful for] and preparing for my sisters and mom, stepfather, niece and brother-in-law to come to our house Saturday for our holiday get together.

Which means we went out in search of a tree this weekend.

While I love the smell of pine, pine needles and I don't get along.  Anywhere they touch my skin I break out in a temporary and very itchy rash.

But that doesn't stop me from decorating our tree.

So anyway… Friday I am giving away a free Gluten Free Meal Keychain, and shipping it to you for free. They are really super awesome to have if you are a celiac or know one, or anyone on gluten restrictions. Go to this post and comment to enter.

So far, I have two entries… TWO! Which means odds of winning are 50%. Not bad.  You can enter up until midnight tomorrow, so by all means, please pass this on.

AND… Saturday I am giving away some Personalized Canning Jar Holiday Labels… which are super cute and not your grandmother's labels either.

I designed these with a modern, contemporary flair.

You can enter on this post by commenting.  Or you can purchase them in my Etsy shop, which it seems like the most popular way right (meaning I can sell them but I can't give them away for free).

Ok, enough of that.

The other night I seared up a super awesome smoked ham steak I got from a local farm.

There's nothing special to post about it, just heat up a cast iron pan
with a little bacon fat and sear it on both sides. 

But, since we're just a tiny little family of three, we always have leftovers, and with Christmas right around the corner, and ham being a popular Christmas dinner, I thought I'd share my favorite way to use up leftover ham… other than sandwiches.

Personally, I am not a ham person.

I can eat a little bit, then I literally start to gag. But I love bacon, weirdness.

Burying it under other flavors works great for me and I can eat this by the bowlful, ham and all.

The Jelly Bean and I eat this up, HE, not so much.  He's not a fan of 'fancy dishes'… and by fancy I mean anything that isn't just plain old meat and potatoes.  He's all about plain, non-seasoned foods. [insert eye-roll]

I like flavor.  I love how the tomato flavor comes through in this one.

I found the original recipe years ago which called for a bunch of canned foods, I've definitely changed it a lot over the years to be made with fresh ingredients.

I bulk it up with lots of veggies.


  • 1-2 tsp coconut oil, rendered fat, etc.
  • 1-1/2 cups of cooked Ham, cubed
  • 1/4 of a small yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup tomato puree (or sauce)
  • 1-3/4 cup water
  • 1 heaping tsp of oregano (although I tend to add more)
  • 2 to 3 cups of broccoli, cut to bite size
  • 1-1/2 cups of sliced carrots
  • 2 cups Gluten Free Fusilli pasta (I use Tinkyada or whatever you can find*)
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated (plus more for serving)

Prepare everything first, since almost everything is added at one time.

Add oil to heated skillet (I use a large cast iron one) and saute onions.

pretend the onions are in here, let's just say i had to backtrack
Add ham and cook to heat through.

Add water, tomato puree, garlic, oregano, carrots and pasta.  Stir well.

Bring to boil then lower to a medium simmer, cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes until pasta is just cooked through.

[ * if you've used a thicker pasta, check for doneness, if needed, add more water to complete cooking pasta.  You should end up with some liquid remaining, it will be slightly thicker like a sauce, it should not be dry]

Add broccoli, stir in, then cover and cook until broccoli is tender but still crisp, about 2-3 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in parmesan cheese. Cover and let sit for one minute.

Serve hot.

Serves about 4-6.

The leftovers are great for lunches.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday & My Bro on TV

It's Sunday.

Cleaning, cooking.

Making chicken stock for some chicken corn soup tonight….mmmmmmm.

We picked out our tree today.

So I'm cleaning, and making bacon cheese fries to munch on while we decorate the tree.

And… we're getting totally excited to watch my brother, Edward's, appearance on America's Wildest Roads tonight.

Yes, I'm a pretty proud big sister.

He's pretty passionate about pythons. In one of the segments they go out with him on a python hunt. We're not sure what footage will air, but we don't care, we're pretty excited for him.

He's been getting a lot of air time lately being interviewed by many news stations, who've all accompanied him out on hunts. He even filmed with an overseas crew that came from France to do a piece on the python problem in the Everglades.

You can read about Florida's python problem here on his blog.

Check out his own collection of snakes here. I'm going to warn you, two of them are pretty big.  Huge to be exact.

He volunteers with Florida's Fish & Wildlife Commission's as one of their licensed Python Agents and spends a lot of time out searching for python's.

He writes a blog that chronicles his python captures, wildlife encounters and the amazing Everglades landscape in Florida.

If snakes don't give you the heebie-jeebies, check it out here.

We're even more excited about his upcoming appearance on a special that will be airing on the Discovery Channel after the first of the year, but I'll tell you more about that when we know the air date.

So excited.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

GIVEAWAY: Gluten Free Meal Keychain

With the holidays approaching, I thought I'd try to put together a few giveaways!

For several years I've had a store where I sell a variety of graphics for tees and other merchandise completely designed by ME.

Hands down, my most popular items are my Gluten Free & Allergy Meal Keychains.

And surprisingly, I sell the majority of them to overseas customers.

I came up with the idea after an experience with a restaurant that confused glucose and gluten. They assured me my meal was glucose free.

Not even funny.

Now I carry this with me when I travel or go to restaurants I'm not familiar with, just in case.

It's also handy for attending banquet type meals, like weddings or catered parties. I just send to the kitchen with my server to make sure there is no confusion. I've had one too many 'annoyed' servers that seemed less than helpful about making sure my meal was gluten free.

Also great to send with your kiddo when you can't be right there.

I offer several different colors, designs and wordings (which I'm always updating) such as this one for a Gluten Free Meal, whereas mine above indicates that I have Celiac Disease.

These have been so popular that I started receiving requests for customizable versions, so I came up with this one (also available in different colors) that can be customized when you order.

For years I had a store called punkpunkbaby, which I still have up, but this year I opened one with my studio name, CMV Studio, as I've been working moving my graphics to this store and working on new designed offerings for other merchandise (which I am slowly getting posted), I also plan on offering some merchandise with my artwork over time as well.

I keep my punkpunkbaby store up as I haven't yet moved over all my designs.

Here are links to my two stores:

Check out this keychain:

This is probably my favorite keychain style offered by zazzle.  It's their largest size at 2.125", and is metal with the artwork being sealed with some sort of acrylic or resin so it is completely waterproof.

Want it?

I've got one to giveaway to one lucky reader.

All you have to do are any or all of the following, then leave a comment saying you do or did so on this post, and each counts as an additional entry (each must be a new comment).

How to Enter:

  • Follow this blog, and indicate how you follow (reader, blogger, email, etc.)
  • Visit my CMVStudio store or my punkpunkbaby store then comment on this post about the item you like the best (so I can weed some out and offer new colors for 2012).
  • And for a fourth entry, if you have a blog, blog about this giveway, you have my permission to use the images above for your post, then comment again below that you did so and include the link to your post. And if you do this, I'll love you forever. :}

Contest closes at midnight on Wednesday, December 7th. Winner will be selected with one of those nifty random generator thingies and announced on Thursday, December 8th.

Odds of winning: considering about 10 people actually read this blog, I'd consider it to be like 1 in 10.  :] 

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