Taco Seasoning

This is a great alternative to the pre-packaged taco seasoning packets.  You control the spicy-ness and don’t have to worry about any mystery ingredients.

1 tbsp chili powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp paprika

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

Mix all ingredients together in small bowl.  For tacos, brown ground beef and drain, then add spice mix to beef along with 1/4 to 1/2 cup water and simmer 5-10 minutes.


Steak Tacos

Steak tacos are a family favorite at our house, whether I’m cooking for just our family or for a crowd.  Flank steak is a readily available and inexpensive cut of meat.  When cooked all day in the slow-cooker, it makes for a super-easy and yummy dinner.   Substitute skirt steak if you can’t find flank steak.

2 flank steaks (about 1lb each)

Taco seasoning (double this recipe)

1/2 onion, chopped

2 small cans diced green chilis

2 tbsp vinegar

Coat inside of slow-cooker with cooking spray.  Rub taco seasoning over both sides of each flank steak then place in slow cooker.  Toss in the onions and green chilis, then the vinegar.  Cover and cook 4-6 hours on high, or 8-10 hours on low.  Shred meat when close to end of cooking time and simmer in juices.

So many ways to serve this:  crispy tacos, soft tacos, fajita-style, burritos, over nachos. Especially good with home-made pico de gallo and guacamole.

Balsamic Pork Chops

I found this recipe in a magazine years ago and it’s a family favorite and the base for several variations.  My kids love this….and I’ve recently had to start doubling it in order for all of us to have our fill.  The original recipe calls for a bread crumb and flour mix before browning the pork chops and for a serving of wild rice on the side, but since our dinners are most often grain-free I’ve dropped those ingredients….and not one person in my family has complained.

6-3/4 inch thick boneless pork chops

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1-14 1/2oz can/box chicken broth

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

4 tbs butter, olive oil or coconut oil

Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of chops while olive oil heats in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add pork chops and cook until golden, about 3-4 minutes each side.  Remove chops from pan and set aside.  Add broth and vinegar to pan and simmer 6-10 minutes, until reduced by about half. Return chops to the pan and cook another 10 minutes or until cooked through.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

I serve this with roasted cauliflower or brussels sprouts, which surprisingly, my kids will eat with little complaint…..yay!  Sometimes I omit the balsamic vinegar and add a bit more chicken stock, or replace the vinegar with some white wine.  I also have made it with chicken breasts instead of the pork chops.  Just be sure the flatten them a bit before cooking:  place in a plastic bag or between two layers of plastic wrap and pound with a mallet or small pan.   This helps them cook more evenly and not dry out too quickly.

Sweet Potato Hash

We’re down to our last box of cereal, with no plans to replenish the supply.  I think I’m more nervous about it than my kids are, mostly because it means I won’t have something simple to fall back on every morning for breakfast. But, I’ve learned that those innocent-looking boxes of cereal are not the best thing to feed our kids first thing every morning….sooo, time to find some alternatives.

Alternative #1-Sweet Potato Hash

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and grated (use your food processor or box grater)

1 pkg breakfast sausage (preferably without added msg, nitrates, etc)

1/2 onion, finely chopped

2 tbs butter, olive oil or coconut oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Brown sausage, drain, and set aside, reserving drippings in skillet.  Add a tbs or two of butter to the skillet.  Add onions and cook until soft.  Add potatoes and cook, allowing to soften and then brown a bit. Return sausage to skillet and combine. Season to taste. Cook a few more minutes, until heated through. Serve immediately.

This met with mixed reviews.  My sausage-loving son ate it up and asked for more.  My girls were split:  two said it was just ok, the oldest one hated it. However…..she is quite sad about losing her cereal so I’m not sure it was a completely unbiased opinion.

I ate the leftovers for breakfast the next day and decided I do really like it, though I think I’ll play around with some variations.  I’ll keep you posted!

Bacon, Egg and Cheese Muffins

I’ve mentioned before that we’re ditching boxed breakfast cereal…so there have been lots of experiments with new breakfast foods.  One such experiment was this recipe from Cheeseslave.

If you’re trying to eliminate gluten (really, all grains) from your diet then coconut flour can be a good substitute.  Now, I have to tell you that I HATE coconut.  Can’t stand it. Won’t eat it….ever.

But….I didn’t mind the subtle coconut-y flavor in these muffins.  Maybe the saltiness of the bacon over-powered it? Or maybe it really is true that bacon makes everything better?

In any case, these are good and my kids really liked them.  Except for a certain someone that is still quite upset about her vanishing cereal.  I’m praying she begins to see the light….very soon.

A few notes about the recipe:  it only makes six small-ish muffins.  My kids easily ate two muffins, so you’ll definitely want to at least double the recipe.  I agree with Cheeseslave that adding an extra egg (per batch) is a good idea, however, I used less bacon with each additional batch.

Oh, and re-heating them in the microwave is icky.  Don’t do it.  Totally ruined the texture.  Next time I’ll reheat them in the oven.  Definitely worth the extra time.

Marilyn’s Chicken Soup

You can’t beat this soup on a chilly evening.  It’s my very favorite…..partly because it’s really, really good, and partly because it’s a recipe from a sweet friend.  I smile every time I make it…and usually send her a quick text to let her know I’m thinking about her.

5-6 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped into bite-sized pieces

4 cans chicken broth (I use 2-32oz boxes)

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 medium onion, chopped

2 cups carrots, grated or finely chopped

1/4 cup butter

2 tbs flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups egg noodles or instant rice

Bring chicken broth to a boil in large pot, reduce heat and simmer.  Add cooked chicken.

Melt butter over medium heat in large skillet.  Cook carrots, celery and onion until tender.  Add flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Cook a few more minutes.  Add to chicken in pot.

Add noodles or rice and cook until tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in cream and serve hot.

Notes:  For the chicken I usually boil the breasts in water or chicken broth for 30-ish minutes or until cooked through. I’ve also used meat from a whole chicken I’ve roasted or cooked in the slow-cooker.  If you are grain-free simply omit the pasta and/or rice and increase the chicken or veggies.   Oh…and be sure to add the heavy cream at the end….it totally makes the soup. Milk and half-n-half are poor substitutes….go ahead and use the cream. You’ll be glad you did!

Mashed Cauliflower

I love mashed potatoes…..love, love, love them. When I saw a recipe for mashed cauliflower I was skeptical.  However, it is absolutely a great alternative, with a very similar consistency and mild flavor. I can almost guarantee that if your kids will eat mashed potatoes, they will eat mashed cauliflower…..and get a greater variety of nutrients in the process.

1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped

1 cup chicken broth or water

salt and pepper to taste

Place cauliflower and broth/water in large pot on stove over med-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover and cook 20 minutes, until cauliflower is very tender.  Leave a bit of liquid in the pot and mash to your desired consistency, puree in a food processor, or blend with an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

It may not seem like there is enough liquid in the pot to start, but cauliflower gives off a lot of water as it cooks.  Always better to add liquid if you need it…..difficult to remove it later if you start off with too much.  Check it at about 10 minutes to see if you need to add more liquid.

You could add some minced garlic when cooking the cauliflower, and/or add some cream and butter when mashing them.  Basically anything you can do with mashed potatoes, you can do with mashed cauliflower.