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My favorite vegetarian meal…

22 May

I have a friend coming over who has recently gave up meat….cold turkey (nopun intended!) She’s coming over for a pool-side barbecue and of course, my first instinct is to grab the hot dogs and burgers for the grill. Since today is already overcast with a pretty good chance of thunderstorms…I decided to crack open the old cookbook and ran across one of my favorite recipes…Black Bean Lasagna. I rarely get to cook it though because when lasagna is mentioned in this house, if it doesn’t include some form of meat…it’s just not my hubby’s cup of tea. Luckily, hubby is TDY!!!   That means, I get to make this veggie meal without an ounce of meaty guilty. (yeah for me!!!)

 I’m super stoked to cook this today and enjoy some good conversation with an old friend. If you find yourself in a similar predicament…reach for this recipe card. It’s an awesome meal! 😉

1 pkg no-bake lasagna noodles

2 cans black beans

1 jar spaghetti (basic classic jarred sauce)

1/2 tsp. cumin

15 oz container ricotta

1 ten oz. pkg frozen spinach

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

2 eggs (slightly beaten)

1 tsp. salt

4-5 c pepper jack cheese (shredded)

mash beans with masher or hand blender. Add sauce. In separate bowl mix cheese, cilantro, eggs, salt, spinach and 1 c. of cheese.

Spray pan with PAM. Spoon 1/4 of black bean sauce mixture. Cover with layer of noodles, spoon 1/2 of cheese mixture on top, then layer with pepper jack cheese (1 cup)

Cover with red sauce, noodles, cheese mixture and cheese again.

Cover with noodles, top with remaining bean mixture and sprinkle with last of pepper jack cheese. Cover with foil and bake 1  hour @ 350. Remove foil and cook for another 15 minutes.


San Fran Pork Chops

17 May

This is a family favorite for sure!!! I know when I make this one, the kids and the hubby will EAT IT UP!

1 pkg pork chops. ( I prefer the thin, boneless pork chops for this recipe…they always come out more tender than the thick ones)

2 crushed garlic cloves

1/2 cup sherry wine

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 TBS brown sugar

1 tsp crushed red pepper (or more according to how hot you want it)

Olive oil


In large skillet, place salt/peppered pork chops in olive oil and brown both sides. Once brown (approx 7-8 minutes) Take pork chops out and set aside. In a small bowl, combine sherry (you can substitute brandy if you don’t have sherry available), soy sauce, brown sugar and crushed red pepper. Stir well. Keep the pan with all the browned pork chop bits on med heat and add crushed garlic. The garlic will begin to cook fast.  Just before it burns add the liquid mixture. It will bubble up but that’s what you want. You want all those yummy, semi-burned pieces of meat to mix with the sauce (it’s called deglazing the pan). Stir well, put heat on low-med and add pork chops back to skillet. Put lid on and let simmer appox 15 mintues. Turn pork chops every so often so both sides get soaked in mixture.

Serve over steamed, white rice.


Semi-Homemade Hot Sauce

17 May

1 can Rotel (Original)

1 small can tomoato sauce

1 can stewed tomatoes

1/2 large yellow onion

1-2 jalapenos (depending on how hot they are)

large bunch of cilantro

1 tsp vegetable oil

garlic salt to taste

In a blender, combine everything and pulse until it’s the consistency you want. Sometimes if  I have green onions in the fridge, I will put a few of those in there as well. This is really all about making it to your liking. Adding a little more of this or that until it’s how you prefer it. Enjoy!

Fish Tacos

22 Mar

My cousin, Catie, recently moved out of our downstairs guest suite after living with us for a year and attending Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin. It was a fun experience for my family seeing her progression as a educated artist in the kitchen. The weekends that she was with us, she was usually in the kitchen whipping up some amazing dish she had learned to cook at school. 

Weeknights, when the kids were asleep and hubby was deployed we’d usually open a good bottle of wine and watch some cooking shows for inspiration on what we could cook that upcoming weekend.

One dish that became a big favorite were fish tacos. We saw a recipe on the show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri.  We liked the idea of a traditional fish taco but putting an Asian twist on them.

Below is the recipe we concocted. It’s a light, wonderful meal that is great for entertaining. We serve it with an asian slaw on top. It’s a nice tangy compliment to they buttery fish.

Fish Tacos:

1 to 1 1/2 lbs of white cod (cut up into inch-size pieces)

3 cloves garlic

2 tsp olive oil (to coat pan and not make fish stick)

1/2 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp minced fresh ginger

salt/pepper to taste

lime – to taste

handful of cilantro

Other garnishes: jalapenos and avocados

tortillas (I like them with corn but you can use flour if you prefer)


Bag of already prepped cole slaw (not the kind that comes with a dressing kit)

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup white vinegar

1-2 TBS sugar (some people like it less sweet…add according to preference)

1/4 cup green onions – chopped small

1/4 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Make cole slaw ahead of time and put in refrigerator to chill. Add olive oil to pan, med-high heat. Add fish, Fish doesn’t take long to cook. Cook for approx. 5 minutes. When almost done, add sesame oil,  minced garlic, fresh ginger, lime juice from about 1/2 fresh lime, handful of fresh, cut cilantro and salt and pepper.

To serve, add fish to tortilla and add about 1/4 cup of the asian slaw on top.  Hope you enjoy!!

Garcia borracho beans

7 Feb

Making beans from scratch can be very intimidating for some. It was something I had to learn quickly after marrying my husband. His mom, who is originally from Mexico, makes these unbelievable borracho beans. They take a while..a few hours, but they are a show stopper when you serve them with fajitas, enchiladas or any other Mexican dish.

3-4 cups dry pinto beans (sift thru them and get any small rocks out)
Wash them off, then put them in large pot, just barely covered with water, turn on high. DO NOT ADD SALT!! This will make them hard.
Add 1 onion, (roughly chopped) and 2 garlic cloves.  I’ve also used a green bell pepper as well. (extra flavor) Can of diced tomatoes (you can also do a can of Rotel if you want to spice them up) Last night it was a can of diced tomatoes and then I cut up a jalapeno as well (minus the seeds)

Once the beans begin to boil, turn way down (like low-medium) the water starts going quickly. I start adding chicken/beef/veggie broth (whatever you have available) at this point. Keep adding until the beans are the consistency you would like them.

I let the simmering go on for a few hours, checking every so often and adding broth when it start looking low.

Once they are close to soft, I add bacon (3-4 strips) I’ve also added chorizo. You can really use anything you have handy. Once I added some smoked ham I had in freezer from Easter and it turned out AWESOME! If you do the chorizo, make sure you brown it first (don’t add raw)

Add the meat and let simmer some more.

Once they are soft you can turn them off and let cool. Add your salt now. I also add cilantro…gives a great flavor.

The “Holy Crap, My Kids Are Eating This” Hamburger Soup

1 Feb

This is a recipe my mom once made for my husband some nine years ago when we were engaged. He gobbled it up and begged for me to get the recipe. Me, being the eager little fiance that I was, got the recipe from my mom and managed to screw it up a few dozen times in our first years of marriage. My husband never admitted to me (being the good sport that he is) that it wasn’t the same. I’m thankful  he didn’t hurt my kitchen diva ego all those years ago, but now, I can honestly say… it might be even better than my mom’s. Sorry madre! 🙂

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 box beef or chicken broth (whatever you have handy)
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • carrots/ celery optional(if you have them handy, dice about 1/4 cup of each and throw them on in as well)
  • can of diced or stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 TBS chili powder
  • 2 cups elbow macaronni

Brown meat in large pot with olive oil. When about half way cooked, add onion and celery or carrots if you have them. When onions start looking clear, add garlic and cook one minute more. Once all cooked, add beef broth, tomatoes and chili powder. Cover and let simmer 15 minutes (low-med heat) When you’re about 15 mintues out from serving, turn up heat (add more broth or water to get to your desired soupy consistency) and add pasta.

Sometimes if I have a bag of frozen mixed vegetables I throw a cup of it in there as well depending on how healthy I’m feeling. 🙂 Salt and pepper to taste. I serve ina bowl with some cheddar cheese on top.  Enjoy!


The “Making Tacos without the Taco Package” Recipe

1 Feb

A good girlfriend…and bonus… neighbor called me the other day in a tizzy about it  being taco night at her house and having the meat, tortillas and fixins’…but no McCormick taco seasoning package. What’s a gal to do?? Why not open your pantry and cook up something that tastes even better than the mix! Plus you can brag and say it’s practically homemade!

I asked her if she had the following spices:

  • chili powder approx. 1-2 TBS
  • cumin approx. 1 tsp
  • garlic salt approx.  2 tsp
  • salt to taste

Take your package of ground beef, brown it, add some onion and garlic if you want to make it extra yummy. If you have a can of diced or stewed tomates add about half. ROTEL is our favorite thing but be careful to add the whole can,  it may be spicy for kiddos. Once the meat is cooked add your spices as mentioned above.Turn heat down, cover and let simmer approx. 15 minutes. It might be something that takes a dash more of this and that to perfect, but I guarantee once you play with it, your “insert last name” taco night…will taste way better than McCormick’s.

Beef Stroganoff Recipe

1 Feb

My friends know that when you come over for dinner and you happen to like what I cooked, good luck getting the EXACT recipe. When I cook, there usually aren’t any measuring cups or tablespoons out. Instead you’ll find tasting spoons and more than likely a glass of wine out. One thing I will say about this stroganoff recipe…which is a play off my mom’s traditional recipe…is that if you don’t have the exact ingredients…DON’T PANIC! When you add cream (whether it be sour cream, heavy cream or low-fat milk) to butter, beef, mushrooms and pasta…it’s a WIN-WIN!  The magic of getting to be a good cook is learning how to make a great meal out of something in your pantry or fridge that has seen better days. Throw it in there, you just might surprise yourself! 🙂


1 lb. beef/steak (can be cubed-round, loin, sirloin, even ground beef)
2 TBS butter
1/2 yellow onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 pkg sliced mushrooms (optional)
1 1/2 cup sour cream or heavy cream or milk
1 pkg egg noodles or any kind of pasta you have on hand and need to get rid of
salt/pepper to taste

Heat butter in large skillet. Cut steak into small, bite-size pieces. Brown steak. Just before steak is completely brown, add onions. Cook onions until transparent. Add garlic, cook one minute longer. Turn heat down to med-low. Add soup. Add sour cream. If you have heavy cream you can use that. I always use what I have. If you have some sour cream you need to get rid of, use that. One time I was running low on sour cream and used that, then added a little milk. You can’t go wrong with anything creamy! 😉

After adding cream, add mushrooms. Cover and leave on low for roughly 15 minutes. While that’s cooking boil water for noodles. Boil according to package directions. Drain.

Salt/pepper your stroganoff to taste. Serve over pasta. When I don’t have egg noodles, I use any kind of pasta I have on hand.

*I was surprised at how much my kiddos liked this recipe. I did have to pick out the mushrooms, but it was winner and is a great meal to make on a dreary cold day. Not that we have many of those in Texas!

NM “Needless Markup” Cookie Recipe

27 Jan

2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups flour
5 cups blended oatmeal
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
24 oz. chocolate chips (milk or semi-sweet)
1 8oz bar shaved chocolate (Hersheys or Godiva)
3 cups chopped pecans

Cream butter with sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix. In separate bowl combine flour, oatmeal and other dry ingredients. Stir with wet ingredients and add chocolate and pecans. Roll dough into balls and place two inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes.