Quick Dinner: Tex-Mex Rice and Black-eyed Peas


Since I’m back in the classroom teaching full-time for the second year now (after 14 years of doing other things), I’m all about finding quick, easy and tasty recipes.

Unfortunately, I don’t have near the time to share recipes with y’all now that I’m working full-time.  But I just had to take a few minutes tonight to share this one that I pulled out of a November 2011 Food Network Magazine.  It has the tag of “Weeknight Cooking” and “Done in 30 minutes” and this time the tags really do apply!  I made this dish tonight in no time at all.  I was worried that the girls would not like it so I switched it on our menu.  Brad was home tonight for dinner but will not be home on Wednesday.  I didn’t want to attempt it just on the girls.

But I’m happy to say that Heather deemed it a “four smiley face meal”.  So now I can add another meatless option to our meal planning!  It reminded us of something from Chipotle or Qdoba  but without all the spice.

Tex-Mex Rice and Black-eyed peas

Serves 4

Cook as label directs:

  • 1 cup white rice

Meanwhile heat in a medium saucepan (2 qt) over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes to soften:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh salsa (I used mild pico from HEB Grocery)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin


  • 1 can of black-eyed peas undrained
  • 1 can of black-eyed peas which has been drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup water

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are creamy and tender- about 12-14 minutes.  I put the lid on the saucepan while this was happening.

Fluff the rice and divide it among bowls.

To the black-eyed pea mixture add and stir until wilted: (about 1 minute)

  • 4 cups of baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I had a wee bit more than 1/4 cup)

Spoon the black-eyed pea mixture over the rice and top each serving with:

  • Avocado slices
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sour Cream- if desired.
Easy, Quick, and Healthy!

Easy, Quick, and Healthy!



A Bit of Fall: Baked Apple Cider “Donut holes”


One of the places we miss from Pennsylvania is Linvilla Orchards– so many good memories at this orchard that was along our daily route.  This weekend is their Apple Festival so we decided to have some fun of our own here in Texas and try a recipe that we were praying would be similar to Linvilla’s fabulous Apple Cider Donuts.

We will still have to work on the recipe to get it to be as good as Linvilla’s but they aren’t bad!

I think I found the recipe on pinterest, but thankfully it has the recipe on the bottom of the pirnt-out!: http://www.littlespicejar.com/baked-apple-cider-donut-holes/

Next time I will add some apple spice to the batter to give it a bit more punch of apple flavor- however, no one seems to mind too much as they aren’t lasting long around here!

Fresh from the oven! Apple goodness

Fresh from the oven! Apple goodness

A quick butter bath and some cinnamon/sugar dusting---ready to eat!

A quick butter bath and some cinnamon/sugar dusting—ready to eat!




Homework Tray is Ready but We Aren’t!


School is about to kick into full swing here in Texas. We have purchased school supplies, been talking about expectations and soaking up every last bit of summer we can!

Homework is an inevitable part of having kids in school. One thing that I put together this month as we prepare to get back into our school routine is a homework tray. I love this more than the homework “bucket” we have had before. Now everything sits on the tray and we can easily pick it up and move everything quickly if we need to use the table.

I bought a nice tray on clearance at Target and then loaded it up with a magazine file where the girls can put items that Mom and Dad need to see/sign, pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, rulers, notecards, post-its, scissors….just about anything that is a “normal” homework need.

I love the way it turned out but I’m not in a rush to try it out.



Supplies are ready, but we aren't!

Supplies are ready, but we aren’t!

Summer Salads- Tortellini Salad with Asparagus and Lemony Dressing


Summer…nothing better than the lazy days of summer on an educator’s schedule.  We have had a great summer of just relaxing and enjoying each other.  It has been a few years since we have been able to do that with the house on the market back in 2013 and then our move last summer from PA to TX.  Add to that a full year of working crazy long hours as teachers with our schedules being set by others and you can imagine how we have taken great pleasure in having a very loose schedule and hardly any “hours” to keep during the summer of 2015.

Summer 2015!

Summer 2015!

Summer has also allowed me to be in the kitchen again and try some new recipes.  Those that know us, know that the girls and I make frequent trips to the library in the summer.  Recently I picked up some cook books.  This recipe is from The Make-Ahead Cook.  One could prep it in advance and then store it up to 2 days…but I made it for my family to each for lunch today!

Tortellini Salad with Asparagus and Lemony Dressing

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

  • Add 1 pound of thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into about 1-inch pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon salt

Cook until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes or so.  While the asparagus boils, prepare a large bowl halfway with ice and water.

Once the asparagus is crisp-tender, remove it with a slotted spoon- transferring it to the ice water and let it cool for about 2 minutes.

Remove the asparagus from the ice water and then pat it dry with paper towels.  (If making this ahead now you would put the asparagus in a storage container and cover it…but if making to eat immediately just leave it out on the counter like I did!)

Return the pot of water to boil and cook according to directions on package:

  • 12-16 ounces of dried cheese tortellini

Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water- in case you need it later.

Drain tortellini and rinse it with cold water and drain it again.  You want to leave the tortellini slightly wet.

While the tortellini cooks…

Whisk together in a large bowl

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (I used lemon juice out of a bottle but you can use fresh—you will need about 2 lemons for the entire recipe)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed through a garlic press
  • 1/4 cup of yellow onion minced

While whisking the above mixture together constantly, drizzle in:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Remove 1/4 cup of the dressing to a small bowl and stir in:

  • 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice

Cover the extra dressing if you are saving it for later.

Now add the tortellini to the large bowl with the dressing

Toss the dressing and tortellini to combine.  Add reserved pasta cooking water as needed to adjust consistency (I didn’t use any when I made it but I’m leaving the step in just in case!)

Cover the tortellini if you are saving it for later.

To store the salad:

Refrigerate the asparagus, tortellini mixture and dressing separately for up to 2 days.

When ready to serve it get the items out and let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.  You can stir in some boiling water to the tortellini to loosen it up and whisk the dressing to recombine it.

Last Steps:

Drizzle the dressing over the tortellini

Stir in the asparagus.


  • 12 ounces of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 -1 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved
  • 3/4 cup of fresh basil  (you can try mint or parsley too if you don’t have basil)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted (I threw mine in the oven on a cookie sheet at 350° for about 10 minutes)

Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.  I sliced and apple and made some iced tea (sweet of course, is there any other way!)

Serves 4-6



Lemon Chicken Breast


In many ways I can’t believe that April is almost over!  When I think back to where we were this time last year…our basement was about to flood and begin a month-long craziness, Brad was about to have interviews in Texas, and I was starting to fill out job applications for Texas districts around the places Brad had interviews.  A LOT has happened in this last year.

On the other hand I am so glad that May is around the corner.  Because of all the craziness from last year, we didn’t get much of a summer to relax and regroup.  This will be the first summer in a while that we have been able to just breathe.

I’ve missed blogging for those two people that actually read my posts ;-)

Believe me I think many times about sitting down to share a recipe for the table or a recipe for life—but working as a full-time teacher again keeps me hopping!  The last time I was in the classroom I didn’t have children of my own at home—that is a game changer in the world of education.

This year our family dinners have taken on a different look.  The weekends used to be for quick and casual while our weeknights were the meals I spent time on preparing.  Now it has flipped.

Here is a quick and easy dinner that I found this week.  We all enjoyed it and I was able to get it into the oven and the kitchen cleaned up before it came out of the oven.  (And with no dishwasher now for almost a month—that is a big deal!….Home Warranty company has finally decided to replace the ailing dishwasher but now we wait on that!)

Lemon Chicken Breast

Preheat the oven to 400°

Warm in a small saucepan over medium-low heat

  • 1/4 cup of olive oil

Add to the warmed olive oil and cook for just one minute (don’t allow the garlic to brown):

  • 3 Tablespoons minced garlic (about 9 cloves)

Remove the saucepan from the heat and add to it:

  • 1/3 cup of dry white wine
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice (I used the juice freshly squeezed from the lemon I had zested)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Pour the saucepan mixture into a 9 x 12 inch baking dish

Add to the baking dish:

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts (I used skinless too but you could have skin on them…put them skin side up if you do)

Coat the chicken, on both sides, with the olive oil mixture in the pan.  Sprinkle the coated chicken with:

  • Kosher Salt
  • Pepper

Cut what remains of your lemon into slices and tuck it among the chicken pieces.  If you have a second lemon you could just slice that one into wedges and use that.  I only had one lemon so we just used it thoroughly!

Bake for 30-40 minutes depending on the size of your chicken breasts.

After removing the chicken from the oven, cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

We all enjoyed this dish and it was quick and easy for me to prepare after giving state tests all day long :(


(I based this recipe off of one that I found online at shescookin.com that was called “Ina Garten’s Lemon Chicken Breast”)

Preparing for the New Year


I forgot how precious the holidays are when you teach school!  I have really enjoyed my time off and we were so blessed to be near our family and able to see them multiple times throughout the holidays.  As this first day of 2015 wraps up, I have begun to think about work again (I might have to start a summer countdown calendar though).  One thing that I will be doing before school starts back up and I am busy-busy again is that I will freeze some meals for those days that I just can’t spend time cooking.  I am planning to put two different “main entrees” into the freezer before Sunday night.  One of them, Porcupine Meatballs, I’ve blogged before.  This new one is a recipe my Aunt Gwen shared with me.  Neither of us have made it after it was frozen, yet we have made it fresh.  However, I’m going to try freezing it and bought gallon-sized freezer zip bags at the store this week for that very purpose!

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Place into a resealable gallon-sized freezer bag:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of chicken breast (if they are crazy big chicken breasts, cut them to make thinner)
  • 4 Tablespoons of lime juice (about 2 limes if using fresh)
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped (this was about 3 cups prior to chopping it)
  • 1, 16 oz, bag of frozen corn
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Once all the ingredients are in the bag, mix it all together and zip the bag closed.

Place in the freezer for up to 3 months.  When you are ready to prepare the dish, remove it from the freezer and thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Cooking times:

Slow Cooker: This recipe works great in the slow cooker.

  • Low for 8 hours
  • High for 4 hours

Stove:  I found this site that helps convert recipes from stove to slow cooker.  I may try this when I cook this for my family as the slow cooker and my teaching hours don’t mesh well.  According to this on stovetop it would take about 45 minutes to cook this meal.  I will most likely pull the chicken out and brown it on both sides and then pour the rest in on top to finish cooking it all together.  I will update this post after I try it to let you know how it works!



Family time is priceless!


Ratatouille—Vegetables after the Carb Fest!


We have had a wonderful Thanksgiving here in Texas.  It was wonderful to drive to be with our Giese family.  Thanksgiving is the only time of year that the entire clan (close to 40 of us) plan to get together.  This year we were just outside of San Antonio and next year I get to host!!! (And yes, the spreadsheet is already forming in my head and I’ve determined where furniture will be placed too!)  Then on Friday we drove over to see Brad’s parents and had another wonderful feast.  Needless to say, we need some vegetables without butter and brown sugar all over them!

I just finished prepping this Ratatouille recipe that I found last winter in “Slow Cooker Revolution”.  I served our dish with some Rigatoni Pasta to help my kids be a bit more receptive to this vegetable focused meal.  It does take a bit of time to prepare (30 minutes) but then you have 4 to 6 hours to clean up the kitchen and know that later your family will have a warm, healthy meal without any butter :)


Cut into 1-inch chunks:

  • 2 eggplants (2 pounds)
  • 3 zucchini (1 1/2 pounds)

Heat in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat:

  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil

Brown in the heated oil for about 5-7 minutes:

  • 1/2 of the eggplant; turning it to brown on all sides.  (I pepper mine a bit)

Transfer browned eggplant to your slow cooker.

Repeat process with 1 Tablespoon more of oil and remaining eggplant.

Then, work in two batches again, to brown the zucchini (adding 1 Tablespoon of oil before each batch.)

Put the browned zucchini in the slow cooker.

Heat 2 more Tablespoons of oil in the skillet.  Add to the shimmering oil:

  • 2 onions, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme (could use 2 teaspoons of fresh if you have some)

Cook the vegetables for 8 to 10  minutes until softened and lightly browned.

While the vegetables brown, drain but reserve the drained juice

  • 1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes

Once the vegetables are browned, Stir into them and cook for 1 minute:

  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour

Slowly whisk into the skillet, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out lumps:

  • the reserved tomato juice

Transfer everything to the slow cooker.

Stir  into the slow cooker:

  • The drained, diced tomatoes

Cover and cook for 4-6 hours on low until the vegetables are tender.

Prepare your desired pasta just before the vegetables are finished

Stir into the vegetables:

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
Ready to cook for 4-6 hours!

Ready to cook for 4-6 hours!