Monday, December 13, 2010

The Efficient Hostess

I may be efficient but recently I have been neglectful. Of you. And of this blog. I am sorry.

It's hard to believe Christmas is literally around the corner. We head home to Colorado this Saturday and as I pack the boys' things, I can't help but wonder where did 2010 disappear to? Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or what have you, December is a busy and hectic time for all.

This last weekend was a grand slam hit of events including but not limited to: birthday party, home improvements, cooking, hosting a baby shower, Christmas party, and a multitude of errands. What I want to touch on this morning is how to make being a hostess a snap for any event.

Let me lay the ground rules of true efficiency for you:

1. Planning
2. Time Management
3. Smart Choices (Just like I tell me five year old to make)

My mother is always telling me, "Make it easy on yourself" and for this baby shower this past weekend that's exactly what I did! Normally, I would spend countless hours creating from scratch every detail from food to decor. Knowing the weekend that lay ahead, I tried to optimize my time and the shower experience for everyone. My menu was simple since the shower was at one o'clock:

- Cinnamon Cider
- Cranberry Fizz Punch
- veggie tray with spinach dip (Sam's club items secretly arranged on one of my fab serving dishes)
- stuffed mushrooms (super easy and always a hit!)
3 cartons large whole mushrooms
3 1lb packages sausage (I used chicken sausage this time)
1 tub grated Parmesan
De-stem, wash, and dry mushrooms. Stuff with sausage. Place on foil lined baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with Parmesan and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.
- spanikopita (Sam's baby and since I have made these before I knew that wasn't happening this weekend)
- brie wheel with blueberry preserves (amended menu item, brie en croute was planned but had phyllo dough issues)
- hummus and pita chips (you guessed it, Sam's)
- white on white cupcakes with butter cream frosting decorated with pearlized pink sprinkles by the best husband ever. (this will blow your mind... 30 cupcakes for $13 at Sam's)

So there you have it. Throw a white table cloth down, some coordinating colored basket filler- the krinkly paper strips-, thank you notes for guests to write their name on address on for the guest of honor in a silver platter, and a homemade cupcake tower also constructed by the best husband ever. Don't forget the balloons, they make any occasion more fun!

My point is ladies, you can make this happen. There was a time, not so very long ago, where I would have mentally berated myself for purchasing all of those items rather than making them. But I have to tell you, not anymore. There is a time for making it easy and December is that time! My family did not have to suffer with pre-shower Mom and the friend I was honoring with the shower seemed to truly enjoy it! What more could you ask for? So, with the race to January 1st in full swing, do yourself a favor and be smart with your time and your choices. Holidays are for celebrating so let's get on with that part, shall we?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tiny Prints

It's a big, big internet ordering world out there folks. And with a multitude of fine paper companies making their debuts, I have to take a moment and recognize a true gem. WWW.TINYPRINTS.COM is not only the purveyor of lovely holiday cards and shower invitations, but also a unique pioneer in the art of divine customer service and attention

I have ordered a number of items from Tiny Prints but most recently our Christmas card. Their website is darling, easy to use, and the finished product makes you feel like Martha's sister, only younger, cooler, and without the felony. I had planned on mentioning them to you with all of the holiday shopping you have yet to do (no, not you), but yesterdays happenings made me so compelled to do it, I am up at 1am.

Yesterday I received an email from Tiny Prints Co-Founder, Ed Han. Don't be too impressed, it was a mass email thanking everyone, but what caught my eye was Mr Han including his personal email address and asking his customers to contact him directly with anything at all! And you wouldn't expect any less of me than to do just that! I sent him a message thanking him and his team and making sure he knew how PLEASED I was with them. (*We are all quick to complain, but how often have you called the 1-800 number or asked for a manager to COMPLIMENT?) Most impressive of all was Mr Han's response, within hours:

Hi Austin,

Thank you for this wonderful note, and for being such a wonderful customer. I can't thank you enough for this kind of feedback, we live for them and makes our hard work around customer service and shopping experience more than worthwhile. And your offer to post something on the blog, WOW thank you again so much.

Have a wonderful holiday season!



So ladies, our lesson is there are indeed companies who value you and your business today. Take the time to spend your hard earned dollars with them! (Not the smug retailers who ignore you when you enter their place of business. IE: JCrew - The Shops at WillowBend) Tiny Prints is an online company with quality products AND quality people!

Monday, December 6, 2010

South Austin, TX

There is literally a cornucopia of restaurants worth visiting in Austin. An eclectic mix of local, international, and down right fun places to dine around every corner! Living in Dallas I always tell people that if you love to eat and shop, this is the place for you. Austin seems to share that but at the same time, seems a world away from the posh world of Big D.

We spent the weekend in Austin with some dear friends celebrating my hubby's birthday and our friend Karin's birthday as well. They have an 8 month old, so with our 5 and 1 year old children in tow, we knew we needed to eat early, and eat fast! Polvo came recommended via a Dallas friend and confirmed by some of our Austin friends' acquaintances.

Pulling into the restaurant, we were delighted to see a relaxed and energetic atmosphere. Lots of different people all having a good time enjoying the beautiful 80 degree (in December) temperatures. Opting to sit inside (in case it got cold the hostess warned) for high chair functionality purposes, there were a handful of tables, lots of Christmas lights, and a high volume music mix to drown out any unruly young patrons. And kids too. The waiter was great, food was hot, and margarita wonderful. It's a help yourself salsa situation which is fun but everything else is standard table service. More than your run-of-the-mill sour cream enchilada and fajita place, the menu had many tasty options and everyone at our table left full and happy!

So, if you're in Austin, head over to Polvos. It's local, it's lively, it's legit. Cheers!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Aunt Lori's Dip

Every family has traditions (good and bad, ha ha ha). My family is HUGE since my Dad is one of eleven children. You can imagine the traditions we have! With such a large group, baby showers and wedding showers seem to happen every weekend. Ok, not every weekend, but seriously, you can't be pregnant or engaged alone in our group. One staple at showers for some reason is my Aunt Lori's cheese dip. Now, while I don't think it lends itself necessarily to the formality of showers (stop gasping North Dallas friends over the thought of a crockpot dip at a baby shower), it is tasty and perfect for football and cold (using this term loosely in TX) winter get togethers. A hit with the man folk.

So here you have it, super easy and a crowd pleaser that takes care of itself right in your crockpot!

Aunt Lori's Cheese & Sausage Dip

  • 2lbs Hot pork sausage
  • 1 large Velveeta
  • 2 small Mild Mexican Velveetas
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1 can Evaporated Milk

Brown sausage in a pan and drain grease. You can cheat on this if you have a plastic colander. Break up the sausage in the colander and set colander in microwave safe bowl. Microwave sausage until cooked and it will drain itself. Miracle! Put remaining ingredients in crockpot and add sausage. Stir and leave on low. Serve with tortilla chips.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Goodfellas Woodfired Pizza

Plano, TX
(Just South of 121 on Preston; on the EAST side of Preston)

NYC has its charms. And its reputations. Maybe you haven't heard about the curt personalities rumored to dominate the Eastern seaboard. It's not necessarily true but it is the word on the street.

Good news, the people at Goodfellas Woodfired Pizza in Plano take that rumor to the next level! Not only is the service atrocious, the pizza is sub-par at best. My mom was in town and we took the boys there for lunch at an off time, 2pm. The hostess was fine, not overly friendly but not overly rude either. The waitress, whose name we were never given, was distracted, inept, and without any sense of urgency. You would think in an area dominated by restaurants and being one of two tables with customers in the restaurant, we would be treated a little better. Not so much. The owner himself was tossing pizzas which seemed like a good sign. After being told we couldn't have bread for my one year old, flighty-mc-flighterson waitress lady brought some out like she was doing us some kind of favor.

Aside from the terrible service, the pizza itself was mediocre. There are many other places in the Metroplex that serve a better piece of pie. Better crust, better ingredients, better everything. So, needless to say, save yourself the trip and skip Goodfellas. If all of that didn't convince you then walking out of the restaurant, the owner was walking in and looked right at us without a thank you or good day. Too bad for you buddy, we're out.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sommer's Sweet Potato Bake

My friend Sommer taught me a lot. Things about Kwanzaa, soul food, etc. So when I made this recipe for our work Christmas party that year, I was quite flattered she enjoyed it so much! This girl knows good homecookin'! So I have renamed it, I am sure Paula Deen won't mind, and just in time for Thanksgiving tomorrow...

Sommer's Sweet Potato Bake (*For Kwanzaa)
The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook

  • 3 cups peeled, cooked, and mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, half and half, or whole milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix all ingredients together except for cream. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add cream; mix well. Pour into greased casserole dish. Add topping. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Topping Ingredients
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

Mix together with fork; sprinkle over top of casserole before baking.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Holiday Tip #2

Happy Tuesday Housewives! I am confident you have all of your Thanksgiving day shopping complete so you won't have to fight the masses at Central Market or the like. If not, go today, rather than tomorrow. Fierce competitors will be out tomorrow, not to mention a handful of crazies.

Now that we are officially in the holiday swing, I bring you, Happy Holiday Tip #2!

Rather than spend your annual budget on gifts this year, I challenge you to put some real planning and thoughts into your gifts. Two of my favorite places where you don't need a sale but are sometimes lucky enough to discover fabulous clearance items are: MARSHALLS and HOME GOODS. I adore the people who work at Marshalls at Park & Preston but for efficiency purposes, there is also one located caddy corner from Home Goods at Coit & Campbell.

What you can find at Marshalls includes but is not limited to:
- A wide variety of inexpensive childrens' books (titles you've heard of, not some low-budg book no kid wants)
- Yankee & Village brand candles
- Ralph Lauren children's clothing
- Various state appropriate team paraphernalia
- BCBG & Juicy jump suits for you North Dallas mamas
- Polo shirts and sweaters for the gentlemen in your life (*Saves you from hiking up to the outlet in Allen which always seems to be a production)

What you can find at Home Goods includes but is not limited to:
- Wonderful cookware
- Stemware
- A plethora of cookbooks (*Many from my dear friend Ina, or as you may know her the Barefoot Contessa)
- Melissa & Doug children's toys and puzzles
- Seasonal decor
- Great bath linens, especially in the kid department
- Gourmet food items

So, go out there, get excited, and get creative! Rather than just a candle for your friend/acquaintance, get a little color theme going and include thank you notes and a travel size hand lotion to throw in her purse. For your gourmet friend who by "gourmet" means "pick it up at Central Market" get a colorful colander filled with exotic drink mixes, fancy snacks, and fun candy. For your daughter's little friend who is every bit a princess, her own lovely bath towel in her favorite hue with a pretty travel bag filled with lip gloss and nail polish.

Stop by one of those stores and see what you think. I know you'll enjoy it!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mimi's Cranberry Apricot Bread

Ah the holidays! With all of the hustle and bustle, every lovely Housewife needs a throw-together secret recipe that cameos as a: last minute gift, unexpected guest treat, and multiple teacher/coach gift. So here it is, keep the ingredients on hand and you will never be disappointed. If you are giving this as a gift, wrap it in colorful saran wrap or a holiday tablecloth and include a wooden spoon on top instead of a bow.

Mimi's Cranberry Apricot Bread

  • 1 Package Pillsbury Cranberry Quick Bread
  • 1/2 cup chopped Dried Apricots
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1 Egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease entire pan and flour bottom of pan only. Combine all ingredients until moistened. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45-55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 15 minutes.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fancy Dancy Chicken

Getting back to my Italian roots (if you've read before you now, ciao vino) I think it's crucial for every Housewife to have a meal she can throw together for company that makes her look like the kitchen goddess she is. And even better, a couple of meals.

I found this wonderfully easy recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, The Sopranos Family Cookbook. With my cultural identity crisis, we became quickly addicted to the show The Sopranos. Some of our neighbors bought the cookbook for us as a Christmas gift many years ago and I am happy to report that Tony and Carmela would be pleasantly surprised at this girl's Italian kitchen. (I hope so at least)

You can make this dish and the only other thing you need is a salad or a vegetable. It's easy on the budget, the kitchen, and since it cooks for a long time, it gives you plenty of time to get ready for your dinner guests and enjoy that nice glass of chianti. Or, if you have young children, gives you plenty of time to help them put the Legos away and find the missing light sabres.

Baked Chicken with Potatoes, Lemon, and Oregano
Adapted from The Sopranos Family Cookbook

  • 4 lemons (original recipe calls for 2)
  • 3 1/2 pounds of chicken cut up or a mix of your favorite chicken pieces (breast, thigh, etc)
  • 3 medium potatoes peeled and cut into wedges
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Squeeze the juice from 2 lemons and slice the other 2.

Put the chicken and potatoes in a baking pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Mix the lemon juice, oil, oregano, garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the chicken and potatoes and turn the pieces to coat evenly. Tuck the lemon slices and potatoes in between the chicken pieces.

Bake the chicken for 45 minutes. Baste with the pan juices. Continue to bake, basting occasionally, for 15 to 30 minutes longer, or until the chicken is browned and the potatoes are tender.

Transfer the chicken, potatoes, and lemon slices to a serving platter. Tip the pan and skim off the fat. Pour the juices over the chicken and serve.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Happy Holiday Tip #1

In t-minus 9 days it begins. Not only do I get to listen to Christmas music all day, everyday (to my heart's content), but I get to do everything I love about the holiday season. And I do LOVE Christmas! All of it! The people, the music, the food, the shopping, the craziness! In planning for my Thanksgiving meal which we are having here at home next week, I thought I would pause and take a minute to outline what I would like to talk about as the festivities begin for December! I will try to include fun holiday recipes, shopping tips, gift giving ideas, and general sanity promoters in the upcoming weeks.

Today we will have Happy Holiday Tip #1! THE MIGHTY LIST

As Black Friday looms in the distance (not too distant, since it's next week), I am happy to report that I too have become a bit addicted to said day. Or said middle of the night really. I grew up with a Mom who was definitely not going out at 3am for any kind of good deal so when my sister and I decided to try it two years ago, it was quite novel. We had NO idea the freakshows we would witness first hand (*best one will be found at Walmart). And now, we are the freakshows! Granted, this year my sister will be in Colorado and I will be here in Texas so we will venture out without our teammate into that dark night.

But this year, I am making some changes. The last two years, I relished in the ads and made somewhat of a list but went more for entertainment value than anything else. This year, I am not even cheating by checking the ads online. I am waiting until they come out in good old fashioned newspaper print to see the deals that await me. I will go, I will shop, I will triumph!

If you are wondering how my Tip #1 will tie into the insanity that is Black Friday, do not worry it's coming. As a reformed full price shopper, the true deals in my book are the ones you were going to buy anyway. Not buying something just because it was on sale. That is just ludicrous. Plan ahead ladies, make your lists now. You never know what you are going to come across and even having just a list of who to buy for is better than no list at all. Spread out that shopping and your bank account and sanity will thank you.

Rather than drag yourself through the retail nightmare Christmas Eve Day, buying whatever is in front of you so that poor gift recipient can return it December 26, take a little time. Your list will help you. Isn't that why we give gifts, to show our love and appreciation? Not the, I love you but could only find this at Walgreens type of gift? Challenge yourself to be an organized, creative, budget conscious, and thoughtful gift giver this year. And the magical list is the foundation of it all friends.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Puffy Apple Oven Pancake

It's mornings like this one where I am longing for home. Fall in Colorado where the morning can be so brisk it catches your breath and by afternoon you shred a layer to enjoy the sunshine and Rocky Mountain blue skies. It's hard to embrace Fall sometimes when it's 80 degrees and the air is suffocated by humidity. But, in a little more than a week we will celebrate Thanksgiving here in Texas where no matter the temperature, we have so much to be thankful for.

This recipe is from one of my new favorite cookbooks which is all about family traditions in your kitchen. I had a puffed pancake for the first time when visiting my boys godmother, M, in Minneapolis a couple of years ago. I thought my five year old would get a kick out of watching the batter transform in the window of our oven and sure enough, he did! I also got to use what is now one of my favorite kitchen tools, my new apple peeler! My husband picked it up for me at Harbor Freight Tools (random) and it was less than $20. Best ever! Not only did it clamp easily onto the lip of my counter, it peeled, cored, and SLICED the apples in no time flat!! Hand crank apple peeler, that's what I'm talkin about folks. Make this for your immediate clan for a special Sunday breakfast and you'll be shocked at how easy it. You'll want to serve it the next time friends sleep over.

Puffy Apple Oven Pancake
Family Meals
Maria Helm Sinskey & Williams-Sonoma
  • 2 baking apples (I used honeycrisp) peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (I think it needs more, so try 4 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled PLUS 4 tablespoons more
  • confectioners' sugar for dusting or maple syrup

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In small bowl stir together flour, cinnamon, sugar, and salt. In stand mixer or blender, combine eggs, milk, vanilla, and the 2 tablespoons melted & cooled butter and mix until smooth. Add flour mixture just enough to make a smooth batter.

In an ovenproof 10 inch saute pan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. When butter begins to brown, add the apples and cook turning as needed until golden on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and heat until it is melted and bubbling. Pour batter over the apples and immediately transfer the pan to the oven.

Baked until puffed and golden, about 20 minutes. When you remove and handle pan make sure to use an oven mit. I didn't once it was out of the oven and that was not smart. Dust with sugar if desired. Serve directly from pan. It will look like a big bowl, all puffed up around the sides. The batter becomes a thick/dense custard consistency which is wonderfully delicious with the tang of the apples. Happy Breakfast!

Friday, November 12, 2010


You know them. You've seen them. They are the ones holding hands at Target, sitting on the same side of the booth at the restaurant (*party foul by the way), enjoying each others' company without a care in the world, and the two people who don't automatically go to the gender specific room (ie: kitchen for ladies, etc) at a party but rather hang out together. They are the DATERS. And if you're a married woman, you know and can easily spot them.

Maybe you swore you and your hubby would always be like that. But let's be honest friends, it's near impossible to keep that level of gushiness going once you throw kids, bills, sleep deprivation, and face it... familiarity, into the mix. I believe we make a trade when we marry somebody. We swap those stomach butterflies and lovey-dovey-all-the-time stuff for comfort and love and friendship. Not a bad deal but if you think you're the exception to the rule and I'm wrong, good for you. And, I think you're lying.

My husband and I will celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary in February and while time has indeed flown by, I can't remember a time without him. We have been very blessed in our marriage but we have also had our challenges too. Year five was the WORST. Now that we're on the other side of that, I try to think how I can make it better. I know we will have hard times in the future but how can I minimize that?

One thing I have seen in my parents who are both officially "DATERS", is the willingness to do for their significant other what they stopped doing in their marriage. Trying new things, being excited about what the other person is excited about (even if you're not), and making the other person feel important. It's refreshing to see them in this light but it also leaves me wondering, when do we as married couples stop trying to do a little dating with our spouse now and then? So my challenge to you lovely ladies is to be the girlfriend more often. Whatever that means for you and your hubby, fantastic. Try to do something you did as a girlfriend that you don't do quite as often, or at all, anymore.

I think you'll find that your hubby is pleasantly surprised and it helps have that connection revitalized when you're running a child to soccer, figuring out whose parents to spend what holiday with, switching the laundry, mowing the lawn, and just "raising a family" as my friend T used to say. We can't go back to the dater world, well I guess you could but that's not exactly what I am encouraging here. But we can be better as wives and throw a little girlfriend in the mix every now and again.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mexican by Marriage Green Chile

I wasn't born ethnic. Just your run of the mill white American kind of a gal. I have claimed the 1/100 of Cherokee from my maternal Grandfather but my husband assures me that doesn't count. Then I went and married a true half breed. His own race even. So really, the title of my recipe should be CHICONKY by marriage. What is Chiconky you may ask. Well according to my husband it's half chicano, half honky! He feels so strongly about this race that when filling out standardized forms asking for race he checks OTHER and writes it in.

Anywho, we now live far away from the wonderful food my husband grew up on and we won't begin to try and explain why TexMex is not Mexican food if you don't already understand that. Without the family recipes to work with, I had to come up with my own and here is what we've got. Don't be confused that this GREEN chile is actually RED. That's how my husband likes it and that's the way his great grandmother made it.

For you Texans, Green Chile can be eaten a hundred different ways. At our house it goes in and on burritos, in a bowl with everything or nothing, on eggs & fried potatoes, or you can dip chips in it! The best of all worlds! So, try it, enjoy it, and think of your white friend Austin who is married to the only Chiconky you know!

Mexican by Marriage Green Chile

  • Lard/Vegetable Oil
  • 2-3lb Pork stew meat (Buy whatever is cheapest and they always have pre-cut pork meat)
  • 1/2 Onion, diced
  • 4 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 6 7oz cans Diced Green Chiles
  • 6 Jalapenos (*I leave the seeds in for our family but seed a couple of them if you want to take the sting out)
  • 3 15oz cans Tomato Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Chile Powder
  • 2 tablespoons Cumin
  • 32oz Chicken Stock
  • Salt

Heat a couple tablespoons of oil/lard in LARGE pot over medium heat. Add pork, onion, and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until meat is about half way cooked. You can also add a couple of tablespoons of flour at this point if you want a thicker sauce.

In your blender or food processor, puree green chiles and jalapenos. Add mixture to pork in large pot. Stir in tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, chicken stock, and salt to taste.

It is best to cook this recipe all day the day BEFORE you want to serve it. So put it on Saturday morning if you want to eat it Sunday night. After it cooks all day, put it in the fridge in the same pot and then put it back on the stove in the morning. You can add chicken stock as needed if it reduces too much. You will notice the heat increases each day. Spicy spicy! From our family to yours!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Janie & Jack

Janie & Jack

Thank Heaven for little boys. I know, different than the rhyme you remember. But seriously. Visiting stores like Janie & Jack at Northpark is a surefire way for me to remember why having a little girl would make me broke. Literally.

When you are out and about shopping this Holiday season, stop in to Janie & Jack and ask for Miss Victoria. A delightfully warm woman whose sincere love for children radiates from her effortless smile and kind ways, she is more than just a lady peddling fine children's clothing. She is helpful, soft spoken, and simply elegant.

Janie & Jack are the purveyors of children's clothing as they were meant to be; you know, the kind that make your children look the age they are not the age they want to be. And for you parents of little girls, all the more important. Yes, they are pricey, but always have a good sale or sale rack present. And who can resist the perfectly appointed cobalt dress with taffeta underneath? Perfect for twirling. A girl needs the ideal twirling dress, at every age.

So pop in and see what's available and enjoy the quality, craftsmanship, and Miss Victoria who doesn't seem to mind at all if you only buy a pair of tights. Cheers.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

In honor of the lovely Ina Garten, whom I will be meeting at her book signing later today, I thought it only appropriate to feature one of her delectable recipes! If you are looking for a wonderful and easy to follow cookbook, any of the Barefoot Contessa series will work wonders.

Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Barefoot Contessa Family Style

  • 1/2 pound fusilli pasta
  • Salt
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, medium diced
  • 3/4 cup good black olives, pitted and diced (*I left these out)
  • 1 pound fresh Mozzarella, medium diced
  • 6 Sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

For the dressing

  • 5 Sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
  • 2 tablespoons Red Wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Garlic clove, diced
  • 1 teaspoon Capers, drained
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground Pepper

  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup packed Basil leaves, julienned

Cook the pasta in large pot of boiling salted water with a splash of olive oil. Boil for 12 minutes. Drain well and allow to cool. Place pasta in a bowl and add the tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

For the dressing, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt, and pepper in a food processor until almost smooth.

Pour the dressing over the pasta, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and basil, and toss well.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Me & Re Design

The time is upon us. Holiday shopping!!! I love gift giving, in fact, it is probably one of my favorite things to do. Searching for that perfect item for the person so when they unwrap it, their face lights up and you know. You know it was what they always wanted and even better, sometimes, never knew they always wanted it! Aha!!

The Chi Omega Christmas Market held annually in Dallas benefits so many wonderful charitable organizations. I am very proud to call myself a Chi Omega always, but especially at this time of year when so many of my hard working sisters put together such a fabulous and philanthropic event! Nice job ladies! This year, after many years of absence, I spent a great day shopping the market with cherished friends.

One of the MANY incredible vendors was ME & RE DESIGN. They have custom melamine products you just have to check out! Everything from plates to luggage tags (*fabulous) and beyond! All customizable and very chic! The two gals in charge of this little setup were also fab and I am happy to feature them here! Please check them out at:

They ship everywhere and your friends and family will be quite impressed at the unique and thoughtful gift!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mama Melissa's 5 Can Soup

Fall is delightful. There's football, back to school supplies, 5 year old soccer, and of course, good, hearty soups. Being a Colorado native, I used to include "sweater weather" in the previous list but being a current resident of Dallas, where the late October temps reached the high 80s, I no longer include that particular element in my description of Fall.

One of my "other mothers" from my younger years, Mama Melissa, made a wide variety of delectable dishes including this wonderful soup. I have many memories of our families together. Many meals, fun family vacations, and a plethora of backyard moments. Serve this soup to good friends with crusty baguette and good bottle of wine. Enjoy!

Mama Melissa's 5 Can Soup

  • 15oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 15oz can seasoned black beans
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 4oz can chopped green chiles
  • Handful of frozen core
  • 1 cup of cooked chicken cut up (using the rotisserie from the deli is SUPER easy)

Combine all ingredients and simmer for a couple of hours.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Sweatshirt & Jeans Test

Note to Colorado friends: This does not apply to you since the entire state populace lives permanently in above outfit description. Please disregard.

Try this. Throw on your jeans and a sweatshirt and head to your favorite shopping center, the non-ghetto kind. Willow Bend and the Galleria are great but if you're really up for it, head over to Northpark Center.

I guarantee what you will find 80% of the time is a lack of customer service. GUARANTEED. Why you ask? Because the hourly retail workers (which is only a derogatory term when said individuals behave as follows) are sure you can't and won't buy anything. Not only that, they have been trained to think it's acceptable to act like they are better than the paying customer.
And who have they been trained by? YOU. That's right. By continuing to shop there, continuing not to say anything, and continuing to be over the top nice to the sales associate in hopes they acknowledge you, you have said their behavior is OK.

Normally there are exceptions to the rule. Stores like Nordstrom have a reputation to be un-Neimans-like but recently, I have found that not to be the case. The Nordstrom at the Galleria is beginning to bare an ugly resemblance to the Neimans at Northpark. Yikes people. Just like I am happy to tell you how wonderful the sales associate at Michaels (Park & Plano Pkwy) was this evening, I will no longer hesitate to challenge you to change what is acceptable behavior from people who are there because you are spending money with them. Do not diminish the importance of being friendly, always, and never snooty, but do not continue to enable this embarrassment in retail.

As the valued customer, you have the right to spend your money where it is deserved AND to wear what you want while doing so. As the employee who wants a job with a company that has not gone under due to lack of sales, you have the responsibility to earn your customers' business and never make assumptions about people based on their appearance. That older gentleman in overalls did just in fact pay cash for a new Lincoln... you just never know.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chicken Dijon = I am SORRY

I have been MIA. I regret it and I apologize. I hope we can make up and as a peace offering, I am bringing you a fabulous recipe. So good you can serve company with it and so easy you can drop it off to your friend who just had a baby!

The funny story about this recipe is that my Mom gave it to my Aunt to make. Said Aunt is not the most skilled of chefs but pulled this one off and was so pleased she gave it to my Grandma. Well ever since then, my Grandma gives the recipe out as my Aunt's! Oh the pains this has caused in our family! Ha ha ha!

Hopefully it won't pain you any so throw the ingredients on your grocery list and get ready for a great Fall dish!

Chicken Dijon
  • 1 Pick of the Chick or whole chicken cut up. ( I LOATHE cutting up a whole chicken so if you don't you're a better woman than I. You can also pick a couple pounds of your favorite pieces to use in this, whether it's thighs, drumsticks, bone in breast or what have you.)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Paprika
  • 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 bunch chopped Green Onion
  • 2 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1 can Chicken Broth
  • 1/3 cup White Wine (My parents always told me never cook with something you wouldn't drink by itself)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
  • 3 tablespoons Flour

Wash chicken and season with salt, pepper, & paprika. Heat oil in LARGE frying pan and brown chicken on all sides. Add green onions and garlic. In a separate bowl, mix broth, wine, mustard, and flour. Whisk together. Pour grease off of chicken. Add mixture from bowl to pan. Cover and cook on low. Serve over rice or egg noodles.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I have a block on what to write about. I am just being honest and putting it out there. My husband suggested a little series on women and friendship... contemplating this. What do you think?

Sunday, October 24, 2010


We made these muffins this morning and they were such a hit, my boys decided the name was just not enough fun. Sharing them with our friend Miss Laura was a special treat and we hope she comes back soon for more Duffins!

Even though it was a weekend filled with disappointing football, there's nothing like a new breakfast favorite to look forward to now that we've found it! I would say this recipe is a bit labor intensive for school mornings. FABULOUS for the weekend or a brunch. Just not your best, throw it together before you run out the door to school type of muffin. The way we decided on "DUFFINS" is that the muffin taste as yummy as a doughnut! Which in our house means V-I-C-T-O-R-Y! There has never been a bad doughnut according to my boys. Check these out for a tasty treat minus the fryer and the mess!

French Breakfast Muffins (aka DUFFINS)
Colorado Cache Cookbook
  • 1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup butter melted (recipe called for 1/3 cup but I found we needed more)

Preheat oven to 400. Combine first five ingredients. Add milk, egg, and 1/3 cup melted butter. Mix thoroughly. Grease mini muffin tins (the recipe called for small muffins but we LOVE mini muffins). Fill each tin 1/2 full and bake for 8-9 minutes. While baking, melt additional 1/2 cup butter and leave in a small dish that will be easy to dip each muffin into. Mix cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla together in pie plate or shallow dinner plate. When the muffins are finished, remove immediately from pan and dip in butter. Then roll in cinnamon mixture. The recipe suggests serving warm which we did but then, this afternoon, my boys said the DUFFINS were even better once they had set up a bit and the cinnamon mixture had gotten crunchy. Either way, they were a big hit and I know you will love them too!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mama Bridgie's...Stroganoff

Sometimes you meet friends early in life, somewhere in the middle, or at the end. A lot of friends come in and out; once, twice, many times. Others come and stay forever. Mama Bridgie is a dear friend from middle school days gone by who I was fortunate enough to reconnect with this last year. In almost 20 years, she has become a lovely, gregarious, and fun loving woman with a cutie husband and their first baby on the way. Never shying away from the vivacious, spirited character of her youth, I am so blessed to call Mama Bridgie kindred spirit once again. Enjoy her recipe, it will bring the warmth and soul of her kitchen into yours.

Mama Bridgie's Big Ol' Cast Iron Skillet of Beef Stroganoff

  • 1lb sirloin or round cut into thin strips
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 8oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 10oz beef broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons white wine (if you have it, if not no biggie)
  • flat leaf parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper the strips of meat and toss in flour. Melt butter in pan and add meat, brown quickly. Remove from pan. Cook onion, garlic, and mushrooms in pan. Add tomato paste, beef broth, wine and return meat to pan. Cook over medium/high heat until thick and bubbly. Stir in sour cream and parsley. Serve over hot buttered noodles.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Quick Fix #1

The house is in disarray. Constantly. How can I have Legos in the dining room and the laundry room? Is there any logic to this?

If you find yourself wondering these things, fear not. I have a simple fix which takes all of three minutes to do everyday and will help your house look and feel less chaotic. Can you give me three minutes? Fantastic!


Shocking, I know. If you are not a bed maker, please please become one. It will do wonders for the neatness of your home. If you are one of these, "I just get back in it at night and this makes no sense" kinds of gals, you probably won't find many things on my blog helpful. Good luck. But, if you can do this right after you roll out of bed and teach your children to do the same, your home will feel tidier instantly.

Then, at the end of the day, when you wonder where the many minutes you were given disappeared to, it will feel almost indulgent slipping into a made bed. And oh heavens, if you've washed the sheets that day, it's like a damn vacation. Sweet dreams (get your rest, you have beds to make in the morning!).

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Old man, you give those dogs another piece of my food and I'm gonna kick you 'til you're dead!"

Moonstruck is one of my favorite movies. Yes, yes, I know Cher is the star and it featured Nicolas Cage circa Raising Arizona which is not good for anyone, but I love it. I do. One subject you'll hear me come back to time and time again is how I have had a longing, since I was young, to be Italian. Some kids want to be astronauts, some firefighters, but I wanted to be Italian. It's not something you can really strive for. But Lord knows I tried. There doesn't seem to be a resolution in my near future, so for the interim, I am hoping to be a damn good Italian cook.

Loretta Castorini (Olympia Dukakis) makes wicked-good food in Moonstruck. There is one scene in particular where she is cooking breakfast and every time I watch it, I have to pause the movie, and go make what she is making! Or a version thereof. I have to plan accordingly, it's not a movie I can watch hungry! So, throw in Moonstruck, make this dish, and enjoy a bottle of good champagne with a cube of sugar in your flute. (*Watch, you'll see.)

"I have a feeling this is going to be just delicious." - Ronny Cammareri (Nicolas Cage)

Eggs in Purgatory
The Sopranos Family Cookbook

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups canned tomato puree
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces (or a pinch of dried oregano)
  • salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon parmigiano-reggiano

In medium skillet, cook garlic in oil over medium heat for two minutes or until lightly golden. Add tomatoes, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes until sauce is thickened. Discard garlic.

Break an egg into a small cup. With a spoon, make a well in the sauce and slide the egg into sauce. Continue with remaining eggs. Sprinkle with cheese. Cover and cook for 3 minutes or until eggs are done to taste. Serve hot with crusty bread.

**In the movie, she cooks the eggs directly in bread on her griddle, but this recipe is excellent. You can make it for brunch or dinner!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ali at Mina's Salon

Mina's Salon
The Shops at Willow Bend

When my sister moved back to Colorado, we were all sad for a variety of reasons. One of the top ten for sure is that she is an amazing hair colorist. And while she will only do color for the rest of you, being her one and only beloved sister, she also cuts my hair! Little bit of bragging here. But you Coloradoans are in luck while her absence is our misfortune!

Going sans-color recently, all I needed was a trim. Trying to make it until our trip home for the holidays had me fearful Crystal Gayle would call and want her ponytail back. So... I had noticed a small salon carrying Kerastase products, the BEST, at Willow Bend. My sis assured me I would be safe in the chair of another, especially since my hair is all one length and straight as a board. I called mid-afternoon in the middle of the week and not only did they get me in, they got me in that night. At 7PM!!! How beautiful is that?!? Come to find out Mina's is open 7 days a week and stays open late too!

Ali answered the phone when I made the appointment and upon my arrival I was greeted very nicely by two other stylist, one of which was his son, and then he arrived within 5 minutes. Ali, who happens to be the owner, was so gracious I just had to pass his information on to you. I can't speak of his color technique but his cut was great, conservative and he checked in with me regularly to make sure it was to my liking. He was so pleasant and warm with no trace of creepiness. Pricing was quite reasonable and he never pushed product sales on me.

All in all, a great choice. So, give ALI at MINA'S SALON in The Shops At Willow Bend a shout. He couldn't be nicer and it's not the hair factory you see in so many salon windows these days. He's local, he's great, and he deserves your business. Tell him Austin sent you!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

After School Happiness

There are many things I can resist. However, with all the time I've spent on the no-carb train, I have NEVER found a substitute for a legitimately good chocolate chip cookie. NEVER. Every Mom (and Dad) should have in their possession a killer chocolate chip cookie recipe. One that doesn't involve a tub or tube of dough.

How can you not have a good day with a good chocolate chip cookie? There are many schools of thought on what constitutes a good one, in our world, it's a big, soft and chewy cookie. Below is the recipe for happiness for all ages. Let the kids help you make them on the weekend or surprise them with a warm cookie after school. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups chocolate chips ( I use 1 cup semi sweet and 1 cup milk)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper (best invention ever).

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl, cream together melted butter and sugars. Beat in vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in sifted ingredients until just mixed. Add chocolate chips with spoon.

Use large table spoon and scoop dough onto cookie sheets a couple of inches apart. Bake for 14 minutes and let cool a couple minutes on sheet before removing and cooling completely on wire rack.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Another lost art, apparently.

Where I grew up in Colorado there were two choices for grocery shopping. Just two. Both were statewide companies, even nationwide under parent names at that point, and maybe a mom & pop joint here and there. Being that my mom is one of the great American housewives, I have many memories of going grocery shopping. Things I don't remember about those trips are having trouble finding a time when somebody would sack our groceries for us or being able to consistently find good produce that didn't break the bank.

We have fallen on sad times. I live smack dab next to a Tom Thumb. I mean, I could walk there if I lived in a place where people did such things. Amazingly enough, in the three years we've lived here, the staff there has been the same which is saying something. Their day time produce staff is beyond friendly and genuinely so. The store manager must never go home because he is always there as all. All fine and dandy.

What's NOT fine and dandy people is the following. No matter what time of day or night, it is near impossible to get somebody to sack your groceries for you. The self checkout thing is not the best when shopping with two children and $150 worth of groceries which automatically exempts you from the express line. The only other one open. (*Note: the express line is always operated by a woman who was definitely alive when God was a boy, no kidding.)

Before you have an opportunity to sack your own stuff, please be leery of the produce department at this Tom Thumb. Don't let the nice staff distract you from your goal! I have a little tally going and the last THIRTEEN times I was in this store for produce at least TWO different produce sections had moldy items in them. I mentioned it, very discreetly, to my least favorite produce gal (the guys there are much friendlier) and she just said, "OK". Not thank you, not sorry, nothing! She didn't care because at the end of her shift, she gets to clock out, and take home a paycheck every two weeks. No ownership! Ok, I feel better.

I want to be able to run into Tom Thumb for last minute items and whimsical recipe ingredients that I hadn't planned on. They have lost my regular business at this location forever. It will be an emergency if I go there. Unfortunately the one stop shopping thing is not happening for me. I now visit Target for some items and then a separate trip to Central Market for others. Ugh. So Mr Tom Thumb, while I want to give you my business, you have made it perfectly clear you do not want it. So hello vinegar category for you. Spend your money wisely ladies, eventually if we all do, they'll catch on.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Heading to the Mid Cities Greek Festival this morning with our Greek friends, I thought it only appropriate to give you a yummy Greek recipe. If you loved "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" as much as I did, then you can whip up this easy breezy salad for all of your cousins named Nick, Nico, Nicky, Diane, Nick...

Classic Greek Salad
from Colorado Collage Cookbook

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 cups romaine
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 cups) crumbled feta
  • 2 small zucchini sliced (you could also use and English cucumber here)
  • 16 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 16 kalmata olives (definitely did not include this at our house)

Combine oil, lemon juice, and oregano in bowl. Season with salt and pepper. If you make it ahead just store in sealed container in your fridge. In large serving bowl combine all vegetables and dress salad right before serving. OPA!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Show him that you care, just for him..."

"... Do the things, he likes to do."

Gloria Steinem fear not! My point here housewives is that our happy husbands are pretty easy to keep happy. A male friend of mine once told me that men are simple and need three things.

One: Something good to eat.
Two: Something clean to wear.
Three: Somebody who wants to, well you know.

I believe this is absolutely true. Who wouldn't like to come home to a home cooked meal, clean laundry, and some TLC? We all would. And if you know there is something a little extra your Mister loves, than why not do that for him?! A favorite dish, a particular sporting event to watch or get tickets to, or a simple "Thank you for working so hard for our family so I can be home raising our family." We all like to be appreciated.

We should take pride in raising our families and caring for our homes! This is our career ladies! Give it 110% just like when you were in the working world. Happy Mamas & Dads are the foundation for happy kids. Try it out and see if making a little extra effort in the hubby department doesn't pay multiple dividends in other areas. My husband is a true partner and always helping whenever he can. I know I am spoiled but I also try to spoil him!

For example, at our house, it's the little things! I know Jake LOVES green chile, like the kind he grew up eating in his family's restaurant. Since the chances of me getting my hot little hands on the family recipe are slim to none and slim just left town, I have spent two years creating my own. And he loves it! He even loved the first batch which was sub-par to say the least. I think he appreciated me trying so hard. Just a little treat like that or a cherry pie sends him to the moon!

We both have chores we hate. I am sure that is true for everyone. I LOATHE emptying the dishwasher and putting gas in my car. Jake hates having to get the coffee pot ready early in the morning and would rather just push the "brew" button to get the caffeine started. Small trade offs like me getting the coffee ready the night before and him gassing my car are wonderful.

One more tidbit and then I will send you off into the husband world as a peacemaker and diplomat! We are OBSESSED Denver Bronco fans. The whole crew: husband, wife, 5 year old, and 1 year old (getting these boys started off right). So during football season, I make it a point to plan nothing on Sundays during game time if at all possible. A nice day doing something he (and the rest of us) enjoy gives him some reprieve and shows appreciation.

So, if you feel that I've sold my soul and identity to June Cleaver and Carol Brady, then you don't know me very well. You don't know how important it is for me to do the absolute best job I can all day, every day for my family. This isn't something we have to do in my opinion. It's something we are BLESSED to be able to do. I know it's hard sometimes when you wonder if you've talked to any other adults all day and suddenly 7pm comes around and you don't know why it feels like 11pm. But they are worth it and so are you. Give your hubby those three things he needs and I know you'll be paid back in a plethora of ways.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Overbooker

Do you know her? Have you seen this woman running wildly through the streets? Or perhaps driving madly in her over sized SUV with a venti Starbucks in one hand, a Diet Coke in the other, cell phone on speaker, and wait! Who is driving!?!?!

Yesterday, I confess, I was this woman. A brief synopsis of my day: up at 5am after a fitful night with the 1 year old teether who also has a runny nose; breakfast & lunch made; laundry started; 5 year old to school at 7:30am; back home to play date at 8:30am at our house; 1 year old down for what would be a brief 45 minute nap at 10am; at 10:45am fed said 1 year old; off to play group and lunch with friends at 11:30am; stopping on the way at Sephora to spend birthday gift certificate on Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer (*which I love but was hoping to get something non-essential with the gift card); play, eat, and then leave fun friends at 1:30pm; stop at home to refill milk, water, & snacks for 1 year old; pickup 5 year old early from school at 2:15pm; head to new pediatric dentist for appointment at 3pm (*got there early so they got us in early!); 3:20pm stop at ChickFilA for treat for 5 year old for rocking his first teeth cleaning and being a superstar; drive North to arrive home at 4pm; 1 year old asleep in car so attempt transfer to crib which works shockingly enough and he sleeps until 5pm; 5:30pm feed children dinner; 6pm both boys in bath; exhausted husband returns home at 6:30pm; feed husband green chile - which thank god he loves because I never got to make the dinner planned - again at 7:00pm; head to the grocery by myself at 7:20pm where I was super frustrated by staff and poor produce (*must enter later); 8:20pm home to two sleeping children put to bed by amazing husband and realize I didn't eat dinner. Bed please!

I know it's a long and detailed confession. But I want you to know, that it happened and it was completely my fault. I am beyond lucky that my husband is so understanding and so helpful with our boys. I could never survive without him! The moral of my story is try to avoid doing this. It's you and your family who suffer in the end. An overbooked housewife is an unhappy housewife, and a tired one at that.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mac & Cheese (Grown Up Style)

Toss the Kraft out the window. It had its place but definitely not now. Hasn't the vibrant color always struck a chord of concern with you? Just the tiniest bit?

This recipe is super easy and wonderful for a Sunday afternoon family dinner or to drop of with your favorite new mom and baby. Thank you Ina Garten for yet another scrumptious dinner... yum!

Mac & Cheese
Barefoot Contessa (*A few Austin changes)

  • Salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1lb your favorite small pasta (spirals, cavatappi, etc)
  • 1 qt whole milk
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 12 ounces (4 cups) Gruyere cheese, grated (this is super expensive cheese, feel free to select another cheese or a mixture of cheeses)
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) extra sharp Cheddar, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 pound fresh tomatoes (4 small)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)

Preheat oven to 375.

Drizzle oil into large pot of salted water. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a saucepan, do not boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large pot and add flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, whisking. While whisking, add hot milk and cook for a couple of minutes until thickened and smooth. Take off heat and add cheeses, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add cooked pasta and stir. Pour into 3 quart baking dish.

Slice tomatoes and arrange on top. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the bread crumbs, and sprinkle on top. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and pasta is browned on top.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My lawn man can beat up your lawn man

Pedro Guerrero

Living in Dallas is a bit like living with full time concierge. One of the beautiful/scary things about living here is that few people do anything for themselves. And that goes for mowing your own lawn. The house we bought had a lawn man but, being renaissance folks, we mow our own lawn. This past Spring we needed some large items removed from the landscaping in our backyard and my hubby was too busy (thank you God) with work to do it himself. So... one sunny Thursday I looked outside and the gentleman who used to take care of our yard for the previous owner was doing the other lawns on our street. All hail Pedro!

The reason I am putting Pedro's information on the blog is because he is one of the most honest and hardworking people I have been fortunate enough to meet. His work is impeccable, he is always punctual, and second to my husband, may be the hardest working man! Please give him a call if you are in need of any sort of lawn service. Whether it's regular maintenance, big projects, or tree trimming, Pedro is your man. This is a prime example of spending money with a company that earns it and values your business! Don't waste time with mediocre service anymore Dallas friends, call today!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Floors & Stain Remover (Why Not?)

A short but important housekeeping note. Two things I love that help me be a housekeeping diva:

1. Oreck Vacuum

If you are tidy, if you have a dog, if you have children, heck if you take any pride in your house at all, you are probably loyal to your vacuum. This relationship parallels car branding in many ways. And in my house, we are Oreck people. It all started with the cleanest person I have ever met, ever. My parents' housekeeper (circa 1998 - 2006ish) would kick any other housekeeper in a clean off. I would bet my children on this. The house we lived in when she started with us was a bit larger than average and the woman cleaned all the cherry hardwood floors and slate floors BY HAND. I'm talking on her hands and knees. And she was in her mid-50s. Along with that kind of commitment to clean comes a certain eclectic personality. She introduced us to the Oreck. Based on what you already know about her, wouldn't you buy one too? She turned us onto them because they weigh 8 lbs and do an incredible job, bar none. So, you Dyson folks who swear by yours (even though that guy with the freaky accent is the spokesperson/inventor) must love to workout your arms when you lug that 50lb thing around your house. For those of you in the vacuum market, do your homework. And by that, I mean read this. And buy an Oreck. You will not regret it. EVER.

2. Spray'n'Wash with Resolve (*Inspired to write about this by WW, thanks girl.)

Sometimes a girl gets lucky. Sometimes it's like shooting fish in a barrel when you pick out a new cleaning product because they are all the same. But sometimes, finding what you need is harder than listening to native Texans speak Spanish. No offense guys. There are a multitude of prewash stain removers but I am developing a strong fondness for Spray'n'Wash with Resolve. It works, it smells nice, and it's not the priciest one on the shelf. Done and done.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Layered Taco Dip

Layered Taco Dip
Courtesy of Mimi's Kitchen

  • 1 can bean dip
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup mayo
  • 1/2 package taco seasoning mix
  • 4oz diced green chiles
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 medium tomato chopped
  • 2-3 green onions chopped
  • 2 cups grated cheddar or Monterrey jack cheese

In small bowl, combine sour cream, mayo, taco seasoning mix. Spread over bean dip. Sprinkle with green chiles. Peel, pit, & mash avocados. Combine with lime juice, salt, & garlic powder. spread over chiles. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, green onions, and chopped tomatoes. Serve with tortilla chips or pita chips are great too!

Sunday Funday

Sunday Funday is upon us and for you savvy housewives, this is a good time to get things rolling for your busy week ahead! It's fun to chat with all of my gal pals and see what they think about the blog, their housewife tips, challenges, etc. A lot of what I hear is that sometimes it's too hard to change a pattern. I encourage you to make one small change at a time. A little work now will pay huge dividends later! Don't be overwhelmed by the scary closet in the guest room holding years, possibly decades, worth of items needing to be sorted, discarded, and organized. Start with something simple. Whether it's a load of laundry (from start to finish) everyday or planning your menu for the week, it will allow you more time later!

Our Sundays in the Fall are the best. Football is literally on all day long, from NFL Countdown to the Sunday night game. Even with the tumultuous Bronco games all Bronco fans endure, Fall is the best time of year. Seeing all three of my boys in orange and blue makes a Mama proud! This home bound Sunday schedule also allows me to get my week planned. It's absolutely wonderful to start Monday morning with very little laundry, grocery shopping done, meals planned, and week's activities unfolding. Make it easy on yourself. For instance, my five year old has soccer on Tuesdays from 5:30-6:30pm and soccer on Wednesdays from 4:30-5:30pm and Thursdays from 5:30-6:30pm. I know there are certain nights it will be more challenging to get an elaborate meal on the table, boys showered, and in bed on time. Sunday is a good day to cook something large you can use in various ways throughout the week.

This does not have to be daunting, it will save you later in the week. To give you an idea, here is what our meal schedule looks like for this week:

Cooking red sauce all day to use later in the week.
Dinner: Pizza, had 2 leftover take & bake pizzas from our Red River Shootout party yesterday.

Cooking green chile all day to use throughout the week.
Dinner: Italian sausage tortellini with red sauce, salad, & garlic bread.

Dinner: Green chile burritos.

Dinner: Meat loaf, fancy smancy mashed potatoes, & steamed broccoli.

Dinner: LEFTOVER night!!! A smorgasbord of whatever you are hungry for and can be found in the fridge.

Kid Dinner: Spaghetti & meatballs, steamed veggies.
Adult Dinner: Dinner party at our house. I am making the main dish and dessert. I am going to make traditional lasagna with the red sauce made today and for my dessert will probably make (don't hold me to it) tiramisu or cheesecake.

There you have it. Even a rough outline will help free up time during the week and reduce dinner time stress and McDonald's drive thru emergencies. You can still relax on Sunday Funday but do a little Mama work too. This is a prime example of spreading everything you have to do out over the week so you're never bogged down. I am excited to hear how it goes for you! I know you can do it!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dollar Tree

The Dollar Tree
15th & Alma
Plano, TX

I grew up thinking that the dollar store was a pre-teen haven full of off-brand items that nobody needed. And to some degree, I was right. But, now, out here in the open, I am admitting to purchasing a number of random items at The Dollar Tree.

First I would like to say that there is in fact a difference in the dollar store location/chain you chose to visit. The store located just North of the shady Collin Creek Mall is both clean and tidy. My recent venture to said store was for writing notebooks for my Kindergartner which run between $4-6 at Target or Walmart. But of course, at The Dollar Tree, guess what!?! ONE DOLLAR! I was tempted by all of the fun Halloween items but remained focus and only strayed long enough to purchase an EXTREMELY cold Diet Coke (FANTASTICO).

Second, it was shockingly uplifting to find a cheery checkout lady! Not only was she nice, but she apologized for the rude customer ahead of me. The customer decided after she had been rung up to go get one more item from the back of the store and had the audacity (and good public relation skills) to not apologize to those waiting in line behind her. Sheer awesomeness from that customer.

Needless to say friends, if you have to run into The Dollar Tree for the odd good deal, visit the one in Plano. Good customer service, clean store, and not a bad way to spend a buck!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bisquick isn't for this Betty

Don't buy anymore Bisquick, you don't need it! If your kids LOVE pancakes as much as mine do, you already have everything you need to make homemade, wonderful, fluffly, delectable pancakes right in your pantry!

This recipe can be varied in many ways. Throw some blueberries, chocolate chips, or bananas in there! I like to make a batch of pancake batter on Monday and then I have it all week! This is a Mimi trick-of-the-trade. Homemade, hot breakfast everyday and little to no work. I also use a Mickey Mouse waffler which makes better pancakes than waffles. If you want to do it the old fashioned way, then just watch for the little bubbles before you flip these bad boys.

Better Than Bisquick Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (you can easily mix half wheat flour with this if you like)
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups milk (whole milk does work best here)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Make a well in center and add milk, egg, & butter. Whisk together. Cook with your preferred method of griddle, frying pan, or Mickey Mouse waffler! If you're dining with my five year old then you'll enjoy your Mickey Mouse pancake with a little butter, a lot of syrup, turkey sausage links and fresh fruit. Have a great morning!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Steinmart; I should know better

Belt Line Rd & Preston

Before you judge me for even going into Steinmart, know that I like to find fabulous gifts at random places. Not that that excuses it, but just so you know.

It makes me sad to write my first "Vinegar" entry. I don't know why. I know there is poor customer service out there, but I'm always hoping for the best, thinking each day is a new day in the world of the gracious consumer. Long story short, I went to Steinmart with my five year old to find a dear friend a birthday gift. My five year old is an excellent shopping companion and since my hubby was home, we left his one year old brother with Dad! Quality time just the two of us, jamming out to his play list in the car, in search of a fab gift for my friend.

Steinmart was the third place we went into and even though it was Friday afternoon, it wasn't that busy. Despite not being greeted at the door, which didn't surprise me, I had high hopes of finding something. Through the women's department we were completely ignored but one sales associate, then another in accessories, and by the time we got to the home department I was done. My guy was being a champ, staying right by me and using his best manners. Then in a tight spot in the home department, an associate squeezed by us and we BOTH said "excuse me" and she said NOTHING!!! As much as I wanted to, I said nothing. I told my son, in a louder voice, that he had excellent manners and isn't it sad that not everyone does?

I did find the gift and even though I didn't want to give them any money, we were short on time. So, I paid the checkout gal, who was friendly enough, and left. It has really bothered me all weekend but I figure this was the best I could do. Put it out there so none of you give them your hard earned money. And if you're thinking, Austin, I don't EVER shop at Steinmart, then you were right all along.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cheater Chicken Soup

Sometimes you need your mom, or your grandma; or whoever treated you with chicken soup when you felt yucky. If nobody ever did that for you, I am sorry. Make sure you do it for your family so they know how much you love them! My mom made some pretty darn good chicken and noodles (we eliminated soup from the name because it was just so hearty!) that always made my sister and I feel better from whatever ailed us.

This last weekend was a series of stomach bugs with a brief intermission filled by the Texas State Fair. First time for us, even though we've lived here three years. Despite the rain, and I do mean RAIN, it was pretty fun. 4 kiddos in ponchos, one toddler under an umbrella, and four grown ups making their way through puddles, Fletcher's corn dogs, and cow milking seminars made for a memorable Saturday! But alas, come Sunday morning, the stomach bug came back with a vengeance and left my five year old and I out of commission, while my poor husband tried to keep a cranky toddler out of trouble.

So today, Monday, I knew we needed some soup for our souls. So, being a BIG fan of the Barefoot Contessa, I went to the good book and found what I needed. Here's the amended version to Ina's chicken soup. I am proud to say it was easy, the boys seemed to enjoy it, and we have leftovers to boot! Enjoy!

Cheater Chicken Soup
Amended from the Barefoot Contessa
  • 1 rotisserie chicken from your supermarket (Sam's Club has one of the best, and it's a friggin deal at $4) It's also great to have an entire chicken since the white and the dark meat combination is very flavorful
  • 2 quarts chicken stock (sometimes I make and freeze my own, today was not one of those days so I used the Tom Thumb/Safeway Organics brand of chicken stock)
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled & chopped
  • 3-4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 bags egg noodles (I use Reme's from the freezer section, next to the rolls. You could use any egg noodles you enjoy.)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt & pepper to taste

With a large soup pot, heat the chicken stock until simmering. While this heats, remove skin from chicken and remove chicken meat separately. Go ahead and get in there, don't be afraid! Discard skin and bones. Add carrots, celery, and noodles. Cook at a simmer for about 10-15minutes. Then add chicken and parsley. Cook until ready to serve. Add salt and pepper liberally as you like it while cooking.

Serve in a large bowl with a couple of yummy white rolls, hot with butter and honey. Everyone will feel better!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Smoochie, smoochie

This is simple. We all forget to do it. We all need to do it.

Kiss your husband. Kiss him like you kissed him when you were dating. Kiss him in a way that embarrasses your kids just a little bit.

If you stop him the minute he walks in the door from work and kiss the lips off of him, rather than engage in the usual parent to parent update/question/answer period things will be better. Guaranteed.

It's good to be nice to strangers in parking lots, polite to the mail man, friendly to the Starbucks Barista. It's more important to be nice to your hubby. Love on him, take some initiative!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Laundry Fairy

Did you go to bed last night dreaming of the Laundry Fairy and wake up to find she had not come? Shoot! Well, don't tell anyone, especially the kids, but surprise! You ARE the Laundry Fairy. If I can promise you more time out of the laundry room than in it, will try what I am about to suggest? Great, thanks so much for agreeing so readily! Here it is: LAUNDRY EVERY DAY. Are you there? Did you hang up?

The laundry system at our house consists of a simple little routine called "daily". Every morning before my boys get up, I have laundry going. By 10am, my laundry is done. D-O-N-E. That's washed, dried, and most importantly, PUT AWAY. I have only two children but my Grandmother, who has ELEVEN, did it this way and still does. Get it going right away and it won't eat up your entire day! A little rhyme and I didn't even mean to.

You will be a much happier housewife with a truly ecstatic husband (just watch) when there are not piles of clothes to wash and piles more to fold and put away. Enlist your little helpers to nicely put away their clean clothes. My five year old is fully capable of putting away all of his laundry that does not require hanging.

As far as linens are concerned, I believe sheets need to be done once a week and towels twice a week. Those could be completed on designated days though so if the designated day thing is what you're used to now, this will help you transition out of that. Ha! In terms of laundry products, I am OBSESSED with the Method laundry detergent from Target. It smells like Heaven, requires only 4-6 pumps depending on how dirty your dirtiest items are, and the bottle is the size of a shampoo bottle! Yay environment!

So, instead of wishin and hopin' for the Laundry Fairy tonight, go throw a load in right now and fold that pile of clean ones that won't be considered clean for much longer if they just sit there. Good work!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mimi's Chili

Even though Dallas does not have the robust Fall weather I so long for, sometimes a girl has to pretend and force a season to happen at home. The Broncos are on (thanks NFL Sunday Ticket), school is in, and it's time for some foliage. Or in our case, chili! Now, chili is a bit like religion in my opinion. All falling under one common title with some little and some not-so-little differences from crock pot to crock pot. There are so many good ones out there but I am a tried and true Mimi, or as I call her "Mom", follower. My five year old is already well acquainted with Mimi's Chili and has his own style of dressing his up. Go figure. So, here it is; make it, enjoy it, and be glad dinner is on the table in no time because of a little planning on your part! Killer leftovers by the way.

Mimi's Chili
  • 2lb hamburger (you can use ground turkey)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons worcestershire
  • 2 15oz cans chili beans
  • 2 15oz cans kidney beans, drained
  • 4 8oz cans tomato sauce

Brown the hamburger and drain grease. Combine meat and all ingredients in crock pot and stir. Cover and cook all day on LOW. If chili reduces too much, you can add a can of water mid day. Remove bay leaves before serving.

It's fun to create a mini chili bar for your family. Everyone likes putting their own special touches on their bowl! At our house, everyone has their chili over rice. Sounds crazy but crazy good is what it is! Rice, chili, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and for my husband, hot sauce. We've been known to throw some Fritos on there too! Turn the football game on, have some friends over, and enjoy Mimi's Chili!