Conversations with my mom, Part V

Scene: 3:45 on Monday. Mom tries calling my cell phone. I am talking with a co-worker so I ignore it. She calls my office. I fear the worst.

Mom: Christine are you busy?
Me: Why?
Mom: <insert panicked voice here> We heard a terrible rumor that Ronnie Dunn died (the guy from Brooks and Dunn). Can you look it up on the computer?
Me: Mom, that was Ryan Dunn from MTV’s Jackass.
Mom: ….. oh well your cousin Mikey saw it on the internet and called your Aunt Darlene at work and she called me and hold on
here’s Dad…
Me: Y’all still have the internet in Port Isabel right?
Dad: You should be scared that you came from her gene pool.
Me: Ok so I’m going to get back to work.
Dad: Ok love you.
Me: Please tell mom not to call me at work unless someone from OUR family has died. Mmmmk?


Whenever Jordan is out for the night I like to cook things that I know he would hate. For some reason he has this aversion to squash. So since he is at the Dynamo game tonight, I decided to make something that was all about me. Whats not to love about squash in a cheesy herb sauce? This tastes so rich for being relatively low calorie. I ate it on its own but it would also make a great side dish.

Spaghetti Squash with Ricotta and Herbs
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

  • 1 small spaghetti squash
  • 1 TB butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 TB fresh herbs (I used basil, chives and Italian parsley)
  • 1/3 cup ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, cut the squash in half lengthwise and place, cut side down, in a baking dish. Add enough water to come 1/2-inch up the sides of the baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes, until the squash is easily pierced with a paring knife. Turn squash over and cover with foil again and continue to cook another 15 minutes, until the squash is very tender. Remove from the oven, uncover, and allow to cool slightly. Using a spoon, remove the seeds and discard. Using a fork, gently pull the strands of squash away from the peel and place the squash strands into a mixing bowl.

Heat a skillet. Add the butter and saute garlic until soft. Add spaghetti squash, herbs, ricotta, salt and pepper and toss thoroughly but gently to heat and combine. Top with parmesan. Serve immediately or cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

Pizza Margherita

I have a confession, dough scares the hell out of me. Something about the yeast and how finicky it can be and the fact that bread is a science and I am more of a reckless cook. I have been dying to try my hand at making fresh pizza dough for some time. After reading food blog after food blog showing off these gorgeous pizzas I decided to throw caution to the wind and just try it. Oh my gawd. Life changing. Why have I not done this before? It is embarrassingly easy.

Pizza Margherita
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman


  • 1 teaspoon Active Dry Or Instant Yeast
  • 4 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • ⅓ cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sprinkle yeast over 1 1/2 cups warm (not lukewarm) water. In a mixer, combine flour and salt. With the mixer running on low speed (with paddle attachment), drizzle in olive oil until combined with flour. Next, pour in yeast/water mixture and mix until just combined. Coat a separate mixing bowl with a light drizzle of olive oil, and form the dough into a ball. Toss to coat dough in olive oil, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until you need it. ***It’s best to make the dough at least 24 hours in advance, and 3 or 4 days is even better.

Pizza Topping

  • 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup crushed tomatoes (Use a good brand. I prefer Cento or Contadina. If using plain crushed tomato, you will want to spice it with Italian seasoning and garlic)
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano & Basil to taste.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Drizzle olive oil on a large baking sheet and use fingers to coat thoroughly. Remove HALF the pizza dough from the bowl (You can  save the other one to freeze or store it in the fridge for another day). Stretch pizza dough into a large rectangle, pressing with fingers to finish forming. Dough will be very thin. Lightly drizzle a little olive oil on the dough and use fingers to spread. Spread a thin layer of tomato on the crust. You want to cover the dough but not put a thick enough layer to make it soggy. Lay mozzarella slices over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt and cracked pepper. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly. Top with fresh parmesan and basil. Remove from pan and slice with a pizza cutter. Serve immediately!

I wanted to show you what I used the leftover Chicken Burrito Bowl mix in. As I said on Sunday, I am a huge fan of using leftovers in new ways. I paired the chimichangas with my favorite side dish.

Baked Chimichangas

  • Leftover chicken burrito bowl mix (Or any leftover meat will do. These are great with refried beans, taco meat, pork even shrimp!)
  • Flour tortillas
  • Olive oil
  • Shredded Mexican cheese
  • Leftover rice (optional. I had some leftover from Monday.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Warm tortillas in a skillet until pliable. Lay on a flat surface and place some cheese in the middle of the tortilla. Top with about 1/2 a cup of chicken mixture. Fold burrito style and place them seam side down on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Brush tops with a little olive oil and bake for 15-20 minutes. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn! I like to top mine with a little hot sauce.

Tomato & Corn Salsa

  • Frozen corn
  • Diced fresh tomato (I prefer cherry or cherub tomatoes)
  • Diced red onion
  • Lime
  • Cilantro

Combine corn, tomato and onion in a skillet. Heat over medium until everything is heated through and onion begin to soften. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and the juice from lime. The ratios are really up to you. I didn’t really measure but I would guess I used about 1 cup corn, 1/2 cup tomato and 1/4 cup onion. I like things really lime-y so I used the juice of half a lime and a generous handful of chopped cilantro. This is also FABULOUS cold with avocado and black beans added. I use it as a dip for chips or even as a salad topper in the summer. Yum!

For St. Patrick’s Day, we had our good friends Leslie and John over for dinner. I made corned beef with cabbage, carrots and potatoes for dinner and these cupcakes for dessert. They stole the show!

The cake base is actually my go to chocolate cake recipe. Paired with whiskey ganache and Bailey’s frosting, they pack a powerful punch.

Guinness, Whiskey and Bailey’s Cupcakes
Source: Smitten Kitchen

For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup Guinness
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache Filling
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey

Baileys Frosting
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)

Special equipment: 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer and a piping bag (though a plastic bag with the corner snipped off will also work)

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon or grapefruit knife will help you get the center out. Those are your “tasters”. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.

When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar. Ice and decorate the cupcakes.

A note on leftovers

I am a BIG fan of leftovers. Without them, Jordan would go hungry at lunch during the week.  I count on leftovers to either repurpose into other meals during the week or to freeze for quick dinners when I don’t feel like cooking. When I pick out recipes for my weekly meal plan, I try to find things that will reheat well. So no multiple servings of fish or crispy things. If I do want to cook things that don’t reheat as well, I will try to scale the recipe down to two servings.  I know that people often struggle with recipes that create leftovers so here is a snapshot of what I do with mine.

Here we have the leftover chicken and rice from the burrito bowls.

The one on the top left is Jordan’s lunch for tomorrow.  The next bowl has the leftover rice and two servings of chicken. I will probably use these to make enchiladas or baked Chimichangas with this week. The ziploc has three servings of chicken for the freezer (enough for two dinners and a lunch). We try not to waste anything if possible.

Hope this helps some of you out there who may struggle with leftovers.:)

Unbelievable Chocolate Pudding

What’s so unbelievable about it? The secret ingredient.

Me: Do you like this?

J: Yeah. What is it?

Me: Pudding.

J: What’s in it?

The answer? AVOCADO. Now before you dismiss this recipe, hear me out. I was reading a blog today and saw this post about chocolate pudding made with avocado. I was skeptical and filed it under the “maybe someday when I am bored and have nothing else to cook”. After tonight’s burrito dinner, I was left with a half of an avocado. I decided to try the pudding and see if it lived up to the hype.

Oh my gawd.

It DID taste like pudding. It tasted so good that I didn’t even take a picture. My only regret was not making a full recipe. Be brave, try this one out.


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