Oklahoma is the place to be – enchilada style!

It has been a while since I last visited Oklahoma but oh how I love this southwestern state. Several years ago, my family was headed out for a family vacation out west. Cue: National Lampoons Vacation theme song. I had just turned 16 and had my permit. My dad let me drive several hours from Weatherford, Oklahoma to Santa Fe, New Mexico, our final destination. I was thrilled to drive plus I went through three states. The landscape was so vast and so different than the Kentucky and Tennessee landscape. I immediately feel in love with the long distance views, sage brush, and cattle ranches. I went back to Oklahoma City ten years lafter my first excursion to the southwest and took a group of students to a national competition. The city was vast and expansive compared to my earlier memories as a 16 year old. Isn’t it funny looking back at our perceptions of life compared to now? I am so curious how my 60 year old self will see this 40 year old.

While in Oklahoma, I made sure we tried the best of the best in the city. We went to museums and stockyards. We tried amazing steak houses, wild game, and some of the best enchiladas to this day.

Being a young teacher, competing in a national competition had my nerves going everywhere. We asked our hotel attendant where we could find the best Tex-Mex food near our hotel. Without hesitation, she told us of a small local restaurant that was once a home. We pulled into the gravel lot in the back of the house unsure if we were in the right place. Several folks were already there at 5 pm for supper which made me feel better. We sat down at mix-matched tables and chairs which by today’s standard is eclectic. However, in 2005, this was unique to say the least. The menu was a two sided sheet of paper and I ordered the house special, enchiladas. They were baked and stuffed to the brim with chorizo, onions, beans, cheese, and a homemade enchilada sauce. You know that feeling when you first bite into something delicious and you know that you just lost all internal control to stop eating. Well, I ate way too much and asked our waitress for the recipe of the enchilada sauce. When she brought it out to me, I had no clue how easy it was to make your own sauce instead of buying can. If you have these ingredients pictured below, you can make it at home.

It by far changed how I approached cooking sauces. I assumed it was so much easier to just by the can already done but most sauces are this simple.

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

1 can of tomato sauce

3 Tbsp of chili powder

2 Tbsp of cumin powder

1 Tbsp of garlic powder

1 Tbsp of oregano

Mix all ingredients on the stove top and bring to a boil, reduce and simmer. You can even do this in the microwave if you are running behind on time. One other tip – if you like your sauce to be thicker, you can add a bit of flour to thicken it up while cooking. We like ours thin.

Enchiladas

I double this batch to make an extra one to put in the freezer

You will need a 9 x 13 pan and preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

1 lb of ground chorizo, pork, beef, or turkey (we like ground chorizo)

1 can, drained kidney beans (you can use black beans if you prefer)

1 red onion sliced

1 Tbsp of minced garlic

1 Tbsp of chili powder

1 Tbsp of cumin

1 tsp of oregano

1 Tbsp of fresh chopped cilantro (reserve some for garnish)

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

2 cups of shredded Monterey Jack and Cheddar Cheese

10″ Tortillas

1 Tbsp olive oil

Start by spraying your 9 x 13 pan with a non-stick spray, pour enough enchilada sauce to barely cover the bottom of the pan. Next, put oil in your skillet and cook ground chorizo, garlic and onion together until done. Drain and place in a bowl. Add your beans. Add remaining seasoning. Add 1/2 cup of cheese and mix all ingredients together.

Get your assembly line ready, 9 x 13 pan, sauce, meat mix, and tortillas. Take the tortillas and add approximately 1/3 to 1/2 cup of meat mixture into the shell. Fold then two ends and then roll the sides together to create a pocket style tortilla. Repeat till you have filled the entire pan with the enchiladas. I do not stack them but instead line them up side by side. Next, add more enchilada sauce to cover the tortillas, sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Serve with guacamole and blue corn tortillas

Freezer Enchiladas

Take the remaining meat mixture and sauce, in a 9 x 13 freezer safe pan, coat with non-stick cooking spray, add enough sauce to layer the bottom of the pan. Next, layer two shells, add meat mixture, top with cheese, shells, more sauce and repeat until you have used the meat mixture. The top layer should be tortillas, sauce and cheese. Wrap in aluminum foil tightly. I always write the date, and instructions for this wonderful freezer meal.

Oklahoma is the place to be….and if you can’t be in Oklahoma bring a taste of Oklahoma to you. I hope you enjoy these enchiladas!

M.I.C.K.E.Y. M.O.U.S.E. Mickey Mouse!!!!

Magic Kingdom, December 2011

There is truly no place in the world like Disney World! It does not matter your age, the magic is alive in the characters, food, cast members (employees), and the ambience of the parks. My first trip was after I completed my qualifying exams for my doctorate. Yes, I was an adult in my thirties, the first time I experienced the magic and it was like my birthday and Christmas rolled into one. We had no kids at that time but that did not stop us. I wanted to plan every detail to literally make up for the 30+ years of never going to the happiest place on earth. My former, associate director is a Disney Vacation Club member. He and his wife are master’s at all things Disney related. James sat me down and we literally mapped out all four parks with time schedules and our dining reservations. I was so thrilled to know the ins and outs of the fast pass, dining reservations, park hopper, getting to the park early with breakfast reservations, safari tips, and just how to navigate with the Disney World App. They were lifesavers and continue to train this young Padawan to this very day. Did you catch that? Star Wars is another post for another day, promise. As a type A personality, this was my organizing mind’s grace.

Wow, we look so young! It is amazing to look back on these pictures and truly see the magic. We arrived at 9pm to Disney’s All Star Movies resort. We wanted to stay on property to make the most of the experience, extra magic hours, shopping, etc. Did you know if you find something at one of the shops and you are staying on property, you can just have them send it to your room??? Yes, so worth it no carrying or lugging around all those bags!!! Now that I am celebrating the beautiful decade of the 40’s, I appreciate less stress and less carrying a ton of junk around. My back and shoulders thank me too. I have two kids remember. So back to the magic, we woke up and arrived at Epcot. We stayed there for the majority of the day, cruising with living on the land (as an agriculture gal – this hit the sweet spot) then walking through the world showcase is every travel lover’s dream. 11 countries in walking distance – ha. In Norway, they have school bread. It was a snack with our dining plan and I wanted to steal my husband’s snack for the day to grab another. Highly recommend the school bread in Norway. We loved every minute and stayed late at the park to see the firework display.

We arrived back to the hotel at midnight or so, set our alarms, laid out our clothes, got our 5 hour energy drinks ready for the morning, and crashed for a few hours. From seeing the beauty and garden areas at Epcot to waking up and adventuring in Hollywood Studios, we were making the most of our 4 night, 5 day trip. Toy Story Mania and Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios did not disappoint. As you can tell, Jamie is the fierce competitor and takes it very seriously. I on the other hand, loved being in the moment and did not want to slow down. So naturally he won that round of Mania. We work so hard in our careers and education and now we were getting to play hard. Hollywood Studios Brown Derby Restaurant for lunch was sheer perfection. We had previously went to Le Cellier in Canada’s world showcase at Epcot and devoured the steak and pretzel bread. Both places had phenomenal food and with free dining, you simply could not beat it. At the Brown Derby, they had a special (you know I love specials, coupons, clearance sales -any and all of the above). By selecting the pre-fixe menu option, you got two tickets to Fantasmic. We immediately said yes and could not have been more pleased. A wonderful show on the water was the cherry on the top of another great day at the park.

Back at our room, we have this cool towel artwork that makes coming home and putting up your feet extra special. We stayed at the value resorts for two reasons: money and we were never there except to shower and sleep. The rooms are great and have everything you could need for the 5-8 hours of sleep that we got in there. As I have gotten older, kids, I can see the lure of being closer to the parks to come back for quick naps. However, our kids were bosses this past March and we stayed at All Star Movies again. We were at Magic Kingdom when it opened and they had to tell my kids no more rides in the evening around 10pm. Our youngest napped in our arms during the It’s a Small World line and ride and then was powered up and ready to go. So the value resorts worked for us.

One of the things I loved the most about my first trip was the little touches, the pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse, the characters visiting every table, the flowers and gardens, and the Ghirardelli chocolate mints on your pillow. Everything was so special and the details made it truly magical. As this is my birthday week, I wanted to celebrate by bringing back that first magical experience at Disney World. I love celebrating life in general and all things that bring me joy. My family, cheesecake, pancakes, booking a new trip -oh-lala, reading, sowing (latest adventure), cooking, etc. This is how I celebrate the anniversary of my birth. I love this time of year. It reminds me of how blessed I am to have another year. It took me a while to truly appreciate my birthday. In September of 2001, I had my first job teaching, my first apartment, and my first time truly adulting. I was so excited to celebrate, I planned to make a cake and eat chicken lasagna. The only real problem was that my family and Jamie were a few hours away on the actual day. On my birthday, no one at the school said happy birthday to me. I had not shared that it was my birthday and I guess somewhere inside I thought they would telepathically figure it out??? So I was a bit bummed. Of course I got the phone calls from my loved ones but this was the first time in my life that I truly celebrated my birthday alone. I sat at my kitchen table looking out the window feeling sorry for myself. It had been an emotional week, our country faced the largest terroristic attack in history. Over 3000 people lost their lives and at that time, we did not know if there would be more. And here I was, sitting down eating a meal and feeling sorry for myself. What a stupid thing to feel when I had not told anyone. I was the reason no one in my new town knew about this day. It was on me and I owned it. I made a promise that from that moment on I would celebrate life. For the past 18 years, I have had birthday month, week, and of course, day celebrations. I embrace the beauty of life and hope that my enthusiasm is contagious. So this week, I thought I would bring back the magic for my family and make Mickey Mouse pancakes for supper. I just love having breakfast food for supper. There is something special about it and I can’t quite put my finger on it. For my birthday, I enabled one of my special helpers which added a little extra sweetness.

Naturally, I have one child who loves pancakes as much as I do and one that thinks it is too sweet. Therefore, I have to make two different batters. I am not reinventing the wheel nor am I cooking from scratch. I like to cook from scratch when I have the time but on a Monday night, lets just be real. Get it done, working mom. Krusteaz brand has the best, fluffiest pancake mix around. You can add a tablespoon of lemon juice and a dash of vanilla to give you more of a buttermilk flavor but last night was straightforward by the bag. My daughter loves to cook, stir, and get the batter ready while I prepped the other one. The peanut butter protein packed, Kodiak Cakes brand mix hits the spot with the hubby and older daughter. They are both protein eaters and love all things peanut butter. I always add more milk than required just to thin the batter out for making Mickey Mouse pancakes with the protein flapjack mix.

I have had folks ask me, how in the world do you make these into Mickey Mouse shapes without a mold. Well first, molds are always sticky, hard to clean, and typically a pain for me. I am old school, so take a 1/3 measuring cup. Fill it up. Pour; then immediately go back and fill it up halfway, Drop the batter in the upper left-hand portion of the circle to create an ear and repeat with the other side. It is literally that simply. Sometimes my Pinterest approach is an utter failure. I have come out numerous times with Olaf shaped pancakes instead. See, it is all a matter of perspective. Enjoy and have fun with it after-all, it is my birthday week.

Breakfast for Dinner while watching Frozen – nothing better on the Eve’s eve of my birthday.

This particular posts did not have my usual recipes nor creative food aspects, but it carried magic nonetheless. I truly hope you enjoy the simple comforts of good food, good memories, and a little M.I.C.K.E.Y M.O.U.S.E. on this day.

XOXO Kristie

Ireland, I am coming home

County Kerry

For our tenth anniversary, we traveled to Ireland and did a CIE tour. As a little girl, I was fascinated with Ireland. I had posters of Ireland scattered across my walls. I am not sure where the fascination came from but my love of green, the accents or the movie Circle of Friends, were the key ingredients. I knew my maternal grandmother was a Dunn and came from Ireland. She died of cancer when my mom was 12. When I turned 9, my mom gave me her class ring. She graduated high school in 1944 and I have worn her ring on my right hand since I was nine.

Johnnie Elizabeth Dunn and James Hoyt Meredith’s wedding photo

When Jamie and I started dating, I told him how I saved changed for years to fund my travels. Ireland was the icing on the cake for me, so for our tenth anniversary we booked a southern Ireland tour in November. The 10 day trip was nothing short of amazing and life changing. Have you ever gone to a brand new place and yet it felt familiar as if you had been there before? Well Ireland was like seeing the new and the old, watching pieces of the quilt bind together from childhood dreams to reality. We started in Dublin. We flew in a day early to explore. We soon realized that was a brilliant idea as we watched others came in the day of the trip.

We were just down from Phoenix park, so we grabbed a quick breakfast and headed to the park. It was lovely even in November. We explored the park, went to Jameson’s distillery and Jamie volunteered, uhm begged, to be a taste tester. We walked for what seemed like miles trying to find the entrance to the Guinness factory. They have 60 kilometers fenced in the city. It took us a while to find the main tourist entrance. We drank and we ate. The first night we had, leg of lamb with roast potatoes and carrots. We were tired and worn out from touring and walking but the mouthwatering lamb was just what I had envisioned for my first sit down meal in Ireland.

We travel down the coast to Waterford, Cork and onto Kerry. From there we traveled over the river Shannon into County Mayo. We visited the house and town where the movie The Quiet Man, with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. If you haven’t watched this movie, you should. We stayed in Galway and had the best Thai food, crazy right? Then made our way back to yet another distillery, Tullamore Dew before heading back to Dublin. We kissed the Blarney Stone, walked the Cliffs of Moor, saw dolphins in the river Shannon, and touched the Emerald Isle. If you have yet to go, here area few pictures from our trip.

When we have a rare night to ourselves, I like to relive our favorite stops. Ireland is always on our mind so I pop in The Quiet Man dvd, grab the dutch oven, and make leg of lamb with roast carrots and potatoes. With a glass of Jameson, ginger ale, and a twist of lime, we are back to our first night and our first meal in Dublin.

Hope you enjoy!

2 tbsp of olive oil

1 4lb boneless leg of lamb

3-4 medium potatoes – cubed

1 cup of carrots – diced or use the chips and no cutting

1/2 cup of diced celery

1 medium onion diced

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

2 cloves of garlic

1 tbps of Thyme or 1 fresh spring of Thyme

1 cup of Red Wine/Pinot Noir

1 cup of water or enough to fill the dutch oven half way

Salt and Pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

In your dutch oven, pour the oil in the pot and turn heat on high. Take your boneless leg of lamb (leave the strings on to hold it together) and coat with salt, pepper, one clove of garlic, thyme, and a bit of the rosemary.

When the dutch oven is hot, place the leg of lamb fat side down and cook to sear the meat. Flip the lamb over to sear the other side. Once it has been seared on both sides, add the potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, rosemary and the remaining garlic and thyme. Add the cup of red wine and water to reach half way in the dutch oven.

Now, place your lid on your dutch oven and place in the oven. The rule of thumb is 15 -18 minutes per pound of meat. I cooked this leg of lamb for 1:10 minutes.

Once you check the temperature of 130 degrees, allow the leg to rest for a least five minutes prior to slicing. I roasted some asparagus as well to accompany our meal.

Hope you enjoy a little taste of Ireland.

Just 50…no big deal

50 posts, 50 places, and 50 foods from around the globe to your table!

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

Did you know Theodor Suess Geisel was dared to write a children’s book with only 50 words! Well, instead of looking at this as an impossible challenge, a hurtle that could not be matched, or simply giving up; he created the masterpiece, Green Eggs and Ham. As a child, I devoured those 50 words over and over again. In fact, I checked out that book from the library so often that my parents started calling me Sam. My children each have their very own Green Eggs and Ham book. I wrote a note of encouragement in each of their books. I want my girls to always see the possibilities in life, to never let the constraints of life get in the way of exploring this beautiful world and to always try green eggs and ham xoxox Mom (aka your biggest cheerleader). This blog was a dare, a challenge to myself to take my passion for trying new foods, traveling to new places, and bringing those experiences home while creating a space for people to join me on this amazing journey of life. As my good friend Sam said, “Would you, could you, why YES I CAN…” Thanks for traveling along with me. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates. ~ Kristie

I am Sam, Sam I am

I am a mom, wife, and a professor but that’s not all. I am a dreamer, a Dr. Suess fan, a traveling enthusiast, and a passionate, novice cook. I love to explore new cultures and bring those experiences home with me one plate at a time.

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess

I have been so blessed in my life to travel in fact, it is a priority in our house. Growing up, my family went to the same city year after year for vacation. We were not wealthy but my family made it a priority to have a vacation once a year even if it was for the weekend. We would load up the old Ford Escort with packed lunches and drive the 5 hours to the Great Smoky Mountains. I was notorious for asking the awful question, “Are we there yet?” I loved going there each year. The mountains are beautiful and tranquil early in the morning. My dad and I would always get up early and take a stroll to the Donut Friar and bring back the goodies for my mom and brother. But, not before indulging in a donut first.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park

I have often wondered where my travel lust came from? I would first say from the mountains themselves and then others introduced me to new places through their eyes. My great aunt had a winter home in Vero Beach, Florida and I would day dream of going and visiting her while swimming in great Atlantic. I loved going on vacations and trying new foods. In fact, it was a mission of mine when I first went to Hollywood Beach, Florida and Freeport, Bahamas with the marching band. I was determined that I would not eat anything I could get in western Kentucky. From gator bites to shrimp cocktail, I was living the dream.

Apple Butter, recipe from Mrs. Irene

My love for cooking did not come from my mom, love her but she is not a cook. My surrogate grandmothers, aka great aunts, were phenomenal cooks. They created masterpieces that I craved each and every holiday. I have their recipes written in their own handwriting and cherish those recipes more than any monetary gift they could have ever given me. From chocolate cake from scratch from my beloved Aunt Georgia, to the holly balls from Aunt Ruth, to the fried apple pies from Deane, these recipes are cherished, loved but most importantly shared each and every holiday with my girls. You see, food is my expression of love. They poured love into their creations and shared those with me. Teaching me how to make an amazing hamburger in a cast iron skillet and how to make mouthwatering fried chicken. As I mentioned earlier, we did not have a lot of money. Birthdays and Christmas were tough on my parents. They wanted so bad to buy us the world and yet couldn’t. So my love for the one holiday that did not involve gifts was Thanksgiving. It was all about the food.

My Aunt Georgia, but she made me call her grandmother

As I began to travel, try new things, I wanted to bring those things home with me. I would recreate locra de papa sopa from Ecuador, shrimp omelets from Cozumel, cottage pie from Ireland, mushy peas from England, sausages from Germany, wonton soup from China, and beans and rice from Costa Rica and Belize. Bringing those precious memories home and recreating them, brought back memories that continue to last and are shared with my family.

Chinese food – Ginger Minced Chicken Rice bowl

So, I dared myself to create a space for me to share my travels, food, and cooking with others. I hope you enjoy! ~Kristie

The Great Wall of China, 2016