Paella Problems

So last weekend I woke up with a wild hair to make Paella. I’ve never done it and was feeling a craving for some seafood.  I knew enough that I needed a paella pan. So off to T.J. Maxx Home I went. And as luck would have it, they had a paella pan for $20.

Next stop, Kroger to get the seafood and other yummy ingredients.  My family isn’t huge on mussels, but I needed some for the broth and visual. They were sold by the pound and the seafood counter had a big bag of them.  When I asked the clerk for six mussels, he told me he couldn’t break the bag.  10 minutes later the store manager arrived and really couldn’t provide a good reason for not breaking the bag to sell me six mussels. Unfortunately I had to pull my “corporate office” card to get him to do it.  It was a coaching moment. I explained to him how our customers are expecting great service when they come to our stores and our associates need to feel empowered to satisfy them using Principle Based judgement.  His role as store management is to set the tone that within reason, they can take care of the customer and the store leadership will provide feedback on whether or not the decision made was a good one.  Hopefully the next customer wanting a handful of mussels will walk away smiling.

Everything was going as planned in the kitchen. The smells and sights were everything I expected. I watched a tutorial online at and learned about soccarat which they describe as “the bottom layer of rice yields a golden caramelized crust, called socarrat, you know you’ve reached the pinnacle of paella greatness.” My mission was to get a good layer of socarrat. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful and ended up burning the bottom of the rice and the dish.  Luckily, there was enough salvageable rice to enjoy the meal anyway …. just no socarrat.

Paella pans are thin by design so I’m not surprised I burned the rice.  The bottom of the pan was scorched.  So, I soaked it in ammonia for a few days to loosen the charred layer.  To my surprise, when I started scrubbing, a layer of pan disintegrated exposing metal. Pan ruined.  What’s a woman to do? Go online and purchase a REAL paella pan.  And that I did.  Stay tuned to find out how my next attempt goes. Hopefully I will be able to achieve this masterpiece.



June 23, 2017 at 5:44 pm Leave a comment

Savory Vacation Memories

The other day I realized how long it had been since I posted on my blog. Believe me, there’s been plenty of food  created and consumed between the time I relocated to the present.  I’ve neglected my journaling duties, and for that I’m regretful. I love reading back and reminiscing over the amazingness I’ve created and/or experienced.  So with that, I now resume.

Fast forward from relocation temporary housing to very much settled in our new home in Northern Kentucky.  My most recent foodie experience was on vacation in the eastern Caribbean. We visited Honduras, Belize, Cozumel, and Costa Maya with two other couples near and dear to our heart.  While the food on the ship was acceptable, the cuisine experienced on the islands was ridiculous.

My mother is friends with the curator of the resort at Paya Bay in Honduras. For $85 per person they pick you up at the pier and deliver you to their secluded resort 45 minutes on the other side of the island.  We were greeted with a watermelon cocktail and an appetizer of bean dip with fried plantains. I’ve since found a bean dip that mirrors the flavors we experienced called Authentic Desert Pepper Black Bean Dip (spicy). And I also found a Hispanic grocery to purchase fried plantains.


To our surprise, a quick storm blew through which cooled the hot air off nicely.


Next we were escorted to our “room for the day” that we could use to shower, change, or relax.  And then came the amazing lunch. We had a choice of chicken, shrimp or lobster for a small upcharge. I chose the lobster and was pleasantly surprised with the largest tail I’ve ever had.  The fresh vegetables were scrumptious and the baked potato cooked to perfection.  Dessert was cheese cake or key lime pie. Half the party ordered one and the other half ordered the other so we all got to sample the deliciousness. I was so high on the lobster, I neglected to take a picture.  Forgive me.

After lunch, half of our party received massages on the yoga pavilion nestled in the jungle above the resort with a stunning ocean view between the trees.  The other half of our party enjoyed cocktails on the “naturalist” beach on the shore below the resort. A few of us relaxed and others enjoyed the blue water and waves.  We all kept our clothes on, but enjoyed the vain man who felt the need to stand up and slowly reapply his suntan lotion. Thankfully, his body wasn’t hard on the eyes!

In Belize we went on a rum tasting and cultural show excursion.  While no food was consumed, the different varieties of rum was a treat.

Our next edible experience was in Costa Maya  My husband and I took the day without the other couples to find a resort my mother recommended called National Beach Club a short cab ride from the pier.  My husband ordered the chicken and I ordered …. wait for it … lobster.  I know.  I love the the stuff and can’t help myself.  OMG. Yes again, another huge tail. The sides were amazing. My husband’s chicken came with a perfectly cooked chorizo on top.  We were in Caribbean heaven.

After lunch, my husband got a massage on the beach under the palm trees. I sun bathed in a hammock INSIDE the gentle waves of the ocean.  My torso was covered in the clear blue warm water, and my legs, arms, and face got golden brown in the sun.  If I could bottle that moment, I could make a million.

In Costa Maya we did a tequila tasting, museum, and cultural show. The fed us amazing tacos. But the best part was learning about tequila at a whole new level. AND discovering a mango spicy margarita.  OMG, who knew that adding liquid Tajin and Tajin seasoning to the rim would be so scrumptious. I have since duplicated this recipe several times since we’ve been home. A new favorite for sure. The sweet mango and spicy seasoning is to die for.


My recreation: IMG_0139

Our last foodie experience to remember was stateside. We disembarked around 9am and our plane didn’t leave until 7pm.  A couple we met invited us to hang with us at their hotel near the airport. A short Uber ride later landed us at the EB Hotel Miami. Stunning facility. Their executive room was top notch with rain showers, sleep number king size bed, and a full seating area.  Rates were reasonable too.  I will definitely be staying there the next time we are in Miami.  The hotel restaurant is called Miranda. My husband had a club sandwich, and I had salmon with an Asian sauce. Delightful!


Our vacation was so amazing, the week after I wore white every day, played Caribbean music, and cooked island food. I didn’t want the glow to wear off. Here’s a meal I cooked the weekend after we got home. Lobster tails … did you expect anything else?




September 7, 2016 at 8:41 pm Leave a comment

Sweet Torture

Well I’m finally settled in my temporary housing in Cincinnati, Ohio. The apartment is awesome. It’s a complex snuggled between the Red’s and the Bengal’s stadiums in the heart of downtown. There’s a plethora of retail establishments within walking distance. The weekend nights turn out loads of people enjoying the venues. We’ve had several days of nice weather since I arrived last week. These days afford me the opportunity to open the windows and patio doors to let fresh air in.

Oh but the Sweet Torture of it. Around 5pm the scrumptious aroma of Ruth’s Chris steak house gently glides in my windows. If you’ve never eaten at a Ruth’s Chris restaurant, I highly recommend you treat yourself on your very next special occasion. I’m a frugal foodie and get heartburn spending top dollar on a prime steak that I can prepare just as good on my charcoal grill. But, there’s something special about the Ruth Chris experience. I’ve been afforded several opportunities to indulge. Not only are the steaks mouth-watering and extra tender, but the shrimp cocktails are like eating shrimp steaks; so thick and firm while flavorful. Ruth Chris

So since I can’t indulge myself on the company dime, I settled for a ribeye from another eatery around the corner. The meat was decent. The leftovers were better. I sliced them up, pan sautéed them in a small pad of butter and Kroger Brand Grill Time seasoning. I use this seasoning on more than just beef. I’ve grilled onions, garlic, shrimp and olive oil with it. Zucchini and onions grilled with it is delicious too. And don’t limit yourself to the grill; stove top cooking in the dead of winter gets a spectacular boost with Grill Time! Spring is just around the corner, I’m sure this 3.4oz jar I bought for my temporary living apartment won’t last long.

Grill Time

March 15, 2014 at 8:55 pm Leave a comment

Alone; Time to Indulge Me

It’s not often I get an entire Saturday to myself. Well the stars aligned this weekend. Husband took a group of boys to Orlando, FL to the Nike SPARQ Combine and Daughter went to Atlanta for a Volleyball Tournament. I stayed behind to start getting myself ready for the big move up North.

The morning started with deep cleaning the kitchen, three loads of laundry (folded while watching the movie Hitch), an afternoon trip to the mall to get my hair cut (and scoop a few “me” purchases), and then an evening of culling my closet.

In between all that activity a girl’s gotta eat. So I dug out a bag of shrimp from the freezer, chopped up some cilantro and fresh onion, and added them to Campbell’s Thai Tomato Coconut Soup. A bit of fresh lime squeezed on top at serving made for a delicious afternoon treat.

Thai Tomato SoupMy family loves my food, but they don’t like to adventure too far out of familiar flavors. They’ll eat it, but don’t LOVE it like I do. Thai flavors are some of my favorites. I love having a shortcut with the prepared bisque Campbell’s offered. I whipped this treat up in less than 30 minutes (most time spent was defrosting/peeling shrimp and chopping veggies). If I would have made the soup from scratch I would have invested at least a hour an a half. Nothing wrong with short cuts if the end product is delightful.

Dinner was not so adventurous. but noteworthy if you’re a wing fan. Kentucky fried chicken has fried hot wings on their menu. Order them and ask for them to be dunked in their honey BBQ sauce. A side of potato wedges will round out the spicy treat. 

Overall great day. Hubby made it home safe and sound; with a speeding ticket in hand. Gotta love it! Daughter will be home tomorrow. What will I prepare for Sunday dinner?

February 8, 2014 at 11:47 pm Leave a comment

Guest Blogger: Daughter Brooklynn Collier

Hi, I’m Brooklynn, Sugar-Free Foodie’s daughter. I tend to be quite picky with the food and flavors I eat. So when my mom asked me to try her Key Lime Pie, I was reluctant. Never being a fan of the tart flavor, I suspected hers would be like every other I’d tried. But, after tasting it, I was quite shocked with my appreciation for the pie. I was pleasantly pleased by tolerable tartness balanced by surprising sweetness. Hers seemed to be the only Key Lime Pie I’ve tried that was more sweet than tart.

A few weeks later I was craving to have the taste in my mouth again. I asked my mom if she could make me one and she told me she wouldn’t make it, but would gladly talk me through it while I prepared the pie. I have now learned how to fully make it myself. I’ll even surprise her every once in a while and make her one out of the blue. I enjoy doing little things like making her an occasional pie. and it helps that she can only eat small portions, making it last longer for the rest of us.
Here’s her recipe:

Pre-made Keebler deep graham cracker pie crust

8 oz cream cheese (room temp for 2 hours)
7 TBSP Splenda
¼ tsp Stevia plus
1/8 tsp Stevia
½ Cup Key Lime juice
¼ tsp lime zest
1 packet unflavored Gelatin
1 Cup Heavy Cream

1. Heat ½ cup lime juice and lemon zest for 2 minutes in microwave
2. Wisk in packet of gelatin until fully dissolved. Set aside until no longer hot to touch (5-10 minutes)
3. Chill bowl and beaters, then beat cream, add 1/8 tsp Stevia, into stiff peaks. Put in refrigerator until called for in recipe.
4. Beat cream cheese with mixer until smooth
5. Add 7 TBSP Splenda and ¼ tsp Stevia
6. Add lime juice mixture to cheese and beat cheese mixture until smooth, and a pudding like texture. (if more thickening is needed put bowl of mixture into an ice bath)

[If you desire a less tart more sweet pie, add additional Splenda at this point]

7. Stir in Whipped Cream mixture until consistent texture.
8. Scrape filling into pie crust
9. Chill in refrigerator 3-4 Hours (Pie will keep at least 3 days in refrigerator)
10. Garnish with additional Whipped cream or lemon zest if desired.
11. Serve and Enjoy!

August 25, 2013 at 8:27 pm Leave a comment

Uncle Buddy’s Piccata

My Uncle Buddy (Wayne) makes the absolute best Chicken Piccata. It truly is restaurant quality. My favorite Piccata from a restaurant is Salmon Piccata from Maggiano’s. Living in Albany, Georgia doesn’t afford me the luxury of popping over to Maggiano’s whenever I’m needing a fix. And Uncle Buddy was living in Florida and is now in Chicago, so he’s not an option either. I’ve tried several online recipes and none ever hit the mark.

So during my last trip to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, Mom and Uncle Buddy were over at my sister’s visiting from out of town and I asked Buddy to make Piccata so I could get a fix before I went home the next morning. He indulged me. I watched closely as he whipped through the recipe he uses from As I watched intently I realized he did a few things the recipe didn’t call for. He poured the caper juice into the lemon juice and then he lightly diced the capers. I suspect this gives the Piccata an extra kick of flavor before you actually bite into a caper. The other important part is keeping the “yum-yum” from the chicken pan. Brooklynn and I call the browned flour crust left at the bottom of the pan when browning meat “yum-yum”.

Brooklynn and I went home after our Cincy trip and attempted Piccata the very next weekend. And what do you know, it turned out exactly like Uncle Buddy’s. I’m proud and excited to share the recipe here for my family, friends, and very few internet followers. It’s quick easy, not a ton of prep work, and absolutely delicious. We serve it over Basmati rice pilaf sauteed in butter before cooking. By the way, the ONLY white rice I cook in my house is Basmati. If you still use regular white rice you are missing out on the best tasting starch God created.

Here’s the Chicken Piccata recipe as posted on the internet: Frugal Gourmet’s Chicken Piccata

Remember to use the juice from the caper jar, lightly dice the capers, and use the “yum-yum” in the bottom of your chicken pan.

Thank you Uncle Buddy and Enjoy.


Frugal Gourmet’s Chicken Piccata

1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
2 tablespoons chicken stock (optional)

Saute onions, garlic and scallions in olive oil until tender. Remove from pan and set aside.
Remove skins and bones from chicken and pound flat. Mix flour, salt and pepper and place in a flat bowl. Dip chicken pieces into flour and lightly brown them in butter, 2-3 minutes per side.
Add sauteed onions and garlic. Over high heat, add sherry, lemon juice and capers. This should thicken to make a nice gravy for the chicken. If gravy becomes too thick, add some chicken stock.

August 25, 2013 at 7:37 pm Leave a comment

Pleasing Your Spouse

Anyone that has hung out with me and my husband knows one of our core beliefs (outside of God) is meeting each others needs. Early in our marriage we read Dr. Harley’s principles of His Needs Her Needs at . The concepts basically say that couples who strive to meet each others needs affair-proof their marriage. They key in all this is understanding what the other needs. My husband knows I love being pampered and surprised. This week he surprised me with roses and a drawn hot bath with rose petals after a long day at work.

bath surprise









So my surprise to him this week… Making his favorite corn salsa. I’ve posted this recipe before. He absolutely loves this stuff and can eat a double batch in less than a week. I wish you could have been there when he came home after a day at the church and football tossing with our son to see me in the kitchen dicing all of the fresh veggies that make up the scrumptious concoction. He literally dropped his drink when he saw the red and orange peppers, jalapeño peppers, cilantro, and basil on the counter. These simple veggies, a bottle and a half of Kroger Zesty Italian Dressing, lime juice, canned corn and black beans make the most amazing healthy snack food. It’s an easy recipe, just time consuming to get the veggies prepared.

I delight in making him happy. Seeing the smile on his face makes my heart leap with joy. Find your spouse’s favorite food and whip it up for him or her as a surprise this week. It’ll do your heart and marriage some good.


January 6, 2013 at 5:37 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts


I'm Natalie and so glad you stopped in.

January 29, 2008 changed my life forever. Before that day I weighed a whopping 292 lbs. Today I'm at a very slender 145 lbs. (in a size 6 jean!). The gastric bypass I received that day gave me a new lease on life. With that new lease came a commitment to a new eating lifestyle; moderation and plenty of protein. One of the neat side effects is my very low tolerance for sugar.

I've always loved food and knew I would be challenged to find satisfaction without the sugar. Over the past three years I've created some masterpieces of both savory and sugar free foods. Guests to our home are always asking for my recipes.

On this blog I plan to share many recipes I've found and in many cases modified. Some are high-jacked others are creations or family recipes. I will do my level best to give credit to the originators of any high-jacked recipes.

All recipes are sugar free. None are fat free! I have a saying, "If you can't have sugar, bring on the butter!"

I will also share awesome restaurant discoveries as I find them. Many times I attempt to recreate them at home.

So feel free to high-jack recipes from my blog. Recreate the magic in your home, and enjoy the food with family and friends. Cherish the moments with them because tomorrow is not promised.


Recent Posts

Subscribe and never miss a post

Join 1,221 other followers

How much do they really love my recipes?

  • 1,012 vists to my blog

%d bloggers like this: