To Be Continued...

>> Monday, June 22, 2009

Sorry for the absence of posts... We recently had a change of plans as far as where we'd be moving. We were planning on moving to Vegas, then decided on Texas instead...small change... :)

Anyway, there's been lots to figure out with the change, including job training, housing, moving trucks, etc... Not to mention packing!

We're leaving in 2 weeks, so I apologize if my posting is sporadic at best for the next month-ish.

Wish us luck!


Tex Mex Cheese Enchiladas

>> Friday, June 12, 2009

You may or may not know that I am a native Texan. Born and raised. Every once in a while I get "You're from Texas? Where's your accent?" Maybe because I've lived in outside of Texas for the last 5 years, my accent has faded away.

What has not faded is my loooooove for good ol' Tex Mex cheese enchiladas....mmmmmmmm... I decided about a month ago, that I wanted to try making some, since you can't really find them here.

On a whim I decided that what I needed to do was do a search for "enchilada gravy," since I remember being asked if I wanted the gravy or other sauce back in the day. My search yielded a post called The Essence of Tex Mex on a blog called Homesick Texan. It was interesting, she began by discussing the differences between Tex Mex and real Mexican food, etc. Then she gives a recipe for chili gravy, and cheese enchiladas.

I'll include the recipes here, add my modifications. Here's what you need to make the gravy:

Chili Gravy (from Robb Walsh)
1/4 cup lard (or vegetable oil) **I used olive oil, and it worked great
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp powdered garlic
2 tsp ground cumin **The first time I made this I used 2 tsp, and it was WAY too strong for me. This time I used 1 tsp, and I think it was just right.
1/2 tsp dried oregano (Mexican oregano is preferred if it’s available)
2 T chili powder (either homemade or a dark brand such as Gebhardt’s or Whole Foods) **Um, yeah, I used regular cheap-o chili powder and it was good. Don't go buy it special, unless you really want to.
2 cups chicken broth (or water)

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
Stir in the flour and continue stirring for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it makes a light brown roux.
Add all the dry ingredients and continue to cook for 1 minute, constantly stirring and blending ingredients. **It's cooking pretty fast at this point, so I found that measuring out all of the dry ingredients into a little bowl ahead of time made it easier.
Add chicken broth or water, mixing and stirring until the sauce thickens.
Turn heat to low and let sauce simmer for 15 minutes. Add water to adjust the thickness. Makes 2 cups.
Now here is Homesick Texan's cheese enchilda recipe:
Cheese Enchiladas
Ingredients: 1/2 cup vegetable oil **I used olive oil again here
8 corn tortillas **I made 12 or more with this amount of sauce.
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese (can make it with Velveeta for extra melting oomph and good ol' Tex-Mex authenticity)
One medium onion, diced **I didn't put any onion in mine. I'm sure it's good either way. 2 cups chili gravy

Preheat the oven to 450.
Pour the oil in a small skillet, and heat the tortillas one at a time. Keep them wrapped in a cloth until all 8 are heated. **I think the purpose of this is to keep the tortillas from tearing. Is there another way to do this without using oil? Soak them in water? Please leave me a comment if you have any ideas...I'd like to cut some oil out of the recipe if I could!
Pour 1/2 cup of chili gravy in a baking pan.
Take a tortilla, put 1/4 cup of cheese and 1 tablespoon of onion in the center and roll it.
Place rolled tortilla in baking dish, seam side down.
Continue with remaining tortillas.
Take remaining chili gravy, and pour it over the rolled tortillas.
Sprinkle remaining cheese and onions on top.
Bake for 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.
Makes 8 enchiladas.

Okay, now I will share my all-time favorite side dish for homemade enchildas of any variety. Sauteed zucchini. For my husband and I, I usually buy 2 zucchini (these are actually Italian Squash, is there a difference?), or you could use yellow squash or a combination. Either way, use at least 2. We hardly ever have any leftovers of this, between the two of us, it's that good.

Slice it up, throw it in a skillet with a little bit of butter and some Tex-Joy if you are blessed enough to have some, or some "seasoned salt," or whatever you want really. Cook until tender.The zucchini just complements the enchiladas so well! Mmmmm...I'm making myself hungry. Try this meal out, it's delicious!
Aren't you so proud of me for taking pictures as I went this time?! I even pulled out the fine china, since I knew I'd be taking pictures. :) Just keeping it real (we don't have a dishwasher!). And P.S. that spot on the table cloth is just water. In case you were wondering.



Simplify Supper

>> Wednesday, June 10, 2009

If you thought my menu planning method was too much work, you might want to...

Wow. This website really does all the work for you. On the home screen of the website, you'll a pre-made calendar for the month, with recipes on each day of the week.

To the left of that is the shopping list for the current week of the calendar. And WOW, they even divide the ingredients into categories (according to where you find them in a grocery store) and label which day of the week you need each ingredient. Under the shopping list are buttons that allow you to print this week's recipes, email the list, or send it to your cell phone! They really mean business when they say they want to simplify supper.

Don't want to eat what they've got planned? No problem. You can also pick which recipes you want to make and when. The best part? The website will automatically make your fancy shmancy shopping list, no matter how many recipes you choose!

Or if you're like me, you can just use this website for recipe ideas, and browse, and browse, finding all sorts of yummies to try. And of course, being called Simplify Supper, you know that most of the recipes are very easy to make as well. Bonus!

Where do you find recipes and menu planning ideas?


What's on the Menu?

>> Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Menu planning is one of those things that everyone does a little differently. It's always interesting to me to learn how other people do the mundane daily things in life, such as menu planning. I thought I'd share my method. It works for me.

I will admit, I don't love coming up with something to make for dinner every night. Not that I don't like making dinner. I like to try new recipes, to tweak someone else's (or my own) recipes, or to make a tried-and-true favorite and be satisfied with the yummy results.

If you know me at all, you might know that I am not the best {or quickest} decision maker. I agonize over really small decisions, and what should be no big deal turns into quite the ordeal.

This is why I prefer a more structured meal calendar. It takes the daily-ness out of deciding what's for dinner, lessening the frequency of those agonizing decisions!

So here's what I do. Since January or February I have been making a meal calendar on the computer and printing it out each month. If you want to use my method, here are the steps you should take:

1. Come up with the "categories" of food you usually eat, and decide how frequently you would like to eat from each "category." We decided we'd eat most categories every other week. For us these include pasta, sandwiches, rice, tortillas, soup, and breakfast. We have those categories assigned to Monday through Wednesday.

Every Thursday is Leftover Day. Nothing like saving money and cleaning out the fridge at the same time.

Every Friday is pizza night. Usually this is homemade pizza, but occasionally we buy a pizza, have a frozen, or do some other take on pizza, like bagel or french bread pizza. When we make homemade pizza we like to try and mix it up too. One of my FAVORITES is barbecue chicken pizza. So easy and SO GOOD!

Saturday is "Trent's Choice," because, even though planning in advance this way takes the stress off of making the decisions, I don't want to have to make ALL of the decisions. My husband has to choose what we have on Saturdays (theoretically:).

And Sundays I just leave empty at this point, because we usually try to make something yummy on a Sunday, and I don't want to be bothered with thinking about which category my Sunday dinner should fit into each week.

Some calendar programs are nice and will automatically repeat an event every two weeks if you tell it to. I just had to fill out the categories once in our calendar program, and my meal calendar was good to go for as long as I told it to repeat (mine will go until July, when things might change because we may be moving in with the in-laws for a while).

2. After you've printed your calendar with your categories set up the way you want them, you can come up with individual recipes or meals you want to make and assign them to days according to your categories. For example, Tortillas are assigned to Mondays on my calendar, so yesterday I made cheese enchiladas. (I'm going to share that recipe probably Friday, so get excited!!)

You don't have to fill out the whole calendar at once. Usually I'll do about 2 weeks at once. If I'm lazy I just do a few days at a time. Or like this month, I filled pretty much the whole month out at once, except for a few days I couldn't think of what to write in.

This is really flexible, people. I don't want you to get the idea that I'm a meal calendar Nazi. I just use it as a guideline to save me a little sanity. We don't always stick to what is written down. Last month I think I hardly made anything on the day that it was written in, but if nothing else, it was good be able to see what meals I had the ingredients to make, which brings me to the next step.

3. Go grocery shopping. I like to refer to my calendar as I make my shopping list, look at each day and add the items I need to buy for that recipe to my list. Some people are pros at grocery shopping and hardly spend any money. I'm not there yet, but maybe someday.

4. Make dinner. Make what's written in on that day. Or don't. I'm not tied to my calendar, so if I feel like making something else, I do. But, on days when I don't care one way or the other, it's SO REFRESHING to just be able to look at the calendar and know what to make, without having to think too hard about it.

How do you do menu planning? Leave a comment and share your methods!



Sorry I've been so lazy about posting lately. I need to find a blogging rhythm I guess...

One of my favorite things in my apartment right now is a red cabinet door I have hanging on the wall above our couch. It's really cute, but I also really like it, because it makes me feel creative to have thought to hang it there. Not that I'm the first person to ever hang a door on the wall... but we'll talk more about that later.

I happened upon this door when I was wandering around the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I saw this door on top of a stack of old cabinet doors, next to a sign that said "cabinet doors 2/$5."

Then what happened can only be described as inspiration or a stroke of creative genius hit me. I looked at that door and new instantly that I wanted to buy it, and exactly what I wanted to do with it. I felt a little bad picking it up because we had just talked about how we needed to not spend much money for a little while if we could avoid it....but I was a bad girl and thought, "for $2.50 I will call this a birthday present to myself." So I bought it.

Here is the finished product:

Yeah, I didn't even bother fixing the couch cushions before I took the picture. I told you, I'm lazy sometimes.

Anyway, this project was very cheap. Here's how it added up:

$0.00--varnish (already had it)
$0.50--mini barn star (thrift store)
$0.00--ribbon (had it)

Total = $3.89!!! (and it looks better in real life than it does in the picture!)

Here are some other people who use doors in their decor:

320 Sycamore: Personalized wall plaque

Nesting Place: A door above the couch.

Joys of Home: She's made LOTS of things out of doors!

If you have a post about repurposing a door of some sort, leave me a comment and I'll add it to my list here!


Check out these awesome parties I'm participating in with this post:

Trash to Treasure @ Reinvented

2nd Time Around Tuesday
@ A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words


Give Me a Sign

>> Thursday, June 4, 2009

I've been considering teaching my baby a few signs, so I wanted to look into finding out how to get started and learn some signs {WITHOUT BUYING ANYTHING}.

I found a few sites with some interesting info and resources. Here are a some I found. Each of these websites has more to choose from than just the section that the link will send you to, so if you're interested, check out some other parts of the sites."Get Started"

Babies and Sign Language--Baby Signing Glossary Language Animations


Water Party!

So, I just got off the phone with my mom, and she was telling me all about the water party she's helping to throw for the kids at church. I told her I would love to go to that party with all the fun activities she has planned, so I thought I would share!

The kids range from ages 3 to 11, so they've got a range of activities planned.

Here are the activities geared toward the younger kiddies:

Sprinkler: A fun one to run through.

Sidewalk chalk: Who doesn't love this?

Duck pond: A wading pool filled with rubber ducks. Each duck has a number on the bottom that corresponds with a prize. The kids choose a duck and get a prize!

Bubble station: A bubble machine and a whole lot of bubble solution and about 15 wands.

Activities for older kids/everyone else:

Water baseball:
Wiffle balls, plastic bats, and wading pools for bases! I remember doing this at church activities as a teenager and thought it was so fun!

Slip 'n slide: Isn't this just everyone's favorite? You can't go wrong with a slip 'n slide!

Splash Out ball: Have you ever played with one of these? They are SO fun! It's a ball that you put a water balloon inside and play a game of hot potato with. The ball has a timer in it, and at random it will pop the balloon, soaking whoever happens to be holding it! Here's a picture I found on

Relay Races: First team to finish wins! I DO LOVE A GOOD RELAY!
~Wet Towel Relay: This race starts with a bucket of water with a towel in it for each team. To run the race you pick the towel up out of the bucket, put it over your shoulders, and run to a certain point and back, where you put the towel back in the bucket for the next person.

~Pass the Cup: This is the relay where you have a bucket full of water on one end, and an empty bucket at the other, with your team in a line between the buckets. The first person on the end with the water bucket fills a cup with water, and then your team has to pass the down the line. The catch (of course there is one, that's what makes it fun!) is that you have to alternate passing "over" (over your head) and "under" (under your legs), and pass this way over, under, over, under down the line, trying not to spill the water so that you can fill up your bucket the fastest!

~Balloon Toss:
This is the game that you play the same way as an egg toss. You have a partner and everyone stands the same distance apart, then you toss the balloon, and after every toss or two you have to take a step back and toss across a farther distance. And here is a BRILLIANT adaptation my mom and her friends are making to this game. They are using ziplock bags filled with water instead of water balloons so that they don't have pick up a million little bidgies of water balloon from the church lawn after the party is over. I told you. Brilliant.

~Fill Up the Bucket:
I think this relay is similar to the Pass the Cup relay, but instead of having to pass over and under, this time you pass normally, except your cup has holes in the bottom, so you'd better pass it fast!

And for refreshments they are having snow cones, watermelon, and ice water!

Doesn't this sound like the perfect water party??? Summer is here! Get outside and have some fun with water!


Loveseat Makeover

>> Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In April, I saw my mom coming for my husband's graduation as the PERFECT opportunity to recover a loveseat! We'd been needing more seating in our living room, and I found this wonderful fabric store, Home Fabrics, that has ridiculously cheap decorator fabric. I knew I couldn't tackle that kind of project on my own (seriously, my dresser took months, and all I was doing was painting it!) I got my wonderful mother to spend the spare time on her visit helping me take apart and beautify a love seat.

Now here's the part where I'm kicking myself. I hardly even want to say it. I didn't take a before picture. I meant to. I bought it off of an online classifieds website, and thought the picture might still be there when I looked later. NOPE!

So this morning I got back on the classifieds to see if I could find a picture of something equally ugly and worn. Well what I found was slightly uglier than what I bought (but pretty similar) and not nearly as worn. The loveseat I bought was kinda dirty and had spots on the arms and back where someone had tried to sew up some holes that had developed. Anyway, it looked sort of like this:

Did I mention I bought it for $25? Not too shabby.

The first order of business was unscrewing the feet, roughing them up a bit with sandpaper, and spray painting them satin black. Really, after using black spray paint in the satin finish, I know why people rave about it! It is beautiful!

Then, my main job during the project was removing staples to get the old fabric off. Luckily my mom brought this old antique looking tool that's used for something related to beekeeping...some kind of scraper... Anyway, that made removing staples A LOT easier.

We used the old fabric as a pattern for the new fabric, which I failed to mention earlier I got for $3 a yard. I KNOW. I told you it was ridiculously cheap. And it's nice thick, sturdy fabric.

Luckily, my mom did what I call the hard part: All of the brain work, and sewing. (She even made the back cushions match the shape of our couch cushions!) She said I did the hard part, the aforementioned staple removing. I also helped with cutting fabric, and putting in new staples. I know, it's like I cheated at this project, since I didn't do it by myself. Oh well, I don't feel bad about it! Because look how it turned out!!!

That piece of fabric is the original fabric. I took this picture when I realized I hadn't taken a before. I think the couch is pretty dang loverly for $50! Really, it is exaclty what I wanted! Thanks Mom, you're THE BEST!

So, somehow I completely MISSED the Goodwill party on Thrifty Decor Chick's blog yesterday. Not sure how I managed to not even know about it, since that's one of the blogs I read regularly. So I'm linking up a day late. I'm also linking to the Trash to Treasure party at Reinvented and 2nd Time Around Tuesday from A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words. Stop by those sites and check out everyone else's projects!


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