Monday, February 29, 2016

One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese and One Heck of A Month

To say that I am so happy that February is over today, would be an understatement.  It has been one doozer of a month.

It all started off with having to say good-bye to my "dinosaur" phone of 3 years.  $$$ I am now an iPhone mom...I know what you're thinking...Apple is now up to,  I don't know,  iPhone 37 at this point, and I am just now getting one...I know!!

Then it was time to renew my four year old eyeglass prescription (now that I am 50 years old).$$$

A week later, my husband's computer decided it didn't want to cooperate...ever again. Now we have a new computer. $$$$

Friday last week my girls' vehicle decided it didn't want to start and got to take a nice little tow ride...I can't even think about where that is going to go this week.

...and speaking of later this week, my oldest daughter needs wisdom teeth $$$$$$$urgery.

In my wise old age though, I have learned that I need to value and appreciate these obstacles and not complain because....

  • I am thankful that I can have a new phone to stay in touch with my family and friends.
  • I am thankful that I still have the vision to see all the beauty that God creates every day
  • I am thankful for a new computer for my husband to continue his work.
  • I am thankful that we were even able to purchase a vehicle for my daughters and they were home when car didn't start, and not stranded somewhere.
  • I am thankful for healthy children.
All that being said, I still need a little comfort for those trying days and have been searching out easy, affordable and comfort dishes.  This one hit the spot!  So, pull up a pot of this soup and continue to be thankful for those less than perfect days because remember, there are never any bad days...just some days are better than others.

One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese
Adapted from

1 Tbl olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
8 ounces ground beef
4 cups chicken broth
1 (14.5) ounce canned diced tomatoes
3/4 cup canned white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp. chili powder
1-1/2 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper to taste
10 ounces, uncooked elbow macaroni pasta
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 Tbl. chopped fresh parsley leaves
Sour Cream
Avocado, peeled and diced

Heat olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add garlic, onion and ground beef, and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the beef as it cooks;  drain excess fat.

Stir in chicken broth, tomatoes, beans, chili powder and cumin;  season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Bring to a simmer and stir in pasta.  Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until pasta is cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Top with cheese and cover until melted, about 2 minutes.

Serve immediately, garnished with parsley, sour cream and/or avocado, if desired.

One Year Ago:  Chicken and Dumplings
Two Years Ago: Original Peanut Coleslaw

Monday, February 22, 2016

Surviving 50 and The Birthday Flirtini

Well it's over...I said good-bye to my 40's and hello to 50 this past weekend.  I made it.  It's been a long time coming and I'm ready to see what life has for me these next ten years.

This is how I started my birthday....
I came downstairs to giant helium balloons, crepe paper streamers and happy birthday banners strewn throughout the house.  My husband was up at 4am decorating for my special morning and I was shocked as I tried to focus on everything and the daily stagger to my coffee.

When I got everyone out of the house, my next gift was almost ready to arrive.  House Cleaners!!!! Yes, when you hit 50 the only gift you want is for someone to come professionally clean your house. What a treat!!!  It had been many years since I had a cleaning service and I missed it so!  Nothing like the smell of Clorox to put you in the birthday spirit!!

The aroma of cleaners quickly became overrun with that of flowers.  The florist, UPS and postman just kept coming all day long.  I felt like the most blessed, loved and luckiest person all day long. Truly beautiful bouquets that I wish I could freeze in time and keep everyday.

After the house was cleaned and deliveries were complete, it was time for some special girl bonding and lunch with my daughters at Cheese Importers for some decadent paninis and dessert.  They brought us our carrot cake and macaroons first...worked for me!! We indulged in our sweets before the sandwiches came...another thing you get to do in your 50's!!

Next, I was off to my hair appointment.  I had enough of my $7.99 boxed color and decided to treat myself to a real colorist to nurture me and my "highlights", we'll just say.  She foiled me up and as I sat there waiting for the miracle of modern chemistry to process I looked around and saw every other woman there was around plus/minus 60 years old getting their hair done.  I smiled to myself and thought, it's official...I am old and now part of the "Friday afternoon wash and set club".  How did this happen??!!

I went home with my new "hot momma do" and changed for cocktails and dinner.  We started with a birthday flirtini, then dinner at Bonefish Grill for an amazing night and my husband even snuck in a Black Forrest Cake from our favorite Romana Cake House.

At the end of the day, I pray for many, many more years and am so thankful and blessed for the birthdays I have been given to this point of my life.  Cheers!

This is how I ended my birthday...
Birthday Flirtinini

2 ounces white cranberry juice cocktail
1 ounce good vodka
1/2 ounce X-Rated Fusion Liqueur
1 ounce Prosecco sparkling wine

Combine the cranberry juice cocktail, vodka and liqueur in an ice-filled martini shaker.
Shake gently and strain into a large chilled martini glass.  Top with Prosecco.

One Year Ago: Purple Potion #49
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Layered Pudding

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mexican Grilled Shrimp Caesar Salad...I'm Back

After a month of being on hiatus (from blogging that is)...I am back.  January was a month of recovery from holidays, birthdays, preparing for the new year, taking on some new additional duties and mourning the loss of friends who unexpectedly passed away, which carried a lot of emotional sadness at year's end.

It is now a new year and a new month today.  I am on the golden passage countdown and in 19 days I will be turning 50 years old.  While getting a long overdue and much deserved pedicure last week, I read a great quote from Julia Louis Dreyfus..."I try to push worry down and pull the Spanx up!", when asked how she deals with aging.  LOVE THIS!!  That has to be, without a doubt my motto!

So, in between pulling my Spanx up and trying to keep my worrying down, I am back in the competition volleyball gyms and traveling with our girls and team tournament catering every other weekend.  I am in awe of how far they have come in this sport and in their maturity and growth. They are now looking at colleges and we are praying for recruitment and scholarships to see them through their college dreams.

As always, our schedules have been beyond hectic, so quick, "post holiday figure friendly" meals have been trying to make it to the table.  I am typically the one in the house that is craving shrimp (of any kind) and my husband will always be the first one who wants "The Big Salad", (if you were an avid fan of the Seinfeld tv show, you will remember Elaine's Big Salad episode - hilarious!!).

Needless to say, I was able to pull together the best of both worlds and we had this amazing shrimp salad. It has the perfect amount of crunch, flavors and was an awesome light dinner for the two of us.

Mexican Grilled Shrimp Caesar Salad

1/4 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)

1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
5 Tbl. olive oil (divided)
salt and pepper

1 Tbl. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 small head romaine lettuce, leaves torn to bite size pieces
1/2 small jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 small avocado, peeled and diced

1/2 cup crumbled Cotija cheese
1/2 cup seasoned tortilla strips

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread pepitas on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Heat grill (or you can cook on a grill pan inside on cooktop) to medium-high.  In a medium bowl, toss the shrimp with the cayenne, 1 Tbl of oil, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper.  Grill until opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

In a large bowl, combine the vinegar, Worcestershire, garlic, remaining 4 Tbl. olive oil and whisk well.  Add the lettuce, jicama, pepitas, shrimp, and avocado and toss with dressing to combine.  Plate salad and top with Cotija cheese and tortilla strips.

**Note: You may want to double this dressing portions, if you're like me and don't want an overly dry salad.

One Year Ago: Sweet Dreams Cake