Mexican Lasagna

Boy, when is the last time I posted a recipe? This is a food blog after all, isn’t it?

Except I know you all read it just for my musings on life (ie complaining about winter and wishing people happy birthdays)…..005

 

The other night, I made a really good dinner. Good enough to share. Of course I never keep track of what I’m throwing together, but I think I can figure it out for this one.

Mexican Lasagna

  • 10 (6 inch) corn or flour tortillas
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 green peppers, diced
  • 1 14-oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked, diced shrimp (or shredded chicken, beef, or black beans…any protein will work)
  • 1 oz taco seasoning (you can use prepared, make your own, or simply throw in spices like I do)
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat up one tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, green peppers, and tomatoes and cook until tender. Turn off heat and stir in cooked shrimp.

Line the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan with tortillas. Spread tortillas with refried beans and top with shrimp mixture and a handful of shredded cheese. Repeat layers, ending with tortillas. Spread salsa over the top layer of tortillas and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with Greek yogurt and chopped black olives. Guacamole would be great on top, too.

Happy Friday!

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The Big 2-5

There are precious few things I like about winter.

After my fight with the driveway the other morning, I sent an email to my mother. It will never be warm again. We will never see the grass again. It will always be winter, but never Christmas.

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She replied: Now I want to hear three positives about winter! No more negative. Come on, let’s hear them.

I sulked. Once a mom, always a mom. (I didn’t really sulk. I smiled).

I could have replied, “Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day,” but that felt like cheating. After all, that’s fa-la-la-la-la winter, not cold, grey, bucketofsuck winter.

Then, an epiphany!

1. Emily was born. 2. Moriah was born. 3. You didn’t have triplets?

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How can you feel anything but positive looking at those two little delightful rugrats? I love the fact that I can look into their tiny faces and see the women they are going to become.

February is the shortest month but always feels the longest. There’s no holiday or end in sight; the one thing that brings me closer to spring is celebrating my twin sisters’ birthdays.

And this year, they’re turning the big 2-5. Quarter of a century! Boy, they’re old. It’s a miracle my mom is still 30.

Sadly, this is the first time ever that I won’t see my baby sisters on their birthday.

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Fortunately, I can still wish them a big happy birthday from Stevens Point. I’m going to have the whole town celebrate. We’ll turn the snow into confetti, eat cake for breakfast, and if you listen close enough, you’ll hear the whole lot of us singing, “We wish you many more….” The wind will carry our birthday joy over the river and through the woods to you.

Happy Birthday to the best sisters and friends a girl could ask for. My life wouldn’t be nearly as bright without the special bond we share.

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I love you both, and I’m so glad you’re in the world.

Cooking Exercises

A conversation I had earlier this week:

“What are you doing after work?” Me to co-worker.

“Going to the gym, what about you?” Co-worker.

“Making risotto.” Me.

If you know me or read this blog for any semblance of time, you’ll know that spring, summer, and fall are my exercise seasons. I just can’t do winter. It drains me of energy and puts me to bed before 9:00pm, leaving me precious little time for anything productive. Except cooking. That’s my one productive thing for the winter.

Stirring, chopping, sauteing, whisking, mixing…these all must be forms of cooking exercise right?

Risotto is not only a comfort food, but an exercise. It’s like yoga. It scares people off from being too difficult, but that’s because it’s hard to dedicate yourself to doing one thing for more than half an hour. Stirring.

Butter. (stir). Minced onions. (stir). Arborio rice. (stir). Stock. (stir). Wine. (stir). Stirstirstirstirstirstir. Parmesan (stir).

That’s all it is. And behold, something beautiful.

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If you add enough veggies at the end, say, some roasted parsnips and plenty of chopped spinach, it’s a one pot wonder.

If you’ve never made risotto before, here’s a link to one of my favorite recipes, courtesy of Rachael Ray: Drunken Risotto.

You can leave the gym early and come home to make it. Or wait until summer. We can both go for a run and then come home and make it together.

I’m Tired of Complaining About Winter

But my goodness, it never ends. I had another mini breakdown this morning when my car got stuck on our sheet-of-ice driveway, tires spinning ceaselessly until my car died once, twice, a million times in the freezing cold. I was late to work. I broke my keychain. I swore loudly. I called a cab, and then my car started, and I got it out of the driveway.

I have a feeling my next meltdown will involve some sort of strange spring dance where I flail around naked with old Christmas tree branches and die of hypothermia, whereupon I will be found in the spring covered in moss.

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Darkness and Light

Winter has not been kind to my friends and family this year. Cars that won’t start, garage doors that won’t open, leaking roofs, hazardous drives, an excessive amount of days off school due to cold.

We are coping the best way we know how: with friends and food.

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Oh, and Sherlock. Can’t. Stop. Watching. (Or in Ty’s case, can’t stop quoting).013

 

Arty is not really a lap cat, but he looooves Tyler and always wants to cuddle with him when he’s over.018

 

My brother came to visit for the weekend, as did our friend Amanda. Two weekends in a row with my big bro…I am one lucky duck!

I didn’t do anything productive this weekend besides relax with friends, which is good for the soul, and therefore productive. Since we Pointers have all been so curry crazy lately, we decided to make curry for dinner Saturday night with everyone helping.

Naan, basmati rice, a thai curry with chicken and veggies, and saag paneer.

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The line cooks hard at work.

 

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Ty making Indian cheese for the first time.030

 

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Fortunately, we also had lots of help Sunday morning washing all the dishes. Dave and I are still getting used to this no-dishwasher thing, so it was nice to have some help in the kitchen after our feast on Saturday night.032

 

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I love my friends. I love my family. And I love food. This light helps battle the darkness of winter.

Surf & Turf

Last night, Dave made steak frites with broiled lobster and roasted Parmesan Brussels sprouts, and we talked about how poor we are.

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Now, Alanis, that is ironic.

Oh, did I mention the sauce?

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A marsala sauce with sauteed mushrooms and onions.

Dave got the steak and lobster in the reduced “use today or freeze immediately section.” This is how we fool the world.

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Dave said the Gestapo would have caught me immediately, because I cut all my steak into bite-size pieces before eating.

It’s Friday, I’m in love.

On a Winter’s Day

Another seven inches of snow Monday. I know winter eventually has to end, but it’s hard to remember what grass feels like in between my toes. I’m focusing on how nice it will be to be out in the yard this summer, planting vegetables in my garden, grilling out for dinner, and sitting around the bonfire. Soon, my friends!

I watched the snow fall most of the day Monday at work. I’ve been feeling a bit droopy from sickness all week: plugged head, runny nose, sore throat, the works. Since I had to stop at Walgreens on the way home to pick up my prescriptions and didn’t feel like cooking much, I decided on tomato soup and grilled cheese for dinner.

I’ve never made tomato soup myself, although I really should sometime. I like my tomato soup a little chunky, and it’s hard to find that anywhere. Anyhow, this was Progresso’s Tomato Basil, and I chopped up some spinach to add a little green to dinner.

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The grilled cheese was whole grain bread with a mixture of shredded gouda, sharp cheddar, and mozzarella. I love mixing different kinds of cheese when making a grilled cheese sandwich–it makes for a better combination of flavor.

052 Mustard spread thin on both sides of bread and grilled the Alton way (two heated up cast iron pans acting as a sandwich press).

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Perfect dinner for a sore throat.

057Davy was on an overnight route Tuesday so I decided on a dinner that I love but he doesn’t: a baked sweet potato covered with chili. When I came home from work on Tuesday, I smelled gas and discovered Dave had left the oven on from the night before. (Clearly he didn’t hear me yell from the bedroom “Make sure you turn the oven off when you get your dinner out!”) I immediately opened the windows and doors to air the place out while I went outside to shovel. I’m glad the cats didn’t light a match while we were gone.

I was very weary of turning on the stove, as I expected to spontaneously combust when I turned it on, but nothing happened. Whew.

I started some vegetarian chili mid-shoveling by sauteing a small chopped onion and green pepper in a saucepan with cumin, oregano, chili powder, cocoa powder, and salt.  I don’t measure spices anymore, so I usually just eyeball and add more of less powerful flavors (like oregano) and less of more powerful flavors (like chili powder). The one exception is garlic, which is powerful, but I always add more of. Can’t help it, I love it.

When the veggies were tender, I added four cloves of minced garlic and cooked for another minute before adding a can of black beans, a can of diced tomatoes, a few tablespoons of tomato paste and about 1/2 cup of water. I let it cook for an hour while I went outside to shovel more.

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Snow, snow, snow. There’s no where to put it anymore!

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We obviously don’t use this entrance to our house.

After I took out the potatoes and turned the oven off, I served the chili over my sweet potato with shredded cheddar and mozzarella, and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt. I watched the first half of Annie while eating dinner, because the sun WILL come out tomorrow, errr….eventually.

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Today, we wait for another storm. First, we were supposed to get 6-10,” then 8-12,” but now it seems it has gone down to 3-6.” I guess only time will tell.

 

Becoming an Aunt

Can I tell you a secret?

When my sister Emily told me she was pregnant three years ago, there were so many emotions tumbling around inside of me: shock, disbelief, sheer joy, a surge of extra love for my sister, and the teeniest bit of something else…jealousy.

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Because mothers are supernatural creatures, my mom knew my feelings even before I did. She asked if I felt a little put out that I wasn’t the first one to get pregnant, me being the older sister and all. I thought about it for two minutes.

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I thought of how I took care of my twin sisters when they were born, helping my mom feed and watch them. I thought of how I was always the one “put in charge” when Mom and Dad were gone, even though Tyler was older. I thought of how I was the first one to be in a serious relationship, the first one to get engaged and married. I thought of how happy Dave and I were just being the two of us for now. And in that two minutes, my jealousy dissipated.

I was not ready to be a mom three years ago. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure Emily was ready to be a mom three years ago. I was wrong. My sister is a wonderful mama; I can only dream to have the patience she does. She slipped into the role of mother so beautifully and easily, I never had the audacity to be surprised.

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When I woke up two years ago today, I cursed myself for having my phone on silent when I saw five missed calls and two voicemails. I listened to my messages while jumping up and down on our bed at home, “Em had the baby! Em had the baby!” Dave was still sleeping and wasn’t as excited as I was (most likely because he was woken out of a dead sleep by shrieks and a foot to the rib cage).

I ran to the store and got the most random hospital gift including a bottle of champagne, a stuffed dinosaur, granola bars, and Yes to Carrots face wipes (hey, who wants to go through the rigamarole of face-washing after giving birth?)

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I was scared to hold Baby A. I was never a babysitter or incredibly attached to kids, and the last babies I’d held were my sisters when they were born–and I was two years old at the time. But as soon as I had her in my arms, I wasn’t afraid anymore. Just like Emily became a mother in a split second, as soon as I held her tiny body in my arms, I became an aunt.

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Two years ago today, Aurelia Moon came into our life when we needed her the most. She made our stagnant lives move again. She made holidays more exciting. She gave me the title of “Aunt” which I wear proudly, and she gave me the courage to try to master the title of “Mom” someday.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Aurelia! Auntie Chel loves her little Moonbeam. And I’ll make sure you always know that.

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Weekend in GB

We’ve been living in Stevens Point just over four months now, so we decided to make a trip back to Green Bay this weekend. We’ve been back twice before, once for Thanksgiving and once for Christmas, but those visits were only to see family. My brother Tyler and friend JD offered to put us up for the weekend, and we made no plans other than to see our friends and attend my niece Aurelia’s second birthday party on Sunday.

I was ecstatic to finally be reunited with my siblings. The four Leahy children, together again!

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I love these guys so much.

PicMonkey Collage

Saturday, Dave and I lounged at Ty’s apartment watching Sherlock (can’t get enough!) after making breakfast. Dave made his homemade biscuits, Ty fried up some bacon and baked some potatoes with onions, and I fried a few eggs.

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Dave even made a special heart-shaped biscuit.

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Ty kept asking us that afternoon what we wanted to do and how he could entertain us, but I was perfectly content just spending time with my brother. A few friends came over later for board games, a gigantic game of Rummy, Tek  n Tag, and pizza.

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023I sneezed myself awake Sunday morning with a scratchy throat. No amount of hot coffee or hot shower seemed to help. Just one of the many perils of winter, I suppose.

We headed over to my sister Emily’s new apartment around noon where she was hosting Aurelia’s second birthday party. Look at my little Moonbeam!

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Em and Christopher had arranged a taco bar with tortillas, taco shells, Boca meat, chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, olives, guacamole, salsa cheesecake (courtesy of my mom–Mom, I want that recipe!), and chips. Food bars are always a great idea.

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In lieu of a cake, Emily baked brownies and spelled out Happy Birthday.

033 Aurelia looked a little scared when we all started singing Happy Birthday to her, but when I sat on the floor next to her, she broke off a piece of her brownie to give to me and then started singing “Happy Birthday” to me. Teach ’em to share at an early age!

I was sad to leave, especially since I hardly got to spend any time with my parents. However, they promised to come visit soon. We have grand plans to go to the Point brewery together, which should be fun.

‘Twas a lovely weekend but all good things must come to an end. Hope you all had a lovely weekend as well!

Spread the Love

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I made you some cookies.

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Actually, I made them for work.

But I couldn’t bring them to work because my stupid car is being stupid fixed and I’m stupid stuck at home.

It has not been a fun week at work. Everyone and their mother has blamed me for everything wrong with their lives this week: prescriptions, urine drug tests, extended wait times for phone calls…you name it.

Dave says I should yell back, but there’s only so much I can say without getting fired. And I keep trying so hard to be the better person, when sometimes I really just want to pop someone on the nose. Luckily, for every person that screamed at me, I had another person come up and say, “Don’t worry about that person. They’re being a jerk.”

I had to take my car in again yesterday, because the heat has not been working since I got it back. I let it go for almost two weeks because I didn’t want to be inconvenienced by not having a car again, but it’s just too cold this winter to go without a heated car.

I was in such a bad mood when I got home last night that the fact that Dave made dinner for me didn’t even cheer me up.

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And it was one of my favorite meals: salmon en croute with roasted veggies.

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I contributed by making my own lemon caper dill sauce to top it with, but since Dave was sleeping, I couldn’t even thank him for dinner.

I had a mini mental breakdown this morning when I couldn’t figure out a way to get to my class or work, so I cured myself the only way I knew how: took a two hour nap, shoveled the driveway to get some Vitamin D, and noshed on some chocolates that my darling husband left on my desk.

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I’m in a much better mood now, thankyouverymuch, and I would love to share some cookies with you.

Thanks for sticking with me during this long, cold winter. I love my readers!

I have to share this picture, though, because it’s SO TRUE.