Thursday, April 24, 2014

What to Do With Leftover Easter Ham?

Here ya go!

Fried Ham & Eggs for breakfast

Ham, Cheese & Broccoli Muffins


Ham & Cheese Pasta Bake

Split Pea Soup

How to be a Tidy Cook

I am a bit of a neat freak, and one of my biggest nightmares is a messy house. Through the years, as a stay-at-home mom, I have developed rituals to keep our house neat and tidy. It is this process, or habit, or ritual, that I go through to help me get the job done neatly and efficiently. Once a tidy habit is established, I don't even think about it - it just becomes second nature. It doesn't even feel like work. Even when my kids were little, I didn't spend hours a day cleaning or picking up; I just tidied things up as the day progressed. I still do.

Start off with a clean kitchen.
I remember friends asking me how in the world I kept my house so neat with little kids underfoot. I even remember getting my feelings hurt one time because a friend came over, looked around, and asked, "Where are all of Whitney's toys? Doesn't she have any toys?!" (I felt so offended! Of course my child has toys!) Rituals. We had a simple ritual of just picking up one kind of toy before getting out another kind. When a kid grows up with this from the time they learn to walk, they just come to accept it as normal. You don't start playing with your kitchen set when you still have Duplos all over the floor! We also used to have a "quick pick-up" time every morning before naptime, every afternoon before Daddy came home, and of course, before bedtime. I used to tell my kids, if you spend just a little time picking up little messes, you will never have to spend a lot of time picking up big messes.

This worked wonders and kept our house tidy, even though we raised four kids. We had rituals to follow for mornings, afternoons, evenings, and bedtimes. We had rituals to follow for picking up. For getting up in the mornings, for bath times, for leaving the house. And when I'm doing a project, like cooking a meal or baking cookies, rituals are still my key to sanity. Tidy Rituals.

You do not have to make a mess or plan a huge cleanup after baking or cooking - even a large meal for a crowd! Develop a ritual and your kitchen will be neat as a pin before your food is even ready.

Here are 10 tips for being a tidy cook:

1. Give yourself enough time. Seriously, don't start to make a chicken pot pie with homemade crust when you only have a half-hour to get dinner on the table. You will get in a rush, make a mess, and have a huge kitchen catastrophe by the time you serve dinner - and it will be late.

2. Start with a clean kitchen. It's not easy to end with a clean kitchen if you don't start with one. Your sink should be empty, counters cleared and wiped. If you have a dishwasher, empty it if it is full of clean dishes.

3. Fill your sink with hot, soapy water. This is where you will toss your dishes and utensils as you use them. They will soak as you cook, and it will be easy to wash them in the end.

I always fill my sink with hot, soapy water before food prep. Used dishes and utensils get tossed in here and soak as I'm working.
4. Know your recipe. Don't ever start a recipe without reading it all the way through. Even if you've made it before, or read through it last week, at least skim through it again, because there might be something you're forgetting.

5. Set everything out that you will need for the recipe. Have ready all ingredients, spices, bowls, spoons, measuring cups, pots, and pans. Have your veggies sliced and/or chopped, your meat thawed. I like to put the ingredients in the order I will be using them - it makes it easier and quicker to grab them as I need them.

6. Preheat your oven now if you are going to be baking.

7. Have a small compost bowl (or "hippie bowl," as my son likes to call it) in your work space. This is where all your scraps and combustible trash goes. If you have a compost bin, you can empty it when you're finished; if not, it still makes it easy to clean up the scraps and trash all at once (rather than walking back and forth to the trash can).

8. Clean up as you go. As you progress through the recipe, toss dirty dishes into the soapy water. When you use an ingredient, put it up immediately after you use it. This makes things so easy. You don't have to think, "Did I add salt to this yet?" because if you did, you will see that the salt has been put away! And when you're finished with your recipe, your counter tops will not be littered with canisters, spice jars, bottles, and other containers.

9. Re-use dishes as much as possible. If you have tossed a mixing bowl in the sink of soapy water and need another one for another step, instead of getting a new clean one, just quickly wash out the one in the sink and re-use it. And you will have fewer dishes to wash in the end.

10. Wash your dishes while your food cooks. Once you have your food cooking (or baking), it is  time to wash the dishes by hand or load them quickly into the dishwasher. Since they will have been soaking, it will be a very easy job that will only take 5-10 minutes. Then go around and wipe off your countertops with the soapy dishrag. If you're making supper, use this time to set the table nicely.

Wash the dishes you used while your meal finishes cooking to cut down on kitchen cleanup after dinner.
 Stand back and look at your clean kitchen! Would anyone believe that you've been cooking? Aren't you glad you won't have a big mess to worry about later?

Buttery Yeast Rolls

Please visit my new blog for the recipe to Buttery Yeast Rolls here!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Happy Easter!

I know, it seems a little late, but as Catholics, we are actually in the Easter season for 50 days, so see? I'm not late!

I love you so much I just wanna squeeeeeze you!

My little angels.

Sweetie pies. They would never misbehave.
First of all, I'd like to say that we really had a nice Holy Week. We started off the week with Palm Sunday of course, and then on Tuesday evening, the girls and I went to confession. We hadn't been since around Christmas, so it was definitely something we needed to do. I always feel so wonderful after confession! Holy Thursday mass was nice (this is the mass that the priest washes the feet of 12 parishioners - to represent Christ washing the feet of his disciples).

Sky and Emma Rose in front of our church, amid the cherry blossoms!
On Good Friday, we took the girls out of school and spent the day fasting and in quiet contemplation. We watched The Passion of the Christ at 1:00, finishing up right around 3:00, and then prayed a family Rosary together. Later that night, we attended the Good Friday service and Veneration of the Cross at church.

Saturday was spent prepping our food for our Easter dinner, and of course, dyeing eggs. My husband also cooked steaks and sausage on the grill, and Whitney and our grandkids came over for dinner and to dye eggs with us. (It's so much fun dyeing eggs with little kids!)

My girls still enjoy dyeing eggs :) Even the 26yo.

Austen explaining how to dye eggs.

Easter Eggs!
The weather could not have been any more perfect Easter Sunday. We woke up to sunshine, clear skies, and cool air, and my girls and I were able to wear our new Easter dresses without freezing! We were all decked out in peaches and pinks this year.

Emma made Easter Bunny cupcakes. (Recipe from Comfy in the Kitchen)

After mass, Whitney, John & the kiddos came over for Easter dinner. We took pictures in the backyard and then had Easter dinner.

Our family on Easter morning: Emma Rose, Andy, me, Andrew, and Sky.

My beautiful daughter Whitney and her beautiful family. I'm so glad she lives only 2 miles away! :) L-R: John, River (4), Austen (2), and Whitney.

In between shots...
The girls! Me, Emma Rose, Austen Rose, Whitney, and Sky

Waiting patiently with Grandpa in between shots....
River is a little snuggle bug. He always has lots of hugs!

My 4 wonderful kiddos. Andrew (18), Emma Rose (12), Whitney (26), and Sky (16).

Austen saw River snuggling with me and had to get some snuggles too. What can I say, my grandkids were fighting over me.
It took forever just to get a couple of cooperative shots of the little ones.  

My "behind the scenes" shots were pretty funny, though. "River, no super hero poses! Austen, don't lift your dress up!"
Come on, guys, SMILE! Please!!!
Notice the badly behaved son-in-law?
Our Easter menu included: Ham with roasted pineapples and cherries (a yummy recipe from Comfy in the Kitchen), scalloped potatoes, southern green beans with bacon, strawberry-spinach salad with lemon dressing, and buttery yeast rolls. I plan on sharing some of my recipes soon!

And of course, Easter Bunny Cupcakes for dessert.

She had been eyeing those cupcakes all day....and was very happy to finally get to eat one after finishing her dinner!

What did you do for Easter? 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Ultimate Tex-Mex Food: Cheese Enchiladas with Chili Con Carne

OK, today I am going to share with you how to make my absolute favorite Tex-Mex food ever. I love cheese enchiladas, and when they're topped with chili con carne....oh my goodness. The creamy, melty cheese...oozing from soft corn tortillas...smothered in spicy chili con doesn't get any better than that.

It's very simple and easy. The first thing you need to do is make some Texas chili, and my dad's recipe is the best (see link). Remember, there are no beans in Texas chili!! :) Chili con carne means "chili with meat." It is not chili con carne y frijoles.

My dad's Texas chili

These enchiladas are perfect to make if you have already made some Texas chili and have leftovers. Either freeze the chili and reheat it on the day you want to make enchiladas, or just make them the next day. I generally do not make the chili and enchiladas on the same day because the chili has to cook for a while, and if I'm assembling enchiladas for the whole family, it just takes too long. So, get out your Texas chili and heat it up.

The enchiladas are easy. Time-consuming (depending on how many you make), but easy! Start with some good corn tortillas (not flour!!). Heat a little oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is nice and hot, fry your tortillas, one or two at a time, (you can stack two and fry them together) for about 4-5 seconds per side. The oil should be hot enough to bubble up when you add the tortilla. Don't fry them too long - you're not making tortilla chips. You want them nice and soft and pliable.

Frying the tortilla in oil for just a few seconds makes them nice and soft and gives them an incredible flavor.

NOTE: Yes, you can heat your tortillas covered with a damp paper towel in the microwave, but I don't recommend it. Frying them adds so much flavor and they won't taste the same microwaved.

After frying your tortillas, just transfer to a plate in a stack. When they're cool enough to handle, lay some grated cheddar cheese down the middle, top with a bit of diced, sweet yellow onion, and roll up. Place the rolled tortillas in a baking dish.

Smother with steaming hot Texas chili, sprinkle with a little more cheese and chopped onion. Bake in 400 oven for about 12 minutes, until cheese is all melted.

It's easy to adjust the quantity of enchiladas you make. I only made two because I'm eating lunch alone. Enjoy!

Come see me at my new blog,!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Meatless Lenten Friday: Vegetarian Chili

Well, it's the last day of Spring Break here, and Andy and I enjoyed a busy few days in Seattle with the girls. I have uploaded over 200 pictures on my computer and plan on posting about our mini-vacay soon, but since it's another Lenten Friday, I thought I would share my recipe for vegetarian chili.

I made this last Friday. My husband is always surprised when I remind him that there is no meat in it - I think the black beans give it that hearty, almost meaty flavor. I prefer black beans and pinto beans in my chili over kidney beans. However, if you like kidney beans, then feel free to replace any of the beans in this recipe with kidney beans!


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can Rotel tomatoes

1 can diced green chilies

1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce

1 can pinto beans with jalapenos (do not drain)

2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup frozen corn, rinsed

1 jalapeno pepper, diced (remove seeds and membranes for less spice)

1/4 cup chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 bay leaf

4 cups water

1/4 cup masa harina


Diced avocado, sour cream, and shredded cheese, for serving (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for an additional 2 minutes.  Add Rotel tomatoes, tomato sauce, pinto beans, black beans, corn, jalapeno pepper, seasonings, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Stir in water. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. 

Drain and rinse black beans

Saute onions, bell pepper, and garlic.

I almost forgot the bay leaf! After adding masa harina, allow to simmer for at least one hour. Longer is better!

2. In a small bowl or cup, whisk together masa harina with some water to make a thin paste. The mixture should resemble the consistency of half n' half. Stir slowly into simmering chili, mixing well. Continue to simmer, covered, for at least 1 more hour.

My favorite way to eat vegetarian chili is simply topped with chopped avocado.

3. Serve with diced avocado, sour cream, and/or shredded cheese, if desired. Cornbread and a green salad also make excellent sides to serve with this chili. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pasta Salad With Tomatoes

Spring has sprung! I love the seasons - all of them, including winter - and I get truly excited when a new season is making its appearance. Our neighborhood is coming alive with cherry blossoms, the weather is warming up, and even more exciting, the sun is rising well before my high-schooler leaves for the bus! I think I miss the sun more than anything else during the winter months.

Today, the kids had half-days at school and Andy took the day off. The weather was warm, clear, and beautiful, and it just felt like a Saturday. It only seemed right that we should cook out, so Andy fired up the grill and cooked ribs and hot dogs that we had stored in the freezer. My standard "go to" sides for cookouts are baked macaroni and cheese and some variation of potato salad. Today I wanted to do something different, and the thought of a nice, cool, pasta salad just sounded so refreshing and, well, "spring-timey." After a little searching online, I found this recipe from Real Simple. I made just a few little changes, like cutting back on the tomatoes since I have a tomato-hater in the family, adding some green onion, and using Romano cheese instead of Parmesan.  It turned out to be the perfect side dish for our cookout, and my tomato-hater was able to easily remove the offensive fruit from his portion.

Just a little note. This recipe makes a lot of pasta salad. It was way too much for our family of 5, so I will probably take some leftovers to my grown daughter Whitney - and we'll also be eating it here for a few days. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. 


12 ounces whole-wheat mini shell pasta

1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered

5 green onions, sliced

4 ounces Romano cheese, crumbled into small pieces with a fork

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dried chives

1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and immediately immerse in an ice bath to cool. Drain again and set aside.

2. Combine olive oil, salt, pepper, and green onions in a large bowl. Add cooled pasta and mix well to coat. Gently toss with cherry tomatoes and Romano cheese.

3. Chill for 1-2 hours before serving.