Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Skills I Probably Shouldn't Learn

Last week, Sarge and I went out for lunch at a local Mexican place.  There are a lot of Mexican restaurants in the area, but we had not been to this one yet.  One of the things the Sarge got on his lunch special was a crispy taco.  He really liked it...I mean REALLY liked it, so I thought that I might try at making them.  

So today I have shredded beef cooking away in the crock-pot for tacos tonight, and figured I would pull out my electric skillet and try my hand at making them.  

While I was at it, I thought it would be the perfect time to try and make some fried mushrooms from a recipe that I had been wanting to try for a while.  

So I started with the tortillas do those little buggers puff up!!!  The first one was not too good, but the second looked better.  Then I dropped a couple of mushrooms in the batter and plopped them in the oil.  It was already hot after all... :)  They turned out pretty good!  

Hmmm...what else do I have that I can fry.  Ahh, how about some pickles!  Yep, those taste pretty good too, and so did the mozzarella stick that I battered and fried.  

I did one more flour tortilla to make sure that I knew what I was doing...and hey, we have some corn tortillas, maybe those will work too...

Needless to say, I am hoping someone gets home quick so I don't have to eat all this myself!!! 

Great way to spend a cold and rainy day... :)

Oh, and here is the recipe for the Shredded Beef Tacos.  My house smells divine!   It is from the Crockin' Girls Website (

Slow Cooked Shredded Beef Tacos

1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Pounds Beef
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin
1/2 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1 Cup Beef Stock
1-2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 Chipotle Pepper in adobe sauce
1/2 Large Sweet Onion, diced
3-4 Cloves Garlic, minced
Flour Tortillas
Favorite Taco Toppings

Step One - Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat.
Step Two - Meanwhile, combine the chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika in a small bowl.
Step Three - Rub the spice mix into the beef, covering each side evenly.
Step Four - Once the oil is hot (it will shimmer a bit in the skillet), place the beef in the skillet and sear on each side.

Step Five - Remove the beef from the skillet and place in the bottom of a slow cooker.
Step Six - Leave the pan on the heat, and add in the beef stock to deglaze, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Step Seven - Add the tomato paste and minced chipotle and whisk into the pan sauce.
Step Eight - Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly.

Step Nine - Add the diced onion and minced garlic on top of the seared beef in the slow cooker.
Step Ten - Pour the pan sauce down over the onions, garlic, and beef.
Step Eleven - Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Step Twelve - Remove the beef from the slow cooker and shred with two forks. Use a slotted spoon to remove the onions from the slow cooker, and mix into the shredded beef.

Step Thirteen - Serve the beef in the flour tortillas, topped with your favorite taco toppings.
Some topping ideas include: guacamole or avocado fresh salsa Mexican rice grated cheese fresh lettuce tomato onion cilantro squeeze of lime juice

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hello?? Did You Miss Me???

Hi all,
Wow, it sure has been a long time since I have been here.  Let me see if I can get you caught up on what has been happening in the household....

The Sarge is in the process of retiring from the military after 26 years of service.  Hard to believe that it has been that long.  It is a little unsettling with everything up in the air right now.  We are excited for him to be finally getting out, but until he has something else lined up, nervous as well.

Thing One graduated from HS last June and is currently attending Texas A&M University, Whoop!!! He is a member of the Corps of Cadets and is in the Fightin Texas Aggie Band.  He is incredibly busy, but seems to be doing real well.  He did earn his Eagle rank in Boy Scouts, which we are really proud of him for finishing.

Thing Two is a Sophomore in high school this year.  She has spent this past fall marching with the band and preparing for region band auditions coming up soon.  She has also been very involved in the Church.  She spends 4 evenings a week there and helps teach on Sunday mornings.  Free time is a precious commodity right now for her.

Thing Three is in eighth grade already!  I think last we had spoken, she was still in gymnastics, but that went by the wayside about a year and a half ago.  She decided that it was not what she wanted to be doing.  That summer I signed her up for diving lessons (combining her love for the water with her gymnastics skills) and it was a hit.  She did the class, went to the camp and joined the team.  She is now beginning her second season with them and loving all the work.  She is also helping with one of the RE classes on Sunday mornings at Church.

My mom is currently somewhere in the far east (Asia) cruising from port to port with a bunch of Genealogist.  I love seeing her do things for herself.  She will be gone for 4 weeks, which is a really long time in my books.  While she is gone, and with Thing One at college, meals are becoming hit or miss with the girls schedules. 

Tonight will be leftovers...we have plenty.  One of the items in our stockpile is a wonderful soup that I made in the crockpot.   It is very similar to a family treasure, called Stuffed Pepper Soup.  This makes such a good sized amount, that I was able to freeze half in a ziplock bag for another meal.  Enjoy!!!

2 Pounds Ground beef
1 Med Onion
1 Box Zatarans dirty rice mix
4 Green Peppers, chopped
4 Cups Beef broth
1 (28 oz) Can tomato sauce
1 (28 oz) Can diced tomatoes with garlic & onions
1/4 Cup sugar
1 Teaspoon ground pepper
1 & 1/2 Teaspoons salt
4 cloves of garlic chopped
1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese/optional

Step One - In a skillet brown the ground beef with the onion and drain off the fat.
Step Two - Put the ground beef and onions in the crock. Add the rest of the ingredients except the Parmesan cheese and stir.
Step Three - Cook on low 8-10 hours. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over soup. Serve with corn bread or crackers. 

This recipe was orginally taken from the Crockin' Girls website: 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Scampi on over here little guys...

Ahh...Friday's in Lent.  I was never a big fish person growing up.  I know my parents fixed halibut in foil packs with lemon,butter and dill, but the majority of what I remember was fish sticks and breaded filets.  I did feed those to the kids when they were younger, but Sarge did not seem fond of them, and quickly started looking forward to Lent as a reason for him to find new meatless recipes to try.

One of the first things that he started making was Shrimp Scampi.  I had tasted it before, and had decided that it was pretty good.  Of course being a young married couple, we could not afford to go out for Scampi (especially when our first duty station was in Brooklyn, NY, and our second was in San Francisco).  I think the first time I made it was a frozen package from Contesso, where the shrimp were actually frozen with the scampi seasoning "glued" to it.

Sarge had to figure out what all seasonings needed to be added to it.  Let me tell you, this is one of those occasions where you wish you had smell though the computer.  So far I can tell you that there is butter (yes, I said butter), onion, red bell pepper, lots of garlic, a little olive oil, and seasonings.  It smells fabulous when it starts heating up.

In the meantime, unless you have the ability to purchase fresh shrimp, these little guys need to be bathing in some cool running water to defrost. I tend to purchase the medium size shrimp for our family.  The small ones seem to get lost in the pasta, but if you go too large it seems like it is off balance the other way.  I guess size of shrimp does tend to be personal preference.  These were uncooked, deveined, peeled shrimp with tail on.  I personally prefer the tail off, but could not find them uncooked. :(

Once the pasta is pretty much ready, then these little guys get to go for a bath in the yummy seasonings.  They only take a couple of minutes for them to be cooked through, but it is sure worth it. :)

I tend to use this cooking time to heat bread to go along with the meal, and maybe prep a salad.  For me, prepping a salad means opening a bag and putting them in dishes, but every once in a while I will do something more.

Then you put the pasta in the pan with the shrimp and the sauce.  Stir it so it comes together nicely, and you are do

Monday, March 18, 2013

Breakfast for Monkeys!!!

Thing One has been having "the guys" over for a gaming all nighter for a couple of years now.  Not that it is on a regular basis, but once every couple of months he will ask if "the guys" can come over.  It usually requires me to have some snacks on hand and surrender the living and dining room for the evening.  They play on the game system, as well as play role playing games, and eat.

Recently Things Two and Three asked if they could have overnights and have the same privilege.  I am happy that they want to have friends over, so I gladly say yes as long as it is okay with Sarge.  We picked two nights, back to back, for them to have their friends over.  Originally it was supposed to be nights when Sarge did not have to be at work the next day, but being that he is a bugler, he was called in to work. :(

When Thing One has "the guys" over, it means chips, salsa, soda, and hot wings.  Then I get to figure out something for breakfast that they will eat.  That can be a challenge.  Even though they are "the guys" sometimes they can be pretty picky.

Before Baking

Thing Two was much easier, chips, soda, mozzarella sticks and for breakfast, monkey bread with orange juice.  Can you believe that I have never maid monkey bread?  I went with the easy Pillsbury recipe for this time, but have already decided on changes that I will make for future endeavors.

After Baking
Such a simple recipe, I had to laugh when one of the girls said she set off the smoke detector when she tried to make it.  Take tubes of biscuits (recommended not the flaky type) and cut each biscuit into quarters.  I decided to lay them out in 2 lines of 5 on a cutting board and ran my pizza cutter through them.  turn them and do it again.  Put sugar and cinnamon in a zip lock bag.  Shake the piece in the sugar mixture and put them in a greased bundt pan.  Repeat this for 3 more tubes of biscuits.  I bought the small 4 pack, and it seemed to work well.

Inverted on Plate

Melt a stick of butter and add 3/4 cup packed brown sugar to it. Pour the mixture over the top.  Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.  Invert it onto a dish and serve.

I think next time, I will make the following changes to the recipe:

1. I will use my cinnamon roll dough recipe for my bread maker.  I think it will make a sweeter dough recipe.   I will just have to allow for the dough to rise.

2.  This recipe was for a caramel sauce.  I think it was pretty good, but  I will try adding some Karo syrup to the butter and brown sugar mixture.  It will make it a little bit gooier and mix a little bit better.

3.  I might try and put some of the mixture throughout the layers, but not sure if that will help or not.

4.  If I want to be real decadent, I might add some pecan pieces throughout it...Caramel Pecan Monkey Bread!!!

Thing Three will be the easiest of the three.  Soda and chips for the evening, and Orange Juice and Chocolate Chip Muffins for breakfast.  Life is good!!!  :)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Family Chest

By nature, I am not a writer.  I do not feel comfortable writing about our family quite as much as it may seem.  But by having this blog has forced me to write more about us...currently meals that we share as a family.  It has been difficult to write lately, because we have been eating mostly the same foods.  Spring break is currently upon us, and the kids are enjoying the time away from all of their activities (so is Mom, don't cha know!)

So today, I pulled out a family recipe from the our chest of recipes for us to fix.  Growing up, during the summer, my parents had a home garden more often than not.  They did not grow everything in the garden,, but I do remember tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.  Sarge remembers pretty much the same things, however I do remember them growing corn at least once.

With a surplus of bell peppers, we fixed stuffed peppers as a way of using some of the surplus of vegetables.    Brown some ground beef with onions and chopped bell pepper (I just chopped the tops of the peppers that I opened).  Add diced tomato and cooked rice.  Fill the peppers.  I always have extra filling which I scoop into the pan around the peppers.  Top the peppers with cheese and throw in the oven for about a half hour.

This time, I made a couple of changes, based on what I had on hand.  I used rotel tomatoes instead of regular ones, and topped it with Mexican cheese.  Well, Things Two and Three could tell right off the bat that it was spicier, but they still ate it, once they got used to the heat level.  Thing One ate his rice quickly before we sat down to eat, saying that it smelled really good.  I bet he cannot wait for Lent to be over. :)

I cannot believe that we had never thought of putting the rotel tomatoes into that before.  It did add a little zip to it, and I might think of just using one can and one can of plain, but I used what we had on hand, and it was   very tasty!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

In These Days of Lenten Journey...

Lent in the Catholic faith means many things, prayer, reflection, sacrifice, and meatless Fridays!  With our crazy schedule, meatless Fridays lately have meant grilled cheese sandwiches, or frozen shrimp for dinner. :(  With Thing Three having team practice from 4:30-7:30, I am just not available to fix a decent dinner for the masses.  Hmmm...I guess I should start looking back to my crock pot again.  And, Sarge has been busy with duty calling him to do his job, so he has not been able to work like I expect him.  :)

Sarge tends to be my Lenten chef.  He makes a mean grilled Salmon, and his Ahi tuna is to die for (lol, that has to give me some Lent Joke points somewhere!!!)  He can do a decent shrimp scampi, but not nearly as good as Big Scary Guy's!  Although my face actually turned red from how spicy his was, it was very tasty.    Sarge decided a couple of weeks ago that he wanted to try his hand at an Eggplant Parmesan.  Sarge and I had it once before, a very long time ago, when we were stationed at the Presidio.  A girl who I used to talk to while waiting for the bus in the mornings invited us over for a dinner party.  That was our first and only experience with Eggplant Parmesan, but it was quite good.

Now growing up, Ms. Daisy used to make Veal Parmesan   I know, Veal, oh my goodness.  Well tough, it was breaded veal patties, and it was yummy, so get over it. :)  This became my "go to" meal with the kids when they were little.  Of course I changed it from Veal Parmesan to Chicken Parmesan, but the concept is still the same.

I think I ate Chicken Parmesan every night on our California trip when I was in second grade, much to my dad's dismay.  We would stop at Denny's for dinner, since it was reasonably priced, and my parents knew that we would eat from the menu.  I ordered the same thing all 7 days on the way out and 5 days on the way back.  Yeah, I am a closet Italian. :)

So the basic Chicken Parmesan is just breaded chicken patties with cheese and marinara sauce baked and served on top of spaghetti noodles.  I can have the whole recipe made within an hour with very little effort.  I did make it from scratch, once.  You know, where you pound out the chicken dredge it, fry it and then bake it with the cheese and sauce.  Like I said, I did it not worth the effort.

So Sarge decides that he wants to make it from scratch.  Yea!  When, well, that took a couple of weeks to get on the schedule.  He gave me the list of ingredients, and while I like to keep a well stocked pantry, and most of the ingredients are basic, several of them were fresh, so it meant a trip to the store.  Did you know that Buffalo Mozzarella is not always carried in stores?  Who would have thought that.  I did get fresh mozzarella, but not the traditional...oh well.

I do not have his recipe, so I cannot share the whole thing, but I can tell you it uses: Eggplant, Italian style bread crumbs, plumb tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, garlic, fresh mozzarella, Buffalo mozzarella, and Parmesan. No spaghetti noodles required!!!

He served it with garlic bread (since I had bought some), but decided that the salad on the side was probably not necessary since it had the Eggplant and Tomatoes in the dish.  End result was AMAZING!!!  Of course, Thing Three would not eat it, but that was pretty much to be expected after she heard there were Eggs in it! ;)  Thing One was still doing his rice thing, so he missed out, but Thing Two seemed to like it.  I think it will be a repeat, but maybe we will tell Thing Three that it is Vegetable Parmesan instead.  :)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Chicken Cordon Bleu

When you think of crock pot meals, you traditionally think of soups, stews and anything that is in a sauce.  At least I do.  Because of that preconception, I was surprised when I found other recipes that you could do in the crock pot that do not require a spoon to eat! :)

A recent recipe that I found was for Chicken Cordon Bleu.  This was surprisingly easy to assemble, I did so in about a half hour, early in the morning, and then threw into the refrigerator before I left for the day.  Sarge was home that day, so he was able to put it into the crock pot and start it at noon.  This is another recipe from the Crockin' Girls website, and you can find the full directions there.

Photos courtesy of Google Images

One of the insights that I saw was to put the chicken breasts into a zip lock bag before you pound them out.  I found some chicken breasts at the store that were thinly sliced, so that also helped cut down the pounding time.  I did not zip the bag shut, but just held my hand over the open side.

So, you pound the breasts thin, and then place a couple of slices of deli ham on it, top with a slice of Swiss cheese, and roll it up.  You can secure it with toothpicks, just have to remember they are in there. :)

Then it gets a bath of egg and milk mixture, before rolling it in stuffing mix.  I think next time I do it, I will probably crush the stuffing so it sticks better.  Before you place them in the crock pot, you should put a can of either cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup.  Then you can place them on the bottom of the crock pot.

Since I have an oval pot, I was able to place all five of them on the bottom of the pot.  I am not sure if they can be layered, or if I will need to use two crockpots, but will try and figure that out next time I cook them since all at the table ate a whole one.

My results with Green Beans!

It was a great meal to come home to after being on my feet all day running!