04-20-2016

The Benefits of Boredom…Why it’s great if your kid says “Mom, I’m Bored”

There I was, a 14 year old girl stuck in the throes of puberty, navigating S curves on a back mountain road en route to my aunt’s house.

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That dreaded season, aka – tax season, had arrived.

April was again upon us and my parents were driving to my number loving accountant Aunt Judy’s house.

I never understood why I had to go along. Her having daughters much older than myself, there wasn’t much for me to do.

Back in those prehistoric times, before tablets and instant internet access, there were only 3 tv channels to choose from and none of them featured anything interesting to a teenager.

Looking back, I don’t even think she had a tv so there wasn’t much for me to do except “be bored”.

And in that boredom, I spent countless hours reading magazines.

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But CosmoGirl and Seventeen, these were not.

No, instead I got the thrill of reading Mother Earth News and every academic journal you could imagine on healthy organic earthy type eating.

I had no idea what composting was and held no interest in the microorganisms found in collards.

{Kale had yet to become gourmet back then.}

Yet, when push comes to shove – and you have nothing better to do – you read whats in front of you.

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Looking back now, I am grateful my parents made me cross the mountain to go to my aunt’s house.

Blessed I am, that there was nothing to do but read food science periodicals.

Undoubtedly, reading gardening and food magazines helped shape me into being the food lover I am today.

I learned a ton of random cooking tips and helpful hints that even now, 20 plus years later, I incorporate into the foods I prepare on a daily basis.

Did you know that when sauteing onions, you should sprinkle salt on them when they first go into the pan to allow them to ‘sweat’ out some of their natural water – which helps speed up the browning or caramelizing of the onions.

Or this tip…when you add seasonings and salt for soups you should do this in a gradual process throughout the entire cooking time. This provides a depth of flavors that cannot be achieved if you only only add the salt and seasonings at the end. If you only add stuff at the end, it really just tastes salty.

Or…Dried herbs really need liquid and time for absorbing to impart their flavors, so use those in soups where there is plenty of liquid plus quite a bit of cooking time. Try to only use fresh herbs (which cost more) when you aren’t cooking with much liquid or plan to only add the herbs at the end, right before serving.

I learned moderation must be key because
In 1989 eggs were bad but by 1992 they were great.
In 1990 butter was all the rage but in 1991 it was banned.

Even as a teenager I thought it was a bit odd how often different ‘studies’ conflicted each other.
Moderation, not a diet, is the only way to maintain a healthy body.

I learned benefits of raised garden beds and composting methods long before they were hip and trendy.

There is no doubt, my love of food and the geeky studies of food science, is a result of being bored and forced to do something I didn’t want to do.

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Reading what was on hand broadened my horizons and shaped me vastly into who I am as an adult.

Cooking and baking are my two biggest hobbies, hands down.

Nothing gets my time like my kitchen and nothing delights me more than friends at my kitchen table eating a home cooked, from scratch meal.

So the point is.

Allow your kids to be bored.

Allow them to drive you crazy and get used to them saying their friends get a tablet, a smart phone, a new whatever. Accept that you will often hear them yell “life isn’t fair”.

You know what, they are right.

LIFE ISN’T FAIR.

But the earlier you figure that out, the better off you’ll be.

Being bored has great results and unexpected outcomes.

I’m quite sure my parents never worried over my boredom and they had no intentional plans for me to become a foodie.

You may feel as if you are depriving your child if they aren’t constantly doing something FUN. You may feel as if you are doing something wrong if every minute of your child’s day isn’t jam packed in this overscheduled crazy busy society we live in.

But there is a beauty found in curling up in a window box seat with curtains whipping in the breeze as you read something you’d never normally read. Your imagination soars, your curiosity is cultivated, and your mind is exposed to new ways of thought.

No video game
No tablet
No smartphone
can ever win when compared with the lifetime of learning which results from being bored.

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So be brave, you moms & dad’s of the 21st century.

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” Dorothy Parker

Be empowered to take away the digital screen
even if it means they say they hate you.

Don’t feel guilty if you have to force them to go outside,
to play, to rediscover the natural world.

Be bold and hand them a book they’d never normally pick up by choice.

You just might be doing your kids’ future selves a favor.

jessica

 

03-29-2016

4 Easy & Fun Spring Break Crafts

Falling asleep last night, I asked my husband if we could homeschool.  You see, it’s Spring Break in our neck of the woods and that means lazy mornings, pajama clad bottoms, and outdoor excursions of who can jump the highest on the trampoline.

It’s sublime.

That’s exactly what home-schooling is like, right?

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Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) Jared isn’t a fan of me being the kids’ sole educator so back to school in a week they will go.

To be realistic, I’ve heard when you homeschool, you actually have to get stuff done! That’s where I’d have a problem…follow through isn’t my #1 skill.

I like the overall concept of homeschooling {especially the not rushing out the door in the morning} but I’d also be EXTREMELY happy if they’d just shorten the hours for public school. 7 hour work days + almost 1 hour of getting there and back {afternoon carpool lines are LONG in this town of mine} = almost 8 hours a day for kids who should be out exploring the great outdoors longer than the time they spend indoors every day.

I wish legislature would introduce a bill making school only 4-5 hours long. I promise you, you really can cover everything a kid needs to learn in less than 5 hours. But I have zero hope any legislature would ever introduce or sign that bill into being. Not only are there numerous parents reasons that would stand against it, but when the presidential race is as disheartening and low-class as it is this year, there is little confidence I have in government at the moment.

In other news, I’ve begun freelance writing!

I never set out to be a writer. Freshman English was a major battle with victory being anything other than a failing F. Redlined papers were the norm and constantly switching between present and past tense verbs seems to be something I am exceptional at.

But I’ve felt a calling on my heart to write more and when I say calling – I mean – I’ve tried to do anything other than write but yet I can never escape the voice in my head telling me to write. So I write my blog, do occasional freelance writing, and my newest goal is to write for 30 minutes every single day. Not with the purpose of publishing – but simply writing every. single. day.

So to the point of this post…I recently wrote Get Crafty This Spring: Easy projects to try with your crew for Lowcountry Parent. Activities for all age ranges are provided and the activities are not hard. I hope you’ll enjoy some quality time with your kids this spring break (or this summer) as you put together rafts and sailboats, create a zippered pouch perfect for holding treasures like rocks and seashells, or build a zipline for Goldie the Engineer.

{A huge thanks to the local businesses that dreamed up these activities and provided instructions. Huck Finn School. Five Eighth Seams. Camp Perri. Education Station.}

Today’s spring break agenda for us includes taking a nature walk to find the ‘perfect’ sticks for building this raft.

Enjoy your spring break being crafty and making messes with the kids!

jessica

02-22-2016

The Downside of Everyday Access to God

To say that I put Ann Voskamp on a pedestal is putting it lightly.

Her words are balm to a battered soul and the poetic words found in One Thousand Gifts drastically altered how I view the good & the bad in my life.

So journey with me into my pretend world of make believe where I am spending tomorrow with author extraordinaire, Ann Voskamp. (Just keep reading – I promise I do have a point!)

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The night prior to my big day with Ann I can barely fall asleep, filled with excitement and elation at what the morrow holds. I’ve spent all day planning my wardrobe – most important, the boots I should wear because I’ve heard Ann loves boots (can you tell I obsess about her just a little?).

Bright and early the alarm rings and I feel the same as my five year old daughter on Christmas morn. The best gift ever is just around the corner and I’m on pins and needles as I wait for her to show up.

What will we talk about? Will we have anything in common? Will she be all that I imagine her to be?

Most of all I am filled with awe and wonder when I think about meeting her.

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Do I approach God’s throne with that same awe and wonder?

Has this personal relationship with Christ led me to humanize the Lord to where He is equal to common man? Is He simply my life coach and I expect Him to answer my every whim with a YES and then grumble incessantly when prayers aren’t answered the way I desire?

Do I begin the day with songs of praise and worship the grandeur that is His alone? Or do my prayers sound more like “God, if you could just…”.

Having constant {every.single.second of the day} access allows us to dumb down God and make Him far too common to humanity. As a result, I, base my perceptions of God on what He’s doing this personal moment for me instead of perceiving Him with awe & wonder that only the God of the universe is worthy of.

Whether it is a favorite musician, a famous actress, or an incredibly talented and creative chef, we put people on pedestals, viewing them through rose covered glasses. We do this so frequently, yet, we never realize how guilty we are of rarely {if ever} doing that with our God, the one who created the farthermost reaches of the cosmos down to the tiniest of microorganisms.

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God deserves our highest praise. He created a beautiful natural world when He could have chosen to make everything ugly. He condescends himself every day to have a relationship with man; knowing we can never bridge the gap and ascend out of our own efforts.

He comforts, He heals, He restores.

He is God. We are man. And He loves us.

What more reason do you need?

Praise God in his sanctuary; 
praise him in his mighty heavens!

Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

jessica

 

01-22-2016

Resolutions: Two Easy Steps to Help You Stop Overthinking and Analyzing Every.Single.Decision

If 2015 was the year of Be Still This Brain of Mine, I failed miserably.

When I began last year, all I wanted was to hush the analyzing chatter in my brain that is never more than a whisper’s breath away at any given moment.

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Last week, after a year of attempting to get outside my head, a light bulb moment occurred. I realized I simply need to stop thinking. Wow, I’m sure you are really impressed with my aahha moment, aren’t you?

But really, if you think about it, in order to stop analyzing – you have to be intentional in stopping your mind from constantly over thinking. It’s up to me whether I choose quietness or settle for over processing.

When I think about things constantly, there is no white space in my mind for blankness.
No time to be aware of all the goodness around me.

I desperately need white space so I can live presently in the moment I am in.

And that’s when I realized.
This constant over analyzing robs me of living presently in the moment.

And this present living is a gift.

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When I spend all my time fretting over the future or replaying frustrating moments in the past, I am not living in the moment. I’m not enjoying time with my children, I’m not engaged with my husband, and I’m not doing the job God’s given me to the best of my ability.

Sometimes that job might sound fun like playing on the floor with my kids but most often it’s the mundane that He wants me to be in the present moment of…the washing of dishes or when I’m wiping pee up off a bathroom floor.

When I stop analyzing about being a freelance writer while washing dishes and instead simply wash dishes, and look out at my surroundings – I see a beautiful cloud formation with beams of sunlight streaming through.

When I stop pondering how I’ll be able to accomplish my to-do list today, and instead focus on the task in front of me, I have infinite more patience to bend down and tie a shoe lace.

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I want to experience the joy of the present. And I want my kids to remember a mom who lived in the moment.

My friend Lindsay lost her mom recently and she says she misses most simply not having her mom around. It’s not the loss of words she spoke {though that’d be nice to have} or not having a mom around to help with kids. It’s simply the loss of not having her mom right here with her {whether in person or through a phone line} that makes her heart ache the most.

Isn’t it true that the greatest gift anyone can give you is the gift of their presence?
The gift of their living in the present moment with you.

But I can’t do that when I am stuck in this head of mine.

My resolution is nothing earth shattering and seems so simple on the outside. But if you’re anything like me, it will take constant awareness and intent to live in the current moment.

To start with, I’m trying to simply tackle the to-do list in front of me. Staying focused on the immediate not the future. {Step #1}

To not begin worrying and fretting over every concern I can create in this brain of mine. I’m tossing out the …”what should I be doing with my life” and trading it in for “focus on what is right in front of you”. I’m gonna stop obsessing over “which school to send my kid to in 5 years” and instead “focus on the homework and spelling words they need my help with at this very moment”.

To help ease my mind into this new approach, I am giving myself permission to worry and fret all I want from 8-9am every morning. {Step #2} If it isn’t that time of day, I simply remind myself that I can analyze over it the next morning. But after that allotted hour, I bank my concerns until the next day, and move on with what I truly need to be doing.

I learned this technique a few years ago during therapy and it saved me from the crazy thoughts going through my head at the time. Did you know, it is common, after losing someone to suicide that you begin to worry that you might commit suicide? Not because you want to – but because so many people say perhaps it was just an accident and you read that mental illness can suddenly become onset –  and you then wonder if one day you’ll wake up with mental illness and accidentally commit suicide too.

I couldn’t stop myself from worrying over this happening to me to. My therapist recommended that I compartmentalize my thoughts and for me, it really worked.

So I set aside time every day to worry. But more often than not, when 8am rolls around I’m busy getting my day started and I don’t even have the desire to fret and analyze.

So my hope for this year is to live presently in this moment, not worrying about the big picture.

When we live in the present we gift ourselves with the beauty found in our circumstances and the people right in front of us.  

jessica

 

 

 

Loving my kids at this moment.

01-11-2016

Why you should NEVER attempt a new recipe at Christmas

I hope that you & yours had a sweet celebration of Christmas and New Year’s.

Even though I enjoy the season of Christmas I always find myself gleeful come January, when it’s time to put away all those Christmas trappings. I’m a bit of a minimalist and limit how much decor we put up each December, but it still seems to take over the house. I am secretly thrilled when everything is boxed back up for another 11 months.

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This Christmas & New Year’s season I learned a vital lesson, that I’m really hoping I will remember in future years…

Don’t attempt a recipe for the first time at Christmas {or Thanksgiving or New Year’s}

Why is it, that we put all this pressure on ourselves {or maybe you are smarter than me and don’t do this to yourself!} to have an immaculately decorated house, perfectly selected gifts, and oh yes, amazing meals each time you find yourself at the table between December 24 & 25.

I could go on & on about my food failures over the last 4 weeks.

It all started when my husband came in from hunting the morning of Christmas Eve, took one look at my face and said “Did one of your recipes not work out?”

I lied.
I said, no, it’s all good.

In reality, the yet another failed attempt at gluten free cinnamon buns were already in the trash.
I should just give up trying to make them.
Every year I tell myself This Is The Year.
But really, I don’t think GOOD GF cinnamon buns exist.

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Then there were the gluten free pigs n’ a blanket I was planning for Christmas Eve.
I had already talked myself into being okay with barely edible gluten free crescent rolls.
I just needed GF lil’ sausages.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until Christmas Eve that only Wal-Mart carries them.
At least I made the wise decision to not go to Wal-Mart the day before Christmas.

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Then there were the the scalloped potatoes my husband requested for our Christmas lunch.
That couldn’t be too difficult, could it??
Well, when you don’t read the whole recipe until 30 minutes before Christmas lunch, you realize too late it will take an hour and a half to get them on the table.
And at that point, you are simply done. Mashed potatoes will do just fine.

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But the real cooking failure was…

The Christmas Ham literally tasted like mush.

Serious.
I’m actually not being dramatic at all!

And if I had just read the recipe well beforehand, I would have realized one major hiccup.

The recipe was for an UNCOOKED ham.
Uncooked requires quite a different recipe than a Cooked Ham.
Mostly, that an already cooked ham only needs heated up.
Nope, not thinking here on my part.

So what did I do??? Followed that recipe to the T!

Marinated that COOKED ham for 8 hours in pineapple juice {which breaks down the fibers in UNCOOKED ham} then I preceded to cook the COOKED ham for 2 hours.

Once again, it literally tasted like MUSH!

It was so bad, that my father in law drove back to their house to get their Christmas Eve ham leftovers.

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And yes, I know I may tend a bit towards the dramatic.
No one else cares that they didn’t have homemade cinnamon buns or had to eat mashed potatoes or eat leftover ham. But me, I care.

So next year, I’m going to go the route my friends suggests….
doughnuts {not homemade!!} and coffee for Christmas breakfast and a grocery store catered dinner.

But if you happen to have a cinnamon bun recipe that is GF, I’d love to have it.
Because as much as I’d like to say I won’t ever attempt them again, I’m simply a gluten for punishment.

I hope your cooking adventures fared much better than mine!

Happy New Year’s,

jessica

11-26-2015

Giving Thanks

When Ann Voskamp wrote One Thousand Gifts | A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are, she had no idea how well the timing of that book would intersect with the tragedy I was engulfed in.

Five years ago we lost a family member, a best friend, a brother to suicide.
Nothing could have prepared me for the intense grief that follows losing someone to suicide.
Nothing.

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Mired down in sadness while somehow trying to raise a baby and a toddling two year old, I’ll never forget the day my friend Lindsey suggested I read this new book she’d just finished…”Jessica, I really think this would help you process everything you’re going through.”

I am beyond thankful she gave me that suggestion, because that one book forever altered how I view life.
It altered why I give thanks in the first place.
It altered my relationship with God.

It goes deep, it challenges you.
From the first paragraph, Ann’s words grip you and forces you to question…

Do you only give thanks for the easy?
Do you solely thank God when goodness abounds and life looks perfect?

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I still wrestle with the giving thanks for tragedy. I thank God for the friends that never left our side during that period of our lives. It’s easy to thank God for getting you through a time of tough finances. But thank him for job loss? Thank him a pregnancy ended? Thank him a brother died?

Yeah, not easy, right??

But reading Ann’s prose on how God doesn’t say that every gift is wrapped up magically tight with a beautiful red ribbon..it pushes me to the boundaries of my faith and as a result my relationship with Christ grows to greater depth.

I don’t understand why God answers some prayers
but other prayers I’m left in silence
with only the call of a Whippoorwill to keep me company.

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But I do believe he’s called me to find things, IN EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE, to give him thanks for.

Hence, this morning I journaled #4,163 in my every growing list of things to be thankful for.

Giving thanks, every day, multiple times a day…keeping a list of gratitude…choosing to find the positive instead of getting caught up in the negative….these are the things that change your life…these are the day to day actions that pull you out of the muck & mire…

Giving thanks is a choice you make every. single. moment.
Every. Single. Day.
What will you choose?

jessica

11-03-2015

When You Don’t Want to Venture Out in the Rain to Vote

The rain pitter patters and then with gusto works its way up to a torrential downpour.

There’s dust on the ceiling fan and tomorrow when I wake, the fine matter of tiny particles will still exist in the same fashion they form today.

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The call of not leaving the comforts of a warm dry home.
The procrastinating pull of housework.
Dressing children just so they can run ramshackle through the lines of election.

All valid reasons why voting isn’t always your {or my} first priority.

But if you ever complain, even just one iota about the politicians in your town, in your state, in your nation….
then perhaps you should take it upon yourself to go vote today.

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For many of us, the matters which hit closest to home are those decisions determined by local leaders, town council members, and mayors. It’s not just the presidential election that is important.

So go vote. Share your voice. Select candidates who champion the causes you believe in.

jessica

 

11-01-2015

31 Days of Writing…I Did It!

I can’t believe it, but I wrote for 31 days straight!!

There were a few days I missed…I even skipped yesterday which should have been the easiest post ever since it was simply a wrap up. But spending time with my husband, hiking with the kids, chatting with a sister, walking with a friend…

…Real life, real relationships will always be more important to me than any blog post.

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The biggest thing I learned from this challenge was I really enjoy writing.

It’s lit a fire in me to write more often and has increased my confidence in writing ‘deep’ pieces.

The challenge has encouraged me to read non fiction because I would like my blog posts to be more than just my thoughts.

And as a result of the challenge, I am beginning freelance writing!

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Thank you for reading my writings and all the encouraging and supportive words you’ve shared!
I hope my blog encourages, inspires, and challenges you to be your best self.

jessica

10-30-2015

When I Want to Solve The Worlds Problems but God Wants Me To Pray About Them

This week my heart has been heavy as I’ve been studying the topic of social injustice {for me, it’s the humanitarian crisis of the refugees} and what the Bible says we are to do about it.

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I guess it’s hard because as much as I get that serving those around you {your husband, your kids, your neighbors} is JUST AS IMPORTANT as serving the refugees…

I still have a tug on my heart to serve the refugees. I WANT TO DO SOMETHING.

Not just give money. Not just pray. But do something tangible.

The resounding answer though that keeps coming back time and again is PRAY.

But as a friend recently said, “I don’t want to wait. I don’t want to meditate. I don’t want patience.”

But maybe that praying part is where I am supposed to be right now.
As I study in Nehemiah, he waited. He waited for months before asking the king for help. He pondered things in his heart before attacking the problem at hand. He waited and he prayed.

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Dear God,
Help me be content to meditate and consider the problems at hand. Because as I wait and ponder, I recognize that more powerful contributions are made when problems are tackled with Godly wisdom rather than mere human knowledge. And Lord, I am trusting that one day YOU WILL call me to action. You will show me the path I need to traverse. But for now, I pray that you would help me understand and discern the problem at hand. And I pray that when the time is right, when the opportunity is right in front of me, you would make me be bold to serve.

“For I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me….
As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:36&40

jessica

 

{Day 30 of #write31days. I can’t believe how quickly this month has gone.}

10-27-2015

Roasted Potato Salad with Balsamic Tarragon Dressing

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This is the perfect side dish for a potluck meal, covered dish gathering, outdoor fall get together. It’s got the best texture and taste…crispy potatoes and bacon, velvety smooth potato interiors, and a sweet twangy dressing to finish it off!

Finding a potato salad that someone allergic to gluten and eggs can eat is not an easy feat. Plus, who doesn’t want a more healthy potato salad than the mayonnaise loaded version we normally settle for.

This potato salad is anything but settling. It is perfect!

Recipe Tips
If you have a convection oven, I recommend using that to ensure both sides are crispy. The easiest trick I’ve found for turning roasting potatoes is to use a fork. Test out one potato first. If it flips easily, without leaving half the crust on the roasting pan, then they are ready to be flipped. If it doesn’t easily turn over, put the potatoes back in the oven for another 5 minutes and try again.
If you use two roasting pans to bake these at the same time, make sure to swap out the baking sheets halfway through cooking time…i.e…your top baking sheet needs to go on the bottom rack halfway through and the bottom baking sheet needs to move to the top so it doesn’t spend all the time in the bottom of the oven which is normally hotter than near the top.

Roasted Potato Salad with Balsamic Tarragon Dressing

  • Potato Ingredients
  • 4 lbs red potatoes
  • 1 TBSP garlic powder
  • 1 TBSP onion powder
  • 2 TBSP paprika
  • 2 tsp dried tarragon
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • Dressing Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 1 TBSP dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon {sub in dried if that is all you have}
  • Final Ingredients
  • 5 pieces of bacon, cooked and finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped scallions/green onions

Heat Oven to 450 degrees {Heat to 425 degrees if using convection}

Cut potatoes into roughly 2" chunks.

Place cut potatoes into a zipper topped bag {you may need to use 2 bags and split the ingredients in half}.

Add the spices {garlic powder through the sea salt} and the 3 TBSP olive oil. Shake well to coat the potatoes generously.

Place on a baking sheet {once again, you may need to use 2 baking sheets to get the potatoes roasted at one time}.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, flipping the potatoes after an initial 20 minutes of baking. {see note above}

Once potatoes are roasted through and have a nice browning on both sides, remove from oven and place in a serving bowl along with the chopped bacon and scallions.

In a separate bowl or glass jar, whisk together the dressing ingredients until well combined.

Right before serving potato salad, pour dressing over the salad and toss well to combine.

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Enjoy!

jessica