IMG 15361This was the start of last night’s tasty dinner of stuffed peppers.


Moving right along from the previous post which dealt with a somewhat heavy, slightly controversial, blended family issue, this post will instead focus on something universally enjoyed by all – FOOD! That way we can all be friends again.

This is the beginning of a series which will target all things food related. I hope you join me as I digress about one of my favorite topics and how this life giving source generally plays out in Ronne world. This specific post highlights why I cook most of our family’s meals, and the next few posts will explain some of my go to recipes/go to products/ and go to budget savers for families of all sizes.

For starters, I enjoy cooking which is a good thing because I have to cook – a lot – or we wouldn’t eat much. It would cost us a substantial amount of money to feed the family if we bought convenience products for the majority of our meals. I cook most of our meals from scratch, and admittedly, I do spend a significant amount of time in the kitchen; however, if I didn’t have a baby, and if I didn’t have the current mindset of a two year where very little can keep my attention for more than five minutes, (super multi-tasking mom syndrome where absolutely nothing ever truly gets completed), I could probably cook most of the family’s meals with a good one or two hours invested in the kitchen each morning. I have also discovered some fabulous short cuts which often include my fourteen year old bread maker and my “can’t live without” Kitchen Aid mixer, but I’ll cover those items later in a different post.

I cook for a number of reasons.

One, it’s relaxing. Around 5:00 p.m. most days I turn on Johnny Cash radio via Pandora, have a glass of my special wine connection, 1/3 coconut water, 1/3 pure cranberry juice, and a splash of white wine (my health/breastfeeding mother justification) shoo the children and the man out of my way, and sink into relaxation mode for about thirty minutes – tops.

Second, I cook because I am a bit of a health nut. This aspect of my personality has slowly matured and developed throughout the years. I have a need to know personality in many aspects of life, and for the most part I need to know what is in the food I serve my family and how is it going to affect our health. By cooking I have some control over the process of keeping us healthy (at least I think I do). We are also able to eliminate as many chemicals/preservatives/junk as possible through growing our own food and therefore, cooking our own food.

The health advocate aspect of my personality began with my upbringing. My parents weren’t obsessive about what we ate, but we grew up with very limited pop/soda/coke (wherever you are reading that word in the world) and I still have zero cavities at 38 years old to prove it. We were offered occasional sweets – especially processed sweets like candy and Twinkies, and our sugar intake mainly consisted of homemade baked goods. Our diet also involved daily fresh fruits, veggies, and yogurt. My parents raised 12 children – 8 biological and 4 adopted. Not one of us has any major health issues, (as far as I know), and I credit that largely with how we were raised in terms of our diet (PROPS Mom and Dad – but mostly Mom).

My concern with food and how it affects our health continued with the birth of Lucas as I researched all of the potential ways to keep him as healthy as possible in spite of his dire prognosis. The research heightened again with my late husband’s battle with brain cancer as I sought out alternative cancer options and methods to keep him healthy through chemo and radiation treatments. My interest in a healthy lifestyle has peaked here in Tennessee as Ryan and I (yes, amazingly the man who lived off of Hamburger Helper and Pop Tarts when I met him is just as equally invested in this life style as I am) pursue ways and food options to maintain our vibrancy and energy (that’s funny even as I write it) as we age with 8 young children, keep those children healthy as they grow, and enjoy our life as much as possible by eliminating the health problems that we can at least control to some extent.

Third, I cook because I’m a bit of a foodie. Growing up I was exposed to a number of food varieties, and honestly, I hated the brussel sprouts, red cabbage, and spaghetti squash when they were placed in front of me at the dinner table. I’m still not a huge fan of any of those vegetables and wouldn’t pick them if they were options, but I have developed a tolerance for them because of the exposure. These experiences have created a woman who truly enjoys numerous food textures and varieties when it comes to what I will ingest.

Fourth reason is somewhat in line with number three. I am a foodie who lives in the middle of nowhere, and our options for my food obsession are incredibly limited. Initially this lack of options was really troubling to me. Now, I’ve gotten used to it and learned that if I have a hankering for a particular food, I need to make it. So, I do. I research and pin and devour sites like All Recipes, and I eventually get pretty close to what the restaurants offer. And I know exactly what’s in whatever concoction I place in front of my family and that’s a great feeling.

Stay tuned. Next week I’ll share my absolute, can’t live without products in the kitchen.

Help Me Please!

I have an important decision to make.  The family picture on the blog is obviously outdated.  For example, the children are much bigger, bossier, and more opinionated at this stage in our life than their dear, sweet, little souls were four years ago.  I’ve embraced my roots, (as in hair) and I’m not as blond.  Ryan is looking more distinguished with the scattered gray specks which gracefully dot his head and facial hair these days. Last but not least, we have been incredibly blessed with another beautiful child, Annabelle Ryan, and she definitely needs to be given her rightful place on the blog. 

 I’m asking for help today.  I have six picture options from our fun/stressful/glad it’s over picture day.  I would love for some thoughts on which photo is your favorite and/or best exemplifies jessplusthemess.  I love them all so I’d like some constructive feedback here. 

 Either shout out your favorite number in the comments/ Facebook / or Twitter – whatever, just help me please! 




















Just Keep Livin!