Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bob Armstrong Dip

This dip could quite possibly be the best thing on Earth, I swear. Not only does it have the TexMex staple of any Texan's diet, queso, but it adds guacamole, sour cream and taco meat all in one bowl. It's a meal in itself. It doesn't matter what you dip in it whether its chips, tortillas, tomatoes or just lick it off your fingers. Its a bit labor intensive but trust me its totally worth it, unless you're in Dallas or Austin and then save yourself the trouble and just go to Matt's El Rancho.

Bob Armstrong Dip

Matt's El Rancho Restaurant, Austin, Texas
Yield: 16 to 20 servings

For Matt Martinez's Tex-Mex Spice:
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

For guacamole layer:
4 Hass avocados
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice

For taco-meat layer:
1/4 cup finely chopped bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Tex-Mex Spice
1 pound lean ground beef

For chile-con-queso layer:
1 1/2 cups canned chopped green chiles or fresh chiles, peeled and finely diced
1/2 cup diced fresh tomato
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
2 teaspoons Tex-Mex Spice
1 cup chicken broth
1 pound American cheese or more if needed, cubed

For assembly and serving:
Pico de gallo, for optional garnish
Sour cream, for optional garnish
Tortilla chips

Step 1: Prepare Matt Martinez's Tex-Mex Spice. Stir together cumin, granulated garlic, salt and black pepper. (This will make roughly four times as much as is needed for this recipe. Store leftovers in an airtight container or zip-lock bag.)

Step 2: Prepare guacamole. Halve avocados and scoop flesh into a mixing bowl; discard pits and skin. Add lime juice; mash together until mixture reaches a chunky texture. Add salt to taste. Cover with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the surface of the guacamole. Set aside.

Step 3: Prepare taco meat. In a cold skillet, stir together bell pepper, celery, onion and Tex-Mex spice. Spread uncooked meat on top. Place over medium heat. When meat starts to simmer, stir and break up meat. Simmer on low for 20 minutes. Remove from heat; drain and discard any fat. Cover to keep warm, and set aside.

Step 4: Prepare chile con queso. In a saucepan, combine chiles, tomato, onion, celery, Tex-Mex spice and chicken broth. Bring to a light simmer; gently cook for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat; add cheese. Simmer until cheese melts. (If mixture is too thick, add water; if it's too thin, add more cheese.) Remove from heat.

Step 5: Assemble dip. Warm a 9-by-13-inch or a 7-by-11-inch pan in the oven or fill with hot water, then drain and dry well. Spread guacamole in the pan, then hot taco meat in an even layer. Top with hot chile con queso. Garnish with pico de gallo or sour cream. Serve with chips.

Slideshow Maker

I found this really neat slides how maker, upload your photos, choose a song and it analyzes the images and creates a film quality show. I did one for our wedding photos - check it out!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Traditional Tuna Casserole

Though it was still extremely hot, we're talking 101 rather than 105, I took the opportunity to use the oven for dinner last night. Again I didn't feel like doing much work so I just whipped up a classic staple of American households since as early as the 1940s. Like most of my dishes I try to modify the full fat recipe into a slightly lesser fat value and the traditional tuna casserole create by Campbell's soups is no different. Served with sliced pineapple and ice cold glass of milk, and instantly my family's been transformed into the Cleavers.

Traditional Tuna Casserole

1 large can of tuna fish (I use white in water)
1 can of cream of mushroom soup (I use 98% fat free)
1 to 1/2 cups of frozen peas
1 to 2 cups egg noodles (I use wheat pasta)
handful of french fried onions
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

(picture is courtesy of the recipe's original creator Campbell's soups)

  1. Cook egg noodles according to package directions. When using whole wheat pastas you usually need to cook longer than traditional flour pastas.
  2. In a 1 qt baking dish combine drained tuna, mushroom soup, frozen peas, salt & pepper.
  3. Drain noodles and add to tuna mixture. Mix noodles and tuna well, coating every noodle with mixture.
  4. Once mixed well, smooth top and sprinkle onion rings on top.
  5. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
  6. Once rings are crispy and brown remove and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

My Favorite Things: Part 1

Baked fresh when you order!

Available in Dallas and in their starting place, Austin.
The cookies are baked when you order, so they arrive warm and delicious, right out of the oven! Delivered with the option of hot coffee or what goes better with cookies than ice cold milk! Call to place an order or submit one online.

From chocolate chip to oatmeal raisin their cookies are amazing but their brownies are even better. Have the decadent brownies delivered with a scoop or a pint of ice cream and your sure to surprise even the toughest critics.

Turn around time is great especially for when you forget a special occasion or your boss’ birthday. Order at 9 AM and they can deliver within an hour or two and the recipient is none the wiser and assumes you remembered all along!

These cupcakes started out as a craze in Hollywood and are slowly making their presence be known across the country. These are not your average cupcakes, at $3.25 a piece or $36 for a dozen, they are mini masterpieces for your sweet tooth. Baked fresh, in small batches throughout the day, their cupcakes are handcrafted from the finest and all natural ingredients from bittersweet Belgain chocolate, pure Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, fresh fruits and veggies (yes veggies) topped with authentic fresh French sugar decorations.

Each day holds a new variety of flavors and designs, their cupcakes are never the same each day and they have actually created a calendar detailing their future inventory. Flavors and fillings vary throughout the year as well in accordance with seasons and availability of fruits.

They can be ordered in person (get ready for a standing room only wait) or online and delivered. Available as only the lonely or in dozens, trays, towers and party favors. From summer cherry to chai latte these cupcakes are not the little cakes from your childhood.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Big Cedar Resort

I'm really excited, the hubby and I are finally going to get away. We haven't gone on vacation or even a weekend getaway in about 3 years! And that was just to good old San Antonio, don't get me wrong we had a blast but staying in Texas doesn't really constitute as a vacation. But this October we're taking a long weekend and heading up to one of the most beautiful spots for hiking and taking in fall foliage and serene waterfronts. We'll be staying at Big Cedar Resort just outside of Branson Missouri. I'm looking forward to a fun time relaxing in the cool crisp air of Table Rock Lake and just look how beautiful this place is....

It's called Big Cedar Resort and it's a Bass Pro Shops vacation club resort. We got a really great deal by signing up to visit and hear a 90 minute sales pitch (of which we have no intention of buying).

We're staying at the Falls Lodge, which is were my parents stayed a few years back and said was absolutely breathtaking. Which from this picture I can only imagine, and the sound most be so soothing too.

I'm planning on doing lots of hiking and possibly going horseback riding or taking a wagon ride out to an old time campfire roast. I know the hubby is going to love fishing in the well stocked lake, and I've always wanted to try my hand at fly fishing. I'm just so excited I can't wait!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Pepper Steak

This recipe comes from the best book for budget friendly, not so figure friendly but beginner's guide to cooking cookbook "Where's Mom Now That I Need Her". I started out with the intention of following the recipe to a t, Pork Chops & Rice. However after defrosting 2 sets of wild pork chops (again my great hubby) I realized they had been in the freezer too long and had severe freezer burn so scratch that. Quickly found some round steak (venison thanks to the hubby) in the freezer and made a quick change to the recipe. I had only bought 1 green bell pepper so it was going to be a variation on traditional pepper steak.

Crockpot Pepper Steak & Rice

  • 1 lb of round steak
  • 2 tbsp of chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 tbsp of white or yellow onion
  • 1 can of stewed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp of cooking oil (I use EVOO)
  • 1 cup of rice (I used brown)
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • salt & pepper to taste

Set crockpot to low, either 8 or 10 hours depending your time needs

  1. Take steak and place between 2 sheets of ceran wrap and pound vigerously until meat is very thin. Doesn't that feel good, go on get all your frustrations out. Dang dog, dang husband, stupid clothes that don't fit anymore! Omit this step if your meat has already been prepared this way, though I'd suggest doing it yourself since its lots of fun.
  2. Mix flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Coat steaks in flour and place on bottom of crockpot.
  3. Next chop your onion and bell pepper and add to crockpot.
  4. Add rice and open can of tomatoes pouring on top of rice. Add the evoo and cover.
  5. Occasionally check and stir mixture together.
  6. Once rice has been cooked to your desired texture, plate and serve.


Down to the bottom of the barrel as far as groceries go this weekend, yet I couldn't get my lazy butt to the store knowing that the minute I step outside I'd melt in the sweltering heat of 100 plus temperatures. Instead I came up with an oven/stove free recipe in which I did little to no work because lets face it, even with the a/c running full blast it was too hot to even think about cooking! And because my husband is such a great provider we had a freezer full of axis and whitetail to use up instead of beef (something of which I rarely have to buy), so instead of your typical beef stroganoff. I made venison stroganoff.

Crockpot Venison Stroganoff

1 to 2 lbs of cubed venison (or beef)
1 small yellow or red onion (doesn't really matter)
1 small can of mushrooms
1 packet of onion soup mix
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup of flour
salt & pepper to taste
3 cups of egg noodles

Set crockpot to low, either 8 to 10 hours depending on your time needs.
  1. Combine flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Coat meat in flour mixture and place of bottom of crockpot.
  2. Slice onion into medium thick rings or half rings and add to crockpot.
  3. Open, drain and add mushrooms to crockpot.
  4. Add soup and dry soup packet, gently stir together to cover the meat.
  5. Once meat has browned to the bottom of the pot, mix all ingredients together freely scraping up the bits to add flavor, continue cooking and occasionally stirring.
  6. 30 minutes prior to serving add the sour cream and continue cooking, while preparing the noodles.
  7. Once noodles are done, plate and serve over the noodles. Garnish with parsley if you desire.
This turned out to be a super yummy dinner and while not heating up the house, the aroma of a home cooked meal was intoxicating. I would also go so far as to say this was a very healthy meal. Venison is known for being a much leaner meat than beef thus there was less fat. I always use 98% fat free creamed soups and light sour cream in all recipes and I have made the switch from flour pastas to whole wheat pastas of which the difference is unnoticeable. The sauce tastes great and is very rich, which means a smaller portion is all one can take of this meal. And smaller always means better in terms of overeating. I hope you and your family enjoy this meal as much as mine did.

*Picture is from, I could never dream of taking such a great picture and if I had attempted to take a picture of this meal it would surely have looked like dog poo or vomit and non so appetizing.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bathroom Design

I've been wanting to redecorate our guest bathroom for awhile now. I've had the same shower curtain and color scheme since college, yes shocking I know. Well I kept it for so long because it matched my bedroom linens and we only recently moved to a house that had a stall shower and got new bed linens. So 7 years later I'm ready to think bathrooms, oh but where to begin? Well function-wise it is the bathroom that guests and our 1 year old son use. So how do I find a nice mix between adult and child, as well as mixing the gust room decor with the nursery? After scouring the internet and my favorite place to get ideas from's RATE MY SPACE. I found it, it's perfect! The design is called I Kissed A Frog and it is the perfect inspiration for our new bathroom.

The color and the frog theme will work perfectly for mixing both rooms. I haven't found any frog towels that I like but I believe these green and ivory towels from Pottery Barn will look great and I can mix and match them with ivory and green towels. Possibly adding frog towels as accents at a later date when I find some that I'm happy with.

The shower curtain will be an ivory waffle weave in classic hotel style. Bathmats of either white or green with coordinating stripe or dot outline will make a clean match for the floor. Black toiletries for the countertop will match the frames of either cartoon or black & white frogs. Actual pictures have yet to be decided upon.

I'm so very excited to have finally found my design and can't wait to begin the process. I'll keep you updated to the finished product.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One Hot Rangers Game!

Its been a scorcher of a summer, so much so that its been too hot to even think about going to a Rangers game. However how I think I could have handled the heat for this hot hot hot Rangers game.

1st Birthday Party

We went all out for Chase's 1st birthday party and it all began with the cake. I found a gorgeous cake from Dreemkaggs and based the invitations of the design! I found a great local mommy baker Megan with Sweet Temptations and we decided to go with a french vanilla cake filled with white chocolate cream. I'm not a big fan of fondant and she said that she would be able to create the blue base with buttercream so that makes it even better. The orange was changed to red and the yellow was white instead, in order to match our color theme.

After the cake, I found sailor themed inspiration from and an article they had detailing a local Texan's nautical themed child's birthday party. I fell in love with the idea, especially since Chase's birthday falls so closely to the 4th of July and red, white and blue decor is in abundance and could be found for cheap prices. I modeled the menu after the one listed in the CookieMag article with a few changes. This menu worked perfectly because my husband is an avid fisherman and we had a freezer full of fish. I added some snacks, changed the carrot salad to coleslaw and changed the muffins to cupcakes which was what Chase’s smash cake was - a cupcake instead.

Iced Tea, Lemonade and Soft Drinks

Pretzels and Goldfish

Fish-and-chips wrapped in newspaper cones
served with
Roasted Red Pepper Aioli, Mignonette Dipping Sauce, and Tarter Sauce

Chick-n-chips wrapped in newspaper cones (for the non fishies)

Jalapeno and Corn Hushpuppies

(I took the picture before putting the tarter sauce and pepper aioli in the bowls)

Celery Slaw with Shrimp

Watermelon Boat Slices


Chocolate cupcakes with toothpick and construction paper sails

Birthday Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

4th of July Feast - Grilled Lemon Bay Shrimp Skewers

This year we decided to do things differently. We were tired of the same old hamburgers and hot dogs. My dad's rib recipe is always a favorite but we've had it way too much this year already. So we decided to go coastal. This menu ended up being delicious and satisfying but best of all it didn't leave you with that "I don't want to move" over-ate feeling. After this meal we were ready to walk around the park taking in the warm evening and fantastic fireworks.

Grilled Lemon-Bay Shrimp

(Recipe from Cooking Light) The simplicity of this dish belies its incredible taste. Bay leaves and lemon wedges infuse peppered shrimp with woodsy and citrus flavors. If your grocery doesn't carry fresh bay leaves, substitute good-quality dried bay leaves (such as Spice Island) soaked overnight in water. Leave the tails on the shrimp for a prettier presentation.

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

32 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 1 1/2 pounds)

32 fresh bay leaves

4 large lemons, each cut into 8 wedges

Cooking spray

  1. Prepare grill.
  2. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add shrimp; toss to coat. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 10 minutes.
  3. Place bay leaves and lemon wedges in a large bowl. Coat with cooking spray; toss to coat.
  4. Thread 4 lemon wedges, 4 shrimp, and 4 bay leaves alternately onto each of 8 (10-inch) skewers. Place skewers on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 2 minutes on each side or until shrimp are done.

Grilled Summer Squash w/Green Sauce

Grilled Summer Squash with Green Sauce

(Recipe from Williams-Sonoma) Zucchini is one of the most popular vegetables for grilling. It is easy to prepare, cooks quickly and is delicious, particularly when served with this tasty green sauce.


For the green sauce:

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 shallot, chopped
2 tsp. capers
2 anchovy fillets in olive oil
1/2 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

4 or 5 small zucchini or yellow summer squash, about 1 lb. total, cut lengthwise into slices 1/4 inch thick

4 garlic cloves, minced

6 Tbs. olive oil

1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


  1. To make the green sauce, in a food processor, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, capers, anchovies, white pepper and the coarsely chopped parsley. Process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the finely chopped parsley and the basil. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. Place the zucchini in a large, shallow non-aluminum dish. In a small bowl, mash together the garlic and 2 Tbs. of the olive oil with the back of a spoon until smooth. Whisk in the remaining 4 Tbs. oil, the thyme, salt and black pepper. Pour over the zucchini. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  3. Prepare a hot fire for direct-heat cooking in a grill. Position the grill rack 4 to 6 inches above the fire.
  4. Place the zucchini on the rack. Cook, turning once, until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving dish and spoon the green sauce evenly over the top. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Mixed Berry Cobbler w/Vanilla Ice Cream

Mixed Berry Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream

This is an adaptation of a few recipes to accommodate what I had in the kitchen.

¾ bag of bulk frozen mixed berries, defrosted and drained

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons whiskey

Bisquick or other brand baking mix

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees
  2. In a bowl, toss the fruit with the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and zest, and whiskey. Let sit for 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Prepare 4 to 6 servings of bisquick mix, recipe on box.
  4. Pour berry mixture into ungreased 1 1/2 quart casserole. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto berry mixture.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes or until the berry mixture is bubbling and the crust is golden brown.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly, spoon out and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Broccoli Stir-fry

Chicken Teriyaki Stir-Fry

  • 1/2 lb of chicken strips or chicken breast cut up
  • 1 tbsp of sesame seed oil
  • 1 16 oz bag of broccoli stir-fry mix
  • 1 cup of teriyaki sauce or you can make your own
  1. Heat sesame seed oil over high heat in a wok or skillet with tall sides
  2. Add chicken and saute until done
  3. Stir in bagged veggie mix and cook over high heat until all water has evaporated
  4. Stir in teriyaki sauce (mixture of a few tablespoons of molasses, soy sauce, oil, and garlic)
  5. Coat chicken and veggies with sauce, remove from heat
Serve over either white or brown rice.

This recipe came from the back of a Bird's Eye veggie bag and again was another great fast fix meal. I changed the salt and sugar amounts in this meal by adjusting the amount of soy sauce and molasses I used in the teriyaki sauce to fit our family's needs. Who needs take-out when you can have a meal that tastes better and is healthier without the added msg and salt.


Thrown together on the fly for a hungry boy who couldn't eat what we were eating tonight.

  • 1 bottom of hamburger bun
  • shredded white cheese (whatever you have)
  • spaghetti sauce
  • jar or cube of pureed peas
  1. Toast the hamburger bun
  2. Mix a couple of tablespoons of the spaghetti sauce and peas together
  3. Spoon sauce over top of toasted bun
  4. Sprinkle with cheese
  5. Microwave just long enough to melt cheese
My son absolutely LOVED this and I loved that he was getting his veggies and didn't even know it. This think fast recipe will be a staple in his menu now.