Everyday Mom's Meals: August 2020

Sunday, August 30, 2020

No Tomatoes? No Problem!

 A few weeks ago, I shared my Copycat Chili's Queso with you, and today, we are rounding out the perfect Chili's experience with a tasty make at home version of their salsa. 

I could literally drink Chili's salsa with a straw, so I am super excited to be able to have it in my own kitchen any time I want, without having to order take out!

You want to know the biggest recipe I love salsa recipes like this so much? The use of canned tomatoes. My go-to Restaurant Style Salsa recipe is the same way, and it is always a hit no matter what time of year I serve it. 

I know so many of you are enjoying your summer garden's bounty of tomatoes, but some of us aren't as lucky. Okay, so Max actually did grow a couple of tomato plants in pots this summer, and is oh so proud every time one ripens, but they are tiny, and few and far between. (We won't tell him though. Mommy is always super excited when he brings me one!) It would just take a ton to make a batch of salsa. 

But the beauty of this recipe is with canned tomatoes, you aren't at the mercy of mother nature, and you can whip it up for any Mexican night supper, even if the snow is falling! (Shudder...I don't even want to think about that yet!) 

I actually learned years ago many restaurants use canned tomatoes for their salsa, and ever since, it has become easier and easier to recreate their recipes at home. Thank goodness too, because I am a chips and salsa fanatic, and have passed that addiction onto both of my sons.

 The biggest difference in flavor in this one from others is the addition of cumin. That little hint of smokiness really sets it apart from not only other restaurant recipes, but my own. 

With the Labor Day holiday weekend coming up, and football/tailgating season (no matter how different it might look) just around the corner, this is sure to become a favorite in your house too!

 Copycat Chili's Salsa

1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes with chilies, with juice

1 (14.5 oz.) can whole tomatoes, with juice

1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped

1/2 jalapeno pepper, coarsely chopped 

1 tsp. garlic salt

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/4 tsp. sugar

Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse until well combined. Stir, checking for large pieces. Pulse again. Transfer to a bowl. Chill, covered, for at least 4 hours before serving. Serve with limes if desired.



Sunday, August 23, 2020

Don't Let The Name Scare You

 When I told my boys I was making this recipe, I got some weird looks, to say the least! Frog Eye Salad? They really thought mom had lost her mind, and were very relieved to learn no actual frogs were harmed in the making of this dish! 

By now all of you know I have enough fluff salad recipes we could eat them all summer long, and maybe never repeat! From classic and retro ones like Ambrosia to new and fun creations like my Cookies & Cream Fluff, we love them all! 

This would definitely fall into the retro category, and I bet if you asked your parents, or grandparents, they remember if fondly from back in the day. I know my dad certainly did! 

There is nothing to be scared of, the little round bits that give it such a fun/unique name are simply small pasta. Acini de Pepe pasta to be exact. You can find it in the same aisle as all the other dry pasta, usually in a small box on a top shelf. 

I will be honest, when first heard about this salad, I though the "eyes" were actually tapioca. So I was a little shocked to learn it is made with pasta. Pasta, in a sweet , creamy dessert? Might sound strange, but I promise it works! 

In these crazy times we find ourselves, sometimes going back in time with retro recipes can be comforting. Plus, if you tell the kids their dessert has "frog eyes" in it, they might be even more inclined to eat it. Let's face it, kids love gross things. 

If you're still planning your Labor Day Cookout menu, save room for this! I promise you will hear "Oh, my grandma used to make this" more times than you can count!

 Frog Eye Salad

1 c. Acini de Pepe Pasta

1 (8 oz.) tub Cool Whip

1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained

1 (20 oz.) can pineapple tidbits, juice reserved

2 (11 oz.) cans mandarin oranges, drained

3/4 c. sweetened shredded coconut

1 c. pineapple juice, from canned pineapple

1/2 c. sugar

1 TBS flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1 egg, beaten

1/2 TBS lemon juice

1 (10 oz.) bag mini marshmallows

 Cook pasta according to pasta directions. Rinse with cold water and drain well. Let pasta cool while preparing rest of recipe. In a medium saucepan, over medium high heat, combine pineapple juice, sugar, flour, salt and egg. Cook and stir constantly until mixture is smooth and thickens. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Let cool.When pasta and sauce mixture are cool, mix together in a large bowl. Add pineapple tidbits, crushed pineapple and oranges, marshmallows and coconut. Mix well. Fold in Cool Whip. Chill until ready to serve, several hours. 


Shared at Weekend Potluck

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Back To School in 2020

No matter how your back to school routine looks this year, one thing remains the same. Days are about to be busier, more hectic and simple meals for dinner are an even bigger priority! 

As I mentioned before, our oldest is doing in person learning at his private high school. We are two days in, and he said they are doing their absolute best to keep everyone separated, safe and healthy. LOTS of hand sanitizer and teachers reminding students to use it often. (I have images of these teachers chasing around 15-18 year olds with the bottle of sanitizer and it makes me giggle.) Masks are required the entire day except if they can social distance (thanks to a smaller student body and plexiglass screens, this is possible in a few classes), lunch and gym. (Yay for nice weather and gym outside!)

When the mask mandate first came down the pipeline, which for our school was announced back in June, long before it was a state wide rule, I had one angry teenager. I can't blame him. I hate wearing a mask too, soaked in sweat the whole time, and sitting in one for the entire school day does not sound fun. But over the next weeks he accepted the fact if he wanted to be with his friends, and have some sense of normalcy, it wasn't up for debate. 

I can honestly say he hasn't complained one bit about it either. Okay, there was a classroom that still doesn't have AC (it's supposed to be coming soon) and by the end of the first day, it was about 100 in there even with fans, and he said that was kind of miserable, but that would have been the case even without a mask. 

My point? Our kids are more adaptable than we give them credit for sometimes. I see these kids coming out of school every day and they are smiling. They are laughing. They are more than accepting of the rules knowing it's how they get a piece of their lives back. Who knew it would take a pandemic to get teens excited about school again? 
Their attitudes towards this entire crappy situation will be formed at home. I've seen so many parents say "Oh who cares. I'm not buying school supplies or clothes. They will be back home again in a few weeks." Well, no offense, but teachers and school administrators have enough to worry about without parents letting their bad attitudes seep into their kids. They certainly don't need kids coming every day with a "who cares" outlook. It all starts at home, and the biggest way we can all support our schools is to have a optimistic attitude, even when we don't want to.  

Some sports are back in session around here too. Of course not in the same way they have been other falls, but they are practicing and playing. I just told a friend the other day how amazing it is to see kids being kids again. 

Some of you I'm sure are freaking out just reading those words. Sports? School? Now? I just can't. I don't feel it's safe. And that is okay too. Every single family has to decide what is best for them, and that is the right choice--the one you make. The end. Don't let anyone allow yourself to second guess that. We are all swimming in murky waters, and have no idea what is going to change day to day. 

Yes, we sent Alex back to school and supported his school's choice of in person only. But we are very thankful Max is only 4, not old enough for school, and we had long ago decided to home school him for preschool at least another year. I just don't think I could send him off for the first time, away from mommy, plus all the new restrictions added onto it. But I know other parents aren't as fortunate as me and have to do just that, and I don't judge them. 

I've actually been holding onto this recipe for a while now because I knew I wanted to debut it for back to school. A simple, slow cooker meal, that is pure comfort on a plate, perfect after a long day of school. No matter if it took place inside a school or at the kitchen table, everyone is still tired and worn out at the end of the day. 

We love this with some white rice, but it would be so delicious with mashed potatoes too! I even think it would be great with some egg noodles on the side and the gravy over top. 

2020 has brought so many challenges to the world, and at the top of that list is what to do about schools, our kids, learning and their well being. No answer is 100% perfect, but every choice should be supported and parents should be lifting one another up. So when a friend says "We chose ___ for our kids" the only response needed is "That's great. I know it wasn't easy and I'm glad you made the right one for your family."

Crock Pot Salisbury Steak
2 lbs. ground beef
1/3 c. panko breadcrumbs
3 TBS milk
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 TBS dried minced onion
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
1 white onion, sliced
1 packet brown gravy mix
1 1/2 c. beef broth
1 TBS ketchup
1 TBS Dijon mustard
1 1/2 TBS dried parsley, extra for garnish
2 TBS cornstarch
1/4 c. water
2 TBS vegetable oil
Salt and Pepper 

In a large bowl mix together ground beef, breadcrumbs, milk, egg, dried onion, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix well with hands and form 6 patties. Heat vegetable oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Brown patties for 2 minutes on each side. Place sliced white onion and mushrooms in bottom of Crock Pot. Add beef patties. Combine beef broth, gravy mix, ketchup and mustard. Pour over patties. Cook on LOW for 5 hours. Remove patties and set aside. Combine water and cornstarch. Add to Crock Pot and turn temp to HIGH. Cook for a few minutes until thickened. Add beef patties back to mixture. Coat with sauce and serve.

Inspired By Spend With Pennies

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Where Did Summer Go

For many of us, our kids have been home since March; and while I know many households struggled to juggle working from home, virtual learning, and extra time with the kids home 24/7, our house relished in the fact that we got Alex home for an extended period of time.

I can not put into words what a blessing it's been to have him home for almost 5 months. It was a gift I didn't know I needed, but one I am so grateful for. I didn't think the bond he shares with his baby brother could get any stronger, but over these past few months, oh it has. 

But now, it's the second week of August, and our world, that means back to school. And while yes, it's going to look very different this year, Alex's high school is only offering an in person option, and we support it. We feel confident in their ability to follow the protocols they have laid out, and do their best to keep this kids safe. We feel very fortunate to have him enrolled in a smaller, private high school where they can implement things and hopefully control the "new ways" in a way the kids and teachers will feel comfortable and everyone healthy. 

This is one teenager who is READY to go back to school too. He is looking forward to seeing his friends again, being in an actual classroom and something feeling somewhat normal. But we are going to miss him. Oh so much. 

This week just so happens to also be Max's 4th birthday. (For those of you who've been long time followers, you might recall, I went into labor on Alex's first day of 6th grade and Max was born the next day!) So we've got lots of celebrating to do, and then we will be sending Bubbie off to his sophomore year. 

Alex and I had quite a few mom/son lunch dates over the summer, and one of our favorite places to go is always Chili's. We love their food, and one of Alex's most requested items is their chips, salsa and queso. So, you can imagine the mom points I earned when I learned to make this cheesy goodness at home.

Oh, and I decided a slow cooker recipe would be even better because fall game days are coming fast, hopefully of course, and we love a great dip kept all day in the Crock Pot. 

For your next Mexican Night, Taco Tuesday or sitting around watching football Sunday, you will love this simple, delicious dip. 

I can't believe it's back to school time already. It is definitely bitter sweet this year. I pray it goes well, and they can stay in school. But I also know if the day comes he has to come back home, what a treat that would be too!

Crock Pot Copycat Chili's Queso
16 oz. Velveeta cheese, cubed
1 (15 oz.) can chili without beans
1 c. milk
1/2 tsp. dried cayenne pepper
3 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
Juice of 1 lime

Put all ingredients in Crock Pot. Cook on LOW 2 hours stirring occasionally. Keep on warm while serving. 


Sunday, August 2, 2020

Roadhouse At Home

Raise your hand if you immediately start to drool when I say "Texas Roadhouse rolls and butter." Yeah, me too. Hold on a sec, the keyboard is a little wet.

If your family is anything like ours, it's always a free for all when the basket of warm, fluffy rolls gets put on the table. And by the time your entree comes, you are usually half full from all the rolls you just gobbled up.

As if the rolls themselves weren't decadent enough, they always come with a ramekin of their famous cinnamon butter! This stuff truly puts them over the top.

If you haven't heard, it's one of the most simple copycat recipes around too! Literally 3 ingredients, in the food processor and bam you're done!

This sweet and savory butter is of course delicious on dinner rolls, but we love it on biscuits, bagels, English muffins, toast, sandwich bread...who are we kidding? Just pass us a spoon!

Once you mix this up, it's the perfect consistency, soft and spreadable. I like to keep my leftovers in the fridge and just let it come back to room temp again before using. Usually though, this is the perfect amount for one "sitting" and there aren't any leftovers.

Oh, and if you have never figured it out, this is the same butter they serve with their baked sweet potatoes too, so now you have two inspirations for the price of one.

I bet you have the ingredients on hand to make this tasty copycat recipe right now! You know you want to go check!

Copycat Texas Roadhouse Butter
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. honey

Place all ingredients in food processor and mix until well combined and smooth. Serve immediately. Store leftovers in fridge.

Shared at Weekend Potluck