Time to Eat

Meatballs for dinner

Posted by on Mar 11, 2015 in crockpot, daddy, eating/food, Featured, Food, main dish, Margarita Mama, Recipes, side dishes | 3 comments

It looks like we’ve got at least few more rainy days ahead of us until springtime finally breaks through for good. That means there’s a little more time for cold-weather comfort food, right?


We don’t tend to stock up on a huge amount of pre-prepared boxed or frozen foods in our house, primarily because we try to keep our meals both a little healthier and a little cheaper. However, Daddy sampled Kroger’s frozen meatballs during a grocery store run with the kids recently, and they all found them pretty tasty. So I indulged the crowd and picked up a bag a few weeks later to make sweet and savory BBQ meatballs and mashed potatoes, with green beans on the side.

I don’t make mashed potatoes very often, but when I do, I make sure there’s flavor in them. I nearly always go for Yukon gold potatoes. And there’s got to be milk and butter, salt and pepper, and Martha Stewart’s secret ingredient: nutmeg. Once you give it a try, it’s hard to go back.

Meanwhile, I’m a little bit in love with fresh green beans. They’re a bit more work than their canned or frozen cousins, but if you get them just right, it’s worth the effort.

fresh green beans

Trim the ends off, then saute in a big pan with a touch of olive oil and grill seasoning. After they start to get just a touch of blister on them, pour in a bit of chicken broth — but not so much that they’re swimming in it — and stick a lid on it. They’ll soften right up while you go onto other things.

For the main attraction, I decided to go with sweet and savory meatballs that I hoped would keep the kids on board. (Although I baked a few plain ones as a backup, it turns out that effort was unneeded.)

BBQ meatballs

I poured a considerable amount of Sweet Baby Ray’s honey BBQ sauce into my trusty Le Cruset pot along with the meatballs and cranked the heat up. Yet something didn’t seem right — the sauce wasn’t really sticking to the meatballs in the way I’d hoped.

Searching for a fix, I reached into my brain and remembered that it’s kind of an old crockpot party thing to add grape jelly to meatballs. I had never tried it before and thought it sounded kind of weird, frankly. But it was just the trick I was looking for. Suddenly, it all melted together into a beautiful, shiny glaze that tasted amazing.

BBQ meatball dinner

Every single person in the house was happy with meatballs for dinner. And it came together pretty quickly, too. Hard to beat that combination.


Margarita Mama

Banana carmel bites

Posted by on Feb 24, 2015 in breakfast/brunch, eating/food, Food, Margarita Mama, Recipes | 4 comments

Snowed in? Tired of leftovers? Kids driving each other crazy?

That all sounds about right this week.

With another wintry blast headed our way, there’s only one thing to do — bake something easy and delicious.

I actually made these banana carmel bites as part of our Valentine’s Day breakfast, along with a little sausage and fruit. But these would be super as dessert on a cold night, too.

banana carmel bites

I’m still in a puff pastry period right now, clearly. It’s super easy to whip something up with it that everyone in the house falls in love with. And it seems So Fancy, a la Iggy.

I didn’t think this one out much in advance. I just looked around to see what we had that would go together, and this is what I ended up with.

banana carmel bite ingredients


  • puff pastry
  • 2 bananas, cut in slices
  • Philly brown sugar and cinnamon cream cheese
  • jar of caramel
  • chopped pecans

Thaw the puff pastry on the counter while you’re getting the rest of your bidness together. When it’s just slightly chilled, right before it’s about to turn sticky, it’s go time.

Spread the cream cheese first, then layer banana slices on top. Then drizzle the carmel and top with chopped pecans. When it looks like this, it’s time to roll.

This is how we roll

After I rolled it up, I cut slices and placed them on a greased baking sheet, then brushed the tops with a little egg wash. Bake according to the puff pastry’s package directions, which may vary with the brand. These took less than 15 minutes.

Plate and top with an extra banana slice or two, a bit more carmel and a little more pecans. Sooooooo good. And perfect for sharing the love — we could all use a little more of that.


Margarita Mama

Greek pork skewers

Posted by on Feb 13, 2015 in eating/food, main dish, Margarita Mama, pork, Recipes, side dishes, Uncategorized | Comments Off

A hearty yet simple meal that’s sure to please a crowd is Greek pork paired with mediterranean-flavored rice and a crisp salad.

Four ingredients, and the main meal is done.

Four ingredients and the main meal is done.

Cube up a pork loin, liberally sprinkle on greek seasoning, a good steak seasoning blend and lemon olive oil. You can also do this a day ahead of time — the longer it marinates, the more delicious it will turn out.

When you’re ready, skewer ‘em up and them get sizzling on a stovetop grill pan.

Meanwhile, make a pot of rice. When it’s finished, add in some olives and grape tomatoes sliced in half. A touch of seasoning there helps, too.

Greek pork with mediterranean rice

Greek pork with mediterranean rice

Done — and delicious. Even the little girls in our house dug into this one, and that doesn’t happen every day.

What’s on your dinner plate tonight? I’d love to hear!


Margarita Mama

Buffalo cheese pinwheels

Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Dips & appetizers, eating/food, Food, football, Margarita Mama, Recipes | 6 comments

The best thing about football season, hands down, is party food.

I tend to stick with the same winners over time — veggie tray, Rotel cheese dip, chicken wings. But for this Super Bowl, I experimented a little bit. And I have to say, I was pretty happy with the results.

Buffalo cheese pinwheels are a spicy little bite, and they come together in just about 20 minutes. Can’t beat that!

buffalo cheese puff pastry pinwheels

This snack is super easy. All you need is frozen puff pastry, a beaten egg and something to put in the middle. This time, I grabbed a container of prepared buffalo and blue cheese spread. Boom.

puff pastry ingredients

Just thaw the pastry on the counter. Then brush with the egg wash and spread on the cheese fairly evenly.

buffalo cheese spread

Roll it up, slice it and place the pinwheels on a greased baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden.

Voila, that’s it. So good. Enjoy!


Margarita Mama

Healthy kid lunches

Posted by on Jan 3, 2015 in eating/food, Food, Health, kid stuff, Margarita Mama, school | 6 comments

Now that the new year has begun, I’m ready to detox a bit from all the holiday treats and sweets that surrounded us the past few weeks and get back in the school-days routine.

In our house, a good part of this will include planning out our family’s lunches so that mom and dad are not grabbing something unhealthy in a time crunch and that Ava will find her meal delicious and filling. (The twins are still eating daycare-provided lunches, so they’re all set during the week.)

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

Ava would eat the same thing every single day if I let her. Her palate is generally limited to Lunchables or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with either an applesauce GoGo Squeeze or a yogurt tube. So I’d like to get her to branch out a bit.

Every once in awhile, I can sneak in a pasta salad of some kind or cut up squares of cheese pizza. Maybe even a bagel. But we could use a spark of inspiration.

Here’s a few handy tips on healthy kid lunches that QualChoice of Arkansas has offered:

PORTIONS: The USDA recommends tennis-ball sized portions of vegetables and whole grains, golf-ball sized portions of fruit and lean protein, and a pink pong ball portion of low-fat dairy. (Prepackaged items can often be a little more expensive, but I’ve come to realize that the portion control and ease of packing is a good tradeoff.)

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

PRODUCE: The great thing about fruits and veggies is they deliver lots of nutrients and they don’t require cooking. It’s best to keep produced washed and cut in the fridge so there isn’t a lot of prep work. Great options for this are: cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, berries, apples, pears and grapes. (Ava always loves her carrot sticks with a little cup of ranch dressing.)

veggie ideas

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

WHOLE GRAINS: For a crunchier side, pack multi-grain chips or pretzels instead of potato chips. Whole grain pita pockets and tortillas are also a great alternative and are easy to fill with lunch meats, salad mixes and more.

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

PROTEINS & DAIRY: Proteins come in many forms – not just meat. You could pack a  wrap or sandwich with lean turkey, or you could include a hard-boiled egg. Also, sharp cheddar cheese and Greek yogurt offer a great source of protein and dairy.

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

HYDRATION: Instead of juice boxes, include a small bottle of frozen water. The ice will keep the rest of the lunch cool, and will melt enough by lunchtime to be drinkable.

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

SNACKS: After school or on the weekends, healthy snacks can help curb overeating later.  Pack a baggie of popcorn for a 100% whole grain snack, or try almonds mixed with dried fruits, whole fruits or pretzels.

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

Happy lunching out there! And if you have more ideas or handy tips, I’d love to hear them. Please share!


Margarita Mama

Green Chicken Chili

Posted by on Dec 28, 2014 in chicken, crockpot, main dish, Recipes, soup | Comments Off

Got this one from a cookbook — Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution — that Hubs picked up at work.

We made it the other night and found it to be quite yummy!


2 lbs poblano chiles, stemmed, halved and seeded

2 onions, chopped (I used just one due to Hubs’ aversion to all things onion)

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce

3 cups chicken broth

One 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

salt and pepper to taste

3 chicken breasts

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon lime juice, plus extra for seasoning


Toss poblanos, onions, garlic cumin, coriander, oil and chipotle together in bowl. Spread mixture in a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Broil until poblanos start to turn black in spots and other veggies start to soften. Flip halfway through cooking. (This will take about 15 minutes or so.)

Transfer half of the mixture to a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer to slow cooker. Process the remaining mixture until smooth. Transfer to slow cooker.

Stir in broth, tomatoes (and their juice) and 1/2 teaspoon salt into slow cooker. Nestle chicken in cooker as well. Cover and cook three to five hours on low, or until chicken is tender. (Note: I sauteed the chicken briefly before putting it in the crockpot.)

When chicken is tender, transfer to cutting board and shred. Return to pot. Add cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with baked tortilla chips, avocado, sour cream, shredded cheese, etc…

Spicy-sweet meatballs

Posted by on Dec 26, 2014 in beef, crockpot, main dish, Recipes | Comments Off

A couple of people asked me to share the recipe for this dish after I made it for our newsroom potluck. Ya’ll, this is so, so easy and yummy! I first tried these at our neighbor’s house, when he threw a birthday party for his wife. My kids inhaled these meatballs, so I asked him for the recipe. He told me the main ingredients and one Google session later, voila. If you want to make your own meatballs, go for it. Just don’t make them Italian-style. If you’re preparing this in a hurry and want to use frozen meatballs, make sure you get the Homestyle ones and NOT Italian. — Arkie Mama


1 can (14 ounces) jellied cranberry sauce
1 bottle (12 ounces) chili sauce
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 package (32 ounces) frozen fully cooked homestyle meatballs, thawed

Mix and heat the first six ingredients until sugar dissolves. Add meatballs. Cook until tender. You can do this in a pot or crockpot, depending on your timeframe.


Christmas menu

Posted by on Dec 22, 2014 in Christmas, eating/food, family, Food, holidays, Margarita Mama, side dishes | 3 comments

As we have several branches of family to celebrate holidays with, we have forged a tradition of having a big Christmas Eve meal at our house. We get plenty of ham and turkey this time of year when we travel to see other family, and I’m from a state where beef reigns supreme. So we go with standing rib roast for what is clearly our most luxurious home-cooked meal of the year.

standing rib roast

Meat for 8 people

SimplyRecipes.com has an outstanding Prime Rib Recipe that includes gravy directions. And let’s just say that if you’re going to go this route, get more than you think you’ll need. (The leftovers make excellent with sandwiches with onions, peppers and provolone.)

There’s no need for dressing with this Christmas menu, but mashed potatoes are a must. And I’ve found that Martha Stewart is my spiritual match on this issue — no joke. I promise that if you try her recipe for Perfect Mashed Potatoes, you won’t go back. I use a ricer for mine, too. Absolutely no lumps.

On the side, we’ll have honey-glazed carrots and brussels sprouts with bacon and pecans.

prepping brussels sprouts and carrots

Veggies, ready to prep

I’ve been toying around with the carrots for awhile now and have finally figured out perfection. Cut the carrots into small coins and put into a baking dish. Then add several pats of butter, no fewer than five liberal squeezes of honey and a light dusting of salt, pepper and cayenne. Bake at 425 degrees for about 45 min.

Accidentally, I wound up this weekend with a stalk of fresh brussels sprouts so huge that it wouldn’t fit in our fridge.  I decided to jump ahead and prep them up by cutting them off, chopping them in half and steaming them for about 10 minutes. Now, all we’ll have to do is cut bacon into small pieces, cook them in a large pan, dump in the brussels sprouts to reheat and coat them in bacon fat, and add in as many pecans as we’d like. Salt, pepper, done.

I’m not much of a baker — and I usually spend my efforts there on cookies for Santa. So for dessert, I hit up Fresh Market. (Where I would hide in a corner and live, if I could. All that peaceful music, and beautiful things everywhere. It’s a dream world.)

yule log from Fresh Market

yule log, the most festive dessert for Christmas

Yule Log is my husband’s thang, you might say. It’s basically a super moist and rich chocolate cake with chocolate  icing rolled on the inside as well as on top. Big glass of milk required.

And that’s it! I hope you all have a delicious holiday meal in some form or fashion. Food is love, especially on a holiday.


Margarita Mama


Posted by on Dec 4, 2014 in Recipes | 1 comment

My kids learned to make this at their after-school program. Easy. Fun. Yummy.


flour tortillas

pizza sauce

pepperoni slices

shredded mozarella

butter or margarine


Heat butter or margarine in small skillet. Place tortilla in skillet. Coat with pizza sauce. (stop before you get to the edges though!) Add pepperoni and shredded cheese. Place second tortilla on top. When the bottom tortilla reaches desired crispiness, flip it!

Family pizza night

Posted by on Nov 17, 2014 in daddy, dessert, eating/food, Food, home, Margarita Mama, Uncategorized | 3 comments

You’ve heard happy wife = happy life, right? Well, I’ve got the real secret to marital bliss and family harmony.

Marry a pizza guy.

When I met Daddy, he was a pizza delivery driver. Shortly thereafter, he regularly wooed me with perfectly placed toppings brought straight to my door.

And he’s still got skills — they especially come in handy on dreary nights when it’s too cold to go out.

pizza daddy skills

Daddy’s got mad pizza skills

I mean, really. Look at this beauty (or what’s left of it, anyway):

pizza night

Oh yeah. That’s half pepperoni with cream cheese (a Nebraskan special) and half pepperoni, ham and onions

No one turns this dinner down. Especially when they get to help make their own. (Cheese only, obviously.)

pizza kids

Pizza lovin’ kids

Last but not least, this.

dessert pizza

Brown sugar cinnamon dessert pizza with a scoop of vanilla

It’s pure love. Family pizza night rocks.


Margarita Mama