Monday, September 25, 2017

Theme Night: Mexican Edition


So, if you haven't realized this yet, we like to do a lot of theme nights. Here are some great finds from our Mexican theme night that we had recently.




1 (3-1/2 to 4 lb.) pork shoulder, boneless and well-marbled
1 (12 oz.) bottle or can of beer or beef broth
Water, as needed
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. lard or vegetable shortening
Corn tortillas, for serving
Favorite toppings, for serving (salsa verde, diced onions, shredded cabbage or lettuce, pico de gallo, sliced radishes, fresh cilantro, guacamole, shredded cheese or crumbled cotija cheese, etc.)


Slice the pork into 2-inch chunks and arrange in a Dutch oven or roasting pan.

Add the beer (or beef broth) and enough water to barely cover the meat. Stir in the salt and the cumin. On the stove top, over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil.

When ready to cook, start the Traeger grill on Smoke with the lid open until the fire is established (4 to 5 minutes). Set the temperature to 300 degrees F. and preheat, lid closed, for 10 to 15 minutes.

Carefully transfer the pan with the meat to the grill grate. Roast the pork, uncovered until the meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Add a bit more water to the pan if most of the liquid has evaporated.

When the pork is tender, drain off any remaining cooking liquid and discard. Break the meat into bite-size chunks with a fork. (The recipe can be prepared to this point up to three days ahead. Let cool and refrigerate.)

Add the lard to the pan and return the pan to the grill grate. Increase the temperature of the Traeger to 400 degrees F.

Let the meat "fry" in the lard until it is browned and some bits are slightly crisp, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve with the suggested accompaniments. Enjoy!

Source: Traeger Grills website. You can find the recipe here.

Notes: If you don't have a Traeger Grill, you could always slow cook the meat...but the flavor and texture of the meat won't be the same, of course.


Grilled Mexican Street Corn (Elotes)


1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream or Mexican crema
1/2 cup finely crumbled Cotija or feta cheese, plus more for serving
1/2 teaspoon ancho or guajillo chili powder, plus more for serving
1 medium clove garlic, finely minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
4 ears shucked corn
1 lime, cut into wedges


Light 1 chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread coals evenly over half of coal grate. Alternatively, set half the burners of a gas grill to high heat. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes.

While coals heat, combine mayonnaise, sour cream or crema, cheese, chili powder, garlic, and cilantro in a large bowl. Stir until homogeneous and set aside.

When grill is hot, place corn directly over hot side of grill and cook, rotating occasionally, until cooked through and charred in spots on all sides, about 8 minutes total.

Transfer corn to bowl with cheese mixture and use a large spoon to evenly coat corn on all sides with mixture. Sprinkle with extra cheese and chili powder and serve immediately with lime wedges.

Source: We found this on the Serious Eats website. You can find it here.

Notes: Holy cow, this was good. I could eat a meal of this and only this.



Mexican Chopped Salad



1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Salt, to taste, if needed

Tortilla Strips:

6 6-inch corn tortillas
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt


1 medium head romaine lettuce, chopped in approximately 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium bell pepper, diced in 1/4-inch pieces, any color
1/2 medium red onion, diced in 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 medium jicama, peeled and diced in 1/4-inch pieces
1 medium zucchini, diced in 1/4-inch pieces
4 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
4 ears corn, cooked (if fresh corn is not in season, substitute 1 1/2 cups of sweet, tiny frozen corn, thawed)
1 1/2 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro, plus whole cilantro leaves for garnish, if desired



Combine lime juice, honey, cumin, garlic, and salt. In a slow, steady stream,a dd the oils, stirring continuously with a fork or small whisk. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Set aside.

Tortilla Strips:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Stack corn tortillas on a cutting board. Cut in half. Cut each stack of halves into thin strips, width-wise, about 1/4-inch thick.

Transfer tortilla strips to a sheet pan. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with salt and toss to coat.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, or until light golden brown and crisp. Set aside to cool.


Combine corn and other salad ingredients in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Add dressing and stir to coat all ingredients. Garnish with cilantro leaves, if desired.

Serve with tortilla strips on top or place a bowl on the side for people to garnish their salad as desired.

Source: The Cafe Sucre Farine. You can find it here.

Notes: This was fantastic even without the tortilla strips. This was such a light, fresh salad. Everyone loved it. It also kept surprisingly well the next day if you have any leftovers.


Vine-ripe Tomato Salad with Queso Fresco and Serrano


2 large round tomatoes
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 serrano pepper, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 cup queso fresco
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste


Slice tomatoes about 1/4-inch thick and arrange on a plate with the sliced onion. Place the sliced chile alongside the tomatoes and sprinkle the cilantro on top and around the plate. Crumble the queso fresco on top.

In a bowl, combine the oregano, oil, and vinegar and mix well. Drizzle the vinaigrette on top just before serving. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Source: Food Network, recipe by Aaron Sanchez. You can find it here.

Notes: Those serrano peppers do give this some heat, so if you don't like spicy stuff, eat around them! However, I thought this was absolutely fantastic. So delicious and such a great way to use up fresh garden tomatoes.

Pico de Gallo


1 medium tomato, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 sprigs fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 green onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper


In a medium bowl, combine tomato, onion, jalapeno pepper (to taste), cilantro, and green onion. Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir until evenly distributed. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.

Source:, submitted by grneyedmustang. You can find it here.

Notes: Poor Mom. After all the work to make this, she forgot to set it out at our family dinner, so none of us got to partake, and I didn't get to take pictures. I'm sure it was fantastic though!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

This is the Way to Do It


I always worry about overcooking steak. Overcooked steak is just the worst stuff ever. This is one of those recipes that is hard to screw up. It's the perfect way to cook steak. You are going to love these fajitas. They are easy and delicious.


Easy Sheet-Pan Beef Fajitas


2 cups sliced onion (1/4-inch slices)
1 medium red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 package (1 oz) Old El Paso original taco seasoning mix
1 lb. boneless sirloin steak
8 (6-inch) Old El Paso flour tortillas
Sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese, chopped fresh cilantro, and lime wedges for topping, if desired


Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray 18x13-inch rimmed sheet pan with cooking spray. Add onion and bell pepper to sheet pan. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and 2 tablespoons of the taco seasoning mix; stir to coat, spreading mixture evenly in pan. Bake 15 minutes; stir.

Meanwhile, cut steak into 1/4-inch strips; place in small bowl. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining seasoning mix until combined and coated. Place on pan with vegetables. Bake 7 to 9 minutes longer or until beef is no longer pink and vegetables are tender.

Heat tortillas as directed on package. Using tongs, transfer steak mixture to serving platter or, if serving on sheet pan, carefully drain excess liquid from pan before serving.

Spoon steak and veggies onto each tortilla. Serve with remaining ingredients.

Source: Betty Crocker. You can find it here.

Notes: I used a 1 lb. flank steak instead of sirloin steak. I also used a fajita seasoning mix instead of a taco seasoning mix. In addition to that, I increased the bell peppers because I wanted more veggies. I used three: a red, an orange, and a yellow bell pepper.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Dip That Fruit!

I made some fruit dip because my oldest son asked me to. He really wanted to dip his green grapes into some fruit dip. So, heck, why not!?

Fruit Dip


1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow creme


Using an electric mixer, blend cream cheese and marshmallow creme until mixed thoroughly.

Source:, submitted by Crystal Gossett. You can find it here.

Notes: Simple and sweet...and a crowd pleaser, especially with the kids.


Brown Sugar Fruit Dip


1 (8 oz) container sour cream
Brown sugar, to taste


Stir brown sugar, to taste, into sour cream until smooth. Use as a fruit dip or serve a dollop on top of some fresh berries.

Source: I found an idea in a cookbook where strawberries were served with sour cream that had brown sugar sprinkled on top. I tried it, but I thought the sour cream was a little too tart and the brown sugar was a little too few and far between. So, I tried mixing in the brown sugar and discovered that I really liked the dip that way. 

Notes: It is great with all fruit, but particularly good with berries. This one isn't as popular with the kids. Even with the brown sugar mixed in, it is a tad too tart for little taste buds. However, I really love it and perhaps you will too.

Pasta Repeat!

This is an old favorite, originally posted here. We made this recently and I thought, "Why haven't I made this in awhile? This is so, so good!" It's easy, it's on the lighter side, and it is absolutely delicious.


Bacon-Tomato Linguine


8 oz. uncooked linguine
2 tsps. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 (2.5 oz) pkg. cooked bacon pieces (such as Hormel)
1 1/3 cup grape tomatoes, halved
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup (1 oz) pre-shredded fresh Parmesan cheese


Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add onion; saute 2 minutes. Add bacon; saute 2 minutes. Add tomato, garlic and oregano; saute 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

Add pasta, reserved pasta water, salt and pepper. Stir well and cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 3 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese.

4 servings (1 1/4 cup). 301 calories, 11 g fat, 14.4 g protein, 37.1 g carbohydrate, 2.8 g fiber, 21 mg cholesterol, 745 mg sodium.

Source: Cooking Light, from the Superfast cookbook. You can find it on the MyRecipes website here.

Notes: Trust me, you're going to love this! The only thing I change is that I double the recipe.


Above: This is the kind of bacon I used. This is a 4.3 oz. package, which worked perfectly for my doubled pasta recipe. I just used this one package. You can usually find this by the salad dressings and toppings. If it isn't there, look for it by the tuna fish and other canned meats like Spam and dried beef slices.

Quick and Easy Chicken

We have chicken a lot, but that's because it is so versatile. You can serve it with all sorts of sides and it is often quick and easy to prepare. This is one of those main dish recipes. This particular recipe is also an easy one to alter to your own tastes.

Grilled Honey-Lime Chicken Recipe


3/4 cup oil and vinegar salad dressing
1/2 cup honey
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each)


In a small bowl, combine the first five ingredients. Pour 1 cup marinade into a large resealable plastic bag; add the chicken. Seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate remaining marinade.

Drain and discard marinade. Lightly oil the grill rack. Grill chicken, covered, over medium heat or broil 4 inches from the heat for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until a thermometer reads 170 degrees F, basting occasionally with reserved marinade.

Yield: 8 servings.

Nutrition information:

1 chicken breast half: 286 calories, 9 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 94 mg cholesterol, 476 mg sodium, 15 g carbohydrate (15 g sugars, 0 fiber), 34 g protein.

Source: Taste of Home. You can find it here.

Notes: I almost tried this with a lime vinaigrette that I had on hand, but decided to keep closer to the recipe and use a balsamic oil and vinegar salad dressing. However, you could really use any kind of salad dressing you wanted to mix up the flavor of this chicken. I'm actually going to make this again with the lime vinaigrette as well! My kids like dipping sauce for their chicken, so I doubled the marinade. I used half for marinating the chicken and rather than basting the chicken, I heated the other half of the marinade for a dipping sauce. I would have basted my chicken if I grilled it, but I opted to broil it and as a result, basting wasn't necessary. We served ours with some corn on the cob, grapes, and a side salad. Tasty stuff!

More Pasta, Please!

Here's another recipe I found because I was influenced by those Hillshire Farm commercials I saw. Ha ha! It's a good one!

Hillshire Farm Naturals Sausage and Tomato Skillet


1 package Hillshire Farm Naturals Smoked Sausage
8 ounces dry whole grain pasta
1 cup whole cherry tomatoes
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly chopped basil
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese


Cook pasta according to package instructions.

Sliced sausage into coins and heat in a large skillet over high heat for 2 minutes or until browning starts.

Add the tomatoes and mushrooms and cook for an additional 5 minutes over medium heat.

Toss in the pasta and olive oil and heat for an additional 3 minutes, stirring often. Top with basil and Parmesan cheese.

Source: Hillshire Farm website. You can find it here

Notes: This was delicious and super easy. As you can see, it also makes for a really pretty pasta as well. My only suggestion would be to save some of the pasta water to add to your pasta if it is a little dry (or you could increase the olive oil slightly). Also, add salt and pepper, to taste.

Easy, Satisfying, and Very Few Ingredients


It's been a long time and I am really behind in my food blog posts. I have a lot of catching up to do! Here is an easy, delicious weeknight meal that will definitely hit the spot.

Hillshire Farm Sausage Alfredo


1 package Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage
8 ounces pasta, cooked, drained
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Prepare pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.

Saute sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, turning occasionally.

Add cream and Cajun seasoning; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer gently for 3-4 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat, stir in Parmesan cheese. Add pasta to sauce and toss.

Source: Hillshire Farm website. You can find it here.  Also found on the Allrecipes website here.

Notes: So, I've been playing a game on my phone and I was definitely affected by the ads I had to watch to earn diamonds for my game. :) I had to watch a bunch of Hillshire Farm recipe videos and it just sounded so good, I had to try it! This actually isn't a recipe from one of the ads, but one I found on my own. The Allrecipes website (though it is posted by Hillshire Farms on that site too) changes the recipe slightly and suggests using 2 cups cream instead of 1 cup. I think this is a great suggestion to help make your pasta creamier (though more heavy calorie-wise).

I doubled the pasta and used a whole pound (16 oz). Because of that, I doubled the sauce, but I only used on 14 oz. package of smoked sausage. If you want things meatier, you could use two packages, but I don't think that is necessary. As noted, you could increase the cream even further, if you want things more creamy. I thought it was super flavorful as is, but increasing the cream would have made the sauce much more creamy. It just depends on your tastes. It would be a really easy thing to adjust in this recipe. So, just experiment and do what you like best!