Caprese Pasta Salad

As we ease back into a school day routine, I have been looking for ways to free myself up so that I am available to work with each child a little more. One thing I have done is work out a schedule (did I really say the “s” word?). Each day I have my son (15) and youngest daughter (7) making lunch and my oldest daughter (18) and middle daughter (10) making dinner — with help from me when needed.

My goal is to teach each of the children to be as self-sufficient in the kitchen as possible. Yesterday, my son was busy finishing up his Algebra, so I went ahead and started cooking some pasta. Hannah decided she could handle the rest of lunch, so I just let her go. She got out the cutting board, a sharp knife (Yes, I let my young ones use sharp knifes after I have shown them how to use them properly.), some tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella and away she went.

I love this pasta salad because it is light and healthy and my kids just eat it up.  I learned to make it from an Italian lady living in Germany.  Go figure ; )

Caprese Pasta Salad

1 box pasta, cooked al dente and drained
2-3 tomatoes
2 packages fresh mozzarella
2-3 fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt to taste

Mix together and drizzle olive oil over top. Sprinkle freshly grated parmesan over the top. Enjoy!

Oven Baked Potatoes

The potato was burned black outside, but inside it was white and mealy and a most delicious baked-potato smell steamed out of it. They let it cool a little, and then they gnawed the inside out of the black crust, and it was the best potato they had ever eaten.

~Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy

One of my favorite foods is a baked potato smothered in butter, sour cream, and cheddar cheese (it is even better with bacon bits and chives). But for some reason my baked potatoes never tasted as good as the ones at the BBQ restaurants.

Until my mom stayed with us last summer…

I realized that most of my problem was the fact that I had only made them in the microwave, which is fine for a quick meal, but not so fine for a tasty one.

From now on, all our baked potatoes are made in the oven. It does take a bit longer (like 2 hours longer), but it is worth the wait. If you have never made oven baked potatoes, I would urge you to at least try them!

Oven Baked Potatoes

1. Wash and scrub baking potato. Poke it several times with a fork or knife.

2. Place on a rectangle of tin foil. Pour a bit of oil over potato, then cover with salt. Note: add more salt than you normally would so that it can penetrate the potato.

3. Place wrapped potatoes in baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The time it takes to bake can vary greatly depending on how large the potatoes are and how many you are cooking. I check the potatoes by sticking a knife through them. When it is easy to pierce, I consider it done.

4. I let the potatoes sit for a while after taking them out of the oven.

Popcorn Balls

One of our favorite treats in the fall is popcorn balls! Now let me forewarn you, this is not some healthy for you kind of recipe. Basically sugar, sugar, corn syrup, and more sugar poured over popcorn. We don’t make this often, but when we do, everyone loves it!

Enchilada Sauce Recipe…Ole’

Being from Texas, it is a given that I love Mexican food. I grew up eating Mexican food and then married into a Mexican family with a mother-in-law that could cook up some great food.

A year after I got married, Jamie went to basic training and I stayed with his mom and dad. His mom taught me how to make tortillas, pinto beans, rice, and lots of other great mexican food. The one thing she didn’t teach me how to make was enchilada sauce. All these years I have wished for a really good enchilada sauce recipe.

My mom and I were discussing this the other day as we were meal planning. This evening she came up with “the” recipe I have always wished for. We had the best homemade enchiladas I have ever eaten. We should open up a restaurant!

Thought you might like her all-star recipe. It is super easy and so yummy!

Enchilada Sauce Recipe
Authentic Tex-Mex Enchilada Sauce

1/2 stick butter
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 cups water

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add in the flour and cook until the flour gets slightly browned. Add in the remaining ingredients and let simmer until thickened. Pour over enchiladas.

Yield: 2 cups sauce (enough to make approximately 12 enchiladas)

Note: You could make up a large batch and freeze it in smaller portions.

To make the enchiladas, you softened corn tortillas in hot oil. Then fill them with cheese, or chicken, or ground beef and place them in a casserole dish. Cover them with sauce and cheese. Bake until they are bubbly and the cheese is melted.

That’s all there is to. And let me tell you, those enchiladas were gone. No leftovers, not even a bit of sauce!