Rule #92: Necessity breeds invention.

They say that necessity breeds invention, and well, this little dish is no exception. Wayyyyy back in the day, when Jon Boy and I were just young pups in love, we were living in Dallas when a major ice storm hit almost out of no where. We both barely made it home after work because the roads were absolutely terrible. Delivery was out of the question for dinner because everything had shut down already. So, we peeked into the fridge praying there was something in there to scrounge up for dinner. Lo-and-behold: The Sh*t Mexican Pork was born.

Okay – so I obviously didn’t name this dish that because I’m trying to act like a grown up now, but… it is… the sh*t.

pork tenderloin

You wanna know why it’s the sh*t? (I know, I can spell it out, but it’s more fun not to.) It only needs FIVE (ish) INGREDIENTS, each serving (this recipe makes 4) is 170 calories each, and it’s friggin’ delicious! It got it’s name because after his first bite, Jon Boy literally said, “Woah! This is the sh*t!”

mexican pork

Now then, let’s do this.

You take 1 1-lb. pork tenderloin (you can definitely use two tenderloins if you’re cooking for more than 4 or if you want heartier portions). Make sure the silver skin is trimmed off as much as you can. Dice it up into about 1/2″ pieces.

mexican pork

Liberally season the pork all over with Kosher salt and black pepper. (BTW – I didn’t include those in the ingredient count because well… they’re just not. Five sounds better than seven.)

mexican pork

Now, here are the performers in our little Mexican Pork Parade. Vegetable (or chicken) stock*, green bell, red bell, white onion, fresh salsa, and salt + peppa.

*You may not end up needing the stock depending on how thick the sauce is.

mexican pork

We use fresh salsa for this recipe – you can find it in your produce section near the prepared veggies and fruits. Choose whatever heat level you like. We go for the mid-level serrrrrrrrrano type. I like the fresh salsa more than the jarred because it’s a little thinner and has (as the name states) fresher ingredients.

mexican pork

Slice up yer bell peppers and yer onion.

mexican pork

Now, you have a choice here. You can either spray a large skillet or Dutch oven with cooking spray or pour in a little vegetable or canola oil. Your choice. I usually just opt for cooking spray, but for the pictures, I used a little oil. I honestly think I prefer it without the oil – fewer calories, and it all turns out just about the same.

Brown the pork on one side, flip, and brown on the other side over medium-high heat (about 3 minutes per side).

mexican pork

You don’t need the meat to be all the way cooked through at this point. That will happen later when we add the salsa and stock.

mexican pork

Make a hole in the middle of the pan.

mexican pork

Throw in the veggies.

mexican pork

Give it all a stir and sauté until the veggies are tender (about 8 minutes).

mexican pork

This part is totally optional, but I like to sprinkle in some Goya Adobo All Purpose Seasoning for a little flavor. If you don’t have this or don’t want to buy it, just skip this and move on down.

mexican pork

Once the veggies are tender, make another hole in the middle of the pan.

mexican pork

Throw in the salsa (carefully). Add a little stock (about 1/4 cup) to thin out the sauce. Lower the heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes.

mexican pork

Serve over white rice or cauliflower rice with your choice of garnish. We love us some avocado, sour cream, and cilantro. You could also get down with red onion, radishes, a little shredded lettuce, and maybe even some more salsa.

mexican pork

So, in about 30 minutes, you’ve got a healthy + yummy dinner. De nada, amigo!

pork tenderloin


Mexican Pork

1* 1-lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin, cut into 1/2” pieces
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 white onion, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
A few dashes of Adobo all-purpose seasoning (optional)
1 container fresh salsa (heat level of your choice)
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock (optional)

Liberally season pork with Kosher salt and black pepper.

Spray a large Dutch oven or skillet with cooking spray. Over medium-high heat, brown the pork on all sides (about 3 minutes per side).

Make a hole in the middle of the pan, add in the onion and bell peppers. Sauté until veggies are tender (about 8 minutes). Sprinkle on some Adobo seasoning (optional).

Once the veggies are cooked, make another hole in the center of the pan and add in the salsa. Lower the heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until pork is cooked through. If the sauce seems too thick, add in the stock.

Serve over white rice or cauliflower rice with your choice of garnish.

Garnishes
Avocado
Sour cream
Cilantro
Red onion
Radishes
Salsa
Shredded lettuce
Tortilla strips

* If you want heartier portions, or if you’re cooking for more than 4, feel free to use 2 pork tenderloins. Just add in some extra salsa or stock to extend the sauce.

Click Here for Printable Recipe: Mexican Pork

Rule #28: Ice cream scoops are for more than just ice cream.

I love me a good meatball. Swedish. Italian. Asian. Sweet + Spicy. Meatballs of all persuasions are just dandy in my book. This version of Italian meatballs is a twist on the famous Rao’s Meatballs in East Harlem. I decided to swap out Italian turkey sausage for the pork/veal to keep it on the lighter side, but the flavor is still there in all its Italian glory.

italian meatballs

This recipe will give you about 16 good-sized meatballs, each coming in at 180 calories, 11g fat, and 15g protein. Pair these with some roasted veggies or a salad, and you’re off to a pretty nice little dinner if I do say so myself.

The combo of breadcrumbs + water keeps these little Jewels of Italian Delight moist throughout the cooking process. I like to brown them (shallow fry) and then finish cooking them off in my favorite marinara sauce. You can also make these ahead of time by baking them off in the oven, storing in the fridge (or freezer), and then reheating in marinara later on when you’re ready to grub.

italian meatballs

Here are the players for this round of Meatball Mania:

ground beef + Italian seasoned ground turkey + eggs + Parmesan + parsley + garlic + salt + pepper + breadcrumbs + EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil) + marinara (not pictured, but coming up to bat later)

italian meatballs

Like I said before, I swapped Italian seasoned ground turkey for pork. You’re welcome to keep the pork sausage if that’s your jam, too. It’s all good in this one. If you can’t find ground Italian turkey sausage, you can always purchase the links of Italian turkey sausage, cut open the casings, and dump the meat in with the beef.

jennie o italian seasoned ground turkey

So basically, you mix everything together (beef through breadcrumbs) in a BIGGO bowl. Get in there with the best kitchen tools money can’t buy: your hands.

italian meatballs

Once everything is well incorporated, add in your breadcrumbs and mash away again.

italian meatballs

This is what your mixture should look like before the moisture maker (I mean water).

italian meatballs

Now drizzle on some lukewarm water (hot will cook the meat and cold will make the ingredients difficult to blend).

italian meatballs

Peek-a-boo! My favorite big meatball maker: The Ice Cream Scoop. It keeps the meatballs uniform; otherwise, I’d have some the size of basketballs and some the size of ping pong balls. Uneven meatballs means uneven cooking and ain’t nobody got time for that.

italian meatballs

Okay – so here we go. Scoop, dump, and roll.

italian meatballs

Repeat.

italian meatballs

Repeat again.

italian meatballs

Place ’em on a large Pyrex or other freezer-proof dish (baking sheet lined with parchment or foil works great, too). I usually get about 16 meatballs with this recipe.

italian meatballs

Freezing the meatballs for just a bit (about 25 minutes) keeps them from falling apart when you fry them. I hate it when my meatballs crumble into little pieces when they’re frying. I simply hate it, I tell you!

italian meatballs

Meanwhile, get out two jars of your favorite marinara. Pour it all into a large pot and start warming it over low heat. I found this good stuff at Trader Joe’s, and my foodie heart went pitter-patter. The Silver Palate has an unbelievable cookbook if you’re ever looking for one.

italian meatballs

So now’s the time for the meatball browning. Pour in some olive oil until you’ve got about 1/4″ in the pan. Heat the EVOO until shimmering over medium-high heat. Add in the meatballs, being careful not to crowd the pan, and brown on all sides (about 1-2 minutes per side). I usually turn mine about 3 times total to get all the different sides.

italian meatballs

You’re going for golden-brown on the outside. They still won’t be cooked on the inside, but that’s okay. We’re going to finish cooking them off later.

italian meatballs

Drain the meatballs on a paper towel-lined plate, and repeat the process with the remaining meatballs.

italian meatballs

NOW! Here’s where our paths can be divided depending on when you’re cooking these Italian bits of deliciousness.

You can at this point pop the browned meatballs on a baking sheet and bake at 350 until they’re cooked through (about 15 minutes). Then, store them in the fridge for up to 2 days. Just heat them up in some marinara when you’re ready to eat.

OR you can go ahead and put the browned meatballs into the warmed sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes over medium-low heat.

 italian meatballs

Flip the meatballs to coat them in the sauce, then simmer another 15 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through. This process of finishing the cooking of the meatballs in the sauce is a way of “poaching” them, and it keeps them oh so sinfully moist!

italian meatballs

Voila! Italian Meatball Bliss. I garnish ours with more Parmesan and some flat-leaf parsley. Basil would do ya good, too. Either way… put on your red and white checkered bib and dig in!

italian meatballs


Italian Meatballs

1 lb. 90/10 ground beef
1 lb. ground Italian seasoned turkey
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1 cup Parmesan, grated or shredded
1 tbs. Italian parsley, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 cup lukewarm water
Olive oil, for browning
2 jars marinara sauce

Combine beef and turkey in a large bowl. Add eggs, Parmesan, parsley, garlic, S&P, and red pepper flakes. Mash everything together using your hands until ingredients are evenly distributed. Add in the breadcrumbs and mash into meat mixture. Pour in the water and mash again until combined.

Using an ice cream scoop, form balls using your hands. Set meatballs onto a Pyrex dish or baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze meatballs for 20-25 minutes or until firm. This will keep them from falling apart when you brown them.

Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Pour in olive oil so that the oil is about 1/4” deep. Heat the oil until shimmering (you want to hear a sizzle as soon as you put a meatball in).

Brown the meatballs in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook for about 1-2 minutes per side, turning to brown all sides of the meatballs. The middle part of the meatball will still be raw at this point, and that’s okay.*

Remove the meatballs from the oil and set to drain on a paper towel lined plate.

Heat marinara sauce in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the sauce is warmed, gently drop in the meatballs, cover, and cook 5 minutes. Flip the meatballs to coat them in the sauce, cover, and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.

Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan and basil or parsley.

*If you’re making the meatballs ahead of time, go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 at this point. Place meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through**. Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Warm them in marinara sauce over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes.

**To freeze: Allow meatballs to cool on baking sheet. Store in large Ziploc bag or freezer container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight, then warm in sauce as above.

Click Here for Printable Recipe: Italian Meatballs

If songs were paired with recipes, this recipe’s lyrics would be:

I think I love you, so what am I so afraid of?

I know some of you saw the word CURRY and ran screaming for the hills. Curry ain’t scary, y’all. It’s also not as ‘stinky’ as you’d think. I cook with curry probably 4 times a month, and no one has ever walked into the house complaining about my bad smellin’ business. Think of this little dish as Homemade Hamburger Helper: The Curry Edition.

beef and potato curry

I’ve used tons of different curry powders including some actually from India (thanks to my hubby for acting as the shipping department on that one). Curry powder is basically just a combination of a bunch of spices that you probably use and eat all the time. It’s nothing to be scared of, my friend. Just think of it as another tool for your cooking tool belt. I like the simple stuff like this one:

curry powder

You can grab that guy at any grocery store, and it’s usually less than $3. I recently found a cool little speciality shop called Olive & Vine in City Centre here in Houston that has some great spices, olive oils, and balsamic vinegars. I snagged a Madras Curry Powder from them to try out. It’s fantastic! It has even more depth of flavor than the regular grocery store kind.

madras curry powder olive & vine

I’ve fed this to even the most skeptical of naysayers, and I promise you, they all loved it! It’s a comforting, hearty, flavorful, ONE POT dish that will leave you feeling all warm + fuzzy inside.

beef and potato curry

Another bonus to this dish is that it only comes in at 390 calories per serving [6 servings to this recipe] with 17g fat and 22g protein. If you have 3/4 cup of cooked rice with it, that adds about 150 calories. For a little more ‘sinful’ of a meal, try some warm naan with it to soak up the sauce. You’ll never walk by naan without your mouth watering again. Trust me.

beef and potato curry

I would normally cook this dish in my Dutch oven, but he was busy cooking something else that moment. I also already had about 3,284 dishes to do that day, so I opted for the dishwasher-friendly vessel to cook with.

beef and potato curry

This big guy also freezes very, very well. I usually freeze at least half of each batch I make, thaw it the night before we want to eat it, and then we chow down on it like I made it that same day. Winner, winner, curry dinner.

beef and potato curry


Beef and Potato Curry

1 lb. lean ground sirloin
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 tbs. fresh ginger, grated or minced
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 tbs. curry powder
2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, quartered, skin-on
1½ cups beef stock
One 14-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
One 14-oz. can diced tomatoes with their juices
1½ cups frozen baby peas
Chopped cilantro, warm naan and steamed rice, for serving

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, brown the meat over medium-high heat (about 5 minutes). Add in the onion, stir, and cook until onion is softened (about 3 minutes). Add ginger, garlic, and curry powder. Stir to combine. Cook until mixture is fragrant (about 2 minutes).

Add in the potato, beef stock, coconut milk, and tomatoes. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes). Using the back of a spoon, crush about half of the potatoes. Add in the peas, stir, partially cover, and cook until the peas are done (about 10 minutes).

Serve over rice with warm naan on the side. Garnish with cilantro.

Click Here for Printable Recipe: Beef and Potato Curry

Chicken Marsala has to be one of those dishes that epitomizes comfort food. It’s hearty, creamy, savory, and best of all for you and me: it’s so simple to make! This recipe makes 4 good-sized servings that come in at about 330 calories. Jon Boy opted to have a little more chicken than I did, but that’s totally fine when the meal is already pretty healthy. The flavors in this dish make you think it’s completely luxurious and definitely not under 500 calories!

chicken marsala

Here are a few of the players in this Marsala Game. Marsala wine can be found at your regular grocery store. I usually find it near the oils + vinegars. I really love to make this dish with shiitake mushrooms, but our local store doesn’t have them. I went with Baby Bella mushrooms and it worked out just dandy anyways.

chicken marsala

I’ve heard a dozen times on the millions of cooking shows that I watch that you should NEVER wash your mushrooms in water. It makes them get ‘spongy’ according to all those fancy chef-y people. I just use a dry paper towel to wipe off the caps, then I wiggle out the stems, and we’re good to go! I’ve done this for years, and I’m still standing.

chicken marsala

Here’s how you make this one:

First, melt EVOO (olive oil) + unsalted butter in a biggo Dutch oven or skillet over medium-high heat.

chicken marsala

Liberally* season both sides of your chicken with Kosher salt + black pepper.

* This is the only time I season this dish, so I tend to make it rain at this point.

chicken marsala

Once the EVOO + butter are warm, toss in your sliced mushrooms and thyme sprigs.

chicken marsala

Meanwhile, whisk together some flour + chicken broth to make a slurry that will thicken our yummy sauce.

chicken marsala

Sauté the mushrooms + thyme until the mushrooms are tender (about 5 minutes). Then, make a ‘well’ in the middle of the mushrooms.

chicken marsala

Nestle in your little chickens. Let them cook on each side until they’re browned (about 3 minutes per side).

chicken marsala

Once the chicken is browned on both sides, pour in the Marsala wine to deglaze the pan.

chicken marsala

Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden (or plastic) spoon to get up all of the fond (yummy brown stuff at the bottom of the pot).

chicken marsala

Pour in the flour + chicken broth mixture, lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until sauce has thickened and chicken is cooked through (about 15 minutes).

chicken marsala

We had our Chicken Marsala with some Cauliflower Mash leftover from the night before. I always make a double batch of the Mash because it’s so yummy + it freezes perfectly. Work smarter, not harder, ‘m I right?

chicken marsala

You could also serve this with buttered egg noodles, zucchini noodles (zoodles), or pasta. Garnish with extra thyme.


 Chicken Marsala

2 tbs. unsalted butter
2 tbs. EVOO
16 oz. mushrooms, stems removed, sliced (shiitake, baby bella, or white button)
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup Marsala wine
2 tbs. flour
1 cup unsalted chicken broth

In a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt 2 tbs. butter and 2 tbs. EVOO. Add mushrooms and thyme sprigs; sauté until mushrooms are softened (about 5 minutes).

Meanwhile, season both sides of chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Make a well in the middle of the Dutch oven, add the chicken, and brown on both sides (about 3 minutes per side). Pour in the Marsala wine to deglaze the pan. Scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon to get all of the fond (brown stuff) off the bottom.

In a separate bowl, whisk flour and chicken broth until combined. Add mixture to pot, lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until sauce has thickened and chicken is cooked through (about 15 minutes).

Discard thyme sprigs. Garnish with fresh flat-leaf parsley or more thyme. Serve with mashed potatoes, cauliflower mash, or egg noodles.

Click Here for Printable Recipe: Chicken Marsala

This week has been all about making comfort food, nursing a sick baby boy, watching trees grow, and getting ready for baby boy’s second birthday! That’s an exclamation full of emotion, folks. I’m so proud of the adorable bundle of sugar my baby boy has become at two. I’m also completely devastated that two years has passed so quickly. Anyone invented a machine to pause time yet? I’m mean, it is 2017. We can order toilet paper and lion costumes for our pets on demand, but no time machine? Get with it, Amazon.

corey douglas

Corey says that almost two year olds don’t have to use utensils. Except apparently he says it in a pirate voice with an “Arrrgggg” following it.

{Side Note: poor baby boy has bronchiolitis. It’s a wicked nasty cough, but he’s still in good spirits. We’re praying he recovers quickly so he can enjoy his party this weekend!}

corey douglas


Anywho… I’ve been making some serious [EASY] comfort food to get in the mood for fall weather (and holy cow – Thanksgiving is next week). I hear Houston will be slightly chilly, so you better believe I’ll be wearing layered fall clothes like I was in an L.L. Bean catalogue. Here’s what I’ve made this week:

Barefoot Contessa’s “Spanish” Pea Soup + Crispy Ham 

This delicious bowl of sweet, salty, creamy goodness takes literally 10 minutes to make. Okay, 15 tops. I made it while I was simultaneously getting Corey’s lunch ready – yes, it’s that easy! I only spilled pea soup on myself about 12 times. And then went to the UPS Store with said spilled soup on my shirt without noticing. You know, Mom Life. If you don’t want to go the “Crispy Ham” route, you can always substitute some bacon bits. I think this would also be yummy topped with some crumbled Feta or goat cheese. BONUS: it’s only 245 calories per serving, 21g protein, and 7g fat.

barefoot contessas spanish pea soup with crispy ham

I also made a HUGE batch of Pasta e Fagioli because well… comfort food. It’s got pancetta (hello, basically bacon), beans that make the soup thick and hearty, and pasta to send it over the Comfort Food Cliff. To top it off, throw on some fresh basil + freshly grated Parmesan. Holy Italian Happiness.

pasta e fagioli

Another major comfort food staple is my sister-in-law’s famous meatloaf. I’ll share the recipe soon! The best part about her recipe is that it freezes perfectly! I always make a double batch and freeze the pieces individually. We had our meatloaf this week with Cauliflower Mash.


On Monday, we had some purty trees planted in our backyard. I don’t know about you, but nature is my JAM, y’all. If I’m surrounded by too much concrete, I tend to get a little cranky. The house we lived at in Dallas had gorgeous, tall, full trees. Tons of them. I hated their leaves, but boy did I love seeing all that fabulous green in our backyard. These trees are starting to add more of a “home” feel to our new home.

maple tree houston

These trees have more than just a need-to-make-Mama-get-over-concrete value. They’re planted in memory of my sweet brother, Jimmy. I love the idea of looking out the window and seeing something tangible that can memorialize him. I think about Jimbo every day – I don’t need a reminder of him. I wanted a special something that was my own, happy thing that could represent life after death. I’m not sure if that makes any sense, but that’s how my brain is working these days. Sometimes, you’ve got to actively seek your hope + joy.

Okay – enough sappy rambling. So, Jon Boy and I each chose the type of tree we wanted to plant. I went for a Maple tree that’s native to Houston because I think the leaves go “whishy-whishy” in the wind. Don’t know what I mean? Go watch a Maple tree’s leaves blowing around… they go “whishy-whishy”… I swear. It’s their official sound.

maple tree houston

Jon Boy opted for a Red Oak because that was his favorite tree from our home in Dallas. It’s sturdy, handsome, and full of colorful life (just like good ole Jon Boy himself).

red oak tree houston

I had to take a few pictures of our baby trees’ first birthday! I can’t wait to see how big they grow compared to the house. That’s like a botanist’s official version of a growth chart, right?

red oak tree houston


Here’s a Happy Monday for ya: I broke my stinkin’ Apple watch (had it for less than a year)!!! This is the punishment I get for doing dishes. As I was drying my hands, somehow my watch strap came undone and my whole piece of arm candy fell SMACK flat right onto the granite countertop. I told Jon Boy this was God’s way of saying dishes are solely a man’s job. He didn’t agree. Anyone have ideas for how to magically get this puppy back in working condition? Or should I try to get on the ‘Nice’ list this late in the Christmas game?

broken apple watch


And in honor of trying to get ready for a birthday party while having a sick toddler running around the house…

cleaning with toddlers

Happy Humpday, y’all!