Mamoo’s Brownies

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For years I have been convinced my Grandma McGee, aka Mamoo, left something out of her brownie recipe.

Mamoo made these brownies every Christmas. I mean, they were expected to be ready for consumption as soon as we hit the door of her Temple, Texas home.  These brownies were part of the assortment of treats she would stash in old cookie and popcorn tins along with the divinity, fudge, shortbread cookies and trash. And they are amazing!  So why were mine never turning out like hers?!

I figured it out.  I was impatient.  The oven temperature and the piece about letting the brownies cool in the pan – those things matter. Once I reduced the oven temperature to 325 and stop worrying about the brownies sticking in the pan, it worked! My brownies started to turn out just like HERS! These are a somewhat crumbly, crackly brownie that is more on the fudgy side of dessert.

And they store really well in cookie tins.

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I did make one adjustment – you can add an extra egg in if you prefer a softer, more cakey brownie.  That’s a personal call 😊


Mamoo’s Brownies

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup softened butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup flour 
  • 1 egg, beaten – for fudgey, crumbly brownies (2 eggs for more cake-like brownies)
  • 2 T cocoa
  • 1 cup nuts – pecans, walnuts

Butter an 8×8 baking dish by taking a little softened butter and smooshing it all around the dish.  Make sure you get those corners!

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Mix the brown sugar, butter, vanilla, flour, egg and cocoa powder in a bowl.  I like to make this even easier and use a hand-held mixer. Piece of cake….err… brownie!

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The batter is really thick and grainy from the brown sugar.  If you like a cakier brownie, that extra egg will make the batter a little looser than shown here.

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Sprinkle a little flour on the nuts and stir them into the batter.  Mamoo always said this was to keep the nuts from sinking to the bottom of the dish.

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Spread the batter into the baking dish using a knife.  It’s a thick, sticky batter and the knife will help you push it out to all the edges.

Bake at 325 for 20-25 min.  You want to be able to tell that the center is set and the edges have just started to pull away from the dish.

Let cool the brownies cool in the pan but run an knife around the edge while the brownies are still a little warm to loosen edges.

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When they are cool, you should be able to flip the brownies out of the pan and cut them into squares.  If you go the one-egg route you’ll get a fudgier, crumblier brownie.  If you add the extra egg, the brownies are slightly fluffier and more cake-like, as on the right below.

Either way, it’s a tasty brownie that I always seem to have the ingredients on-hand for! Test them out and let me know what you think – are you a one-egger or two-egger?


Full Recipe

Mamoo’s Brownies

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup softened butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup flour 
  • 1 egg, beaten – for fudgey, crumbly brownies (2 eggs for more cake-like brownies)
  • 2 T cocoa
  • 1 cup nuts – pecans, walnuts

Butter an 8×8 baking dish.

Mix the brown sugar, butter, vanilla, flour, egg and cocoa powder in a bowl.

Sprinkle a little flour on the nuts and stir them into the batter.

Spread the batter into the baking dish using a knife.

Bake at 325 for 20-25 min.

Let cool in pan and run an knife around the edge while warm to loosen edges.

Cut into squares. 

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

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I’ve mentioned before that my Grandma McGee – who we so lovingly called Mamoo – would make my sister and I a special birthday dinner every year when we were at Baylor. Laura’s never-fail choice was always Swiss Steak – not a bad choice, Laura. Mine changed between a couple choices, one of them being Mamoo’s Chicken Enchiladas.

I grew up in Weslaco where there was no shortage of enchiladas that I love.  But there was something so comforting about my grandma’s take on them – no rich meat sauce, chicken instead of the usual beef or plain cheese. She always boiled leg quarters to start and I couldn’t even tell you what her go-to sides were because the enchiladas definitely had my attention.

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In this current social distancing world, I’ve modified Mamoo’s original recipe just a bit to include things we had on-hand in our kitchen. This is a perfect one to try out for any weeknight meal – give it a shot and let me know what you think! From my kitchen to yours – consider it a hug from a very safe distance 😊


Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

Let’s talk chicken.  You can use anything you like here – white meat, dark meat, tenders, a whole chicken, whatever works for you.  You can roast the chicken as I’m going to show you here, boil and pick a whole chicken or leg quarters as we have done before (see Tortilla Soup for an example), or go all-out easy and snag a rotisserie chicken from the store.  If you do start with the cooked chicken, just pick it and set the shredded meat aside.  You can then jump down to cooking the onions to start this recipe!

For our purposes here, we are using a couple chicken breasts so preheat then oven to 450.

Season the chicken on both sides with your desired seasoning and place in a baking dish or on a parchment paper-lined sheet tray.  As I noted in the ingredients list, I’m a fan of the Fiesta Brand fajita seasonings.  We’ve been known to have multiple bottles of their fajita, taco and chili lime seasonings… but they get used for sure! Use whatever you like or whatever you have on hand to give the chicken a little flavor. When all else fails, a little salt, pepper, cumin and paprika would be great!

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Roast the chicken at 450 for 10-15 min, until chicken is cooked through.  If you have a cooking thermometer handy, it should read around 155.  Take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest and cool a bit. 

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 – we’re gonna use it again later for the dish itself.

Pick or shred the chicken and set it aside.  A couple of forks always work well to shred chicken up nicely… but so do your hands!

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Saute the onions in a skillet with a little olive oil until they begin to soften, seasoning them with some salt and pepper.  You can jazz this up a little here if you like – add some bell pepper, poblano pepper, mushrooms, olives, or whatever sounds great to you in a chicken enchilada!  Mamoo’s original version typically had some green bell pepper strips added in here.

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Add about a third of the can of soup (just eyeball it, no need to be precise) and the shredded chicken to the onions. Stir it all together and cook for a few minutes until it is all warmed through and slightly thickened.  Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.

Mix the rest of the soup, sour cream and milk in a bowl.  Sometimes I add in a little extra black pepper or a shake of hot sauce here as well.

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Spread a couple tablespoons of the sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish, just to give it a little base. Set the rest of the sauce aside.

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Now, help yourself out a bit and set up a little assembly line.  We’re going to churn out some enchiladas and setting it all up in a row will make it a little easier for you!  From bottom-up we have the tortillas, the chicken mixture, the baking dish with a bottom layer of sauce, the remaining sauce and shredded cheese.

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To make the enchiladas, place a couple tablespoons of the chicken mixture in the center of a tortilla and spread it out across the middle.  Add little more chicken if you need to.  Take the bottom half of the tortilla, cover the chicken then press the chicken down and roll the tortilla up, tucking the bottom of the tortilla into the roll.

Place the roll seam-side-down in the baking dish and continue to fill and roll the rest of the tortillas.

Pour the remaining sauce across the top of the rolled tortillas and sprinkle any remaining chicken mixture across the top.  Or vice versa… I did that a little backwards this time 🤷‍♀️

Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top of the enchiladas. Go as light or heavy on the cheese as you wish!

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Bake at the enchiladas at 350 for 20-25 minutes, just until everything is warmed through.  Then broil the dish for a few minutes to brown the top of the cheese – because who doesn’t like browned cheese?!

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Let the dish sit a bit before you attempt to scoop some out on a plate – you’ll be glad you did!  Sprinkle some of that chopped cilantro on top for a little color… or skip it if you forgot you didn’t grab any on your last socially-distanced run to the grocery store.

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As pictured, these are Sadie-approved!  I’m sure Mamoo would approve as well 💕


Full Recipe

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

*If using rotisserie chicken, pick and shred the chicken, set it aside and skip the first two steps.

Season the chicken on both sides with your desired seasoning and place in a baking dish or on a parchment paper-lined sheet tray.

Roast the chicken at 450 for 10-15 min, until chicken is cooked through (reading 155 on a cooking thermometer).

Reduce oven temp to 350.

Pick or shred the chicken and set it aside.

Saute the onions in a skillet with a little olive oil until they begin to soften, season with salt and pepper.

Add about a third of the can of soup and the shredded chicken to the pan, stir and cook a few minutes until warmed through and slightly thickened, remove from heat.

Mix the rest of the soup, sour cream and milk in a bowl.

Spread a couple tablespoons of the sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish, set the rest of the sauce aside.

Place a couple tablespoons of the chicken mixture in the center of a tortilla and roll it up.

Place the tortilla seam-side-down in the baking dish and continue to fill and roll the tortillas.

Pour the remaining sauce across the top of the rolled tortillas and sprinkle any remaining chicken mixture across the top.

Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top of the enchiladas.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until everything is warmed through.

Broil for a few minutes to brown the top of the cheese.

HowdyQue Brisket Academy

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Will and I had the best time last weekend, and we have the pics to prove it 🙂

A couple of good friends of ours asked a while back if we were interested in spending a weekend with them sharing what we know about barbecue – specifically smoking briskets. There’s a certain University in the great state of Texas that offers a barbecue class every year but getting in to the class was proving to be a problem so our friends decided to take matters into their own hands.

For those of y’all that don’t know us real well, we have done several cook-offs around our area and through a mix of trial-and-error, luck and patience our Hardwood Habits team has acquired a good amount of trophies, awards and honors.  We even won Grand Champion at the Mosquito Festival in Clute back in 2013, giving us the honor of travelling to Kansas City to compete in the American Royal Invitational. We enjoy cooking, barbecuing and all that comes with it… so why not talk a little about how we do it and have a little fun along the way?

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We planned with our friends, put some information together, set a date and the HowdyQue Brisket Academy was born! (HowdyQue may have come as a nod to that aforementioned University…) Our true intention was to talk meat, seasoning, wood choices and all that comes with it, testing out different pits and equipment, taking a small detour to talk wine, whisky and scotch pairings and grilling ALL THE THINGS.

Here’s how we went about the weekend:

On Friday, we all met up just outside Sommerville, TX, pits in tow.  It was first off to pick up firewood with some discussion about what type and how much would get us through the weekend.  We then made a grocery run to pick out briskets, ribs and chicken and talk about what to look for when selecting meats for barbecue.  Back at camp, Will prepped some ribeyes for dinner and we talked meat basics.

How lucky were we to have our very own SPIRITual advisor for the weekend?!  After dinner we discussed (and sampled) attributes of wine, whisky, scotch and beer, noting potential pairings with our menu throughout the weekend.

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Saturday morning began the real work.  We trimmed briskets and ribs, seasoned them up and talked about chicken brining. We we working with one choice and three packer briskets, two racks of spare ribs, four racks of baby back ribs, three chickens, two different pits and a Green Egg smoker.  We truly wanted to note any differences between grades of meat, style of rib, wood choice and pit used.

Ribs and chicken were placed on the two pits in the afternoon.  As the meats smoked we relaxed and hatchets were thrown.  Yep, hatchets. It was awesome!

Saturday evening our goal was to have every portion of dinner somehow grilled or smoked.  I mean, let’s really do this barbecue thing!  Will started with a little oyster shucking lesson and they were so delicious a few may have been enjoyed pre-smoke.

Throughout the night we enjoyed grilled cheese (not the sandwich but a cheese called Halloumi that holds it shape and gets that wonderful grilled crunch… try it!), roasted oysters, crane poppers (have you ever had Sandhill Crane?!  You should!), ribs, chicken, smoked artichokes and smoked cabbage.  Clearly we needed more food options as this list just isn’t long enough 😉  It was a feast!

Before crashing for the night, the final lesson of the day: Brisket.  Meat was already seasoned, so a couple briskets were placed in one pit, one in another and a final on in the Green Egg.  Schedules were discussed and various BBQ-ers took shifts throughout the night to check the temperature and add logs to the fire if needed.

Sunday morning it was time to wrap the briskets up.  Smoking a brisket is truly a labor of love – but such a delicious one!

A little later in the day it was time to address burnt ends.  Who doesn’t love burnt ends?! We discussed removing the flat from the point, chunked the meat up and slathered some sauce on the brisket bites.  Back to the pit they went.

The culmination of the HowdyQue Brisket Academy was Sunday lunch.  As friends and family arrived the fruits of our labor began to make their way to the counter.  I promise, we did not lack for food this weekend!  There was so much laughter, conversation, making new friends and promises to cook more together – a promise I most definitely intend to keep.

As I said at the beginning of this post – we had a blast.  I think everyone did!  And what better seal of approval than a kid with a rib bone 😍

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Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks, Green Beans with Bacon and Onions, Caesar Salad

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It’s  Valentine’s Day!  I know it’s been a while since my last post and I promise to be back soon with new material.  But this one is just too good to not share again on this day of love 🥰  Enjoy this throwback post and let me know what your Valentine plans are this weekend!


Doesn’t Valentine’s Day always make you think of the great things you and your loved one do for each other?  Don’t the little things make your day feel big?  Indulge me a little as I think about the first Valentine’s Day Will and I spent together way back in 2010. It was the first “fancy dinner” Will ever made for me and it left a lasting impression… this guy can cook!  It definitely made me feel loved. This post is all about that first Valentine’s dinner with three recipes tucked into one post as my Valentine treat to you.

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What’s your favorite Valentine memory? I hope you enjoy one of mine and make this dinner – let me know who you make it for and how they enjoyed it!


Caesar Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 tsp balsamic or dijon mustard
  • Salt & pepper
  • ½ cup parmesan, shredded

The easiest way to mix this dressing up is in a blender or small food processor.  Simply add all the ingredients to your blender and process until smooth.  If the dressing seems a little thick, add about a tablespoon of  milk or cream at a time until you get the consistency you like best.  I must admit that we do prefer a thicker dressing.

Let me tell you about a few of the ingredients in this dressing:

First of all – don’t be scared of the anchovy paste.  It brings a salty, tangy flavor to the dressing that you can’t really replicate with anything else. We find the paste in a tube near the canned tuna in our  local grocery store.

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For the mustard, we use Turtlefly Fields Balsamic Mustard – a grainy, balsamic vinegar-based mustard.   You can also use a dijon mustard in this dressing.

Full disclosure, my sister and I started Turtlefly Fields a few years ago. We sell pickles and jellies at local craft fairs and Will gets in on the action with this Balsamic Mustard and a few other seasonings (as you will see below).  Come see us this March at Angleton Market Days!

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Finally, be sure to use a quality parmesan for this dressing.  Grate the parmesan fairly small to blend into the dressing, keeping in mind that this, along with the anchovy paste, will be your main source of salt for the  dressing.  Shave a few layers of parmesan to top your salad with as well.

The flavors of the dressing will develop as it sits so let is chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before you want to serve it.  The dressing will keep in the refrigerator up to a week.  If the dressing thickens up as it sits, loosen it up again in your blender or food processor with a little milk or cream.

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Green Beans with Bacon and Onions

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and rinsed
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled and halved
  • 4-5 strips bacon, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup raw sugar

Trim the green beans by snipping off each end – you did this with Grandma, didn’t you?!  Rinse them under cool water.

Steam the green beans until they are al dente, or still have a good bite to them.  Using my rice cooker, this typically takes about 12-15 minutes.

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This recipe calls for pearl onions, because that’s how Will made it for the that first Valentine’s Day.  To prepare the pearl onions, trim the top and bottom root areas and slit the skin of the onion down one side to easily peel off the papery skin.  Then slice the onion in half.  If you can’t find fresh pearl onions, check the freezer section – the peeling is done for you!

For this instance… we couldn’t find fresh or frozen pearl onions at our local grocery store. We went back to the produce section for the next best thing – shallots.

Saute the bacon on medium high heat until about halfway crisp.

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Add the pearl onions, or shallots, and about half the garlic.  Cook the mixture until the onions and garlic begin to carmelize.

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Add the rest of the garlic and the raw sugar.  If you don’t have raw sugar, use just a little less brown sugar.  Saute the mixture until the sugar begins to melt.

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Toss in the steamed green beans, coating with the bacon mixture. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.  Saute a few minutes until beans are as tender as you like them.

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These green beans are sooooo good and have become a staple in our menu rotation!


Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks

  • Tenderloin steaks, about 1 1/2 – 2 inches thick, trimmed
  • Steak rub or salt & pepper
  • 2 strips of bacon per steak
  • 2-3 T unsalted butter

You can adjust this recipe to as many steaks as you are cooking.  For our Valentine’s dinner… well, just two 😉

Season each side of the steaks with steak seasoning or salt and pepper. We use Turtlefly Fields Steak Rub.  Will makes this rub… and he is never giving up the recipe.  But, you can come see Turtlefly Fields at Angleton Market Days coming up in March!  We’ll sell you a jar or two!

Let the  steaks rest at room temperature for a couple of hours.

Lay a strip of bacon across a plate or cutting board, then lay another strip slightly overlapping to fit the width of the steaks.

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Season the bacon with freshly ground pepper. Wrap the sides of the steaks with the bacon, pepper side in.  Secure the bacon to the steak with a couple of toothpicks.

Line the bottom of a sheet tray with foil or parchment paper and place a rack on top. Place the bacon-wrapped steaks on the rack and bake at 275 until the steaks reach an internal temperature of 125 for medium-rare, about 45 minutes to one hour. 

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Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat and add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet. Brown the bacon around each side of the steaks.

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Add another tablespoon of butter to the skillet. Sear each the top and bottom of each steak, a couple minutes per side.  Let rest a few minutes before serving.

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Pour a glass of wine and plate up this dinner for your Valentine!  Stay tuned… my favorite dessert to cap off this nice, romantic dinner is coming up!


Full Recipe

Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks, Green Beans with Bacon and Onions, Caesar Salad

Bacon Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks

  • Tenderloin steaks, trimmed
  • Steak rub or salt & pepper
  • 2 strips of bacon per steak
  • 2-3 T unsalted butter

Season each side of the steaks with steak seasoning or salt and pepper.

Let the  steaks rest at room temperature for a couple of hours.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 275.

Lay a strip of bacon across a plate or cutting board, then lay another strip slightly overlapping to fit the width of the steaks.

Season the bacon with freshly ground pepper.

Wrap the sides of the steaks with the bacon, pepper side in.

Secure the bacon to the steak with a couple of toothpicks.

Line the bottom of a sheet tray with foil or parchment paper and place a rack on top.

Place the bacon-wrapped steaks on the rack and bake until the steaks reach an internal temperature of 125 for medium-rare, about 45 minutes to one hour.

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat.

Add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet.

Brown the bacon around each side of the steaks.

Sear each the top and bottom of each steak, a couple minutes per side.

Let rest a few minutes before serving.


Green Beans with Bacon and Onion

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and rinsed
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled and halved
  • 4-5 strips bacon, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup raw sugar

Steam the green beans until al dente, 12-15 minutes.

Over medium heat, saute the bacon until beginning to crisp, season with fresh black pepper.

Add the pearl onions and half the garlic and let the veggies begin to caramelize a few minutes.

Add the rest of the garlic and the raw sugar, tossing as the sugar begins to melt.

Toss in the steamed green beans, coating with the bacon mixture.

Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Saute a few minutes until beans are desired texture.


Caesar Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 tsp balsamic or dijon mustard
  • Salt & pepper
  • ½ cup parmesan, shredded

Blend ingredients together; adjusting seasoning as necessary.

Keep dressing stored in refrigerator, up to 1 week.

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

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Here’s a bonus sweet one for y’all!  I don’t even have a great story to go with it because this is just one of those recipes that somehow showed up in our family recipe box and has been made time and time again.  Any time I take this cake somewhere I am asked for the recipe and I hope you can see why!  It’s called a pound cake, but the special ingredient of the instant pudding mixes make the cake soooooooooooo moist and less dense than a typical pound cake.  As an added bonus, you can switch up the flavors of the cake, pudding mixes and stir-in (the chocolate chips in the original recipe) to make many different variations of this pound cake. I mean, how can you not love that?!

I think next time I’ll try Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake.  Or Vanilla Pecan.  Or Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip. Oh goodness… I may be in trouble 😉


Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

  • 1 yellow cake mix
  • 1 c water
  • ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 small instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 small instant chocolate pudding
  • 1 bag semisweet chocolate chips (about 2 cups if you are swapping for something else)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Mix everything together but the chocolate chips. Get rid of any large lumps of cake or pudding mix but it’s okay to have some small lumps in your batter.

Stir in the chocolate chips.  This batter is pretty thick, just make sure that the chips are pretty evenly mixed through.

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Bake in greased bundt pan for 1 hour.  I place the bundt pan on a cookie sheet just as a safety net… but it bakes up in the bundt pan nicely each time.

Let the cake cool a few minutes before you run a butter knife along the edge and turn it out onto a plate.  The cake is AMAZING as is… but also nice with a simple glaze or whipped cream.  We went for the glaze on this one – just a simple mix of powdered sugar with a little milk.  Play with the amounts to get the thickness of glaze you prefer but trust me, it doesn’t take much milk!  Start with just a tablespoon and work up from there.

What variation will you try?  After the classic Chocolate Chip, of course 😉

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Full Recipe

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

  • 1 yellow cake mix
  • 1 c water
  • ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 small instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 small instant chocolate pudding
  • 1 bag semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix everything together but the chocolate chips.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Bake in greased bundt pan for 1 hour.

Let cool a few minutes before turning out onto a plate.

Swiss Steak

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Growing up, my grandparents lived in Temple, Texas.  Every summer my sister, Laura, and I would take the 7 1/2 hour car ride from Weslaco to spend some extended amount of time in Temple. Sometimes we went together, sometimes we got alone time with the grandparents.  Regardless of the setup, every time we were there my Grandma McGee, or Mamoo as we lovingly called her, would make a point to cook a special meal for each of us.  Laura and I got to pick the menu for dinner one night, whatever we wanted, and Mamoo would come through.  She was an amazing cook.

I had a favorite (we’ll talk about that one later) but sometimes changed my menu up. Laura’s favorite dish, hands down, was Swiss Steak. She would ask for it every time… and I can’t blame her.  It’s a good one!

I’m gonna admit, I had to look up why it is called Swiss Steak.  Turns out, Swiss describes the meat being “swissed”, or a process called “swissing” in order to make it tender. Braising meat does this as well, but by tenderizing the steak you are giving it a chance to break down a little faster to make this an easy, manageable weeknight meal. When making this recipe, I use the cube steak already tenderized as it would be when making chicken fried steak.  Win!

I’ve got to hand it to Laura, this is a good choice.  I sometimes forget just how tasty and simple Swiss Steak is and making this for dinner brought back a flood of warm memories of Mamoo’s special dinners.

What would Mamoo make for you?


Swiss Steak

  • 1-2 lbs round steak or cube steak
  • Flour, salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, or 5-6 mini bell peppers, sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 can sliced stewed tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Oregano, basil and red pepper flakes

Heat a couple tablespoons EVOO in a large skillet over medium-high heat. 

Sprinkle a little flour, salt and pepper on both sides of each steak and then brown the steaks for a couple minutes on each side.  You’re not worried about cooking the steaks through, they are going to braise and get super tender a little later.  Don’t skip this step though – browned food is flavored food!

Remove the steaks from the pan and set aside.

In the same skillet, add the onions and peppers, adding a little more EVOO if needed. Saute the onions and peppers 2-3 minutes until the begin to soften.

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Add garlic and saute a few more minutes.

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Deglaze the pan with the red wine.  So remember that “deglaze” just means “pour some liquid in the hot pan and gently scrape all the delicious browned bits off the bottom”.  Very technical term.

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Remember how we always say to cook with wine you would drink in a glass?  I went all out on this one, using a bottle from one of my very favorite wineries – J Vineyards.  Check them out if you travel to California Wine Country!  They have a fabulous wine and cheese tasting option at the winery.

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Add the steaks back in, then the stewed tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Many times when using stewed tomatoes the recipe suggested mashing or tearing up the tomatoes.  In this case, I like to leave them sliced. I am notorious for grabbing the not-quite-right version of a grocery list item, like getting a can of whole tomatoes instead of sliced, or the chunky peanut butter that’s right next to the creamy.  If you have a can of whole tomatoes on hand, use them!  Just don’t break them down too much – the chunks of tomatoes get nice and sweet as they braise. 

Add a couple tablespoons Worcestershire sauce and taste, adding more if desired.

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Stir in a couple teaspoons of basil and oregano and red pepper flakes as desired.  Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.  If the gravy seems a little thick, or is not covering the steaks and veggies, add a little water.

Cover and let the pan simmer until the meat is tender, about 45-60 minutes.  

Serve over rice or mashed potatoes.

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What do you think, Laura?  I’m pretty sure Mamoo would be proud 😉


Full Recipe

Swiss Steak

  • 1-2 lbs round steak or cube steak
  • Flour, salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, or 5-6 mini bell peppers, sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 can sliced stewed tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Oregano, basil and red pepper flakes

Heat a couple tablespoons EVOO in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Sprinkle a little flour, salt and pepper on both sides of each steak.

Brown the steaks for a couple minutes on each side.

Remove the steaks from the pan and set aside.

In the same skillet, add the onions and peppers, adding a little more EVOO if needed.

Saute the onions and peppers 2-3 minutes until the begin to soften.

Add garlic and saute a few more minutes.

Deglaze the pan with the red wine.

Add the steaks back in, then the stewed tomatoes and tomato sauce.

Add a couple tablespoons Worcestershire sauce and taste, adding more if desired.

Stir in a couple teaspoons of basil and oregano and red pepper flakes as desired.

Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.

If the gravy seems a little thick, or is not covering the steaks and veggies, add a little water.  

Cover and let simmer until the meat is tender, about 45-60 minutes.  

Serve over rice or mashed potatoes.

Cilantro Lime Chicken and Rice

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This dish has quickly become one of my favorite easy summer dinners.  Who doesn’t love a one-pan-wonder?!  As a bonus, this dish can easily be a vegetarian option or a side dish by omitting the chicken and using veggie stock in place of the chicken broth.

What are some of your favorite summer dinners?  Leave me a comment with your thoughts!


Cilantro Lime Chicken and Rice

  • 1 pound chicken, cubed (omit for vegetarian, side dish)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 15 oz can black beans , rinsed & drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • 2 T lime juice , freshly squeezed

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large saucepan, saute the chicken in EVOO over medium heat until browned.

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Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

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If you are going for the vegetarian or side dish options, start here!  It helps if you have a couple serious sous chefs to prep for you 😉

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In the same pan, add more EVOO if necessary and add the garlic. Saute the garlic for a couple minutes, just so it starts to toast a bit. Add the rice and do the same, stirring it around and toasting it a bit.  Look at the grains, when the outside “coat” starts to become more transparent and you can see the inner germ a bit, you are good to go!  I use this same method when making Spanish rice, it just preps the rice a bit and gives it just a bit more of a nutty flavor.

Stir in the chicken/veggie broth and bring to a boil.

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Reduce the heat, cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the rice is cooked through.

Remove the skillet from heat and toss in the chicken (if using), black beans, cilantro and lime juice.

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Taste, adding more salt/lime juice as needed, and serve!

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Try this one out this summer – I promise it will make your menu rotation!


Full Recipe

Cilantro Lime Chicken and Rice

  • 1 pound chicken, cubed (omit for vegetarian, side dish)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 15 oz can black beans , rinsed & drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • 2 T lime juice , freshly squeezed

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

In a large saucepan, saute the chicken in EVOO over medium heat until browned.

Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, add more EVOO if necessary and add the garlic.

Saute 1-2 minutes.

Add the rice and toast for a couple minutes.

Stir in the chicken broth and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat, cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the rice is cooked through.

Remove the skillet from heat.

Toss in the chicken, black beans, cilantro and lime juice.

Taste, adding more salt/lime juice as needed, and serve!

Chicken in Lime-Mustard Sauce

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Raise your hand if you are in the midst of a very busy May! 🙋

This recipe is one of my absolute favorite go-to dinners when things are rushed and there’s not a lot of time to stand in the kitchen making dinner. It’s a simple, one-pan entree that works for weeknights but, let me tell you, that lime-mustard pan sauce is so silky and delicious that it stands up for an impressive invite-some-company-over meal just as well.

Try this classic chicken dish out soon and let me know what you think!


Chicken in Lime-Mustard Sauce

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, or thin-sliced chicken breasts
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp EVOO
  • ¾ cup chicken broth
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 3 T lime juice, divided
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 T water
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 T butter

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. I did say this recipe was quick and easy, right?  Here’s how I make it even more so: I used store bought thin-sliced chicken breasts to start.  Chicken tenders also work great in this recipe!

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.

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Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and  cook about 4 minutes on each side, or until browned.

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Remove the chicken from the pan; keep warm.

Look at all that delicious flavor left in the pan!  Get ready to use that!

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Add the chicken broth, sugar, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and mustard to pan.  Whisk the sauce over medium heat, lightly scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen those tasty browned bits.

Whisk the water and cornstarch together in a small bowl.  Add the cornstarch mixture to pan; whisking well into the pan sauce.

Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Continue to whisk and cook 1 minute or until sauce thickens slightly. The chicken will be placed back in the pan sauce at the so you just want it to be just thick enough to hang on and coat the chicken nicely.

Whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice and butter, stirring until butter melts.  Don’t skip out on that little pat of butter – it’s what gives the pan sauce its silky sheen.  Check the seasoning of the sauce, adding lime juice, salt or pepper as desired.

Return the chicken to the pan, turning the chicken to coat it in the sauce. Simmer just a couple of minutes more, or until chicken is thoroughly heated.

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That’s it! I think you’ll truly love this easy weeknight meal.  What’s one of your go-to weeknight dinners?

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Full Recipe

Chicken in Lime-Mustard Sauce

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, or thin-sliced chicken breasts
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp EVOO
  • ¾ cup chicken broth
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 3 T lime juice, divided
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 T water
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 T butter

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. (Skip if using thin-sliced chicken breasts)

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add chicken; cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned.

Remove from pan; keep warm.

Add chicken broth, sugar, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and mustard to pan.

Whisk over medium heat, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.

Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl.

Add cornstarch mixture to pan; stir well with a whisk.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook 1 minute or until sauce thickens slightly.

Whisk in remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice and butter, stirring until butter melts.

Return chicken to pan; simmer 2 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly heated.

Slow Cooker Meatballs in Red Sauce (aka Meatball Subs)

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Dad jokes.  They are a staple in my life.

My dad is one of the punniest guys around.  You know the jokes – “I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger.  Then it hit me.” or “Have you ever tried to eat a clock?  It’s very time consuming.”.  (insert eye roll followed by a little giggle)  Any member of the Weslaco youth group during the 80’s or 90’s that travelled in the church van with my dad would most likely remember the pun that follows him pointing to a round bale of hay.

Before my husband calls me out I must admit – I get my humor from my dad. Texting between the two of us generally consists of memes, jokes and snapshots of the best church signs around town. You could say we have a punstoppable bond.

I know.  Groan.

I recently made this dish for my dad when he came into town.  I don’t want to brag… but he did say it was “the best meatball sub he’d had all day” (insert eye roll followed by a little giggle) ♥


Meatball Subs

  • 1 ½ lbs ground beef, or combo of beef/pork
  • 1 ¼ cups bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 jar (28 oz) tomato and basil pasta sauce
  • 1 (15 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • Sub rolls
  • Parmesan, provolone cheese for topping

This one couldn’t be more simple, y’all.

In a large bowl, mix the ground beef/pork, bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, onion and egg.  I prefer the mixture of ground beef and pork when making meatballs, as you can see I chose here.  Save the all-beef for meatloaf 😉

Shape the mixture into golf ball-sized meatballs.  I just eyeball the measuring part here, but I end up with somewhere around 2 dozen meatballs.

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In the bowl of a slow cooker, mix the pasta sauce, crushed tomatoes, and tomato sauce.  You can use any ‘flavor’ of pasta sauce here, whatever you have on hand.

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Side note: Sadie is ever-so hopeful.  At least she has that “kitchen spot” down!

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Place the meatballs into the sauce mixture.  You may have to stack them up a little, just try to wiggle all the meatballs down into the sauce a bit.  You can always give them a stir about halfway through cooking to move them around in the sauce.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Serve the meatballs up on the sub rolls according to your preference.  I detest soggy bread so my favorite method is to hollow out the sub roll a bit, place a few meatballs on top, cover with provolone cheese and broil it a bit.  I then serve it with a side of extra sauce for dipping.   

However you serve it up, these meatballs are an easy, delicious addition to your dinner rotation!

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Full Recipe

Slow Cooker Meatballs in Red Sauce

aka Meatball Subs

  • 1 ½ lbs ground beef, or combo of beef/pork
  • 1 ¼ cups bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 jar (28 oz) tomato and basil pasta sauce
  • 1 (15 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • Sub rolls
  • Parmesan, provolone cheese for topping

In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, onion and egg.

Shape the mixture into golf ball-sized meatballs.

In a slow cooker, mix the pasta sauce, crushed tomatoes, and tomato sauce.

Place the meatballs into the sauce mixture.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Serve on sub rolls, topped with with cheese.

Mojito Pie

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It’s been a gorgeous couple of days over here.  The rain has given us a break, the sun is peeping out and the temperatures are climbing back to that comfortable level I appreciate. It’s that little taste of the warm days to come that has me craving something “summer”.  We’ll just ignore the showers of pollen that have all our cars a strange tint of yellow and focus on the sunshine part, yes?

To me, summer means simple, clean, fresh flavors.  Something to cool you off when the temperatures rise. That’s Mojito Pie all day long!  This is a super simple recipe that can be made even quicker with the help of a couple store-bought ingredients.  Whichever route you take, try this frozen pie out for a tasty call to summer evenings.

What flavors make you start thinking of the long, warm days of summer?


Mojito Pie

  • 1 c graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ½ tsp kosher salt

Quick method:  replace the above ingredients with 1 prepared graham cracker crust 

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • zest and juice from 1 large lime
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp sugar

Quick method:  replace the whipping cream and sugar with 2 cups thawed whipped topping, divided

  • 1 T rum, light or dark, optional

Let’s start with that crust.

Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, butter and salt until the entire mix is moist and crumbly.  Press the crumb mix onto the bottom of plastic wrap-lined 9-inch round pan.  That plastic wrap is going to help you pull the frozen pie out of the pan for serving later.  Pop the crust into the freezer to set a bit while you mix up the filling.

For that quick method: remove the packaging from graham cracker crust, saving the lid. I said quick, yes? 🙂

I went quick on this one!

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If you want something just a tad different, crushed pretzel pieces can replace the graham cracker crumbs in the filling.  You may consider in this case omitting the 1/2 tsp kosher salt if your pretzels are salted to start.  Crush the pretzels up pretty fine before mixing with the melted butter or you may have some difficulty getting the crust pressed and holding in the pan.

Now the filling. Beat the softened cream cheese, sugar, lime zest, juice and mint in medium bowl with a mixer until well blended.

Whisk in the rum, if desired.  You can use white or dark rum, both work equally well in the pie.  I may just shy away from any spiced rum varieties as to not take over the classic lime and mint we’ve got working.  Will’s a fan of dark rum, that’s what we typically have on hand, so I grabbed this one from our bar to add in. The rum adds a little flavor but if you aren’t feeling it, or serving this pie in company that includes children, simply skip this step.  You’ll still enjoy the lime & mint combo of a classic mojito drink!

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Whisk the heavy cream and sugar together until stiff peaks form.  Or, for the quick method, grab the prepared whipped topping. Whisk 1 ½ cups whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture.  We’re hanging on to that other 1/2 cup of topping for, well, a topping later!

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Spoon the pie filling over the chilled crust, smoothing it out to all the edges. I like to decorate a pie with what’s in the pie as a little heads up, so I used some extra lime slices and mint, pressing them gently into the filling so they will set.

Cover and freeze the pie at least 4 hours, or until firm. 

For serving, use the plastic wrap to help you remove the pie from the pan.  Run a knife under hot water to help slice into the frozen pie a little easier.  Serve the Mojito Pie topped with the remaining whipped topping and maybe another sprig of mint or some fresh lime zest just for fun.

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Can’t you just hear summer calling?


Full Recipe

Mojito Pie

  • 1 c graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ½ tsp kosher salt

Quick method: replace the above ingredients with 1 prepared graham cracker crust 

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • zest and juice from 1 large lime
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp sugar

Quick method: replace the whipping cream and sugar with 2 cups thawed whipped topping, divided

  • 1 T rum, light or dark, optional

For the crust:

Mix graham cracker crumbs, butter and salt.

Press onto bottom of plastic wrap-lined 9-inch round pan.

Freeze until ready to use.

*Quick method: remove packaging from graham cracker crust, saving the lid.

For the pie filling:

Beat cream cheese, sugar, lime zest, juice and mint in medium bowl with mixer until blended.

Whisk in rum, if using.

Whisk heavy cream and sugar together until stiff peaks form.

Whisk 1 ½ cups whipped topping into cream cheese mixture.

*Quick method – whisk in 1 1/2 cups of prepared whipped topping

Spoon pie filling over crust.

Cover and freeze 4 hours, or until firm.

Serve topped with remaining whipped topping.