Homemade Taco/Tex-Mex Seasoning

I love Mexican food, no big revelation there right? I quit using the packaged Taco Seasoning some time back because I wanted to control the sodium and the balance of flavors. Don't get me wrong, I have used a TON of those seasoning packets in my past, and I am not saying there is anything wrong with that, I just like to do my own thing now.....call me a rebel.

The idea to do this actually came from Kevin's comments that I should just make a big batch of this seasoning since I use it in just about everything with even a slight hint of Mexican flavor. I thought about it and decided he was right. It will definitely save me some time when I am cooking since instead of grabbing different spices and doing a teaspoon of this and a tablespoon of that I can just grab my jar and away I go!

This batch is toned down as far as the heat level is concerned. It is pretty equal to a regular package of taco seasoning. I usually spice it up with some cayenne pepper, or substitute the regular chilipowder with the hot Mexican chili powder, or even chipotle chili powder (which is soooooo good). So if you like it hot like we do go for it!

DIY Spice Jars

If you are anything like me you start a million and one (OK maybe I am exaggerating a little....a million) projects at one time only to leave most of them half done and alone on a shelf somewhere wondering when you will ever return. Well this project my friends started down that road. 

One day, several months ago, I was chatting with some other folks online about how my spice drawer was a huge mess. I had thought that when I moved into my old house I would avoid the spices in the cabinet shuffle (you know, shuffle two out, three to the side, Aha the one you were looking for) by laying them out flat in a drawer. I had a huge drawer just begging for them so that is where they went.  It was a fantastic idea, until I became a food blogger and decided I needed every spice known to mankind in my kitchen! Then it became a jigsaw puzzle to fit them all in to the drawer, and what I like to refer to as "a religious experience" to find them (You know "Seek and ye shall find"?)! But I was clueless as to how to fix the issue. I would see all of those adorable glass spice jars when I went to the spice shop in Seattle, but DANG those suckers are expensive!! With around 50 different types of spices in my arsenal, it would have cost me a small fortune to buy and I would STILL have the issue of how to store them. That was when I found this fabulous idea.

Manic Monday Party #24

Wow, another week has gone by, and what a week it has been! I don't know about you, but I am ready for another line up of mouthwatering goodies! 

Here are the top dishes from last weeks party...

Easy Ham Mac and Cheese from Red, White, and Blueberries

IKEA’s Swedish Meatballs from Who Needs a Cape

And for your sweet tooth....

Some fantastic features there, thanks to everyone that shared. It is always so close! So now on to this weeks party.As usual, you can link up to 3 of your favorite or latest recipes. Today's subcategory however is, Super Bowl Party Foods. Do have some recipes for fabulous appetizers? How about your famous chili? BBQ yummies? Well make sure to share them here so we can all plan an out of this world Super Bowl Party!!

So let's go over the "rules".

Link up the picture to the post not your main blog page
Please link back to this page on your blog post.

Make sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pintrest. I will be tweeting, pinning, and posting your recipes all week long. 

Leave up to 3 of your favorite posts, or link up posts that fit in with the weekly subcategory if applicable.

Please add a text link to the party or grab one of my buttons from the right side bar and add it to your post or Party Page if you would like to be featured.

Don't forget to leave me a comment. I love to know who is here and spread the word, the more the merrier!!

Remember to vote for your favorites and please don't forget to click on the other recipes and show them some foodie love too! Make sure to tell them where you saw them!!

Guacamole Pasta

I was trying to come up with a side dish for a Mexican Spiced Chicken I was making (that post will have to wait until I can get a good picture, the one I took was awful!) and I remembered seeing a bunch of avocado pasta pins on Pintrest. I love pasta just about any way you could make it, and everyone loves my guacamole recipe, so I went a little crazy and figured "What the heck...let's combine them both and see how it goes".

Then Kevin asked me what was for dinner.....ummm ya OK here we go.....

Kevin - What are you making for dinner?
Me - Roasted Chicken with Cilantro Butter and Mexican Spices
Kevin - Oh another Mexican meal?
Me - Ummm helloooooooo, have you not been eating my food for almost 5 years? You know we will have something "Mexican-ish" at least once a week.
Kevin - *eyeroll*
Me - Whatever
Kevin - Well what are we having with it?
Me - *insert pregnant pause here* Guacamole Pasta.
Kevin - Guaca what?
Me - Pasta with a guacamole sauce.
Kevin - (at this point I get "the look")
Me - Really? Just wait, you know it will be good (I am now praying).
Kevin - Fine

I knew I was excited about this dish but now knowing how skeptical he was I started to become a bit nervous. I of course should have thought back on the fact that I don't think I have ever made something he totally hated, or that he likes to brag to people about how he loves coming home to 5 start meals after work. But I didn't, all that I was feeling was nerves. 

Silly me (and Kevin). I had him taste the sauce before the pasta was done and I got a surprised look from him. "That tastes really good". At this point I wanted to say "Duh" but was still waiting to try the finished dish so my mouth remained firmly shut. 

Now the chicken is done and we sit down to eat. He ate a few bites of the "ugly chicken" and told me that he really liked it. I had been a bit concerned that I had been a little heavy handed with the spice rub, but it came out great, and with the compound butter under the skin the meat was sooooo juicy! 

Now on to the pasta. I tried to be nonchalant about the whole thing and calmly take a bite of the pasta, all the while watching Kevin out of the corner of my eye. He took a bite, and then another bite. Then turned to me and said, "Wow this is really good!". OK now I am trying to play it cool. "Really" I say "You don't think there is too much garlic?" Yes, I am fishing for more compliments folks, but I am also reallllly wanting to do the whole "I told you so" thing. Then he says, after another mouthful, "No, it is really really good!" I stifle my inner brat and just smile and say "I am so glad, thank you". Wow, it seems my shut up filter does work from time to time!! Who knew?

So don't just take my word for it, take the word of someone that was really prepared to not like this dish. Give it a try!!

Guacamole Pasta
8 ounces linguine or spaghetti
1 large avocado
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 lime, zested and 1/2 juiced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 small white onion, roughly chopped
1/4 to 1/2 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
Kosher salt
Grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the pasta, cook per package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water. Drain pasta and return to pot.

Meanwhile place the avocado, cilantro, lime zest and juice, garlic, onion, jalapeno, and salt in a food processor and blend until creamy. 

Combine the avocado sauce with the pasta adding pasta water as needed to thin the sauce. Top with grated Parmesan.


Beer Braised Meatball Sandwiches

We have a local brewery called The 7 Seas Brewing Company that produces some of the best beer I have ever tasted. From the moment we tried their beer I knew I wanted to cook with it. My favorite is called Rude Parrot. The brewery describes Rude Parrot as "loud, sassy, and relentless, with an insatiable appetite for hops! It has a big juicy, tropical fruit hop nose yields way to an off dry, pleasantly bitter finish"! Wow who new I would love a beer that was described as loud and sassy? Hhmmmm?

Kevin's favorite is one of their newest seasonal beers called Depth Finder. It has a deeper flavor than the Rude Parrot and is darker in color. But the one I wanted to try cooking with first was their Cutt's Ale. As they describe it, Cutt's Ale "displays a brilliantly clear reddish hue, an intense nose of pine and citrus, a medium body, malt notes of fresh toasted bread, and a pleasant lingering hop bitterness". I just knew it would be perfect for the recipe I had in mind.

Manic Monday Party #23

It's Manic Monday time again!! Last week was an awesome party! There were 51 terrific recipes shared and so many readers loved them. These are the top 3.

Garlic Confit from My Kaotic Kitchen

Easy Biscuit Dough Donuts from Comfy Cuisine

I had so much fun pinning and sharing everyone's posts! These are all  fantastically talented bloggers, and I get so excited to see what they share each and every week! So with that said, I am going to shut up and get the party started so we can see all of the terrific posts that will be shared this week!!

So let's go over the "rules".

Link up the picture to the post not your main blog page
Please link back to this page on your blog post.

Make sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pintrest. I will be tweeting, pinning, and posting your recipes all week long. 

Leave up to 3 of your favorite posts, or link up posts that fit in with the weekly subcategory if applicable.

Please add a text link to the party or grab one of my buttons from the right side bar and add it to your post or website if you would like to be featured.

Don't forget to leave me a comment. I love to know who is here and spread the word, the more the merrier!!

Remember to vote for your favorites and please don't forget to click on the other recipes and show them some foodie love too! Make sure to tell them where you saw them!!

Linguine with Chicken, Tomatoes and Spinach Pesto for the #SurpriseRecipeSwap

A few weeks ago I was approached by Jutta, from The Hungry Little Girl, to join the Surprise Recipe Swap and I jumped at the chance! There are so many wonderful food bloggers that I have gotten know over the last year and a half, and I have always wanted to try their recipes, but for some reason I just never get it done. This gave me the opportunity to do just that. 

You see at the beginning of the month we are assigned a fellow blogger and we then go to their blog and choose one of their recipes to recreate in our own kitchen. I was assigned Sheena, who I have know for quite some time. She is such a sweetheart and her blog Hot Eats and Cool Reads is wonderful and I always enjoy her posts! If you haven't checked her out, you need to! Just the photo on her header makes me drool every time I go to her blog!! Make sure to check out her Facebook page too. Give her a like and you will never miss any of her fabulous recipes!

Sausage & Shrimp Dirty Rice

I have been trying to break out of the rut that I seem to have gotten myself into. Mexican food, pasta, soup, repeat. I have come up with a few different things that were great, but on this night I really wanted a nice one pot meal that doesn't make you stress out but tastes wonderful. This was it!

I have always enjoyed Cajun flavors and have really wanted to work with them more, but been a bit at a loss as to what to make. That is silly right? I mean just get on the internet, type in Cajun food, and away you go! So after reading countless recipes, with tons and tons of ingredients, I settled on trying to combine a few ideas in to one simple dish. Also I hoped that Kevin would be excited that it was something other than Mexican food, pasta, or soup.

I can happily say that I achieved both goals (I love it when that happens!!) and it was a wonderful meal that we both enjoyed very very much. I didn't go crazy with the heat so if you like things a bit spicy I would double the crushed red pepper flakes or even add some hot sauce. But things don't always have to be hot so I decided to retrain myself in the heat department and just let the other flavors shine. Yummm I am so glad I did!!

Mashed Potatoes and Leeks

I have a love for onions and garlic. You are hard pressed to find very many of my recipes that don't include both. Of course there is also green onions, shallots, and chives that I love as well. Then there is the long lost cousin, the leek. I just recently began using leeks in more recipes. Why have I over looked this poor lovely vegetable? I mean I love all of the other members of it's family. It seriously was bordering on discrimination before I woke up and began to appreciate what leeks had to offer.

Leeks have all of the wonderful aspects of the other members of it's family, without the down side of many. No bitter bite like you can get from it's brother garlic, no crying like you get from it's sisters onion and shallot, and even though I enjoy it's cousin chive, let's face it, he can be a bit boring at times. No, the leek should be a celebrated family member, not a neglected one.

Slow Cooker Orange Garlic Chicken

I have made a few resolutions this year. Drink more water, get more exercise, start taking some "me" time everyday, bake one cake a month, and come up with more slow cooker recipes. I know, I know the exercise and cake baking don't seem to go together right? Hmmm maybe I can exercise so I CAN bake a cake a month, ya that's it! Anyway, I have had several requests for slow cooker meals, and to be honest I am really beginning to enjoy using my slow cooker again. It had been put up and neglected for so long. 

When I was trying to come up with some recipes for the slow cooker I of course my mind immediately went the Mexican food route. I had to reel myself back in an really think about coming up with something that Kevin, and other non Mexican food obsessed people might enjoy. Kevin loves, as do I, Asian flavors. There was a little casino that we used to go to that had some of the best Asian food I have ever had, but it went out of business so I am left on my own to cook up some tasty Asian style treats.

One of Kevin's favorite dishes was Orange Chicken, but dang it is so full of fat and calories!! I decided I wanted to try to create something with some of those flavors, inexpensive, and easy to make in the slow cooker. I bounced around a few ideas and then came up with this. We both really enjoyed how it came out. The balance of sweet and heat was perfect. I even added a bit more Sriracha, but then again I love heat so you don't have to do that is you don't want to. Ppsssstttt do it!! It's great!! Oops did I say that out loud? Sorry I can't help myself, I really loved the flavors in this meal!! 

I will, of course, always be on the look out for new Asian restaurants for us to try. But now when my cravings hit, this is one that I have stuck in my arsenal of Asian style dishes AND slow cookers meals we love!!

Slow Cooker Orange Garlic Chicken
Serves 2 to 4

*4 bone in chicken thighs.
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 orange, zested and juiced
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup hot water
1 to 2 tablespoons Sriracha, plus more to add on top if wanted
Green onions, sliced
Cooked rice to serve

Place the chicken breasts into the slow cooker. Place chopped onion scattered around the chicken.

In a medium bowl, add garlic, honey, soy sauce, orange zest and juice, and oil. Pour the sauce over the chicken in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.

Once the chicken has finished cooking, remove the chicken place it on a cutting board, leaving the sauce in the slow cooker. Remove the bones and skin and shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces, reserve.

In a small bowl, dissolve 3 teaspoons of cornstarch in 1/4 hot cup water, add to the crock pot and stir to combine with the sauce. Cover and cook sauce on high for 10 more minutes, or until the sauce has slightly thickened. Stir in the Sriracha.

Return the chicken to the slow cooker and toss with the sauce. Serve over rice. Top with sliced green onions.

*You can replace 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts but the thighs provide so much flavor we prefer them. Plus they are cheaper.


Manic Monday Party #22

Happy Manic Monday everyone!! WOW it has been a month since our last party! Time flies eh? Between the holidays and the flu it feel more like a year since we have gotten together and shared some yummy goodness. 

First let's check out the top dishes from the last party....

Chocolate Polka Dot Apple Cake from Something Sweet

Banana Bourbon Bread Pudding from Moore or Less cooking

There were so many tasty treats shared I loved them all!! But enough about the old, let's get on to the new right? I would love to see some of your newest dishes for this party, but of course you are more than welcome to link up to 3 posts of anything your little heart desires!!

So let's go over the "rules".

Link up the picture to the post not your main blog page
Please link back to this page on your blog post.

Make sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pintrest. I will be tweeting, pinning, and posting your recipes all week long. 

Leave up to 3 of your favorite posts, or link up posts that fit in with the weekly subcategory if apllicable.

Please add a text link to the party or grab one of my buttons from the right side bar and add it to your post or website if you would like to be featured.

Don't forget to leave me a comment. I love to know who is here and spread the word, the more the merrier!!

Remember to vote for your favorites and please don't forget to click on the other recipes and show them some foodie love too! Make sure to tell them where you saw them!!

Lightened Up Lasagna Soup

TGIF!! It has been a long week here. Well, a long couple of weeks actually. This flu that is flooding the country found it's way to my house and,even though I had the shot, I got hit hard by it. Kevin on the other hand, who didn't get the shot, was fine. Although there was quite a bit of hand washing, Purell usage, and banishment to the sofa for a few days. It's OK, I was as comfy as I could be considering the circumstances. A trip to the ER, IV fluids, and Tamiflu helped me to kick the worst of it. But the residual cough is a killer. My heart and prayers go out to everyone that has/is suffering from this! 

Now, on to the good stuff, the food! I was so happy when I was able to (and had the desire to) cook again. It seemed strange to be back in my little kitchen after so long away. But cooking is like riding a bike right? So I jumped back on and peddled away.

I had been eyeing a recipe by Paula Deen for Lasagna soup before my desire to eat anything more than jello and popsicles kicked in. So that was the first thing I wanted to make when I felt better. However, and I do so love Ms Paula, it was packed full of fat and calories! So I tackled the challenge of trying to remove a bit of both from the recipe. 

I am so very happy to announce that even though the fat and calories were reduced, the flavor was not. This is some seriously good soup guys! Even Mr "Soup is not a meal" raved about it and ended up finishing his bowl and part of mine. He was also very happy to package the leftovers in a freezer bag for a future meal. I was, as you cam imagine, very pleasantly surprised! 

I myself referred to this soup as a little bit of heaven in a bowl, so you know how I felt about it. Seriously though, give this soup a try, you will not regret it I promise!!

Lightened Up Lasagna Soup

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound Italian turkey sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (I used 1 teaspoon)
6 broken whole wheat lasagna noodles
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, packed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese, plus some for sprinkling

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large sauce pot  Add the sausage, onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is crumbled and browned, approx 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, salt, and crushed red pepper. Bring the soup to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the noodles, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in mozzarella, basil, and the Parmesan. Ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with a little extra mozzarella cheese if wanted.

Philly Cheese Steak Mac and Cheese

This recipe came about from the request of several people on my Facebook page. I had an impromptu survey asking what Mac and Cheese everyone would like to see me come up with and this was the overwhelming winner. I mean it was a landslide! I was excited. I love Philly Cheese Steaks and Mac and Cheese so the idea of smooshing them together made me a very happy camper. I mean, is there such a thing as too many Mac and Cheese recipes? I think not! I am thinking I should create a label for the blog for just my Mac and Cheese recipes. I am very curious to see how many I have!

For many people, myself included, Mac and Cheese is a comfort food. We know it might not be the lowest calorie dish (ssshhhhh if we don't say it out loud it isn't true!), but it isn't a dish we have all of the time so we can splurge in those times when we just need a warm hug for our tummy right?

Asparagus with Bacon Sabayone

This was one of the dishes I made when I had my great idea to cook a gourmet type meal for Kevin the other night. I have been making so many pasta dishes, soups, and Mexican food, I figured some red meat and fancy sides would put a smile on his face. Well I didn't count on the smile being one that came from watching me run like a chicken with my head cut off in the kitchen trying to get everything done at once. That smile is not a fun smile for me.

Not that he complains, well OK he does complain but I know it is just to stir me up and make me crazy, but I do know his true love, aside from me I hope, is steak. A nice big ribeye steak preferably, cooked just enough to get it to lay still on the plate. We do both share a love for rare meat. I used to tell waitresses I wanted my steak cooked just long enough that a good vet could get it back on it's feet in a few minutes!

Sorry to gross anyone out that doesn't like their meat that way. I will go back to the meal. Ribeye is too pricey to eat all of the time, so I have been trying to find steaks that he will enjoy without saying they are too chewy. Hangar steak is one of them but they are too hard to find. So flat iron steak is another way to go. Especially when it is cooked medium rare it is very tender and not chewy at all. I am really not much of a red meat lover anymore but this is one of those steaks I do enjoy.

So now I can't just salt and pepper the steak and cook it right? I mean that is great once in a while but I seriously doubt it would make for an interesting post for you all. Kevin doesn't like sauces much but I figured a nice red wine sauce with a little bite of mustard would compliment the steak and make him smile. I was right, he loved the sauce YAY!! (See the steak recipe here)

Oops, I need to talk about the asparagus right? Sorry, got side tracked. If you want to see the recipe for the steak I have been babbling about take a look here

BLT (Bacon, Leek, and Tomato) Quiche + a Quick Quiche Cheat Sheet

I have been wanting to do something different for breakfast lately but Kevin, bless his heart, has taken over the chore of making breakfast on the weekends and he leaves too early in the morning to make breakfast through the week. It is not that I don't love his breakfasts, it is just, well......it is "Man food". You know what I  mean? Pure, simple, straight to the point. Eggs with sausage, hash browns, and toast. 

I have tried doing BFD (breakfast for dinner) but he hasn't been real thrilled with that idea. So I decided I had to put my foot down and tell him that I was making something with veggies in it for breakfast. I did add the footnote that there would be bacon in it. I mean bacon, eggs, cheese? How can that be wrong? Right?

He also went along with it because I had picked up leeks for a recipe I made a few days ago and he hates wasting food even more than me. So when I said it was a  great way to use the leeks up he was on board.

When I was buzzing through the grocery store the grape tomatoes looked great so I new exactly what I wanted to do. Bacon, leek, and tomato, yummmm!!