Sunday, August 18, 2013

What to do with Hatch Green Chiles

Hatch, New chile capital of the world.

Once upon a time, green chile connoisseurs like my in-laws had to make a pilgrimage to New Mexico in August to get Hatch green chiles. It's that wonderful time of year again, and these days you can smell the aroma of Hatch chiles roasting outside of participating grocery stores across America.

When you get home with your twenty dollar or so box of freshly roasted green chiles, you will want to:

1. Peel off the blackened skin and remove the seeds from each chile. Ideally, you will do this under running water. Some people wear gloves to do this.

2. Place 4-8 of the chiles in a small freezer bag. Repeat this process...ABOUT EIGHTEEN TIMES until they are all bagged. Still with me? This is not a project for the lazy, but it is so nice to have these packets in the freezer year round.

Now that you have your chiles portioned out and stored in the freezer, you can use them in omelets, salsas, stews, and best of all, "chile verde."

Here's my husband's latest variation of his famous chile verde aka "green chile." He comes from a New Mexican family that has been making green chile for generations so you can rest assured that this recipe is as authentic as it is delicious...


1 pound pork, cut into small cubes
1 pound beef, cut into small cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 cup flour
3 tbsp oil
2 cups chopped roasted green chiles
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp pepper.
splash of lime juice (from 1/2 of a fresh lime)

In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onions for about five minutes or so. Add meat cubes, and cook, stirring for another five minutes until meat loses its pink color. Sprinkle flour over the meat and onions. Increase the heat slightly, and cook the meat, stirring often until it is browned and onions are golden. Stir in the cumin, garlic, pepper, and chiles, mixing well. Slowly add the chicken broth and stir to incorporate. Lower heat and simmer covered until the meat is tender, stirring occasionally, for about two hours.

New Mexican Style Chile Verde

Serve with warm flour tortillas...

Green Chile Burrito

I like mine sprinkled with cheese and rolled into a burrito.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Keeping Young Children Busy during Church or Sports Practice

To keep little people busy away from home, I keep certain items in the back of my car. These are different items than whatever toys they might bring along to play with while riding in the car. The special items in the back are activities to keep them busy at certain destinations. We keep this stuff in the car for a few reasons:

1. Since they don't play with them anywhere else, they are excited to get them out. Novelty is key sometimes when keeping kids entertained.

2. I like to get out of the house quickly without having to pack much.

3. I'd rather not have to hand over my cell phone or an ink pen to a toddler out of desperation. 

When we arrive at church, I grab these quiet toys from the back of the car and put them in my purse to pull out one by one when my toddler gets bored. He usually doesn't need them until about 45 minutes into the service so he is gradually learning to sit still and listen for longer periods...

While we are watching "Spider Man" do karate, my girls keep busy with giant coloring pages and markers. I just bought some new coloring supplies today. Hello Kitty is always a favorite...

These few items don't take up a lot of space so I still have plenty of room for groceries and a stroller. The toddler toys especially are almost as important as the diapers, wipes, and change of clothes that I like to keep somewhere in the vehicle at all times. A little bit of preparedness can make leaving the house with several children virtually stress free. Don't forget to change up the items from time to time to keep things interesting.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Saving Money on Groceries: My Favorite Aldi Products

The first time I visited an Aldi, I was a little bit irritated that they charge a quarter for the use of the shopping cart and a few cents each for grocery bags. I also assumed that their products were inferior generics. I couldn't have been more wrong!

For one thing, you get the quarter back when you return the cart, or as they call it here, the "buggy." Ugh! (Even after six years in Texas, that still sounds weird to me.) I don't normally carry much cash, but now that I'm used to shopping at Aldi, I make sure I always have at least one quarter in the center console of my car. Paying six or ten cents for each shopping bag is no big deal since you are saving tons of money on groceries. Sometimes I keep a few bags in the back of my car so I can bring my own.

The great thing about Aldi is that common staple items are cheaper yet often superior in taste to national brands. Most of the products you'll find at Aldi are Aldi's own brands, but they also have a few random name brand items at discounted prices. The fact that the store is small and doesn't have a lot of selection is actually a plus because you can get in and out quickly. Unless I am making something exotic, Aldi usually has everything I need. In the middle of the store, there are seasonal items and toys that they rotate in so you never know what fun non food items they might have on special.

Here is a list of my current favorite Aldi products:

Frozen USDA choice sirloin steaks
Frozen Shrimp
Vanilla Almond Milk
Imported German Chocolate
Tortilla Chips (made from organic blue corn)
Parmesan cheese
Spaghetti sauce
Tuna packets
Ice Cream
Frozen Fruit
Whole Grain White Bread with no High Fructose Corn Syrup
Natural Peanut Butter (90 percent peanuts and no refined sugar or hydrogenated oils)
Trail Mix
All Natural Granola Cereal
Protein bar in checkout that tastes a Kit Kat
Diapers and Wipes
Laundry Detergent

I don't do all of my shopping at Aldi since I'm not always up for bagging my own groceries with several little ones in tow, and they don't have a huge selection of meat and produce. Since the shopping carts are stuck together until you pay to unhook the one on the outside end, it can be hard to find one with a working child safety strap. Another negative is that they sometimes expect you to switch to a different cart at the register which is also inconvenient when shopping with a baby.  Those certain Aldi items that I love keep me coming back, though. Bagging my own groceries and dealing with the other inconveniences is more manageable on those smaller in-between shopping trips.

Related Post: Saving Money Shopping at Mexican Grocery Stores.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

100 Calorie Vanilla Almond Frappe

Lately, I am all about making fast frappes in the blender using instant coffee. This particular frappe is non-dairy, all natural, and only 100 calories. Here's the simple recipe:

1 cup All-Natural Vanilla Almond Milk (I buy mine at Aldi)
1 scant tablespoon instant coffee granules
3-4 ice cubes
a pinch of salt (optional to reduce foam)

Blend all ingredients for about 60 seconds and enjoy! The store bought vanilla almond milk I use contains cane juice so it is already sweetened, yet it still has less calories than whole milk which would need an additional sweetener. Almond milk has a delicious nutty flavor and can be easier on the stomach than milk--especially on days when I end up drinking two of these in the course of the day. I'm not a vegan or anything, but some of us have our limits when it comes to guzzling too much milk. The calorie savings and easy digestibility make this creamy cold coffee drink a win win! These are so good, I've been known to have a decaf version for dessert before bed!

To make this into a complete breakfast, I sometimes add a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter and a tablespoon of cocoa powder. The chocolatey protein drink version has a lot more calories of course, but gives me energy galore.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Recommended Reading for Tweens in 4th-6th Grade

The following titles are the "chapter books" I read and loved as a kid:

My Top Picks for Girls:

Black Beauty

The Nancy Drew series

The Little House on the Prairie series

Treasures of the Snow

My Top Picks for Boys or Girls:

Swiss Family Robinson

The Sugar Creek Gang series

The Hardy Boys series

Peanuts Comic Books

A lot of books you will find on classical reading lists are not of interest to preteens living in 2013. That said, I feel that older books teach better morals and have more educational value than the dumbed down children's books of today. I like my children to read the above books from the late 19th and early 20th century that I enjoyed as a young girl. I don't remember how old I was when I started reading these books, but I'm pretty sure I was still reading some of them by age eleven. I read most of the books on the list voluntarily for pleasure, not knowing that they were educational.

I think my mom read some of these books in her own childhood which is why she bought them for me. I didn't have a lot of books so some of them, including Black Beauty, were read more than once. The Sugar Creek Gang books and Treasures of the Snow were books I had to read for school but enjoyed immensely.

I read a few other books, but the ones on my list are the more memorable ones that I recommend. Since these old books were still interesting to me in the late 70s and early 80s, they have obviously withstood the test of time. I'm sure there are other fun classics that I hope to discover and pass on to my kids, but the books on this list are my personal favorites from my own childhood.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Saving Money on Groceries: Mexican Stores

One of the ways that we save money on groceries is by doing some of our shopping at Mexican grocery stores. I don't mean those small, storefront taquerias, though. Those have their purpose, too-- like when we want their specially seasoned fajita meat or jerky or just a place to practice speaking Spanish. No, I'm talking about the full sized supermercados where you can not only buy Mexican foods but also your favorite brands of cereal, spaghetti sauce, and ice cream. A couple of the stores like this that we have here in Fort Worth are "Fiesta" and "Carnival."

Some of the items we get for low prices at these stores are tortillas, rice, and beans. Cheese and other fresh staple items also cost substantially less at these places. There is always a large selection of interesting produce, and there are usually inexpensive steaks, as well as hamburger meat and chicken which really saves us a bundle. A lot of the fun, imported hot sauces are only a few cents a bottle.

When we go to these stores, we basically buy two weeks worth of groceries. They pretty much have everything we normally use including preservative free bread and all natural peanut butter. The only item I was disappointed about not being able to buy there this last time was lunch meat since the store we went to does not yet carry nitrate free cold cuts. I don't think they have real maple syrup or anything organic, either, but those few items can always be picked up somewhere else on another trip.

We like to start out with lunch at the in-store restaurant when we shop at "Carnival" in Northwest Fort Worth...

my lunch: bean and cheese burrito with fresh pico de gallo

my hubby's lunch: menudo

Saving Money on Seasonings: Even if you don't live near an ethnic grocery store, you can often find many common seasonings in those little bags located on the hispanic aisle in most stores. Onion powder, garlic powder, and cinnamon are just a few examples. Simply refill the seasoning jars you already have at home with the contents of these affordable little bags... 

saving money buying seasonings in bags from ethnic aisle
curry powder and chili powder

Related Post: Saving Money Shopping at Aldi

Friday, August 2, 2013

Fast Mocha Frappe in Blender

Although real maple syrup has about the same number of calories as white sugar, it tastes sweeter so I end up using less. It doesn't make my coffee drinks taste like pancake syrup either--it just sweetens them as sugar would. This homemade mocha frappe is the perfect pick me up on a summer morning!

blended icy coffee drink with maple syrup


1 1/2 cups milk
1 tbsp instant coffee granules
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp real maple syrup
3-4 ice cubes


Add all ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth and frothy. This makes enough for two people or this one very busy and active mom!

coffee and almonds for breakfast

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread Cupcakes

Today's post is a guest post from my ten year old daughter who I'll refer to here as "Little Chef." She did everything herself including taking the picture. I am now turning the keyboard over to her...

I baked a batch of white cupcakes. And instead of using unhealthy store bought chocolate frosting, I used a chocolate hazelnut spread. It was good so why don't you try making it too?

Jif Cupcakes