Labor Day Weekend

Wreck 'em Tech!!!

Hope you all enjoyed a fun and exciting, as well as restful and relaxing, Labor Day Weekend! Ours consisted of college football (Melody is pictured above supporting our team…although we weren’t happy to find that the channel they were airing the Texas Tech game on here was showing a Tigers game instead and we couldn’t see the game live on TV until almost the end of the 3rd quarter; my brother says we can fix that by moving to Lubbock!), yard work, movies at home, and some delicious cooking. We used our garden peppers to make hot sauce and pickled jalapenos and Ryan made some delicious guacamole with one of our garden habanero peppers and this Blue Apron meal (pictured below) for dinner last night – yum! It’s official, summer is over and there are signs of fall everywhere – football, mums, Oktoberfest beer, etc. – although you wouldn’t think it given the summer-like weather we’re experiencing today in Ann Arbor. Here’s to changing seasons and guacamole…always guacamole!

Summer Vegetable & Queso Tostadas with Fairy Tale Eggplants #blueapron

by Valerie | 09.06.16 | Around our home, For Funsies, Garden, Holidaze, Princess Puppy Pants | No Comments »

Ringing in the New Year


As I mentioned in my last post, we had a wonderful Christmas with family in Texas this year – so once we arrived safely home on New Year’s Eve, it was nice to enjoy a quiet dinner out and then return home to sit beside our beautiful tree next to the fireplace and enjoy the cozy glow for the evening; after having driven for 2 full days, we were spent. I was thrilled to come home and see my amaryllis plant in full bloom though and counted myself lucky that it had done so well in my absence. Speaking of luck…did you eat your black-eyed peas for good luck on New Year’s Day? We did – Ryan had a great idea to incorporate them into a vegetarian taco mix, which turned out to be not only fast and easy to prepare, but also delicious. We are looking forward to the New Year and all the possibilities ahead for us. Wishing you happiness, health, and good luck in the New Year!

by Valerie | 01.04.16 | Around our home, For Funsies, Holidaze | No Comments »

Christmas eve tamales

Christmas Eve tamales were a success!

Growing up in El Paso I was always able to count on one thing being there to eat, tamales. While my family didn’t make a tradition of making them each year, we always received them as a gift from family and friends. Many of my friends’ families would spend Christmas eve, or the days before, making tamales for post-midnight mass celebrations. Having stayed in Michigan this year Val and I decided to bring a little tradition into our home and make our own tamales.

We’ve made tamales before, and for the most part followed this basic recipe for the masa. The only difference this time around is I used 2 cups of veggie stock, real butter, and I nixed the green chile powder. For the fillings we made three different varieties: chipotle sweet potato; corn, peppers, and cheese; and faux-acoa (vegetarian barbacoa).

Chipotle sweet potato filling

  • 1 tsp (or a little more) chipotle infused olive oil
  • 1 medium to large sweet potato diced (into pieces 1/2-inch or smaller)
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1 heaping tsp dried thyme
  • 1 heaping tsp dried mexican oregano
  • 2 tbsp canned chipotles in adobo sauce
  • salt

Par-boil, or quick cook in the microwave, the sweet potato. Heat a skillet to medium heat. Add the olive oil and heat up. Add the red onions and cook until translucent. Add the par-boiled sweet potatoes, chipotle powder, thyme, and oregano. Cook until potatoes begin to brown. Salt to your taste preference. Set aside. Puree the canned chipotles, you can use either a food processor or just chop into a puree. Set that aside as well. When making the tamales place a large spoonful of the sweet potato mixture in the masa then drizzle or spread some of the chipotle puree on top. Wrap the tamale.

Faux-acoa filling

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 package of chorizo seitan (we use Uptons) diced
  • 1 package of Rick Bayless’ Red Chile Barbacoa sauce (or make your own sauce)

I was a bit lazy on this one because the task of making 3 different fillings plus the tamales was a bit daunting. But none the less it worked quite well. Heat up a skillet to medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the chorizo seitan and cook for another minute or two, until the seitan heats up. Add about three quarters of a package of the barbacoa sauce and let cook for about 5 to 10 minutes. I didn’t add a full package because I didn’t want the mix to be to wet when putting it into the tamale. Add a large spoonful of the filling on top of the masa and wrap the tamale.

Chiles, cheese, and corn filling

  • 2 poblano chiles
  • 1 can of corn
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp green chile powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup shredded queso asedero (Queso Chihuahua or Monterey Jack will work too)

Roast the poblano peppers using whatever method you wish. I roasted them in the skillet over medium heat until they browned. Once browned, place into a paper bag for about 30-minutes or longer. Remove from the bag, remove the skins, stem, and deseed them. Dice them and set aside. Drain and rinse the corn. Heat a skillet to medium. Once hot add the butter, corn, and green chile powder. Cook until corn starts to brown. Add the chiles. Set aside. When making the tamales place some cheese and some of the chile and corn mixture into the tamale and wrap it up.


  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/3 red onion diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 5 medium tomatoes on the vine (cored and deseeded, cut into slices)
  • 1 heaping tsp new mexico red chile powder
  • 1 large roasted jalapeño minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves (rinsed)
  • salt

Pan roast the jalapeño and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions sweat. Add the red chile powder and cook for an additional minute or so. Add the slices of tomatoes and cook until they either start to brown or fall apart. Put tomato mixture into a food processor. Blend into a sauce like consistency. Add the minced jalapeño. Chop up the cilantro to a size that you like and add into the mixture. Set aside to serve on top of the tamales.

The tamales

Steam the tamales for an hour. Set aside and let cool for a minute or two. Unwrap and enjoy.

Christmas Eve tamales

by Ryan | 12.25.14 | Holidaze, Recipes | No Comments »

adventures in home canning: salsa edition

Adventures in home canning

Just in case you didn’t read the last 3 posts, we have waaaaay too many peppers this year and don’t know what to do with them. From hot sauce to pickled jalapenos now we are giving a go at making a salsa for home canning.


  • 23-24 roma (paste) tomatoes (roasted on the grill)
  • 1+ tbsp olive oil of your choosing (the + is for coating the tomatoes)
  • 1/2 purple onion, finely diced
  • 8-10 serrano peppers, minced w/seeds in; adjust that for your heat tolerance
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp chipotle powder
  • 1 tbsp ancho chile powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of cilantro (before chopping)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar

1. prep the tomatoes

Heat up a grill to medium/medium high heat. Coat the tomatoes in an olive oil of your choosing; I used a chipotle infused olive oil. Place tomatoes on grill then roast them until skins start to blacken in spots and tomatoes become a little bit soft. You don’t want them too soft as they’ll just turn to mush. Set aside to cool. Once cool cut the top of the cores out and place in a blender and puree.

2. make salsa

Heat a large sauce pan to medium heat. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to the pan and heat it up. Add the garlic, onion, and peppers to the pan. As they start to sweat add the cumin and chile powders, stir so that they are well coated. Add the tomatoes and vinegars and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for about 20 minutes. Add salt.

3. can that s*!t

Follow directions for your preferred method of canning. We used the water bath canning method, which we tried our best to follow Ball’s recommendations. Sanitize your jars and lids and keep warm while you prepare the food above (we used our dishwasher to sanitize and heat). Prepare a large pot for canning and bring that water to a boil. Once the salsa is ready add it to the jars, put lids on, and put them in water bath. Follow the recommendations of time for the jar size you are using and altitude you are cooking at. Once done, remove and set aside for 12-24 hours. Store in a cool place; we’re talking about temperature here not a fashionable location.

4. Is this a tested canning recipe?

No. It is based on many other tested recipes. From what I can tell is that the key to canning salsa is an addition of about 5% acid (vinegar or lemon juice) and making sure it is brought to a boil. There are lots of recipes published by university agriculture programs out there that break down how to calculate the addition of acid to your salsa. We will update this post months from now after we crack a jar open and consume it. If we don’t get sick, success. If we do get sick, yeah diarrhea!

by Ryan | 09.01.14 | Garden, Recipes | No Comments »

valerie picked a peck of pickled peppers

Pickled jalapeños

Our jalapeno plant has been rocking it this summer (along with our serrano, bell pepper plants, and our habanero) and since I am a fan of a good pickled jalapeno – especially on some homemade nachos, yum! – we decided to make our own jar of them. I don’t know why we’ve never done this before as it was fairly easy. The hard part for me will be waiting long enough to let them properly pickle and pick up all those amazing flavors sitting in the jar before I put them in my belly! Here’s our recipe below…

~2 cups chopped jalapenos (round slices)


  • ½ tsp mexican oregano
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ tsp cumin seed
  • ¼ tsp coriander seed


  • equal parts distilled white vinegar & water (about 3/4 cup each)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • a little salt

Add seasoning into the bottom of a mason jar (preferably one that has been well sanitized). Add the jalapenos on top of the seasoning. Set aside. In a sauce pan add brine ingredients and heat until just before boiling. Pour brine over the top of the jalapenos into the mason jar. Let cool and refrigerate or can them.

Pickled jalapeños

Pickled jalapeños

by Valerie | 08.30.14 | Garden, Recipes | No Comments »

hot sawwwwwwwse

Homemade hot sauce

What do you do when you have A LOT of serrano peppers from your garden? If you’re us, you take your first crack at making homemade hot sauce. And I think it was a smashing success too; peppery, hot, and packed with flavor and we picked the peppers right from our own backyard! Here’s our recipe below…


  • 1/2 thinly sliced red onion
  • 22 serrano peppers
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water (1/2 for cooking, 1/2 for sauce)
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2+ tsp of molasses
  • salt

Sauté onions, peppers, and garlic, until they start getting soft and slightly caramelized. Add 1/2 cup of water, bring to a boil and simmer until little liquid is in the pan. Add red wine vinegar and molasses, set aside to cool. In food processor add pepper mixture and puree while adding vinegar and water until you get the texture you want. Salt to taste.

Homemade hot sauce

Making homemade hot sauce with garden peppers

by Valerie | 08.30.14 | Garden, Recipes | No Comments »

Weekend fun

Our weekend was full of yard work, house cleaning, gardening (I pulled lots of green beans, tomatoes, onions, and some jalapeno and red peppers – enough to fill up a large colander), and bowling with friends. I have really enjoyed putting together mini flower arrangements in the house with things from our garden this summer – like nasturtium, marigolds, zinnias, hydrangea, coleus, and this purple basil in the photo below; not only does the purple basil look beautiful, it smells great too.

If you haven’t been to Chela’s in Ann Arbor and you’re looking for some tasty Mexican food, do yourself a favor and give this place a try – yum! Why are the Whole Foods cupcakes so good? I can’t resist them.

by Valerie | 08.26.13 | Around our home, Around town, For Funsies, Garden | No Comments »

not quite pozole soup

This is loosely based on the Mexican soup pozole (it is important to note that no humans were harmed in the making of this soup). Ryan grew up going to friends’ houses where this would be on the stove all day long and after a night of drinking this spicy soup, much like menudo, would serve as a perfect hangover cure. I was never much the fan of hominy, but Ryan always liked the taste of it because it reminds him of tortillas. We struck a deal that I would try hominy again so this soup was a compromise between the two of us, a bit of hominy and a bit of yellow corn in a spicy tomato broth.


  • 20 tomatoes on the vine, roasted and cored
  • 3 serrano peppers, roasted (note these died in the roasting, but their “juice” mixed with the tomatoes)
  • approximately 3 tbsp chipotle infused olive oil
  • 1 purple onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dark chili powder
  • 1 oz package pozole spice mix
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 15.25 oz can yellow corn
  • 1 29 oz can hominy
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 425. Lightly coat the tomatoes and serrano peppers in some of the olive oil (about 1-1 1/2 tbsp). Place in oven to roast for about 30-45 minutes or until they begin to split open and brown. One quick thing to note, this killed our serrano peppers; that said, the mixture of tomato juices and slightly disintegrated serrano did add flavor to the tomatoes with just a hint of a kick. Remove from oven to cool. Once cooled core the tomatoes and place in a blender to puree. Set aside.

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add in the remaining olive oil. Add in the onion, garlic, and pozole mix, cook onion until it begins to be slightly translucent. Add the bell peppers and chili powder. Cook until bell peppers are tender, enough for a fork to easily go into them. Add the tomato puree and the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Add in the hominy and corn. Let cook for a little while longer. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pozole mix is meant traditionally for pork and most pre-made mixes make for a decently spicy pork rub long before it is added to the soup pot. So depending on what type of pozole spice mix you purchased or made for yourself it can make for a soup with quite the kick. If you are afraid of spicy things I’d check the mix or reduce the amount of spice mix you use. You can also let the mix soak and simmer in hot water for a little bit before adding  it to the pot and it might reconstitute some of the dried chiles in the mix.

by Valerie | 01.27.13 | Recipes | No Comments »

Hola! Frittata

We were planning on what to make for brunch recently and as I was pouring through cookbooks and looking online for inspiration I came across a frittata recipe which sounded promising. As we’ve never made a frittata before, and Ryan does love a challenge, that’s exactly what we decided to do. We took ideas from several online sources, but in the end he made it up as he went along and made it his own and it was delicious! We thought, with all the Mexican flavors and ingredients in the dish, naming it Hola! Frittata was a perfect fit. We served ours with breakfast potatoes – yum!


  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 3/4 lb chorizo sausage
  • 1/2 red onion, cut into thin slices
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 splash milk (about 1 tbsp+)
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped after measuring
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup monterrey jack cheese, shredded

Pre-heat an oven to 375. Lightly coat the peppers in olive oil and place in the oven to roast. You’ll roast them until the skin starts to brown and gets puffy. Be sure to flip them at some point in time. It usually takes me 15-20 minutes in our oven to get them nicely roasted. Once roasted, put them in a brown paper bag to steam. Steam for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the bag, remove the skins, and then core and deseed.

In a bowl, whisk eggs, milk, and cilantro together. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 450. Heat an oven-safe skillet to medium heat and add butter. Add garlic and onions and cook until translucent. Add chorizo and Mexican oregano then cook until chorizo is cooked through to your liking (we cooked ours medium-rare and it’s important to keep in mind that it will continue cooking in the oven). Add in egg mixture and cook until egg starts to set on edges and bottom of pan. Place in oven and cook until egg is cooked through. We cooked ours for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let set for about 5 minutes. Turn skillet over onto cutting board or platter and then slice and serve.

by Valerie | 02.18.12 | Recipes | No Comments »

tamales tamales tamales

A few years ago I decided to buy a book on tamales because I was disappointed by the tamale selection here in Southeast Michigan. That is not to say that there are no places to find tamales, and even some good ones, they just aren’t as good as they can be or what I was used to growing up. A few weekends ago I had a little more time on my hand so I decided it was time to dig in and cook some tamales. I made two kinds but the fillings—nopales and roasted poblanos with corn; one would probably be enough for the masa that this makes we had quite a bit of leftovers which made for some delicious quesadillas. The masa recipe is a slightly modified version of Daniel Hoyer’s whipped masa recipe.


  • Several corn husks (about 24 or more)

Soak the corn husks for about an hour or more. They need to be pliable.

The Masa:

  • 3 1/2 cups masa for tamales
  • 2 1/4 cups hot water
  • 1 1/4 cups butter @ room temp (I used Earth Balance, we had some vegan friends coming over)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups veggie stock
  • 2 tbsp green chile powder

To make the masa mix the hot water and masa to make a dough. Set aside for about 30 minutes covered. Using a stand mixer whip the butter until smooth and fluffy. Add about 1-inch size pinches of the masa dough at a time, waiting for each one to be incorporated into the mix. Once you’ve added about 1/3 of the masa add some of the veggie stock and then start to alternate adding the masa and veggie stock until both are well incorporated. Add the chile powder and salt, mix until completely combined. You can test the masa mix by seeing if a small pinch floats in water. If it doesn’t add more veggie stock. Set aside until ready to use.

For the nopales:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (I used a chipotle infused one)
  • 3 large nopales (cactus pads) diced
  • 1 jalapeño minced
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 tomatoes on the vine cored and deseeded and diced.
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • salt to taste

Heat a medium pan to medium heat. Add the olive oil; once the oil is heated add the garlic, jalapeño, and onion until they start to sweat. Add the nopales, Mexican oregano and thyme. Cook until nopales begin to soften, it will take a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook until the tomatoes begin to soften. Salt to taste. Remove from the pan and set aside.

For the roasted poblanos and corn:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 large poblano peppers
  • 1 small package frozen corn
  • 1 tsp butter (Earth Balance)
  • 1 tsp green chile powder
  • a sprinkle or two of granulated sugar to bring out/add to the sweetness of the corn
  • salt to taste

Pre-heat an oven to 375. Lightly coat the peppers in olive oil and place in the oven to roast. You’ll roast them until the skin starts to brown and gets puffy. Be sure to flip them at some point in time. It usually takes me 15-20 minutes in our oven to get them nicely roasted. While they roast, heat the corn up in salted water (we used a microwave, but you can use a pot if necessary). Drain and set aside. Once roasted put them in a brown paper bag to steam. Steam for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the bag, remove the skins, and then core and deseed. I usually like a little heat so I leave a few seeds in. Dice the peppers and mix in with the corn. Add the butter and green chile powder, mix until the butter is melted and well combined. Salt to taste. (Note you can add some good asadero cheese to this mix when you spoon it onto the tamale if you’d like (I did), or add some nu-yeast for a cheesy flavor (I did that for our vegan friends))

Putting it all together:

Prepare a pot or some sort of apparatus for steaming. Grab a well soaked corn husk, towel off excess moisture. In the upper half of it spoon some of the masa onto the husk and spread it about 1/4″ thick. Cover about 2/3rds of the top half starting from the center. Scoop a good spoonful or two of one of the fillings into the center of the masa. Fold/roll over the edges of the corn husk to form a tube. Fold the bottom half over the top half. Tie the tamale. Set aside. Once you have made all of your tamales place them in the steamer for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Once finished remove from steamer and let rest for about 10-15 minutes. Serve however you want. We topped ours with some homemade salsa (below) and guacamole.

Extra special bonus green salsa:

  • 1+ tsp of olive oil
  • 4-5 medium to large tomatillos
  • 1/2 purple onion finely diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 1 lime juiced
  • 2/3 cup cilantro chopped
  • salt to taste

Lightly coat the jalapeño and tomatillos in the oil. Place in a pan over medium heat. Roast until the tops, bottoms, sides (if they will stay on their side) brown and become soft. Set aside to cool. Core the tomatillos. Remove the stem of the jalapeño, deseed if you desire, and mince. In a food processor or blender add the tomatillos, onions, garlic, jalapeño, and lime juice. Blend to a consistency you like (best to pulse blend if you have that option). Add salt and cilantro. Serve.


by Ryan | 02.08.12 | Recipes | No Comments »

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