guacamole….mmmmm….

Have I ever mentioned how much I like avocados?  and guacamole? 

Well, if not, it’s been an oversight.  I love them.  And generally just can’t get enough. 

So, of course, I have tried the Baja Salad at Wendy’s, and the Turkey, Bacon, and Avocado sub at Subway.  And they’re both delicious.

But then I got thinking – these are not difficult things – I should try this at home!  And so here it is… my knock-off version of the Baja Salad:

Start with some greens – I like a spring mix.

Add some leftover Taco Soup (see recipe below) and some shredded cheddar cheese.

I used Hidden Valley Southwest Chipotle dressing and any type of salsa will do.

Add your guacamole (see recipe below) – and there you go!  (I didn’t add in any chips because, well, I’m counting those calories – but you could top it with some type of coarsely crushed chip if you want to.)  Delicious!

So here are the recipes.   I had made these for other meals and just used the leftovers for this salad lunch.

Guacamole
 
3 Haas avocados, chopped
1 T lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 medium red onion, diced
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 tsp cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced
 
In medium bowl, mash avocado with lime juice.  Add salt, cumin, cayenne and mix well.  Fold in onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic.
 
 
Taco Soup
 
2 cans kidney beans
2 cans pinto beans
2 cans corn
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes with mild green chilies
1/4 cup (or 1 packet) taco seasoning
1 packet dry ranch dressing mix
1 pound ground beef
 
Cook meat in skillet and drain fat.  Put into slow cooker.  Sprinkle with seasonings.  Drain and rinse beans and add to slow cooker.  Add entire contents of corn and tomato cans.  Stir.  Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours or high 4-5 hours.  Stir well and serve topped with cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips.  (Or use in knock-off Baja Salad!!)
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Summer Slow Cooker Recipes

It.Is.So.Hot!

I don’t handle hot well.  I get cranky.  Ask my kids!  (But to be fair, so do they!) And it really doesn’t help that the air conditioner in our van hasn’t been working since May!  By the time we get anywhere, we are all a hot mess.

I do think it’s especially funny that the desktop google-thingy my hubby put on my computer says it’s 88 degrees currently and the high today is going to be 86 degrees.  Huh?

There are only two reasons we are not melting (or having a meltdown) right now – and they are our pool, and our nice, cool, finished basement.  I am soooo thankful for both on these hot days!

Oh – and there’s a third – the slow cooker!  

I love to use my slow cooker in the summer.  Grilling is great, but I get tired of it after a while.  The slow cooker allows me to have more variation in our meals without heating up the kitchen.  And that’s a plus in my book!

So I thought I’d share a few of my family’s favorite slow cooker recipes for the summer (no stews this time of year!!).

Shredded Pork with Beans

3 pound pork loin, cut into 3 large pieces

2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1 jar (24 ounce) picante sauce

Monterey jack cheese

Tortillas or rice

Place pork, beans, and picante sauce in slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  Shred pork and return to slow cooker.   Can be served either over rice or in tortillas.

 

Beef Brisket

4-5 pound beef brisket

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup white vinegar

1 T worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke

1/4 tsp pepper

1 medium onion, finely chopped

Rub beef with salt.  Place in slow cooker.  Mix remaining ingredients and pour over beef.  Cover and cook 8-10 hours on low.

And last, but not least, this is the one I actually have in my Crockpot right now:

 

Chicken and Broccoli Slow Cooker Casserole

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1″ cubes

10 ounces frozen chopped broccoli

1 medium onion

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

4 tablespoons cheez-its, crushed  (this is a perfect use for all the crumbs in the bottom of the bag!)

3 cups cooked white rice

Toss together cornstarch and 1/2 cup cheddar cheese and set aside. Put chicken, broccoli, onion, broth, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cornstarch mixture into slow cooker. Cover and cook on high 3 hours. Remove lid and stir in remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese and salt and pepper. Sprinkle crushed crackers over top and serve immediately with rice.

 

I hope you try these and let me know what you think!

And if you have any slow cooker favorites, please share!

 

they showed up

They showed up at my door with hands overflowing with food, overflowing with God’s love.

Meals delivered for nearly a week, me in tears as I answered the door.  A heart burdened with sadness due to the death of my Dad the weekend before. 

And their hearts burdened with the love of God, burdened with a desire to be the hands and feet, and heart, of God.

My mind thinking that we didn’t really need this, we could manage to make dinners for ourselves.  Brought up to think that self-sufficiency was the ideal.  To rely on others was weakness.  And even when I resisted, still they came.  People who we met with faithfully every Sunday, searching together to know God, to know His heart, to apply His words to our lives. 

We’d only been attending two years.  We were young.  We didn’t really know these people THAT well.  But never before had I felt God’s love being poured out through others like this.  At first feelings of guilt, again, we could make our own meals even in the midst of tears.  They knew that.  But they didn’t care. 

Caring for one another like this – it seemed so foreign to us.  Who would make a meal for another family like this?  Who would take the time to prepare and deliver it when we really didn’t need them to do so?

They would.  And the love showed through those acts of service overwhelmed me.

They knew something that we didn’t know at that time.  Being the hands and feet of Jesus, showing God’s love, is not a burden.  It’s a blessing.

We didn’t need the food.  But we needed the love that went into it.  We felt loved, and cared for, and we wanted to be part of it.  Part of a church whose members did this for each other.  We also needed to learn how to be humble.  Humility is opening the door and letting someone in.  Being part of the body of Christ requires that humility.  Not only opening the door to your home, but opening the doors to your heart and life.  This is what the body of Christ does for one another. 

Years have passed since then.  More meals delivered, by different people but with the same love.  When children were born, when my heart broke from a miscarriage, when a baby was in the ICU, when a gallbladder got removed, after an unexpected overnight in the hospital. 

That first meal, and all those meals, I remember.  Not for what I ate, but for the love that was shown. 

And we now make it a priority to be part of the blessing.  Making and delivering meals.  Praying over the receivers.  Being a blessing to others, but mostly God’s blessing poured out on us when we give.  We give food, but not food – love.  God’s love.

 So today I take a meal to a mom from MOPS with a new baby.  I hardly know her.  But it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that God’s love is felt through my being faithful to act on His behalf.

“March”ing on…

Seriously.  When the calendar says it’s spring, I would really like to see less of this…

and more of this…

But, unfortunately, the snow is par for the course here in western NY.

So, since we have been stuck inside, I have been busy making chicken potpie and reading blogs.  (well, in addition to my other duties which range from keeping everyone fed to playing fisher-price little people.)

First I will tell you about a wonderful blog that you must read.  Here is a link to the latest post.  Her writing will make you cry.  Really.  It is touching, real, heartfelt, and just beautiful.  It will make you think “Yes, this is what the God-life and mothering is all about.  I knew that, but I forgot.”  And it will draw you closer to God.  So go here.  Take some tissues with you.

Second, I will share with you the chicken potpie recipe.  It is a huge recipe – it makes 6 pies at once.  It takes about 2 hours to make.  So be sure you have time (a cold & snowy day and a movie for the kids are perfect!)  But the great part about it is that you can stick them all in the freezer and save yourself from preparing dinner six times in the next couple of months.  Or you will have a pie or two to share with someone you love who needs it!!  And it is really delicious – you won’t be disappointed.  It is my friend Jessica’s recipe, hence the name:

Jessica’s Chicken Pot Pie
 
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup butter or margarine
6 cups water
5 chicken bouillon cubes
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
4 large white potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 bag frozen corn
1 bag frozen peas and carrots
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cooked and cubed
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 slices swiss cheese
2 T butter
2 T flour
6 deep dish frozen pie crusts
6 refrigerated pie crusts
2 T butter
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
 
Saute celery and onion in butter until tender.  In large stockpot, bring water and chicken bouillon cubes to a boil.  Add sweet potato and white potato cubes to chicken stock; boil for about 15 minutes (don’t cook all the way through).  Add celery and onion.  Add frozen vegetables and bring back to a low boil.  Add soups and sour cream.  Add chicken.  In small microwaveable bowl, melt 2 T butter.  Add 2 T flour to butter and stir until smooth.  Add butter/flour mixture to stockpot.  Cook at a low boil for about 5 minutes to thicken.  Add three cups of cheddar cheese gradually, stirring to melt the cheese.  Add swiss cheese and stir until melted.  Turn off heat.  Spoon evenly into deep dish pie crusts.  Sprinkle last cup of cheddar cheese evenly over top of filling.  Cover with refrigerated pie crusts.  Cut holes in top crust to allow steam to escape.  Melt last 2 T of butter and mix with 1/2 tsp. of garlic salt.  Brush over top crusts. 
 
When thawed, pies bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until top crust is lightly browned (I usually leave it covered with foil for about the first 20 minutes of baking).  Pies can be baked frozen… cooking time will be longer… about 1 hour 15 min – 1 hr 30 min. (and I would leave the foil on for at least half the cooking time). 
 

branching out with gruyere

Hi everyone!

I’m working on some posts about our trip to Disney, so come back soon if you’re interested in some good tips!

In the meantime, I wanted to share a new recipe. 

I have had this in my “to try” recipe file for a few months and I’ve shied away from making it because it contains gruyere cheese.  Has anyone out there tried it before?  I never had, and not to mention that it’s rather expensive, at least around here – so the recipe has been sitting in my file. 

And that’s a shame.  Because it’s absolutely delicious! 

As a side note, if you want to try it:  I found the cheese cheaper at BJs (and I have enough now to make this twice!).  The cheese is somewhat similar to swiss, but much more mild.  And mixed with the sharp cheddar, it is lovely.  And by lovely, I mean that I had a hard time stopping eating even though I was full!  Now I find myself brainstorming what other recipes I could use gruyere in!

Here’s the recipe:

Cheesy Shell-Stuffed Shells

(this is from Better Homes and Gardens, Oct. 2010 issue.  Kudos to the creator, Jeffrey Cifranic.  Hopefully I haven’t violated any copyrights!  You can find this exact recipe at http://www.bhg.com/recipe/pasta/cheesy-shell-stuffed-shells/ )

  • 24    dried jumbo shell macaroni
  • 8  oz.  dried tiny shell macaroni (2 cups)
  • 2  cups  Gruyére cheese, shredded (8 oz.)
  • 2  cups  shredded sharp cheddar cheese (8 oz.)
  • 3/4  cup  half-and-half or light cream
  • 1/8  tsp.  ground white pepper or pepper
  • 1  24-oz. jar  vodka sauce or your favorite tomato pasta sauce
  • 4  oz.  brick cheese or mozzarella cheese, shredded (1 cup)
  •     Fresh basil leaves (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook jumbo shells according to package directions. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer shells to a colander. Rinse with cold water; drain well and set aside. In same pan cook tiny shells according to package directions. Drain; set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan combine Gruyére cheese, cheddar cheese, half-and-half, and pepper. Heat over medium-low heat until cheese is melted and smooth, stirring frequently. Stir in tiny shells.

3. Spread about 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce in the bottom of a 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Spoon cheese-shell mixture into drained jumbo shells; place stuffed shells in prepared baking dish. Top with remaining pasta sauce.

4. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with brick cheese. Bake, uncovered, about 15 minutes more or until heated through. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Top with fresh basil. Makes 6 servings.

**I have one child who doesn’t like spaghetti sauce, so in a single-serving size pyrex dish, I put a small amount of just the “shells and cheese” mixture, topped it with some mozzarella cheese and baked it.  Voila – she was happy with her plain mac & cheese!

So branch out and try a new cheese!  I know I’m glad I did!

Tomatoes Three Ways

I have so much to do today (including cleaning up the usual weekend “tornado” that is my house right now!).  I’ve also got peach and apple pies to make and homemade spaghetti sauce!  But, as usual, I’ll use blogging as a way to procrastinate!

I have had an overabundance of tomatoes in my garden this year.  I bought 4 plants from Home Depot – two were supposed to be cherry tomatoes and two regular tomatoes – but they all ended up being regular sized tomatoes.  So I’ve been trying to find different ways to use them up.  Here are three yummy ones I’ve found…

Grilled Fresh Tomato & Mozzarella Sandwiches

If you haven’t tried fresh mozzarella cheese, you’re missing out!  And paired with a fresh tomato from the garden… it’s like heaven!  These sandwiches are so simple – white bread (I haven’t bought white bread in YEARS, but it was good here!), a slice of fresh mozzarella, a slice of tomato, and some fresh basil from the garden.  I used a cookie cutter to cut the bread into circles that matched the round cheese & tomato slices (clever, huh?  Actually I saw it in a magazine somewhere – ha!).  Slather on some butter and prepare like a normal grilled cheese (except that since the cheese is thick, you’ll want to cook on low heat, longer, so the cheese melts a bit.)  Yum.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Just for something different, I’ve tried oven-roasting the tomatoes.  Core and cut them in slices (small tomatoes you can quarter, but larger ones I’d cut into about sixths).  Spray a cookie sheet, then place your tomatoes on there with the skin sides down.  Drizzle olive oil and then sprinkle some salt, pepper, and fresh garlic on the top.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 3 hours – or just till the edges start to blacken.  These are sooo good right out of the oven, but you can use them in so many ways.  I put a few on a tortilla with roasted red pepper hummus for lunch – it was divine!!  I’ve also chopped them and put them into homemade salsa and homemade spaghetti sauce to add flavor.  You can also put them in a food processor and chop / blend them into a tomato paste.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

I got this recipe online here.  And it was sooo yummy.  I didn’t add the zucchini or mushrooms because I knew my kids wouldn’t like it, but it was good all the same.  Today I’ll be making a double batch, and I’ll be adding some of my oven-roasted tomato paste, so that I can use up tomatoes and freeze some for later. 

Well, I’d better get cracking!!  As much as I wish it would, my house doesn’t clean itself! 

I still have lots of tomatoes, so if you have any good recipes, please share!

TTAH Tuesday – Try out the Crockpot

I love to use my crockpot.  My top two reasons for using the crockpot?

(1)  Having a home cooked meal at suppertime without having to do the work at suppertime (around here suppertime = crazy hour.  if you have ankle-biters, i’m sure you can relate)

(2)  Having a homecooked meal in the middle of summer without heating up the kitchen and when you can’t stand the thought of another night of grilled anything.

So, in honor of my love of my crockpot, I’m sending you to a blog I recently found.  It has some awesome crockpot recipes that I cannot wait to try out.

http://crockpot365.blogspot.com

Interesting that the author’s name is also Stephanie!  And I’m sure I don’t love my crockpot as much as she does – having used it every day in 2008!  Yikes.