Friday, March 25, 2016

Lentil & Black Bean Chili

So the other day I was feeling vegetarian. Like most, I just needed a break from meat. I scourged the internet for something that was meaty yet vegetarian. I wanted something filling. I happened upon and found this absolutely great recipe for Lentil Chili. I loved what this recipe offered so I took it home and made it my way. Here's my recipe:

Lentil Chili:
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
16 oz bag lentils,
14 oz can diced tomatoes
15 oz can black beans, drained
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
2 bay leaves
2 tsp oregano
1 tbs season salt
1/2 tbs tomato paste
1 tbs Worcestershire
-1 tbs veggie oil
4 cups water or chicken stock
salt and black pepper to taste

1. In a large pot, saute onion and bell pepper in a touch of veggie oil.
2. Add garlic, paprika, chili powder, season salt, and tomato paste. Let spices and tomato paste cook until you can smell the flavors. We are waking them up!
3. Add lentils, worcestershire, diced tomatoes, oregano, bay leaves, and water or stock.
4. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and lower to a simmer for 15 minutes.
5. Add black beans and let simmer for another 15 minutes.
6. Taste. Add salt and pepper if needed. If you need more salt and pepper, add it and let this chili simmer for another 10 minutes or so.

This makes a HUGE amount. I let the chili cool all the way and packed up half of it and set it in the freezer. To plate this up, I just sliced up some cheddar/jack cheese and serranos and used those as a garnish. This was a delectable meal! I couldn't believe how delicious it was and how easy! I thought I'd miss the meat but it was so hearty that you really don't need the meat. I'd like to try some shredded chicken just to see what it would do to this recipe though. It may add another layer of texture that could really be delicious!

And for those that love Frito Pie, oh my gosh you have to try this as a substitute for regular chili. I did it one day for lunch and it was killer! If you have never tried a frito pie because you're a vegetarian, do it with this chili! You'll soon become an addict like the rest of us!

If you're gonna make this, I highly recommend keeping it vegetarian. Add some mushrooms for extra "beefiness" if you really need it. I promise you, you'll love this recipe!

Monday, March 21, 2016

1,000 Books Before Kindergarten

As an avid book lover, it should come as no surprise that I want to instill that same love of books to my daughter. I want her to grow up with such a passion for books, as I grew up. That being said, I decided to start her on the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program. I know that seems daunting. 1,000 books?! Trust me, it really isn't that bad. Before I go into all of that, let me give you some info on the program. 

photo courtesy of Harris County Public Library
1,000 Books Before Kindergarten is a DIY program. You don't have to enroll with anyone or a school or library. It's just something you choose to do at home. Of course, if you are interested in signing up with a program, check out 1,000 Books FIND A PROGRAM page. The task is simple; read a book to your child, and keep track of the number of books read. If your child likes one book and you read it twenty times, count it as twenty books read!

Sounds easy right? It really is. For me, the hard part is keeping up with the books but luckily there are reading logs provided by 1,000 Books' website as well as my local library which actually advertises 1,001 books before Kindergarten!

Why do this? Easy. It's a great bonding experience for you and your kids. Also, reading helps improve vocabulary. And the best reason of all, reading is fun! You'll come to find that kids have some of the silliest books out there to read. Oh and for the teeny tiny babies, a lot of their books barely have words in it.

I urge you to try it out. If it's not your thing, at least you tried. I hope it turns out to be your thing though. We started when my daughter was about 2 months old and she's close to having 200 books read already.

As always, please give me feedback if you decide to try. I'd love to hear what you do and what your experience is!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Flautas, Spanish Rice, and Black Beans

This past weekend I decided to go all out with my menu. I made (from scratch) Baked & Fried Flautas, Spanish Rice, Black Beans, and Guacamole. I knew my toddler could eat everything here so I made a big ole batch of everything! Before I start on recipes, I'm going to warn you that the flautas recipe will look long and difficult. I promise you it is easier than it sounds. If you find you don't want to try it, just sub another meat dish for this. Fajitas are great too and I have a recipe on my Recipes Page. Alrighty...onto the new recipes!

Baked & Fried Flautas:
4 lbs chicken (breasts or thighs, whatever you choose)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon coriander seed or 2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 large onion, quartered
4 garlic cloves, smashed
stems of cilantro (save the tops for later)
*you can add or remove spices*

1. Take all items and dump it into a BIG pot. Fill pot with water so that the meat is fully submerged.
2. Bring to a boil and lower to simmer. Cook for about 30-45 minutes until all chicken is cooked through. Let cool.
3. Once cooled, remove chicken. Leave pot of water (you just made homemade chicken stock! save it for later!).
4. Shred chicken. This is where you need to taste the chicken and make sure it's seasoned. If it appears under-seasoned, feel free to add teaspoons of the above dry seasonings (use dry garlic/onion powder) or you can add teaspoons of taco seasoning. Make sure you taste it each time and it's to your liking!
----For the next steps, you'll need a big frying pan with about a cup and a half of veggie oil in it. You'll also need corn tortillas, and a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  
5. Warm corn tortillas. Preheat oven to 350.
6. Take a spoonful of shredded chicken and place it on the edge of your tortilla. Roll the tortilla so that it looks like a cigar.
7. Fill your baking dish with flautas with the seam side down. Spray tops with cooking spray.
8. Bake flautas for 10-15 minutes being sure to check on it every couple minutes or so (to prevent burning).
9. Roll the rest of the flautas and put them to the side.
10. Heat frying pan to medium high heat. Test heat to make sure items will fry.
11. Drop a couple flautas in seam side down. Let fry for a couple minutes.
12. Rotate so that all sides of the tortilla fries up. Place on napkin to drain some of the oil. *Note: It's best to use tongs here. They help with rotating the flautas and with taking them out/putting them in the hot oil. 
13. Serve.

Black Beans:
1 15 oz can black beans, drain half of the liquid out the can
1 4oz can diced green chiles or tomatoes with diced green chiles
1/4 cup onion diced
1 tsp garlic powder or 2 gloves garlic diced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.
2. Bring to a boil and lower to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Serve.

Spanish Rice: 
1 cup long grain white rice
1 can peeled stewed tomatoes
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 packet taco seasoning
1 tablespoon cumin
2 cups liquid (you can use the broth you made earlier here!)
salt and pepper to taste
*add more spice here if you'd like as well*

1. In a large skillet or pot, toast rice in a bit of oil.
2. Add onion, garlic, green bell pepper, and stewed tomatoes (with juice). Cook for about 5 minutes.
3. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil.
4. Cover pot and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until rice is all cooked and liquid is gone.

I guarantee you are going to love, love, love this meal! It's on the labor intensive side as far as steps go, but it was super simple to make. I had the chicken cooking while I made the black beans and spanish rice. When those finished, I was able to focus on the flautas. When those came out of the oven, I made the guacamole and called it a day! If you feel daunted, just try one of the dishes. I had to build up to this meal so I completely get why you'd want to!

Also, you'll notice I didn't post my recipe for Guacamole here. That's because it's on a previous blog post but you can find it on my Recipes Page.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dollar Signs by Manning Wolfe Promo + Giveaway

  Texas Lady Lawyer vs Boots King
Texas Lady Lawyer Novel #1 
by Manning Wolfe
First Place, The Writer’s League of Texas Annual Manuscript Contest, 2014
Genre: Adult / Legal Thriller / Mystery /Suspense
Date of Publication: February 18, 2016
# of pages: 310

Scroll Down For Giveaway
MERIT BRIDGES, an attorney and widowed mother in Austin, Texas, works hard, drinks too much wine, and sleeps with younger men. When Merit goes after a shady corporation threatening her client, she encounters hired gun Boots King. His charge is simple, “Stop her!” Merit and her team – including Betty, a mothering office manager with a bad-ass attitude – struggle to stay alive, while they navigate a labyrinth of legal issues, and prove once again that you don’t mess with a Texas lady lawyer.
==> CLICK TO BUY <==
Praise for the books:
A legal thriller not to be missed…Manning Wolfe just put herself on my list of must-read authors. — Mark Pryor, Hugo Marston Novels

Move over, John Grisham. There’s a lady lawyer in town. Elizabeth Garcia, Deputy Ricos Tales

This novel is smart, funny, moving, and entertaining as hell. Jesse Sublett, 1960’s Austin Gangsters

A great read, and Texas crime fiction has a new star. Bill Crider, Dan Rhodes Mysteries

Pages smoke like burnt fried chicken grease on a Saturday night…This one, my friends, is a non-putter-downer! George Wier, Bill Travis Mysteries.

A high-speed storyline full of twists and turns upon a stark background of reality as lawyers might really experience it. Manning Wolfe is one of the up and coming legal thriller writers of this generation. Read her and enjoy her, but don’t expect much sleep! — John Ellsworth, author, Thaddeus Murfee Legal Thrillers
                                                                                                MANNING WOLFE an author and attorney residing in Austin, Texas, writes cinematic-style, smart, fast-paced thrillers with a salting of Texas bullshit. The first in her series, featuring Austin Lawyer Merit Bridges, is Dollar Signs: Texas Lady Lawyer vs Boots King. A graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas School of Law, Manning’s experience has given her a voyeur’s peek into some shady characters’ lives and a front row seat to watch the good people who stand against them.
One lucky winner will receive a signed copy of Dollar Signs, a $50 Visa Gift Card, and a "Don't Mess with Texas Women" plaque, and some fun dollar sign beads!

Giveaway runs from 12:01am 2/18/16 through 11:59pm 3/19/16
  Check out these other great blog stops on the tour!

2/18 Texas Book Lover -- Excerpt
2/19 My Book Fix Blog -- Promo
2/25 Missus Gonzo -- Review
2/29 Books and Broomsticks – Author Interview
3/1   The Crazy Booksellers -- Review
3/3   Texas Book-aholic -- Promo
3/15 It's a Jenn World -- Promo
3/17 A Novel Reality – Promo
3/22 Hall Ways Blog -- Review
3/24 The Page Unbound -- Promo
3/31 The Librarian Talks -- Review
 blog tour services provided by

Thursday, March 10, 2016

1 Hour Chili

Yes you read that right...I said 1 hour chili! As a mom who loves to cook, I have to find meals that can be made or cooked mostly through our afternoon naptime. This chili recipe was found using Pinterest and I love it! I did make a couple tweaks to it just to fit mine and my family's palate. Feel free to follow the recipe I've given or the original recipe! Enough chatter, let's talk recipe!

2 lb lean ground beef (can sub for turkey, chicken, or lamb as well)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
3 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp season salt
1 tsp Mrs. Dash Southwestern Chipotle seasoning (optional)
1 tsp tomato paste
1 16oz can tomato sauce
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
18 oz water

1. In a large sauce pot, brown ground beef. Remove any fat from pot.
2. Add onion, garlic, and tomato paste. Saute with beef for about 2 minutes.
3. Add all spices and saute for another minute or two. (You wanna toast them up a bit)
4. Add tomato sauce, Worcestershire, and water. Bring to a boil.
5. Lower heat to a simmer and cook for an hour.

Tada! You've got a one hour chili that tastes as if it's been cookin all day! The trick to this one hour chili is the added tomato paste and the worcesteshire sauce. They help add a slow cooked feel to this dish.

I used the chili to make Frito Pie. If you've never had it, boy are you in for a treat. All you have to do is place fritos in a bowl and top with chili. Next up, you add fixins! My fixins are shredded cheese and jalapenos or serranos. When serving to a crowd, I make sure to have sour cream, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, chopped onions, and queso on hand.

This is a great recipe that can also be doubled or tripled up. Make a big pot of it and freeze what you don't plan on using. That way you can have chili whenever you feel like it! Trust me, once you try this recipe, you'll wish you made a big batch. :)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Book Review: It Happened at the Book Fest

Welcome to the Lake Morgan Book Festival! Every year, there is a book festival in Colorado hosted by the odd and all knowing Denton McCray. Authors are personally invited to attend and lots of odd and sexy situations tend to occur.

In, A Sexy Thing Happened at the Book Fest, you'll find four short stories by Alexia Purdy, Mia Bishop, J.L. McCoy, and Lizzy Pope. Stories range from a sweet reunion romance as well as an erotically paranormal encounter and fantasies being fulfilled.

In, A Weird Thing Happened at the Book Fest, there are six short stories by Kimberley Montpetit, Tyber North, Belle Whittington, A.L. Kessler, Linda M. Au, and H.A. Lamb. Stories range from alien encounters, confrontations with the supernatural, time travel, and unexplained phenomenons.

What I absolutely loved about both books was how eloquently the authors wrote. In a short amount of pages, I was able to get roped into a world so sexy and weird, that I was left wanting more! I loved that Mr. McCray seemed to know about everything yet continued on as if nothing had happened. The Sexy stories I loved for obvious reasons. I love my erotica and these were right up my alley. I'm also a fan of fantasy so Weird was just as pleasurable for me to read. In all honesty. I'm not really a fan of short stories but I really enjoyed these two books! I am going to have to rethink short stories now and give more of them a chance.

I tell you, if  you get a chance, please read Sexy & Weird. I promise, you'll love em!

You can find more info about the books, authors, and purchasing info by going to: It Happened at the Book Fest.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Between Hurt and Healing by Jackie Melvin Promo & Giveaway!

Between Hurt and Healing
Jackie Melvin

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Date of Publication: February 2, 2016
# of pages: 424

Scroll down for Giveaway! 

Introverted Denise Staukhill just wanted a quiet life. She never dreamed she would find a man like Darren Olsen to share it with. An unexpected tragedy ends their fairy-tale romance, and Denise once again finds herself alone and devastated. 

Years later, the handsome head football coach from the local high school and Darren's best friend, Eric Ortellio, tries desperately to help her find peace. As their relationship starts to grow, the manipulative Coach Nick Nelson, trying to protect his secretive past, steps in to ruin both of them. 

Will Denise and Eric's friendship sustain the lies and manipulation that the evil Nelson has weaved? Can Denise find the stregth to let go of Darren and hold on to Eric, or will her faithfulness to Darren keep Eric out of her life forever? 

Visit Jackie Melvin's WEBSITE for best pricing or purchase from the following: 
Amazon            Tate Publising

Jackie Melvin is a hopeless introvert; hasn't seen the inside of a movie theater in a decade. She is despairingly sappy; will cry at commercials, songs, and memories. She is a disheartened housekeeper; good before the kids, great with the kids, now the laundry room doubles as the master closet. An unexceptional athlete, the weather matters! A wanna be nutritionist, if only chocolate had nutritional value. A mediocre musicia: been playing the same songs for thirty years. A happy wife, she married up. A reluctant empty-nester, miss those kids so much. And she is a writer: the author of a series of series of children's books, and Between Hurt and Healing is her first novel. 

She currently lives in Lubbock, Texas with her husband, her dog, and  her cat, and spends as much time as possible visiting those kids. 

GIVEAWAY! One winner gets signed copies 
of Between Hurt and Healing and 
all of Jackie's Bartholomew Bear Series
February 22-MARCH 3, 2016

Click Picture for Link to Giveaway:

Check out these other great blog stops on the tour!
2/22   Missus Gonzo  – Review
2/23   All for the Love of the Word – Author Interview
2/24   The Crazy Booksellers – Promo
2/25   The Page Unbound  -- Review
2/26   Hall Ways Blog – Author Interview
2/27   Books and Broomsticks – Guest Post      
2/29   My Book Fix Blog – Promo
3/1     A Novel Reality  -- Author Interview
3/2     It's A Jenn World -- Promo

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