Thursday, September 22, 2016

Mexican Pizzas and Making Team Bags

We survived our league tournament a couple weeks ago (and victoriously, I may add)!  Before the tournament began, I made team welcome bags for all the high schools attending, as our school was hosting the tournament.

Tournaments are all day and can get a little tiresome and boring for the teens as there is fluctuating downtime in between their games.  Our gift bags included a deck of cards, crayons, puzzles (to build team bonding) as well as the essential chap stick, gum and Kleenex tissues.

Each team had their own customized gift bags complete with their school logo, 
and colors in the tissue paper and balloons included with each bag.

The final product looked really great with all the different colors going down the hall. 

As we also hosted this week's team dinner at our house, I made my infamous Taco Bar for the girls. We had grilled chicken, steak, flour and corn tortillas, lime rice, chips, salsa, guacamole, black beans, refried beans and all the fixings to go along.  Unfortunately the locusts (aka teenage girl athletes) inhaled my beautiful buffet before I could get a photo of it.  

We did end up with some leftovers, which I pulled together to make Mexican Pizzas for our "Bleacher Picnic", we had this week while watching one of their weeknight games.  Dinners during this time of year are challenging and need to be creative and quick for our hectic on the go schedules.

Mexican Pizzas 
Makes 4 Pizzas

8 flour tortillas
2 cups prepared and warmed refried beans
2 cups prepared, heated taco meat
2 cups Taco Blend shredded cheese
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 stalks green onions, chopped
sour cream, for garnish

Prepare a small amount of oil in skillet at medium high heat.  Cook flour tortillas for 30-45 seconds or until just golden brown on each side.  Drain on paper towels.

Top on first tortilla, a thin layer of refried beans, then top beans with taco meat.

Put other tortilla on top of taco meat.  Add salsa on top of the tortilla.  Top with Taco blend cheese.

Put a few diced tomatoes and green onions on top of cheese.

Put finished Mexican pizzas on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 20 minutes.

Cut into fourths and serve with sour cream on top.

Traveling Mexican Pizzas and Chips'n Salsa ready to go for our Bleacher Picnic.

I love that even 17 year olds still like to color with crayons and play with cards.
Of course, my teenagers were teaching the rest of their team how to play Blackjack...what can I say?! 
 In their defense, it does help with math skills, I've always said.

VICTORY!  Tournament win...a first in their school's history!!

One Year Ago: Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Three Years Ago: Nutella Cookies

Thursday, September 8, 2016

One Pot Cajun Shrimp Pasta and Project Overload

When we found out we were expecting twins, we decided we didn't want to know the sex of didn't matter to us, we just prayed for healthy babies.  We did a neutral room in the Baby Bugs Bunny theme.  Super cute little characters in soft pastel colors.

It seems so fitting now, because my brain has turned into the (Looney Tunes character) Tasmanian Devil these past few weeks.  You know the cartoon, where he blazes around in a tornado at warp speed...yes, that is me and my brain right here and right now for the next three months.

We have a lot going on in our house and high school at the moment.  Last weekend I took my girls' Senior portraits, which had my emotions all over the board.  I was really touched and honored though that they wanted me to take them...a memory that will last a lifetime.

This week is Homecoming and District Varsity Volleyball tournament that our school is hosting.  Half of our ping pong table has turned into a custom spirit wear art area.  We are doing a Homecoming Tailgate BBQ event that I am helping with and then the next day is the tournament that I am co-coordinating on.  I am in charge of making welcome baskets for each of the visiting teams, complete with their school logos, coordinating balloons, ribbons and goodies for their baskets.

The other half of our ping pong table has also turned into a photo shop selection space.  Each year the school yearbook does Senior baby dedication pages, as well as Varsity volleyball does a dedicated Senior night complete with custom posters for each player.  I now have the task of going through seventeen years of photos and selecting our favorite five for each girl...not an easy task I can assure you.

After this weekend is complete, then we are on to our big fundraising event "Dancing With The Stars" and the year end Volleyball Banquet which I am coordinating.  In between all of this is lots of exciting high school volleyball matches that we are enjoying and taking in every moment of their final season, hosting team dinners and serving as the team parent for their Leadership Academy this year.

If your school year has started off like mine and you need a quick, delicious and so very easy dinner, this one is for you!  I could not get enough of this dish...I think I may have even gone for thirds (right out of the pot, while cleaning up the kitchen)!!!

One Pot Cajun Shrimp Pasta
Adapted from

1 pound linguine
3 Tbl butter (divided as 2 and 1)
2-1/2 Tbl cajun seasoning (divided as 1-1/2 and 1)
1 pound peeled, deveined large shrimp with tails removed
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 cup diced pepper (green, yellow, orange or red)
1 pound Andouille sausage, sliced
2 cloves garlic, mined
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream

Cook the linguine in boiling water until al dente.  Drain and set aside.

In the same pot, heat the butter, then add 1-1/2 tablespoon cajun seasoning and mix the spice with the butter.  Add in shrimp.  Cook until the shrimp turn pink.  Take the shrimp out and set aside.

Keeping the heat on, add in butter until it's melted, then add the diced yellow onion and pepper.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, until the onion is translucent.  Add in andouille sausage and cook for another minute, then add minced garlic, salt, cajun seasoning, red pepper flakes and dried thyme.  When everything is cooked and mixed well, pour in chicken stock and heavy cream.  Mix well and cook for about 3 minutes.

When the sauce is thickening, add the shrimp and pasta back into the pot.  Mix until everything is well combined.

Three Years Ago: Hot Chili Mama Salsa

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Grilled Shrimp, Corn and Avocado Salad...Surviving Roadtrips

The girls and I recently did a few long distance road trips to start checking out college campuses and get an idea what some of their choices, likes, dislikes are out there.

Hard as I try, whenever we do a road trip I pack water, fruit, almonds, granola bars and any other easy, quick, healthy, energy snack I can get my hands on.  These healthy choices last about 37 miles and then my passengers (okay, me too) are completely board with them.

Fun fact about road trips though, you get to experience different stops and restaurants that you normally don't see in your hometown.  Exhibit A:"Steak'n Shake"!  I discovered this somewhere over the Colorado border, driving through Kansas.  Big mistake!!  Look at these cute little, road trip driving friendly sliders!!

After three days of surviving on gas station displays of "Krispy Kreme" donuts (don't judge...they're amazing), Mountain Dew to stay awake while driving, hotel buffet biscuits and gravy and what I think were scrambled eggs, Ding Dongs (also an amazing childhood favorite...yours too, don't try and deny it) and Peanut M&M's here and there, my gut felt like it was going to explode...and don't get me started on the Chili-Cheese Fritos.  I don't know what's worse, how I felt after inhaling them, or the rancid, lingering aroma in my car after the bag was opened..I think you get the picture.

Upon our return home, I needed a clean, fresh and home cooked salad (and car detailing)...this one did the trick perfectly!

Grilled Shrimp, Corn and Avocado Salad
Inspired by The South Beach Diet

1-1/2 Tbl olive oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 to 1-1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails off
4 scallions, each cut into 2" small pieces

2 Tbl. fresh lime juice
2 Tbl. olive oil
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
4 cups Romaine lettuce
1 medium avocado, diced
4 to 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup cooked corn kernels (preferably grilled and cut from cob)
1 medium (red, orange or yellow) pepper, diced
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, garlic and red pepper flakes.  Add shrimp and scallions and toss to coat; refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, oil, black pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt;  let stand at room temperature while shrimp is marinating.  In a large bowl, combine romaine lettuce, avocado, bacon, corn kernels and bell pepper.

Generously coat a grill or grill pan with cooking spray and heat to medium-high.  Alternately thread shrimp and scallions onto 4 skewers.  Lightly sprinkle shrimp and scallions with salt and grill, turning once and basting with any remaining marinade, until shrimp just turn pink, 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Remove shrimp and scallions from skewers and add to salad mixture.  Add dressing and toss gently.  Arrange salad on 4 plates, top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

One Year Ago: Surf and Turf Crostinis
Two Years Ago: Smoked BBQ Chicken Nachos
Three Years Ago: Flatbread Friday

Of course, every road trip survivor deserves a little refreshment...
Bread and Butter Pinot Noir is our new favorite discovery.
It paired perfectly with our dinner salad.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Seniors, Shrimp Skewers with Pesto and Cheddar Polenta

The day has arrived...the "Last, First Day of School".  My girls are Seniors and this day has been coming for a very, very long time.  Although it doesn't seem that long...feels like they were just taking their "First, First Day of School" photos.

My heart is overwhelmed with emotions and it's going to be one of those long Kleenex kinds of year. Well, my little birds will be ready to fly soon and we just continue to pray for them and be thankful for all the Blessings we have been given with them.

This dinner has absolutely nothing to do with anything other than it is a great comfort meal for me in my time of need.

Shrimp Skewers with Pesto and Cheddar Polenta
Adapted from Cuisine at Home Grilling

For The Shrimp;
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup minced garlic
1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. paprika
minced zest of 1 lime
salt to taste
16 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails off
(1) 4 ounce container, prepared pesto sauce

For The Cheddar Polenta;
3 cups water
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1-1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
salt to taste

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Combine 1/4 cup oil, garlic, pepper flakes, paprika, lime zest, and salt for the shrimp in a bowl.  Add shrimp and toss to coat; marinate for at least 5 minutes.

Thread 4 shrimp onto each of the 4 skewers through both the tail and the head to hold in place.  Reserve marinade for basting.

Arrange skewers on the grill with the handles extending over the edge.  Grill covered for 1-1/2 minutes per side, brushing shrimp with marinade as they cook.  Serve skewers with warmed, prepared pesto.

For the Polenta, bring water and milk to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Gradually whisk in cornmeal.  Cook cornmeal according to package directions, or until thick, stirring often.  

Add Cheddar, stirring until melted.  Season polenta with salt.

One Year Ago: Naughty Cookie Bars
Three Years Ago: Flatiron Steak Salad

Monday, August 15, 2016

Zucchini Pie and School Week Meal Prep

It's "Back-To-School" week here in Colorado.  Just completed a great weekend of getting caught up on my 37 loads of laundry that I was in denial of and started on my closet purging for another Goodwill delivery.  A good home cleaning and refreshing the house for a new week and school year always feels good.  Every school year I remember my girls starting their school life in Kindergarten and reading Robert Fulghum's book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  It is a must read if you have not done so already.  It's a timeless classic that makes you look at and smile at life and how simple it really can (and should) be.

School clothing shopping for Senior Portraits is all complete, location scouting has been finalized and my Senior girls are ready to finish their high school careers.  Registration packets and parent authorizations are all signed. Incredibly bittersweet...what more can I say.  As always, to take my mind off my birds leaving the nest someday...I cook!

Last night I made a refrigerator full of chicken quesadillas, breakfast burritos, pancakes and waffles, chocolate chip cookies, blueberry muffins, my Pot Roast know, the quintessential teenager meal needs...(well, maybe for mama too, after all my mornings can get hectic also)!

For weeknight dinners, this side dish is awesome!  It came from one of my summer deliveries of Cuisine at Home and I was so excited to try it.  Comes together so quick and flawless that it will be one less thing to stress about during your back-to-school week.  Enjoy and have a good week!

Zucchini Pie (with cheesy rice crust)
Courtesy of Cuisine At Home May/June 2016

1 cup dry instant white rice
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 zucchini, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick spray.

Combine rice, broth, Cheddar, egg, mayonnaise and pepper flakes; pour into prepared dish.

Arrange zucchini in an overlapping spiral on top of rice mixture.

Combine butter, Parmesan, Italian seasoning and salt; pour over zucchini.

Bake pie until bubbly and top is golden, 30-35 minutes;  let rest 10 minutes.

One Year Ago: Greek Chicken Salad
Two Years Ago: Spinach Chicken Bacon Pizza
Three Years Ago: Snickerdoodles

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Key Lime Jalapeno Cake

It is local fair and farmer's market seasons around most of the country and most definitely here in Colorado.  I love going to our farmer's market on Saturday mornings.  The freshest most beautiful fruits, vegetables and flowers with vibrant colors and scents.  Along with those, you can also get a taste of local honey, sausages, wines and cheeses with all the farms around our area.

Colorado is known for their peppers...all kinds...Hatch, Ghost, Jalapeno and every other kind imaginable.  The other day I was reading our local paper and noticed an article on one of our family owned bakeries here.  They specialize in taking everyday desserts and add a Colorado fresh ingredient twist to them.  I saw that they add jalapeno peppers to their Key Lime Pie...are you kidding me?  How awesome does that sound?

Since I had never made a Key Lime Pie from scratch (yet), and I was short on time, I did a play on the dessert and made a Key Lime Cake instead.  Oh my goodness!!!  This cake has everything...sweet, rich, creamy and a little kick of heat at the end of your bite that gets you in the tastebuds.  Honestly though, I could have just sat and ate the entire bowl of the key lime frosting...delish!!

Key Lime Jalapeno Cake
Adapted from Lauren's Latest and Inspired by La Momo Maes Bakery

(1) 16.5 oz. white cake mix
+ ingredients to complete cake mix (eggs, water, oil)
2 Tbls. finely grated lime zest
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs (removed and discarded) finely diced
8 ounce block cream cheese, softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbls. finely grated lime zest
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbl. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9x13 glass baking dish with nonstick spray on bottom and sides of pan and set aside.

Make white cake mix according to package directions.  Stir in lime zest and finely diced jalapeno. Pour into prepared pan and smooth batter out evenly.  Bake 23-28 minutes or until cake is completely cooked and lightly golden.  Set aside to cool.

For the topping; mix cream cheese with hand mixer to loosen.  Pour in sweetened condensed milk and stir until smooth.  Add in lime zest, lime juice and vanilla until smooth and filling has thickened.  Pour over cooled cake and spread evenly.  Refrigerate 1-2 hours covered in plastic wrap to set.

For the whipped cream; stir cream, powdered sugar and vanilla all together in a bowl until whipped into big pillowy peaks.  Add a spoon of whipped cream over serving.  Top with lime zest and serve.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

French Dip Date Night

It had been almost three years to the day since my girls were last at the Pepsi Center in Denver, for a concert. Looking back at their last concert photo, they have changed so much in three years, it's just unreal to me sometimes.

Well, after a long wait of 8 months (they received concert tickets for their birthday last year), the night had arrived...Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas.  Floor seats, nonetheless!!  I don't know how, but the Angels in Heaven above found me amazing (and affordable) seats for these girls.  The problem with having great seats...they will never sit in the "nose bleed sections" again!  I was just impressed that we didn't lose the tickets in those 8 months!

Priceless Smiles!

Fun Sister Memories Forever!

Demi Lovato

Nick Jonas

While our girls were rock'n out (they take after their mom, don't you know) my husband and I hit the big city.  We walked into the LoDo district and wandered around the new Union Station downtown. Once the scary lightning storm passed it ended up being a beautiful evening.

We stumbled onto the Thirsty Lion...which I can now say is probably my new favorite place downtown!!  Super fun atmosphere, extensive menu and awesome service...and the food, WOW!

I am a huge afficianado of The French Dip Sandwich.  I love, love, love these sandwiches and have since forever!  Their sandwich was unbelievable.  They make it with a Ciabatta roll (my new way to make it at home now), Provolone cheese and their Au Jus dipping sauce is infused with rosemary (also my new way to make it at home now). Amazing, just saying!!

My husband had their Fish'n Chips and he was equally impressed.  Yes, we will most definitely be back to the Thirsty Lion when we return to Denver for a future date night.  Cheers!

One Year Ago: Bistro Sandwich
Two Years Ago: Baja Turkey Tacos
Three Years Ago: Roasted Garlic and Cheese Platter