What's Cooking - August 28th Edition

Last weekend, we had the glorious opportunity to travel down to south Texas into the Rio Grande Valley and visit my parents, sister, and her children. Sitting at my parents dining room table with the ones I adore, and enjoying my mother's incredible cooking was both a blessing and a delight. How I adore sitting down to family dinners, dinners with those I care about, and even dinners with those I'm eager to get to know. There is something wonderful about sitting around a table with others and enjoying a meal with them.

Bonding together over a meal, discussing lives and life's challenges. Enjoying the textures, flavors, and varying combinations - all of which selected by whomever prepared the meal. There is somewhat of an art in planning and preparing meals. My mother is amazing at it.

Truly she is.

Someday, I'll be as great as she is.

And I'll keep on working on it to make sure that it happens.

Here's what I'm planning to serve this week:

Monday: Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Lasagna (I don't roll my enchiladas, I layer them like lasagna. It's how my Mommy does it, so I do too)
Tuesday: Beef Stroganoff and Green Salad
Wednesday: Grilled Sausage with Sauerkraut
Thursday: Roasted Pork Chops with Spicy Peach BBQ Sauce and mashed potatoes
Friday: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (Basil Pesto, Irish Cheddar Cheese on Sourdough Bread) and Tomato Soup
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Burrito-Fest!

What are you cooking this week?

Adventures in Gardening: Sowing my Fall Garden

Starting a garden in the hellacious heat of this past summer was not so brilliant. But, how was I to know that we'd have record high temperatures for record long stretches?

I watered religiously, used organic fertilizers and organic pesticides/sprays and ended up with a whole lot of not a lot.

Seriously. I ended up with a dozen or more yellow sunburst tomatoes, 1 zucchini, 1 roma tomato, 1 little tiny jalapeno (that was bitter, not hot), and enough basil to make several batches of pesto.

Really, I was expecting a lot more. While I am disappointed in my first go-around, I'm not giving up. I learned a lot about what I should do (keep trying, what a squash bug is, what a squash borer is, and definitely trim & cage tomato plants) and even more about what not to do (overcrowd). I didn't get to can my own garden fresh salsa, but I did get to make and freeze enough pesto to last us for a very, very long time.

A few weeks ago I took a fall gardening class at one of the many local garden centers and learned a lot. I'm glad I went because the staff member who taught was very educated in horticulture, and was incredibly willing and excited to share her knowledge with us. She set us up with the information and know how to have a successful fall garden.

Now it's up to me to make it happen.

Since the moment I returned home from the fall gardening class, I've been working on my beds and getting them prepared for fall. I hand tilled fertilizer and compost, added even more compost (very rich), and added several other nutrients to the soil. Then, I let it rest.

Yep, just rest and wait it out for a week.

The following week, it was time to get going. I've planted all of the seeds, plated and caged the transplants (tomatoes), and watered. Tomorrow I'll put down a layer of alfalfa hay to try and hold in some moisture since our Texas sun and heat is so harsh.  Here are two of the three beds:

Hopefully I'll find my green thumb, and will have a much better fall harvest than summer.

What's up with the third bed?

Well, I'm staggering our planting. I don't want everything to be ready at once, and would like to stretch out some of our home grown produce as much as possible. I'll share photos of that bed when I get it down (in 2-3 weeks or so).

That's it for my fall garden so far. I'm learning, and really enjoying the learning part. I never ever would have imagined myself as a gardener and one who really REALLY enjoys it. Yes, it can be back bending and painful work, but the rewards are great. I expect (and hope) that our fall harvest will be very rewarding.

Only time and work will tell!

Are you gardening at home? What are you doing, and what are your greatest success tips?

What's Cooking - August 22nd Edition

This summer we've all experienced record setting high temperatures, and for longer periods than in the past. I am thrilled to report, that in my area of North Texas it has finally started to cool down a bit.


I've been spending more time with Fred outside in the sunshine, and we've been busy catching up on our sidewalk (and driveway) chalk art. This little man of mine loves to play with colors. And his momma couldn't be more happy!

This week, we got an AWESOME load of produce in our co-op basket. Hooray! We received strawberries, plums, peaches, pears, grapes, cantelope, romaine lettuce, corn, tomatoes, and broccoli.  This week I also took advantage of the option of purchasing a 30lb bag of Hatch Green Chile peppers. (I'm a Hatch Chile Pepper fan - in a HUGE way!)

So, as you can imagine, I'm planning to be eating a LOT of chile peppers this week. 

Sunday: Hatch Chile Pesto Pasta (This is the Pesto recipe I used since CM stopped sharing this recipe. Their loss. This is a KEEPER!)
Monday: Hatch Macaroni & Cheese with grilled brats or hotdogs
Tuesday: Naked Chicken Nuggets, oven fries, steamed broccoli
Wednesday: Chicken Enchiladas (with chile sauce!), roasted corn, cilantro rice and peach cobbler
Thursday: Leftovers or green salad with broiled salmon
Friday: Grilled chicken with peach bbq sauce and pasta (or green salad)
Saturday: Black Bean Nacho's with Hatch Green Chile Queso
Sunday: Chicken Burrito Bowls with chiles instead of jalapeno's

What are you cooking this week?

Adventures in Homemaking: Laundry Soap

Over the last few years, I've read about others making their own laundry detergent.

I'll be honest. I thought they were crazy.

Photo Credit: One more Moore Blog
I first read about it here, here and more recently here.

And yet, I'm trying it too. Why not? It's definitely cheaper to make it yourself, it appears to be easy to make and if it cleans as well (and is better for our machines and our environment), it seems that I'd be stupid not to at least give it a shot. I researched about the pro's and con's. I checked into the reliability with front loading washers, and read more reviews.

And, so I did.

I checked around and read more stories of others making their own detergent. (It did not surprise me in the slightest to find out that the Duggars make theirs. If I had that many bodies to do laundry for, I'd likely just buy the factory where detergent is made. Keeping up with the laundry of 3 bodies is more than I can normally handle anyway!)

I went a little wild and changed up the "recipe's" I read and added OxyClean. (I've got a REALLY hard working man in my house, who tends to get a wee bit greasy and grimy at work. So, I wanted the extra stain removing power.)

Here's my recipe

2 Fels-Naptha soap bars, grated
2 cups Borax
2 cups Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (not baking soda!)
1 cup OxyClean

I mixed it all up, ran it through my food processor to get a finer grain (the soap bars are easy to grate, but I wanted a smaller granule), and then popped it into a plastic pitcher from Wal-mart. (I would have used a glass jar, but I didn't have one large enough available).

Easy peasy! 2 tablespoons per load is all it takes and it saves my budget about 20 cents with each load I do (our store bought name brand detergent runs me about $0.29 per load). It took about 30 minutes to make (with grating the soap and all). I'm thinking it's a win/win for us.

So far, everything that I've washed has come out just dandy! Toddler hand prints and jazz, towels, and work clothes all look and smell great!

Up next... maybe... probably... but not definitely... dishwasher detergent!

A funny tidbit... so my sister-in-law Kimberlee, was over while I was mixing everything up and she asked me what I was doing. I explained it... and her first comment was... something to the effect that I've gone "too far" with all of "this" and that I needed to make changes in other places. 

Once I explained it to her, she didn't think it was THAT strange, but still felt it was odd. 

I agree that it's not the "norm" and that perhaps compared to others it was definitely odd. I've been odd my whole life, and I've become (mostly) okay with it.  I see this as learning a skill that may someday help my family when we are in a tight spot financially, or a skill that I can maybe share with someone else who might need the help. Heaven knows that we're seeing more and more of our friends, family, and neighbors going through hard times financially. And... having extra knowledge is something I can always keep and not worry about having to organize. :)

What's Cooking - August 13th Edition

Last week, I followed our menu plan quite well. We didn't necessarily eat the meals I shared on the days I planned them for, but we did eat all of the meals.

That equals a huge success in my book!

This week, I'm really trying to focus on eating our produce, and on eating the foods I've been stock piling in our freezers.

Yes, freezers.

We have a standard freezer that's part of our side-by-side refrigerator, and a second chest style freezer in the garage. I am VERY lucky, I know!

(I love hiding my treats in the garage freezer!)

((Until someone else finds my stash, and then I get ticked that they invaded my space. Blarg!)

Anyway, here's what I'm planning to have this week!

Sunday: Barbeque beef brisket sandwiches, jalapeno cilantro coleslaw & cheesy potatoes (or chips depending on my mood/energy)
Monday: Beans and Rice with corn bread waffles(one of my favorite dinners!!)
Tuesday: Baked Spaghetti
Wednesday: Chicken tortilla soup
Thursday: Curry chicken fried rice and chicken curry samosa's
Friday: Greek style gyros, green salad (I think this will end up a greek veggie salad) and french fries. (It's Kimberlee's birthday, so she gets to pick out what she'd like me to make for her dinner. It's either this or greek feta stuffed hamburgers.)
Saturday: Homemade macaroni & cheese & leftover green salad

What are you making this week?

What's Cooking - August 6th Edition

I'm determined to eat healthier. We just need to. It's not that we don't eat healthy, when compared to many of our friends, we definitely do.

But, we can do better.

Getting our produce from Bountiful Baskets definitely helps, because it's here, and I don't want it to go to waste.

I hate it when food goes to waste. I feel like I'm throwing money right down the drain, and I don't have (nor would I want) to have the kind of money that just goes down that way.

Our basket this week is plentiful! So much yumminess! Little new potatoes, roma tomatoes, thin tender asparagus, romaine lettuce, celery, red peppers, pluots, peaches, pears, cantaloupe, pickling cucumbers and bananas were all included. I can't beat that for $15 at my grocery store!

So, here's what I am planning to serve to my family this week:

Sunday: Bruschetta salad (tomatoes, basil, onions, garlic and fresh mozzerella cheese tossed with whole wheat pasta and dressed with just a smidge of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice) and grilled chicken.
Monday: Potato, bacon and asparagus fritatta
Tuesday: Baked ravioli, ciabatta bread and a green veggie salad
Wednesday: Blackened tilapia with seasoned rice served with a green salad
Thursday: Chipotle-style burritos
Friday: Kielbasa and stir fried veggies with white rice
Saturday: Leftovers

I'll be doing a LOT of baking over the next few days, as a friend and I are co-hostessing a playdate/book baby shower for a mutual friend. Our friend is having her second baby, and repeatedly said she didn't need anything. Well, in my world babies are cause for celebrating! So, we decided it would be fun for our friends to get together and shower her (and her 3 year old son) with everyones favorite children's books. Most of us have children all about the same age, they were invited also. So, now it's a play date, but with a purpose!

The theme for our refreshments is "Milk & Cookies". I've been going to town baking all kinds of different cookies to have. So far, I'm planning to have chocolate chip, peanut butter, and chocolate chocolate chip cookies. We're also going to have old fashioned sour cream drop cookies, cranberry walnut oatmeal cookies,(probably my favorite!), and pumpkin cookies.

I'm thinking I definitely have enough cookies for our little group! It's a good thing I thought ahead and have little bags for the mothers to package up cookies to take home with them. We definitely don't need all of them here at my house!

That's what's cookin' at my house. What's cookin' at yours?

What's Cooking - August 1st Edition

WOW! It's been a month since I've shared our menu plans.


Here's what we're having this week:

Monday: Braised Beef Brisket with cheesy potatoes and roasted corn
Tuesday: Brisket sandwiches with cilantro jalapeno slaw and chips
Wednesday: Corn chowder and green salad
Thursday: Spaghetti
Friday: Baked Potatoes and green salad
Saturday: Cowboy nachos or brisket tacos
Sunday: Pizza!

Did you catch the theme of this week?


I made a huge mistake. I purchased a 15 pound brisket at a killer price a month or so ago. Instead of cutting it into managable pieces (or at least pieces that my family could eat for one meal), I put the whole thing into our freezer, as in... in one piece.

It was a big brisket.

I am pretty sure I could feed my entire neighborhood with this sucker.

And still have enough left to freeze for several other meals.


What are you having for dinner this week?