Category Archives: quick and easy

Korean beef bowls and impromptu perfection 

Summer is in full swing in this house! Not sure where your peeps are in the school year but here in Cajun mama land we are done. Peace out, 2016-2017 school year!! And my kids are glad for it. They are taking full advantage of the whole summertime thang. 

Yes, they are in the pool with clothes on. Because summer…lol

They are also like ravenous monkeys several times a day and I am not gonna lie…I am already struggling to keep up. My kids would love, love, love to eat fast food or at restaurants 3 meals a day. I, of course, do not allow that. We cannot even hang with that lifestyle. Big Daddy started a new job a few months ago and it’s been tight over here. Big Daddy will likely fuss when he reads this asking why would I even mention that but you know…being real is my thing. I am always real with y’all and that is a major thing that has happened in our lives. So eating out a whole bunch with a family of 6 is not in the plan. I assume most of you realize this is why I cook so much (and I love it) but if not please consider this my newsflash…I cook to save money a good bit of the time. Not to mention, we are trying to teach our kids about that eating out every day is not the norm and that there is nothing wrong with cooking. And when you can cook your own food, you can be self sufficient. 

In that same vein, I adore cooking things that my kids enjoy and they resent that it is not our favorite Chinese takeout a little less. Cooking at home is a necessity for many of us, but it does not have to be boring! So in comes this meal. Korean beef bowls.  Oh sweet spicy morsels of beef this is good stuff. And every last one of my kids absolutely devoured it. Also, it is not expensive to make. So perfect. As perfect as the other day was. Woke up to a loud boom at 5:45. Yep, transformer blowing. No power in sight. So I told the kids to load up we were headed to Tyler, TX to go to the Caldwell zoo. We had the best time. The weather was unseasonably perfect. Not the sauna that it usually is. The high was in the 70’s! In May!!! And I ran into 2 friends while at the zoo. These Korean beef bowls were perfect like that.  Unexpected, came out of nowhere, born from lacking, and crazy low expectations. You will love it!!! 

Me and my bebes during our impromptu zoo visit.

I found this recipe on http://www.damndelicious.net. I am so happy I stumbled across it. It is recipe gold, my friends.

Korean Beef bowls 

Stuff you need~

1 pound lean ground beef 

Canola oil 

2 teaspoons minced garlic (or more)

1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce 

1/4 cup packed brown sugar 

2 teaspoons sesame oil 

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger *

2 Sliced green onions, green and white parts 

Slicd green onions and Sesame seeds for garnish (optional) 

Cooked white rice 

*I used the McCormick spice stuff and it was fine. Next time I’ll try the squeeze tube produce section ginger just to see if it enhances the flavor. 

What to do with the stuff~

Drizzle some canola oil In skillet. Warm over medium heat then add garlic. Sauté on medium low until fragrant, about a minute or 2.  Add ground meat to skillet. Brown until no longer pink and then some. Drain if necessary. 

While browning meat, combine the sesame oil, brown sugar, soy sauce, red pepper flakes and ginger in a bowl. Whisk together.  When ground beef is browned and drained, add the soy sauce concoction and some sliced green onions. Cook on medium low for a minute or 2. The smell will be amazing and your mouth will water!! 


Serve this over hot rice. Prepare to be so glad you stayed at home and cooked for your family. It is HEAVEN! 

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French Onion Chicken Noodle casserole and faith, love and good food

A few things here. It’s been a few months since I have posted a new recipe and for that I am apologetic. I find it hard to believe that anyone cares that much about my blathering and rambling and yet, I feel tremendous guilt when I have been away too long. I call it good ole Catholic guilt but it’s for sure a catch 22.  I admit I feel a certain level of responsibility to you all. Though I am well aware no one is basing their entire life or menu on me posting a recipe or not, I consider my readers to be my friends and I do feel responsible for my friends. So since we are friends I will apologize for being so absent lately but I will hope you allow me some grace because you know how deep we can sink into life without even knowing it. And I have been thigh deep in LIFE. Here’s a little glimpse into what we’ve been doing and that’s not the half of it…

4 kiddos means lots going on sometimes

This is just the stuff going on that you can see. That I can even verbalize. There have been other things that just come with life. I lost my aunt in April (my cousin Robin’s mom, my mom’s sister) and that was hard.

from left to right…my mom, momee, and aunt rebecca (circa 2003)

 When I sit down and consider all the things that have happened, it is a little hard to believe some of it actually is real. And I forgive myself for not sitting down to write about a recipe because I have been doing good to get supper on the table.

 But here I am, and I am going to give you a recipe that fits the bill for the ultimate comfort dish. No matter the season, no matter the day…this dish aims to please. My friend Amy from my hometown (there are lots of Aimee/Amys  from Alex…and I proudly call a bunch of them my friends.) One day she shared this recipe via Facebook and it looked so good I just had to try it. Now I could just share that recipe but I like to write about the recipes that I love on my blog and that in no way makes them my recipes. This recipe can be found here…http://www.plainchicken.com/2014/09/french-onion-chicken-noodle-casserole.html#CEeoggWZZxhI7sqZ.99

It’s a real winner my friends. I think the actual phrase is winner, winner chicken dinner! It is so good. Now I kind of tweaked it a little to make it suit our tastes but it is just the bomb. The stuff as my good friend Lisa is fond of saying. This is the stuff! You make some field peas with it and some warm buttered King’s Hawaiian rolls and you have yourself one heck of a supper. Big Daddy went bananas. He loved it and I did too. It’s one of those dishes you think about and have to make it. It’s that good. 

French Onion Chicken Noodle Casserole 

Stuff you need~

4 cups cooked chopped chicken

2 cans cream of chicken soup

12 ounces container French Onion Dip

4 ounces sour cream 

1 cup cheddar cheese (I used the Kraft triple cheddar with a touch of cream cheese) 

12 ounces egg noodles

1 cup crushed French fried onions

What to do with the stuff~

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Cook your noodles until they are cooked al dente. So they are cooked but not mushy. No one wants that. 

Now stir the soup, the dip, the sour cream, your chicken (insert rotisserie chicken here), and cheese. 


Now combine this mixture with the cooked noodles. Add all of this to your 9’x 13 dish that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Top with French fried onions. Bake 25-30 minutes. 

creamy, filling, savory…this dish has it all!!

Most of all, I hope you all enjoy this as much as we did. I want you to know how much I appreciate you continuing to read my posts, for sharing my posts, for commenting and interacting, for waiting for me to come back around. Life is so full of lessons and I am on a journey to learn them. Difficult or not. And man some of them have been difficult here larely. I am grateful to be able to share my journey of faith, hope and good food with all of you. Much love and many good meals to you all.~AMB 

life is a journey and that is fine as long as some of it can be on a boat on the Sabine River

And because I just love our dogs…let me share what they have been up to…our pups, Roy and Idaho are a big part of our fam!! 


Cajun chicken pasta and a happy accident 

Ok I am so excited to share this recipe with you. It was truly a happy accident for me. I am typically a control freak in most areas and like my ducks In a row in many areas of my life. Cooking is no different. I am not sure if I am this way because it is a necessity for me to have 4 kids and run a house in a semi functional way. Ok mildly functional…I’m not gonna lie. Or maybe I have always been this way. That is probably the most likely scenario. I like things a certain way, I like to be prepared, I like to know what is going to happen in advance. I would say also if I am looking at Alfred Adler’s birth order theory, I am the oldest and I have many of the traits that Adler associates with oldest children. So there you go…this is what happens when a therapist turns into a food blogger. Love love love me some counseling theories. If you want to read up on this topic a little or are just curious, here is a good one to check out…

http://www.d120.org/assets/1/staff_assets/rhalbur/Alfred_Adler_-_Birth_Order.pdf.

It says specifically oldest children are often perfectionists and can be exacting. Errr…me and me. That’s ok. I embrace it. It works well for me most of the time, but being exacting and a perfectionist is not often helpful to me when I need to be experimental in the kitchen. Improvisation is not my thing usually…mama likes a recipe to follow, dang it!!! That’s what makes the fact that this recipe happened at all a true delight. One night we had a busy schedule on the books (running meet, neighborhood association annual meeting, 4 kids worth of homework and big daddy had a life insurance appointment. Busy!) and I was trying to figure out what to feed my crew. Sweet baby Jesus what’s an overwhelmed mama to do?! So I was pondering as I tuned my bickering children in the backseat on the drive home from school. What’s for dinner? I had bought a package of Tyson’s frozen grilled sliced chicken breasts and had not used them yet. 

  
I started thinking what ingredients I had on hand. Something came to me….Cajun chicken pasta! Maybe I could find a recipe that called for what I had. That sounded so good. My sister had turned me on to Chili’s Cajun chicken pasta years ago but that was not in the budget or schedule. I googled it and found a recipe that called for ingredients I had. Well mostly. I was missing a few things and it was not exact. Usually that bothers me but that night I embraced it! I used what I had and did not give two hoots about exact. And the outcome was so very very delicious. Added bonus…those frozen grilled chicken slices worked well and this dish came together in a flash. Everyone loved it and I have made it twice since then. I am going to give you the recipe I used here, but  you can of course check out the original recipe here http://allrecipes.com/recipe/8778/cajun-chicken-pasta/. That first night I did not have grated Parmesan cheese, I only had what my kiddos call shaky cheese or that Kraft stuff in the green canister. It was even better then than the next time when I had the actual freshly grated  Parmesan cheese. Just saying….something to be said for improvising! I double the sauce recipe…when you taste it you will see why. It’s just so good. 3 cheers for happy accidents!! Enjoy! Remember I double the sauce recipe so that’s 2 cups whipping cream and double the seasoning…but that’s just me. I love a good sauce. Mmmm

Cajun chicken pasta 

Stuff you need~ 

1/2 package Tyson frozen grilled sliced chicken breasts 

Cooking oil or olive oil 

2 tablespoons Cajun pasta (I use Tony’s…what else?) 

2 tablespoons butter 

1/2 chunked up  red bell pepper

1/2 chunked up yellow bell pepper 

1 cup heavy whipping cream 

1/4 teaspoon  lemon pepper 

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 

1/4 teaspoon dried basil (I use the stuff in the tube) 

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder 

1/4 teaspoon black pepper 

1/4 cup Kraft grated Parmesan cheese (the stuff in the green canister…if you dare) 

1/2 box of linguine 

What to do with the stuff~

Bring pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Cook al dente and drain. Set aside. 

Warm the cooking oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the frozen sliced chicken. Sprinkle liberally with the Cajun seasoning. It’s supposed to have some Cajun heat sha! 

  
Ok stir the chicken around until it is heated through…5 minutes or so. Toss the butter into the skillet. Let it melt and then toss in the veggies. 

  
Cook until slightly tender. Stir in the whipping cream and then add all the seasonings. Resist the urge to drink it with a spoon. It’s so good. 

  
Sprinkle in the cheese and let it simmer for a few minutes on low heat to let those luscious flavors mingle. Oh yes. Luscious. Flavors. Mingle. You will see. 

  

Mama’s 80’s style delight and that’s how I roll…

It’s been a while since I have written any posts and it feels good to be writing again!! If you are reading, let me say thank you for your loyalty. Thank you for reading along. Thank you for being right along with me. Kids have been out of school and I have been focusing my energy on them and just trying to let myself BE. That is a task for me sometimes. Just BEing. Not moving, not shaking, not making any waves…just being here. Or there. I hope you can understand what I mean. There are other things we have been doing and no grass has grown under our feet and I will fill ya’ll in as we go along. This summer has involved a bunch of Zumba, walking, Swimming, traveling and hanging out with friends. And summer is not over yet. Not until we have to go back to school. Lots of changes coming for our family this school year and I am frankly not ready for it. Biggest change of all is my oldest is going to be starting middle school. When I say I am not ready, I mean I am really not ready. He is. I am not. That brings to mind for me one thing I love about cooking.  No matter the time that passes, some things never change. The taste, the ingredients, the smell of a dish when it is cooking and most of all, the comfort of knowing that I am passing down something to my kiddos that my mama passed on to me. 

Now, I remember being about 7 or 8 when my mama first made this dish. I remember it being during a time when she used to babysit some kids during the day, before she went to college to be a nurse. I don’t know the origin of this dish, if it was something she concocted or if she got the recipe from someone. I associate it with her creating a dish my sister dubbed “noodle magoodle” and this one came soon before or after.  As I said, she babysat some kiddos and I remember her getting commodity cheese and butter and going downtown to get it with her. She created noodle magoodle using that commodity cheese (and that is what it made it so good my friends!) and for whatever reason, that dish and this one are linked together in my mind. Either way, being a mom myself now, knowing she had two kiddos and was likely pregnant with baby girl number 3, I have to give her props for creativity in the kitchen and building a tasty dish around what she had and what was not too expensive, commodity cheese and ground beef. This recipe is part of that time. So circa 1980’s, from the kitchen of Bernadatte aka Bernie aka my mama, not sure if this dish ever had a proper name but I am gonna dub it Mama’s 80’s delight. It’s simple, easy, cheap and always ensures a happy plate. My whole crew lapped it up last night and I figured I would share the recipe with ya’ll. I know, I know, I haven’t posted a recipe since April, and maybe I should post something fancier and more impressive. But no. This summer there has not been much fancy cooking going on. It’s been laid back, easy breezy beautiful cover girl and getting people fed has been the main goal. That’s how my mama did it and it’s good enough for me.  I am assuming if you are reading my blog posts, you know this is how this Cajun mama rolls.  Roll with me, won’t you? 

My sisters and I back in the day …a few years past the commodity cheese days…

Mama’s 80’s delight 

Stuff you need~

2 cups white rice, cooked

1/2 cup diced onion 

2 pounds ground beef, cooked and drained 

1 (14.5 ounce) can tomato sauce 

1 can pork and beans (I used a 16 ounce can of baked beans because that’s what I had…just as tasty) 

Salt, pepper, and garlic powder for seasoning (I used Jane’s Mixed Up salt in place of all of this) 
What to do with the stuff~
Brown the ground meat and onion, drain grease. Stir in tomato sauce and baked beans. Sprinkle in seasoning to taste and then stir in some rice until it’s to your liking. I used almost all of the rice, probably closer to 1 1/2 cups. 

 

this is the only picture I took (i am out of practice) and this is how it looks just before the rice is added…
 
My mama circa 2015 but she is timeless …like her recipes
 

Pasta with fresh tomato sauce and a glorious spring day 

Oh today has been a beautiful day in my world.  First of all, when I woke up, the sun was already out.  That in and of itself is a huge statement for any mom.  I got to sleep past 5:30 a.m. AND the sun was out.  Score one for this girl!!  So the kids and I loaded up and went out to breakfast and did a little shopping.  There were minimal shenanigans or hissy fits.  And the kids were  pretty well behaved too. 

  

 Hahaha!!  But really now…we came home and the kids unearthed last year’s stash of plastic Easter eggs and they had some Easter egg hunts.  We love us a good egg Hunt now and they can get down.  It really felt good for us to spend some time out doors in the bright sunshine beating down on our skin and breathing in the fresh air of Springtime. And then it got really hard core. We broke out the water hose. See Big Daddy is against opening the pool until April but the kids feel that if the sun is shining, the pool should be open. Then I could not find the sprinkler and Big Daddy was off in hot pursuit of that ever elusive Tom (turkey) so we all compromised…Mom could hold the hose while the kiddos pranced through the spray from the hose in their bathing suits. Fair enough. 

simple and pure…sunshine, their shadows and the spray from the hose.

this sums up everything I feel about it finally being Spring

 

Big brother mans the hose

 

So then my little water logged darlings  decided they were hungry and took a vote…burgers for dinner. Get on that mom! But I was not in a burger mood. And here comes the good part.  There has been a recipe for pasta with fresh tomato sauce from http://www.marthstewart.com that I have been wanting to try. I also happened to have some gorgoues tomatoes begging to be used.  I love it when a plan comes together that way. A fresh tomato purée with garlic and basil and olive oil just screams….spring is here and summer is not far at all!  So much to my delight, this pasta sauce was all that I hoped it would be and I slurped up (don’t tell anyone) every last noodle. It truly was so fresh and perfect and full of flavor. It’s not a fussy high maintenance pasta sauce that needs you to coddle her and tell her she’s pretty.  This pasta sauce is  her super cool laid back gal pal who is just a breeze to be around Next time I make this recipe, I hope it will be made with Big Daddy’s home grown tomatoes and fresh basil from my container garden.  I hope you will enjoy it as much as we all enjoyed this perfect spring day.  More of those please Mother Nature…if you don’t mind!! 

 

the stars of my show
 


Pasta with fresh tomato sauce 

Stuff you need~

2 1/2 pounds fresh (unrefrigerated) tomatoes 

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (I used the Basil in a tube that you find in the produce section….about 3 tablespoons of it) 

1 tablespoon minced garlic 

Kosher salt and black pepper 

1/4 cup olive oil (plus more for drizzling) 

1 pound of cooked angel hair pasta 

1 tablespoon of reserved pasta water 

Fresh grated Parmesan (trust me)

What to do with stuff~

Cook pasta according to package directions. Chop tomatoes until they are very fine or toss all ingredients into your food processor.  

 

   Next give the ingredients a few light pulses….

  

Then I spooned some of that reserved pasta water into the fresh tomato sauce…just a dash. Now grate some Parmesan…

 

And then prepare yourself for your pasta dreams to come true. 

as spectacular as a warm Spring day

Enjoy this pasta sauce and enjoy Spring…it’s a must!!!! 

Copycat Taco Bell Mexican Pizza and it all matters…

I know, I know…another recipe for Mexican food!! I told ya’ll we likey our cuisine de Mexicana around here in Cajun mama’s kitchen. Since the Taco Bell in Alexandria opened more than I care to count years ago, the Mexican pizza has been a favorite of mine. Not something I indulge in often, but I love them. My oldest (aka the picky one) is getting into trying different kinds of foods and loves a copycat recipe. He is into restaurant chains and I knew recreating this recipe at home would peak his interest. I know I make it seem like we never eat out and bless our hearts, we have to eat at home, but the truth is, I prefer to save our out to eats for big restaurants. The little fast food splurges here and there add up fast with 4 kiddos to feed. Plus I really like to challenge myself to try new recipes so this was a win win. Oh ya’ll this recipe is so good. So dead on. So close to the actual Taco Bell Mexican pizza that you will swear you can hear the Taco Bell chihuahua whisper “yo quiero Taco Bell”. And I after you try this recipe, you will want Taco Bell Mexican pizza more often.
It has been a regular week around our household. I got a new hairdo…which is really no big feat except when you figure everyone has been sick and finding a time when my amazing hair stylist can fit me in that I am not needed elsewhere and I can still make it to carpool in time…well it’s like trying to reinvent the wheel. The kiddos had their awards ceremonies at school for the 9 weeks. I am so proud of them and am glad I get to be there for them, but I was literally at their school from drop off at 8 until 11. I really cannot remember what all else this week entailed, I just know many times I was short on patience, long on exhaustion and in need of space for creativity. Time to think my thoughts, get a few recipes together and maybe even bang out a few blog posts. Big Daddy has been busy at work and that has meant little help on the Homefront, but you know…that comes with the territory.
And that’s where I get to the meat of this post. The taco meat that is…he he he. This is my calling, part of my path. Raising kiddos to become productive members of society is a big job and sometimes I lose sight. I get swept up in $$$$. What I do does not really hold importance because there is no money in it. Then I see the light. I get stopped in a moment on the way to school, I catch a glimpse of my oldest’s son’s face filled with empathy and pride as he talks about a situation at school that he handled and processed the deeper meaning all on his own. My daughter as she expresses satisfaction with who she is. Picking up my sweet girl and her telling me about reaching her AR goal. Seeing the recognition dawn on my little one’s face as he gets that math problem. Man these kiddos…they are really learning and growing. I lose sight that though my little ole cooking blog is small potatoes compared to another, it matters to some people. When someone comments on my blog and expresses excitement about a recipe that I posted, I smile because maybe my words made a difference to someone. Or when Big daddy finds a recipe for a pie he would like me to make and I do make it for him. Sure, I know moms everywhere who work 9-5 jobs and manage to do all of those things. This is not about that. This is about me fulfilling my purpose that God has laid out for me. I am working on remembering that I am in no competition with anyone but myself because I am my own worst enemy. Aren’t we all? So for me, deciding to make something for supper I know one of my kids or all of my kids will love, maybe that’s my calling. Being me. It’s so important that we all stop and breathe and realize where we are is where are meant to be. It’s always changing, evolving, but in this moment is where we are supposed to be. It’s all divine. It’s all a part of a bigger picture that maybe we cannot see right now. Those copycat Mexican pizzas made on a Friday night might become that memory my kids cherish forever. What I do matters. What you do matters. We just have to do it. It all comes back eventually and the puzzle pieces will fit
together. Just my two cents…for what it’s
worth.
Back to Mexican pizzas…this recipe is awesome. I found it on http://www.food.com and tweaked it a bit…seriously a yum filled experience people. Add it to your culinary bucket list. Here is the recipe for your viewing pleasure…make up a batch and maybe even make a memory. In the end it’s the little moments that matter… What you do matters. Make the most of what YOU have!!!

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Stuck in carpool traffic on a rainy day selfie. I love these kiddos

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new hairdo and a lovely photobomb by two of my favorite people

Copycat Taco Bell Mexican pizza adapted from food.com

makes 4 pizzas

Stuff you need~

1 pound lean ground beef
1 package taco seasoning mix
2 tablespoons water
8 small flour tortillas
Cooking oil
1 16 ounce can of refried beans, warmed*
Taco sauce or picante sauce
I cup Shredded cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack or any blend you like
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 cup green onions
Small can sliced black olives (I absolutely love black olives so I added them…totally optional)

*I used the leftover homemade refried beans I made using the recipe from my last post. I happened to have some and it was a good way to use them up. Here is the link to that post…
https://cajunmamacookinblog.com/2015/01/22/cheesy-spanish-rice-casserole-and-the-best-refried-beans-and/

what to do with the stuff~

Ok, first add your ground meat to a large skillet. Sprinkle in the seasoning mix and your 2 tablespoons of water. Using a spoon kind of mix that together and then brown the ground beef until completely cooked. Set aside.

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Now, add enough to cooking oil to your skillet to cover the bottom and then a little more. Your oil should be about an inch deep. You don’t need much. Heat the oil over medium hear and then cook each tortilla for about 30-45 seconds on each side. Take special care to keep tortillas as flat as possible while cooking and pop any bubbles that may form. I laid a few paper towels on a cookie sheet and laid each freshly cooked tortilla flat once it was done.

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Now, this is the easiest part. Turn your broiler on the lowest setting. Or you can use a toaster oven. On a large baking sheet, lay out 4 cooked tortillas . Spread some refried beans on each, then ground beef and add some taco sauce on top for good measure. Pretty sure Taco Bell uses this pretty liberally on their Mexican pizzas. Yum.

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Follow up by laying a cooked tortilla on top of each of these half assembled pieces of heaven. Top each pizza with a nice smattering of cheese and then add a sprinkling of your choice of tomatoes, olives and green onions. The great thing is that each person can make it their own. Take the cooking sheet filled with Mexican pizzas and stick it under the broiler for a few minutes or until the cheese is melted.

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yo quiero homemade Mexican pizzas!

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I found this at a local grocery store and figured it couldn’t hurt to try it. Very good. Just the right blend of spices (said Benny Boo, my 11 year old food critic)

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If Benny boo likes it, you can rest assured your picky eater likely will too. This meal is 11 year old approved.

Cheesy Spanish rice casserole and the best refried beans…and for the love of Mexican

So around our house we are Mexican food fanatics. No really. Every birthday dinner my Goosie girl has had has been celebrated at her favorite local Mexican restaurant since she was…oh about 3.

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the Goose’s 6th birthday. celebrating over Mexican food.

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new cowgirl boots, a doll, and Trejo’s…she turned 7 in style!!

And the rest of them are just as bad. It’s the one thing our opinionated, loud mouth family of 6 can agree on. We love Mexican food. It’s a no brainer that I would want to recreate some of our fave Mexican dishes at home. With 6 people in our family and me being a stay at home mom, eating out is not a regular occurrence in our home. I mean…we do eat out, don’t get me wrong, just not weekly. I found these amazing recipes while scanning through Pinterest and I am so glad I listened when I said to myself “self, you should make these recipes!!”. I am smart and clever and have really good ideas…when I actually am able am able to finish a thought. And then retain it long enough to make use of it. And the moon is blue. See what I mean? Anyway, enough about my bad memory due to popping out all these kiddos. Let’s get back to Mexican food. Yum. This Spanish rice casserole from http://www.mommyskitchen.net came to together so dang fast it was almost criminal and the refried beans from http://moneysavingmom.com were seriously so easy and the best I have EVA tasted and mama knows her refried beans. I can tell ya’ll this….my two oldest kiddos had science fair projects due and we’re finishing their boards and while the meltdowns and hissy fits (mostly mine) ensued, I was able to get this meal on the table. Yeah…that makes it so tops in my book. If you adore Mexican food and long for that authentic Mexican flavor without having to go out (except to buy ingredients now)…give these two recipes a go.

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working on science fair project boards…this was earlier in the day when we all had our composure.

Homemade Refried Beans (adapted from Money Saving Mom)

stuff you need~

1 bag of dry pinto beans, that have been soaked in water overnight)
3 tablespoons of butter
1 onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced (2 1/2 teaspoons of the jarred stuff)
2 1/2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

what to do with the stuff

Okay, assuming that you have soaked the beans overnight in your crockpot …drain the water you soaked them in and then add fresh water to cover the beans. Cook on low for about 6 hours or so. I used my smaller crockpot for this and this was fine.
Now, after the beans have cooked and are soft….in a heavy bottomed large saucepan, melt the butter. Sauté the onions until translucent and then add garlic towards the end. Next, using a ladle, ladle your cooked beans (about 4 cups) Into the saucepan, along with some of the liquid.

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Sprinkle in all of the seasonings so crucial to giving these beans that authentic, straight from your favorite Mexican restaurant flavor. Allow them to simmer for about 20 minutes. Now…I used my immersion blender to get the texture I wanted. At this point you can do the same, just stick that immersion blender in your pot O’ beans or you can put them in the blender or you can use a good ole masher. I like some texture to my refried beans so I did not blend them much. Do your thing and make them the way you want.

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You can serve these beans with some warned tortillas on the side and a good green salad or you can go all out (aka full Mexican) and prepare this cheesy Spanish rice casserole…

Cheesy Mexican rice casserole (adapted from Mommy’s kitchen)

stuff you need

1 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups of long grain white rice
1 can chili ready diced tomatoes
1/2 cup salsa or picante sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano (I used regular dried oregano and it was just fine)
1 teaspoon chili powder
4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1 pound ground beef or ground turkey (I used ground turkey…yum!)
1 small onion, diced
1 clove minced garlic
1 8 ounce package shredded Mexican cheese blend
Fresh cilantro for serving (crucial! It made this dish for me!)

What to do with the stuff~

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add in rice and stir constantly as it turns a golden brown color. You want most of the grains of rice to be a toasty brown. This takes about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, salsa, chicken broth and all of those spices. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and allow to simmer for 15- 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. It will look just like this…

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Meanwhile, while the rice is simmering in those spices and liquid, brown your ground meat and onion and garlic in a large skillet until onions are translucent and meat is fully cooked.

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Stir the meat into the rice skillet. Cover with shredded cheese blend and bake until the cheese is all bubbly and yummy looking (you know what I mean right?). Sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro. So good ya’ll…I mean seriously Mexican restaurant worthy.

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“have mercy!!” said in Uncle Jesse’s voice from Full House

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now she is 8 and likes to kick back while mama makes up some Mexican dishes. That’s how sister rolls!

Chicken and cabbage stir fry and the family that gets sick together…drives each other crazy

So we have been sick in the cajun mama household. Looking around, I know it could be so much worse, but I will straight up say, 4 sick kids and a sick mama es no bueno. My youngest started running fever on Christmas Day and it just sort of spiraled from there. We fell like neatly placed dominoes. Christmas 2015…the Christmas of the fonk. But truthfully it was so much more than that. Even in the hazy eyes of the after illness, in my cough syrup induced haze, I know it’s not all that bad. And bad moments don’t make a bad life. Having some time together (albeit time where everyone is coughing and a little cranky) has not been so bad. There has been some cabin fever, lots of eye rolling, some “get out of my face!” And “mama he Is coughing on me!!” But we have also had lots of family time to take naps…

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Dress the dog up in scarves…

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Play games…and pose for selfies…

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Have group discussions…

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Choreograph dances…

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And get lots of puppy kisses…

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So all in all, we have been pretty lucky. We have all been together and we have laughed a lot. I can honestly say one thing that has not happened a lot is cooking. Whatever we had left us with little appetite. It’s been lots of cereal and sandwiches around here. But the other day, my best friend posted a link to a recipe for cabbage and chicken stir fry and I had to make it. Nearly everyone in our family loves cabbage and it is super cheap, so that makes it a great option! The recipe came from http://www.pomanmeals.com and I really like this blog. This cabbage and chicken stir fry was absolutely lip smacking de-licious! Now, I kind of added a few things and I will give you the recipe the way I made it, but I wanted to make sure ya’ll got the original website, because I must always give credit where credit is due. If you love cabbage and you love stir fry, try this recipe. I am telling you…you will be so happy you did. I ate it for breakfast this morning ya’ll. It’s that good!!

Cabbage and chicken stir fry

Stuff you need~

2 tablespoons canola oil
3 chicken breasts, cut up into cubes
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 head of cabbage, cut up into chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, cut into large chunks
1 carrot, peeled and cut diagonally into large chunks
Chicken stock
Cornstarch OR Tony’s instant roux*

*If you don’t have this stuff…get some! My daddy swears by it at the camp and BD came home after a stay at the camp and said “must have this stuff! Your daddy loves it!!”

What to do with the stuff~

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken to the warmed up oil. Now sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Just let the chicken brown on one side. don’t disturb it for a few minutes. This gives it that nice stir fried effect. After one side is done, I flipped it with a spatula and Cooked the other side. I did not mess with it much.

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Ok, now you may need to work in batches as to not overfill the skillet. The chicken cooks quickly So it’s not a big deal. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.

Next add the butter to your skillet. Let it melt. Toss in the garlic, the carrots and onion. Let them cook a few minutes, and then add in the cabbage. Don’t stir much so the cabbage stays crisp and does not turn to mush. Using a spoon and spatula I kind of tossed the cabbage around, making sure it all gets in that butter. Just cook for about 5-10 minutes as cabbage becomes tender crisp. You can add a little salt and pepper here as well. Be judicious with your salt addition though (I am sensitive to salty flavors and don’t use a bunch so maybe you need or like more. Do your thing. You are your own boss!)
Next, I removed the veggies from the pot. I just placed them in a bowl and set aside. I added in my chicken stock. Now what I used was Knorr concentrated stock. I keep this stuff on hand all the time. I diluted with a cup of water. Let it come to a boil and then sprinkle in about 1 tablespoon of Tony’s instant roux. Cook over medium high heat and whisk well. Let the sauce cook down for a few minutes or until it is thickened up some. Add veggies and chicken to this yummy sauce. Serve over hot cooked brown or white rice. Plum larapin’ as my daddy would say.

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as delicious as I imagined it would be

Since this is New Year’s Eve, I want to take a moment, on my last post of 2014, to say I wish you and yours an abundance of blessings in the coming year. I look forward to sharing plenty of tales from the trenches and the kitchen. So much inspiration for tastier food and an abundant life, right where we are. No need to go to a restaurant to eat good every night. We can keep it simple, keep it real and eat good (and for less!!) at home. Not every night because that is no fun (and completely unrealistic) but more often than not. There are so many recipes for us to share…so enjoy your New Year’s Eve and I will see ya’ll back here sooner than later in cajun mama’s kitchen for some more inspiration. Thank you for reading along and letting me be a part of your life and for being a part of mine. More of that in 2015 please. Happy new year.

Skinny lasagna soup and enjoying the moment

So…we are on the Christmas wind down (or is it wind up for some of ya’ll?). I am sure glad of it because I cannot keep up the pace. 4 kids in school equals a whole lot of busy and this mama here is tired. I am ready to coast. You know what I mean, right? It seems as if the past few weeks have been all up hill and I am ready to reach the top and then just coast downhill. Sure this likely means going way too fast and losing control, but I am at peace with that. It is going to be insane with the kids all home for the next 2 weeks, so yeah out of control sounds accurate. But I am tired of having to control so much. Homework, getting them here and there on time, get this, do that, rush. You know it’s been haywire when it sounds relaxing to have 4 kids at home. Maybe some of you are looking at that same situation. Staring down at it like you are looking down the barrel of a gun. Ha ha!!! Go ahead you filthy animal…make my day. I am going to go ahead and know the inmates will be running the asylum. Making my peace with it and just give in. Let go. I am working on that lately. Letting things fall where they will and making peace with what will be. I am determined to enjoy some of the moments, even amidst the chaos .

All this Christmas prep is not always easy nor for the faint of heart. Knowing you have a hearty but healthy supper for yourself or your family at night makes it all just a little bit better. There is not much prep time required for this soup and you can get it all together at night and even start it then finish it after work the next day. It could go easily in the crockpot. Just put it all in the crockpot and add the noodles and let it cook on low. This is one heck of a tasty soup and you will not even miss the extra calories. This time of year is all about indulgence so this is one amazingly tasty dish that you can feel good about! It’s also a great recipe to have in the New Year when we decide it might be time to cut back a bit after all of our merry making.
I hope you enjoy this lasagna soup recipe and you find some time amidst all of this holiday hustle and bustle to kick back and enjoy the moments with family and friends during this Christmas season. ~AMB

Skinny lasagna soup (a Jamie Deen recipe)

Serves 6

Stuff you need~

1 pound Italian ground turkey
1 onion, finely diced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
Olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic or 4 cloves, minced
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil and oregano
1 (32 ounce) box of reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Reduced fat shredded mozzarella
4 whole wheat lasagna noodles, broken up

What to do with the stuff~

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Brown ground turkey, onions, bell pepper, and garlic until turkey is no longer pink and veggies are tender.

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Pour in tomatoes, tomato sauce and chicken broth into pot. Sprinkle in salt and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and then add broken up lasagna noodles.

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Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until noodles are tender. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle mozzarella over each serving. Garnish with extra red pepper flakes if desired.

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this stuff is crazy delicious

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T-Roy is an expert at kicking back and relaxing

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Big kitty, Greg, is pretty good at it…he likes the view from UNDER the tree

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taking a moment to enjoy the view

Mexican lasagna and moving forward

The past week seems like it has gone by so fast and so slow at the same time. It’s a little crazy when that happens. We lost our beloved dachshund, Toby, very suddenly and tragically last Thursday night. It’s something that truly rocked our world and made time just stop for a moment. Last week was a whirlwind of activity and then boom!! It’s like the world just stopped. We are coping with his death through lots of prayer and leaning on the amazing support network of family and friends we have. As a matter of fact, though I would give nearly anything for my sweet boy to still be here with us, having a chance to feel the outpouring of love and support we have felt during the past few days has been a good thing that came out of it. Helping 4 kiddos cope with such a sudden loss has been challenging and frankly, exhausting. But we are making it day by day. Just today the girls and I took a road trip with Angie and Caroline to pick up a 10 week old Doxie that I found at http://www.kajunkennels.com after a friend suggested them to us. I was really on the fence about getting a new baby so quickly but thanks to so much encouragement and support from friends, we decided it would be the best thing to help our family to heal and move on in a joyful way. Happiness is a choice and I believe that. Choosing to pick up and move forward in the face of tragedy was a choice and I hope my kids take that lesson with them into their lives. We cannot replace our precious Toby but because during his all too brief time on this earth he did such an amazing job of bringing laughter and joy into our family that when he passed, it created a huge void that I knew we could not live with for long. So we chose not to. I want to believe Toby would want us to be happy and is smiling down on us knowing how much we loved him and knowing we have so much to love to give another Doxie. That brings me great comfort to tell my kids that and I hope it comforts them some. So RIP sweet Toby and I pray you are running and chasing the squirrels in heaven. You are dearly missed. ~AMB

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my sweet boy. God rest his soul.

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the sweet spirit we welcomed today. Roy Pierre…Roy is Momou’s maiden name and a reminder of the strong German people I come from. I pray we have many years together

So y’all will excuse me as I had to tell that story so that I could move forward. It was necessary and I hope that you understand. I had to acknowledge the pain so that I could be authentic and true to myself, which is for me, the most important part of being able to tell my stories. The good with the bad and the happy with the sad. I wish it was all happy all the time but I would be Lying to you and me if that is all I wrote about and I would be doing us all a great injustice as that is just not realistic. If you are looking for moonbeams and unicorns and rainbows, this is likely not the blog for you. Now…to get to the part you all came here for (let’s be honest ha ha!!)…Mexican lasagna. 1) yum 2) super easy. Back in high school, I had a good friend (still a friend now) named Deah. Her mom made this amazing dish that is a lot like this recipe. I had been seeing different tortilla lasagna and Mexican lasagna recipes on Facebook and Pinterest but they all seemed too fussy and complicated. No thank you very much. I wanted something straightforward, simple, and super tasty that I could tell y’all how to throw together quickly after a soccer game, or t ball game, staff meeting, or heck just in the midst of life in general chaos. That’s how it tends to be in our household. So with a puppy squealing, little girls fighting over said squealing puppy and waiting for BD and the boys to return from Arkansas muzzleloader hunting…I pieced this together. You totally can too! We all tore it up as BD says. It was so good and I think I managed to accomplish what I set out to do.

Mexican lasagna

Serves about 8

Stuff you need~

-1 pound lean ground beef
-1 small onion, diced
-1 package taco seasoning mix
-1 can red enchilada sauce (I love old El Paso brand)
-1 can traditional refried beans
-12 fajita size flour tortillas (I use the Mission Bell soft and fluffy kind…we like them the best)
-2 cups assorted shredded cheeses (you can use Mexican blend, or Colby Jack…I used a mixture of queso blanco which Velveeta sells pre-shredded now, cheddar, and Monterey Jack)
-Sliced black olives, sliced green onions and sour cream for serving (optional)

What to do with the stuff~

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking dish by spraying with cooking oil. Brown ground beef in large skillet and throw in diced onion during the last 5 minutes or so of cooking. Drain if necessary. Stir in the taco seasoning packet and cook according to package directions. Set aside. Layer 6 of the tortillas in the baking dish, overlapping as necessary.
The tortillas will go up the side of the baking dish and that’s ok. Now spread 1/2 of the can of refried beans over the tortillas. Pour 1/2 of the can of red enchilada sauce over the beans as evenly as possible. Next sprinkle one half of seasoned ground beef over the sauce. Sprinkle a cup of the shredded cheese over this. Repeat all over again, starting with tortillas layered exact same way and ending with cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes or until cheese is all bubbly. Let cool for 5 minutes or so. Cut into squares and serve. Garnish as desired with a dollop of sour cream, sliced black olives and green onions.

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muy delicioso

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my position as I typed this post…so sweet

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my girls and Caroline after getting RPB home yesterday afternoon. Love those smiling faces. #puppiesbringpeace