Mrs H’s Tacos

Mrs H’s Tacos

Get ready for TACO TUESDAY!!!!!!  This might be one of the more coveted recipes in my collection.  I am often asked how I make my tacos.  It is also a frequent request for Family Supper night by daughter, son-in-law, and the grandkids.  It’s one of my husband’s favorite dinners, and really one of my favorites too!!!!  Quick and easy!!!!

Let’s start with the meat

Taco meat

I use 2 lb. of quality ground beef (to feed 4 adults and 2 kids) – a good organic, grass fed, angus beef.  I break it apart in a frying pan and toss while cooking over medium high heat until browned.  Drain off and discard the fat .  I then sprinkle 2 packets of Lawry’s Taco Seasoning Mix over the meat, and then I fill the empty packets with water and pour the water over the seasoning and stir it well into the meat, with the heat turned down to medium low.  To this I add about a half cup of salsa (fresh or canned) and stir that altogether.  I then let the meat simmer on low heat until the tacos are ready to assemble.


The meat will become drier the longer it simmers.  I personally like it dry so that it doesn’t make the bottom of my tacos soggy.  I don’t like when they fall apart and all the stuffing falls out.


Pico de gallo

I use about 1 1/2 cup of chopped sweet cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup chopped fresh jalapenos, and 1 cup chopped green onions (or a small sweet white onion if I don’t have green onions on hand), then add about 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 2 cloves of garlic minced, the juice of two limes, and a sprinkle of salt to taste.  If the jalapenos are really mild, I sometimes add a pinch of cayenne for some kick.



I chop one whole bunch of Romaine lettuce into small shreds.

Shred Cheese.JPG

I like to shred my own cheese (pepper jack) when I’m feeling ambitious, but often use a Mexican cheese blend that is pre-shredded already.

Taco Shells

Taco Shells

I buy the small Old El Paso brand taco shells (2 pkgs to feed my family of 4 adults and 2 kids because the men will easily eat 6 tacos apiece or more).

Taco Shells in oven

I preheat my oven to 360*F, and set the shells in a baking pan.  When the oven is ready I pop the pan of shells in for about 6 minutes, or whatever time is recommended on the package.  This is an important step because it makes the shells nice and crispy!!!



Taco Sauce

I actually use a variety of sauces.  I like to try new ones.  The green tomatillo Herdez or La Costena hot sauces (medium) are both really good standbys.  I like the Taco Bell hot sauce (Diablo), and the DelPrimo sauces are all good.  But my favorite of recent is El Gallo flame roasted Jalapeno.  It comes in a bag with a little screw top spout (medium).

Taco Assembly2

To assemble the tacos I remove the shells from the oven and quickly fill them with meat, dispersing it evenly among the shells.  I sprinkle cheese over the meat in each shell, and then add the lettuce.  They each then get a spoonful of my fresh Pico and a generous pour of tomatillo taco sauce.  That’s it!  Mmmmmm…. let’s eat!!!!!!


Now some people might like to add chopped black olives, maybe some sour cream, possibly some sliced avacado, and that’s all good, but personally, I can’t bear to mess with perfection.

If you’d like to add a couple of sides, I love charros or refries and Mexican Rice.  And you can never go wrong with Sopapilla Cheesecake for dessert!!!!!  Hubby washes his meal down with a good Modelo cerveza!  I just like iced tea.  Gracee will take a Margarita, if I make her one, and the kids like horchata.

Hey, while we are enjoying our Family Supper, may I share with you from the book One Year of Dinner Table Devotions & Discussion starters by Nancy Guthrie (published by Tyndale)?




The Armor of God

The Armor of God

Be Strong in the Lord and in the power of His Might!

We all get up and get dressed in the morning. Some of us have office jobs and our clothes have to be fashionable and classy. Some get dressed for blue-collar jobs, plumber, electrician, construction. Stay-at-home moms and babysitters might wear a t-shirt and sweatpants for comfort, affordability, and ease of cleaning. Since Adam and Eve’s little misstep in the garden we’ve all been wearing clothes, but do we know how to dress our Spiritual selves?

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3-4

Ever found yourself blindsided by life, or arrested by an attack of worry and fear? Maybe you woke up in the middle of the night to be battered by thoughts about work, coworkers with wicked schemes in their briefcases, a job or task that feels utterly daunting, or that you are soberingly ill-equipped for? Perhaps fears over medical issues or a scary diagnosis has your gut in knots? Maybe you are worrying about a child that is struggling with something or someone?

Rain falls on the just and the unjust. In this world we will have troubles, but we don’t have to feel naked and afraid through them, or take the punches lying down. If we are children of God, He has given us Spiritual Armor, as protection, so let us rise up and get spiritually dressed!

The Armor of God

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13)

Withstand in the evil day, and to do all that we can do to stand – I can’t help but draw a parity between “the evil day” and Wyoming on an exceptionally windy day, and what a chore it is to try to stand against the swirling, battering tempest, much less walk in it.  I’m telling you! Maybe you know what it is like to get in and out of a car, or in and out of a house in such raging winds?  …Or the comical futility it is of having to almost literally claw your way across a parking lot and have any dignity in the exercise – hair blown upward to a tattered mess and then whipping across your face like a strobing blindfold, eyes filled with sand and dirt, breath sucked out of your lungs, shirt or dress blown up around your neck, hat gone and doing somersaults across the prairie, your body leaning hard into the pressing gales only to have the velocity change and knock you almost off your feet, and as soon as you recover the speed changes back again. Oh, and then, just to make things even more interesting, let’s add ice and snow to the equation. Right? Yeah, you know!!!!!  …Or you can picture it at least. (Laughing out loud!)

The word “withstand” in this passage is anthistemi (pronounced anth-is-tay-me) in the original language of the Ephesians.  Anti = against, and histemi = to cause to stand. My study Bible says this verb suggests vigorously opposing, bravely resisting, standing face-to-face against an adversary, standing your ground.

Think “antihistamine. Like when an allergen attacks us our bodies react badly by sneezing, our eyes water, and our nose runs like a faucet – we are out of control, but an antihistamine helps us to stand against it. An antihistamine stops the horrible, ineffective reaction that our body produces naturally and makes us strong.  It renders the allergen harmless.

So it is when we suit up in the Spiritual armor of God. All by ourselves, and even with a passel of friends by our side, we are hopelessly outgunned against Satan and often react badly: paralyzed by fear, angry or bitter, overcome by the poor-me’s, but Greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.  And His armor is an absolute necessity in this world.

“When the enemy comes in like a flood, God will raise up a standard against him”    Isaiah 59:19

The full armor of God helps us to stand. “Resist the devil and he will flee” it says in James 4:7.

“Let us put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore… Ephesians 6:10-13.

When I get spiritually dressed, I work my way from head to toe, because it helps me to remember all the pieces that way. Do you want to get dressed with me?


Helmet of Salvation

Helmet of Salvation

I love that salvation is pictured as a helmet.  Without salvation we are dead-people-walking.  So let’s start with that.  Are you saved? Have you asked Jesus into your heart? Do you have Him living inside of you?  Our heads will always be vulnerable until the Lord’s salvation is living inside of us.

  • And take the helmet of salvation…

Even after we’ve asked Jesus to live in us there is still a major war going on for our minds. Satan cannot read our thoughts but he can plant them – sexually immoral thoughts, hate and envy, greed and pride, worry and doubt.  We must constantly withstand…

“Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” 2 Cor. 10:5b.

Don’t be deceived. Know this, that Satan got Eve to eat the forbidden fruit by first getting her to think about it, then look at it, and finally to touch it. Don’t let him trick you into doing his bidding by enticing you with the same vain imaginations. Catch those thoughts, toss them in God’s incinerator, and then let Jesus Christ, the head of the church, our Salvation, replace them:

“Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate (think) on these things.” Philippians 4:8


Breastplate of Righteousness

Breastplate of Righteousness

Another vulnerable place is our heart, for our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).  Our hearts cause us to chase after people and things that are not good for us.  Our hearts can become bitter, and out of the overflow of our hearts our mouths speak.  Only the Lord’s righteousness can give us a new heart.  Create in me a clean heart O God (Psalm 51:10).

  • Having put on the breastplate of righteousness

Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness  (Romans 4:3, Genesis 15:16, Galatians 3:6, James 2:23).  Do you BELIEVE God?

“Let not mercy and truth forsake you…write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3

“Keep my words, and treasure my commands within you…write them on the tablet of your heart…that they may keep you…” Proverbs 7:3

“clearly you are an epistle of Christ…written…by the Spirit of the living God…on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.” 2 Corinthians 3:3

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23.

We worry so much about what we eat being bad for us, but it is not what we put into our bodies that makes us unclean, it is what comes out. Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. If our hearts are pure, our words will be also. We must hide God’s word in our hearts that we might not sin against Him. If we do this we need not fret about what we will say when an enemy confronts us, because when that time comes those hidden words will come out. Matthew 10:19; Mark 13:11; Luke 12:11. The Holy Spirit will wield them as a sword against our enemy!  And He’ll help us not to have the horrible, ineffective reactions!

Let’s reach our arms up (in surrender) through the straps of the breastplate, and receive (Christ) our Breastplate into place. Feel the impression of the cross pressed into the breastplate and rest assured that our heart is safe behind that cross of Christ.


Belt of Truth

Belt of Truth

Martial arts beginners start with a yellow beginner belt, and as they become more skilled, they graduate on to the coveted black belt. Being a good Christian, doing the right things, hearing God’s will and doing it, these all take practice for us to become proficient.

  • Having girded your waist with truth

Wear truth like a belt, because, liar liar pants on fire, we don’t want to get caught with our pants down in an untruth. Lies destroy integrity. As Christians we must stay away from them. Guard against them. They are the devil’s playground. He is a liar and the father of lies. Let no lie depart from our lips.

And do not let that nasty devil lie to us either. Has he been in your ear about something?  Tempting.  Taunting.  What has he been lying to you about?  Strap on that belt of truth and find the promises of God in the scriptures.  They are the same yesterday, today, and forever!!!!  When the devil says we are worthless, remember that God created you for the sole purpose of knowing you.  He knew you before you were even born.  He knows every hair on your head.  He ordained every day of your life before you ever even lived one of them.  He has plans to prosper you, to give you a hope and a future.

Has Satan used people to sow seeds of doubt in your mind or your heart?  There is a way that seems right to men, but in the end it leads to death. Jesus is THE Way, THE TRUTH, and THE Life; no one comes to the Father but by Him!

If we ask Jesus into our hearts, and let Him wear the pants in the relationship, that’s how we’ll keep our belt of truth firmly fastened.


Shoes of Readiness

Shoes of Readiness (for the gospel of peace)

Don’t be like my granddaughters, who, bless their sweet little pea pickin’ hearts, shuck those shoes the instant they enter a house, and then when it’s time to go, spend forever, running around like chickens with their heads cut off, sending us all off on a wild goose chase looking for them. Be prepared. Let us always be prepared!  Keep those shoes on!!!!!!!

  • And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace…

Let’s be prepared every day for God’s will and for the work He has for us to do. Look for opportunities to randomly sow kindness. Seek to always be busy for the Lord. We don’t have to be nervous about it – for it is the gospel of peace, not war, that Jesus sends us out with. Jesus said, “My peace I give you! I do not give as the world gives.” His perfect peace casts out fear!

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4:18

“Seek peace, and pursue it!”  The gospel is neither high pressure, or mean, it isn’t insulting, or rude, it should never be argumentative, or hostile, or accusatory. It is not conceited, prideful, arrogant, self-seeking, or unprepared. The gospel is…. well….peace and love, man, peace and love – 1 Cor. 13.

We need a good, tough pair of hikers if we are going to make it up and down the steep cliffs of life, sensible cleats, for the rocky terrain out there is filled with loose gravel, cactus and centipedes, mountains and mud puddles, tall grass and fallen logs.  We’ve got a long road ahead of us and lots of seed to sow – Matthew 13:1-23.

“Every place on which the soul of your foot treads shall be yours…” Deut. 11:24

“How beautiful are the feet of them who bring good news.” Isaiah 52:7 and Romans 10:15

Pull those shoes of peace snuggly onto each foot. Grab the laces and yank hard, twist, and tie, not with pretty laces that break easy, but with a three-fold cord that is not easily broken. Tie those cords into a double bow knot so we don’t lose our shoes in quicksand if we should step in any of it today. And then let’s be about the Lord’s work, scattering seeds, and taking some beautiful peace and good news to our world.  We have the answer for what ailes humanity – the cure for the cancer of the soul!!!!!


Shield of Faith

Shield of Faith

Do you have works? Check your wallet.  What are you spending your  money on?  Check your calendar.  What are you spending your time doing?  Faith without works is evidence of spiritual death. Have you laid your shield down somewhere? Where is it? Let’s find it in a hurry and pick it back up!!!! Of all the pieces of armor, it might be the most important. Even just a tiny mustard seed of faith can grow into a giant tree!

  • Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one…

The shield Paul spoke of was called a thureon, and was a plank of wood, 4 feet long and 2½ feet wide. It was covered with linen and treated leather. It was the one piece of equipment that all the others could hide behind. Picture a turtle, with tough skin, snapping beak, and sharp claws, safely tucked into his shell.  Only the shield will protect a warrior from blazing arrows, and believe me, Satan is generous with his flaming arrows.

The devil wants nothing more than to get us to lay down our shield of faith.  He is always attacking it.  If he can destroy our faith, he’s got us.  That shield is the one piece of armor that protects us from his weapons of mass destruction.

Have you had a crisis of faith recently?  Welcome to the club; I think we all have.  No sin has overcome us except what is common to man.  Has something happened that made you question God’s love or existence?  That, my friend, was the devil, and it was one of his perfectly aimed fiery darts.  He sprays them at all of us, aggressively, incessantly.  When you are having a crisis of faith, go back and find where you laid down your shield and take it back up again.  Read testimonies.  Talk to people who have experienced miracles.  Get in the word.  Pray.  Cry.  Work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  Connect with a faithful mentor.  Read the book The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.  Watch the movie The Shack, or Miracles from Heaven.  Joni Erickson Tada has an amazing testimony.  Do whatever it takes to find our faith again.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen!

Our faith will shield us from the accusations of the devil. Hold on to your faith! Hide behind your faith! It is the only thing protecting us against arrows of death and destruction.



Sword of the Spirit

Sword of the Spirit

How did Jesus fight Satan in His temptation in the wilderness? With the word of God! Have you hidden God’s word in your heart? God gave us the Holy Spirit the moment we asked Jesus into our hearts for many purposes, one of which is to remind us of the words of God that we’ve hidden in our hearts. We must, must, must be in the word. We must know the word, so that no one will ever be able to deceive us!

  • And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…

“The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and morrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

God’s word brings conviction. It shines a light on lies. It extinguishes deceit. It makes promises that increase our faith. The Holy Spirit will teach us all things that are written in the word, and bring to our remembrance all things that Jesus said (John 14:26). We can wield the word of God as a sword against our enemy, as Jesus did when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness.

One of my favorite Bible teachers, Beth Moore, encourages her students in a Breaking Free video session, to “Get you some bullets – a word from the word – every morning, and load your weapon, because Satan isn’t afraid of the chambering SOUND of the shotgun. He’s only gonna run if he gets shot at with REAL bullets – scriptures.”  She has an excellent book, Praying God’s Word, and a couple of wonderful devotionals that I encourage you to get.

Fellow soldier, let’s load our spiritual magazines right now, and every morning, and be ready for whatever may come our way.  Here are some of my favorite Bible Promise Books.  They have categories which lead to specific Bible promises for every problem we could ever face.  Keep one in your car, your desk drawer, your purse, on your table.  So when we come face to face with fear, for instance, we can find scriptures that offer courage in that moment.  If depression, we can find joy.  Health problems? …healing promises!  And also be able to offer encouragement for others!!!!

Bible Promise BooksLucado Promise Books

No weapon formed against us shall prosper, all those who rise up against us shall fall!


Spiritual Armor

Continual Prayer

  • Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit

Keep seeking, keep knocking, keep asking in Jesus’ name, and the door will be opened to us. Let the Holy Ghost pray for us when we don’t know what to pray, with groanings that cannot be formed into words. Pray out loud with our hearts and our minds and our mouths, but also inwardly and with the secret prayer language that the Holy Ghost came to give us, to keep Satan out of the loop, and have holy mediation. Pray by ourselves every moment of every day, and get together often to pray with others. Fast and pray. Ask the Lord to teach us how to pray and what to pray, as the disciples also did, and He will show us.



  • Being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.

When I was first writing this blog post it was back at Christmastime, and I had a bag of treats sitting on my desk to give to my garbage man.  As I wrote I also was keeping an ear out for his rumbling truck. When I heard what I thought was it, I grabbed the bag,  and jumped and ran for the door, only to find it was a darned semi.  The next time I jumped and ran, it was only farm equipment.  Later still it was a dump truck.  Good grief.  Until this day I never really noticed how many heavy trucks traveled down the highway past my house.

Finally the garbage truck did come, and I was able to catch him, and tell him Merry Christmas, but wouldn’t you know it, God had a little object lesson waiting for me when I returned to my work.  His still small voice spoke to my heart and said, “THAT is the kind of watchfulness I want you to have for all things spriritual.”

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  Ephesians 6:12

Our Lord wants us to keep one eye constantly open, watching, and if Satan picks on us, our families, or any one of the saints, we are to use our weapons to chase him away, before he gets a foothold.

Watch, for the devil roams around like a prowling lion seeking whom he may devour. He is an opportunist and goes after the easiest lambs of the flock. Let’s not be easy.  He comes to kill and to steal and to destroy, but do not fear, “Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world” 1 John 4:4.

At the cross of Christ, the enemy was defeated (Colossians 1:13-14; 2:15; Revelation 20:7-10). Let us stand together and have endurance in our watchfulness and fight him off together, calling 911-Jesus when we see anyone under attack, because a three strand cord (us, with our brethren, and entwinded with Jesus) is not easily broken.

THAT is also the kind of watchfulness we are to have for our Lord’s glorious return.  Our Savior, hallelujah, shall come for us one day, praise His glorious name, to snatch us away from this evil world (Thess. 5:6).  I pray He finds me and YOU ready, worthy, and watching!!!!!!!  Oh how I pray!!!!!!!!!


* * *


Did you get dressed with me?  Yay!!!!!  Let’s go take a good look in the mirror at our bad selves, and not forget what we look like with all our armor on. Let’s not be sitting ducks when we get out of bed in the mornings, as we go throughout our chaotic days, or as we lay our heads down on our pillows to sleep at night.  Our Spiritual Armor doesn’t need to be laundered, so let’s just always keep it on!!!!  And like God’s mercies that are new every morning, may His armor be as well.  Put it on again whenever the Holy Spirit prompts us to put it on!

Rejoice with me, that our Father knows how to give good gifts to His children. Besides the gift of Salvation in His Son, we also have the gift of the Holy Spirit that stays with us always, and let us thank the good Lord for the gift of armor that protects us along life’s narrow roads and dark alleys, His hedge of protection He places around us, and His mighty angels that go before us, surround us, and are our rear guards.  Lord cast that devil away from us, far away, as far away as the east is from the west.  And if he should ask you to sift us as wheat today, I pray dear Lord you will tell him NO!  In Jesus’ name.


Click on this image for a FREE PRINTABLE that you can color and tuck in your Bible

“My soul rejoices in my God, for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.” Isaiah 61:10


Oooo Eeee Cajun Feast

Oooo Eeee Cajun Feast

Whether you are looking for a fun dinner party for Mardi Gras, or just LOVE hot and spicy Cajun food in the middle of the winter, these recipes will have you smacking your lips for more.  This is a collection of my most favorite Cajun recipes.  Good luck choosing which dishes to make first.  If you are like me, you’ll want to just celebrate NOLA for the whole month of February with a different Cajun dinner each weekend!

This was one of my favorite meals I did with my family one year for my dad’s birthday, and also on another occasion with my cooking club friends.  It’s a ton of fun!  Be careful though, it’s a little bit of a choke-fest if you do the crab boil indoors.  Plan to have some sort of good ventilation, or else cook that dish outdoors.

One the Menu:

Crab Boil at Sarah's


Shrimp Gumbo bowl4


Bananas Foster at Sarahs



If you buy an Etouffee mix and add shrimp or crawfish to it, you’ll end up with something that resembles brown gravy over rice with crawfish in it. It has a good flavor, but nothing beats homemade! I like mine on the spicy side, so I am fairly generous with the cayenne! The trick to getting just the right spice is to add some in the beginning, some during cooking, and some at the end.

2 lb Good Quality Shrimp, Peeled and Deveined
          (Use the shells to make a shrimp stock – recipe below)

2 Tbsp Creole Seasoning
          Make your own: 2 Tbsp Paprika, 1 Tbsp Cayenne powder, 2 Tbsp garlic powder, 1 Tbsp onion powder, 1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper, 1 Tbsp kosher salt, 1 tsp packed brown sugar, 1 tsp each freeze-dried chive, thyme, oregano, and cilantro. Whirl in a coffee grinder or Bullet until blended and a fine powder. Store in a tightly sealed container. Use within 1 year.

4 Tbsp Butter
½ Cup Onion, Chopped
¼ Cup Celery, Chopped
¼ Cup Bell Pepper, Chopped
¼ Cup Flour
1 ½ Cups Shrimp Stock
¾ Cup fresh Tomatoes, diced
2 Tbsp minced Garlic
I bundle of Fresh Thyme
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp Hot Sauce (Crystal or Louisiana Gold)
Also: salt, black pepper, and cayenne to taste
½ Cup Green Onions, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp minced Italian Parsley
3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
Rice (I like Comet Long Grain Rice, prepared as directed on the package)

Place shrimp in a Ziploc bag. Season with 1 Tbsp of the Creole Seasoning and shake to coat on all sides. Store in refrigerator until later.

Make the shrimp stock now, recipe follows. Cook the rice. I usually cook mine and then set it off the burner without lifting the lid and let it rest for a while (maybe 20 to 30 minutes) to let it dry out a little. These three things can be done the day before and stored in the fridge.

Melt the butter in a large skillet; add the onions, celery, and bell pepper. Sauté until translucent. Whisk in the flour to make a blonde roux, stirring constantly, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 Tbsp Creole Seasoning.

Add a small amount of the shrimp stock, stir well to form a paste, add the remaining stock gradually, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. You may need a little more stock, but the end result should be the consistency of a gravy, not too thick, not too thin.

Add the tomatoes, garlic, thyme, Worcestershire, and hot sauce, salt to taste (yes, taste it), black pepper, and cayenne. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Add the seasoned shrimp that’s been holding in the fridge, green onions, and parsley, simmer for 10 minutes more or until the shrimp are cooked through. Stir in the 3 Tbsp butter, and adjust the seasonings to taste.

Serve over hot cooked Rice. If the rice was prepared the day before it can be reheated in the microwave for a minute or two. Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a main dish.

Shrimp Stock Recipe

The Shells and tails from 2 lb. of Shrimp
½ Cup chopped Onion
¼ Cup chopped Celery
2 Garlic Cloves
1 Lemon sliced
2 Fresh Bay Leaves
3 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
1 tsp. Black Peppercorns

Add all ingredients to a 2 qt. saucepan. Cover this with cold water, it should be about 6-8 Cups. You’ll need 1 ½ Cups for the Etouffee. Bring almost to a boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer. Simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. Strain.
Tip: When adding fresh Thyme to a simmered dish like this, I always bundle the Thyme tightly with butchers twine. The leaves will remove themselves while cooking, and you will get all of the flavor from the stems. When ready to serve just remove the bundle of stems along with your bay leaves.

(This recipe was adapted from one found HERE )

Mardi Gras 1



CAJUN SEAFOOD GUMBO (or Chicken and Sausage Gumbo)


12 ounces fresh or frozen peeled and deveined shrimp (or 2 chicken breasts)

6 ounces fresh or frozen crabmeat (or Andouille sausage)

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup cooking oil

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped red sweet pepper

½ cup chopped green sweet pepper, &/or 2 jalapenos

4 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon ground red pepper, more to taste

3 cups chicken broth, heated

1 14-1/2-ounce can tomatoes, cut up

1-1/2 cups sliced okra or one 10-ounce package frozen cut okra

2 bay leaves

3 cups hot cooked rice

1. Thaw shrimp and crab, if frozen (or cut chicken into bite-size pieces and brown in butter in a frying pan).

For roux, in a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven combine flour and oil until smooth. Cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium. Cook and stir about 10 minutes more or until roux is light peanut-butter-brown.

2. Stir in onion, red sweet pepper, green sweet pepper, garlic, salt, black pepper, and ground red pepper. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are just crisp-tender, stirring often.

3. Gradually stir in hot chicken broth. Stir in undrained tomatoes, okra, and bay leaves. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

4. Stir in shrimp, and crabmeat (or andouille). Simmer, covered, about 5 minutes more or until shrimp turn opaque and oysters curl around the edges. Discard bay leaves. Serve in bowls with rice. Makes 6 servings. For extra heat add Creole seasoning, cayenne, or Louisiana Hot Sauce.

Shrimp Gumbo bowl4


I like the boxed Zatarains mix, and usually add leftover cooked chicken, andouille sausage, and shrimp (or crawfish) to it. Easy-peasy!

Mardi gras3


1 box Zatarains Crab Boil
1 whole Dungeness crab, or 1 pound king or snow crab legs
1 pound crawfish
2 pounds shrimp (whole, or shell on)
1 bag small red or fingerling potatoes
1 pound Andouille sausage
4 cobs of corn on the cob, broken into 2 inch pieces
Cajun seasoning (like Slap Yo Mama)
Garlic butter (3 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced, and added to 3 sticks melted butter)


Using either a large soup pot with a lid or electric turkey fryer, fill with 3 quarts water. Bring to boil and add salt, plus 1 bag of Zatarain’s Crab Boil (if doing this indoors you will want all the windows and doors open because of the fumes – best done outdoors), 1 lemon quartered, and cayenne pepper to taste. Place the basket inside your fryer. If you are using a soup pot you will just have to pour the liquid out at the end and catch your pot contents with the lid or in a colander. Drop in crab and boil vigorously for 5 minutes (unless you are using precooked frozen, in which case you will add it with the shrimp at the end). Add potatoes and broken cobs of corn to the pot and boil vigorously for 10 minutes. Add the crawfish, chunks of andouille, and shrimp. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow seafood to remain in water for 5 minutes after boiling.

Lift contents from water or drain water off (save, strain, and freeze for use in other dishes). Drizzle seafood with melted butter and sprinkle with Cajun seasoning. Toss to coat. Cover your table with a plastic tablecloth; lay a beach towel or two over that and then lay butcher paper over the whole top. Dump the pot contents out on the butcher paper, in the center of the table. Place lemon wedges and extra cups of garlic butter around. Let everyone help themselves, eating with their fingers. You will want to have plenty of paper towels nearby and possibly bibs. Be sure to have some crab crackers and forks available too.

Crab Boil at Sarah's

Photo by Sarah Gaitan



Sandwiches (for a luncheon)

Poor Boy  (<<< click the link for a great recipe, and little story about how the Poor Boy originated)

Shrimp Po’ Boy  (<<< click this link for a killer recipe for this sandwich)




I got super lucky one day and found little bundles in my grocery store’s (HEB) lunchmeat counter of the three meats for this sandwich.  The packages were nestled in among the shredded cheeses, near the Lunchables section.  The bundles contained the three meats grouped on top of each other and laid on parchment paper, and then stacked on top of each other, enough for four sandwiches.  I bought two packages feeling very lucky, because it is impossible to find mortadella or cappicola in my town.  And to my chagrin I’ve never seen them again.  My HEB carries foccacia, but doesn’t carry the bread boules or the Olive Salad, so I’m sure the meat was a mistake purchase, but Walmart carries the Olive salad, and often has bread boules, the clam chowder size ones.

So, this is a link to Emeril’s recipe (simple) for the sandwich.  And this is another little bit more involved recipe I found in a recent search.

3 Cajun Supper


6 rounded tablespoons dark roast New Orleans coffee with chicory (Café Du Monde or Community Coffee)
6 cups water
6 cups milk

Brew your coffee in a drip coffeemaker and serve with half coffee and half scalded (not steamed!) milk.
Scald, do NOT boil, the milk. Pour coffee into warmed large mugs, then add the milk. If you like yours sweet, add two teaspoons of sugar to the cup. YIELD: 12 cups

Iced Tea

Make a gallon of sun tea using a family size tea bag (black and orange pekoe tea) and fresh, filtered, cool water. Set your glass container in the sun and let it brew until a rich brown color, about an hour or so on a hot summer day. Remove tea bag and chill in the refrigerator. I am a big fan of the cold brew tea bags! Just fill your container, add tea bags, and put in fridge. It brews in no time, is never cloudy, and tastes pretty darn close to the sun brewed.

In the south they love their tea sweet. It is easy to serve both sweet and unsweet by making a simple syrup that will dissolve quickly in iced liquids. You can make a quart of simple syrup by dissolving 5-6 cups of sugar in 3 cups of cold water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Once it’s dissolved and clear, cool and pour into a bottle with a lid. Store in the refrigerator – writing the date that you made it on the jar. If you notice it starts to turn cloudy or get moldy, toss it and make some fresh. Use for sweetening tea, coffee and cocktails. If you’re not going to use it right away, dilute it with 6 more cups of water and fill your hummingbird feeders.

Abita Amber beer

Mardi Gras 2


1 teaspoon of simple syrup (see recipe above) 3 – 4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters 2 ounces rye whiskey (most New Orleans bars use Old Overholt) ¼ teaspoon Herbsaint, a New Orleans brand of anise liqueur (You may use Pernod, or some other pastis or absinthe substitute) Strip of lemon peel

The traditional method: Pack a 3-1/2 ounce old-fashioned glass with ice. In a cocktail shaker, moisten a sugar cube with just enough water to saturate it, then crush. Blend with the whiskey and bitters. Add a few cubes of ice and stir to chill. Discard the ice from the first glass and pour in the Herbsaint. Coat the inside of the entire glass, pouring out the excess. Strain the whiskey into the Herbsaint coated glass. Twist the lemon peel over the glass so that the lemon oil cascades into the drink, then rub the peel over the rim of the glass; do not put the twist in the drink).

HURRICANE (It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!)
1 ounces light rum
1 ounces dark rum (151 proof)
1.5 ounce orange juice
1.5 ounce fresh lime juice (NOT Rose’s or RealLime)
1/3 cup passion fruit juice or 1 tablespoon passion fruit syrup
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
1 teaspoon grenadine
Cherries with stems, and orange slice to garnish
Ice cubes

In a cocktail shaker, mix the rum, passion fruit juice or syrup, the other juices and the sugar until sugar is dissolved. Add the grenadine, and stir to combine, then add ice and shake. Half-fill a hurricane glass with ice, then strain drink into glass; add ice to fill. Garnish with orange slice and cherries.
Option: If you’d like something easier, look at your local liquor mart for packets of Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane Mix and follow directions.


Bananas Foster at Sarahs.

This photo was taken at a cooking club gathering, by the host.  We were joking that she was getting evidence photos to explain to her insurance agent how we burned her house down.  Ha!  This is not entirely the traditional way of making true Bananas Foster, because I am not a huge fan of mushy bananas, plus I like lots of sauce. I’ve made this a few times and this is the way I personally like it best. It’s sooooo easy, but your guests will oooo and ahhhh (or take fear photos) at your flame-boyant cooking panache. You’ll want to make this where your guests can see you.

1 stick butter
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup banana liqueur
½ cup of dark rum
4 bananas, cut in slices (I like mine still with a hint of green & no brown spots)
1 carton vanilla ice cream (1 large scoop per guest)


Melt butter in a deep-sided skillet. Add brown sugar and cinnamon, and let cook until sugar is melted and sauce is bubbly. Slowly add banana liquor and gently stir until just warmed. Slowly add dark rum and gently stir until just warmed. Remove pan from heat and ignite with a long-stemmed BBQ lighter. Carefully stir with a long-handled spoon until flames subside. Place pan back on the stove with the burner off. Add the banana slices and gently toss with warm sauce (I don’t like mushy bananas, so that’s why I only add them at the end).

Place ice cream in serving dishes and top with several banana slices from the pan. Spoon warm sauce over ice cream and serve immediately.




1 Oreo cookie pie crust

2 pints coffee ice cream, softened slightly

1/3 cup chocolate fudge topping

1 cup whipped cream

¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted

Directions: Spoon softened ice cream evenly into chilled crust. Drizzle fudge topping over ice cream then return pie to freezer for at least 1 hour. When ready to serve, decorate with whipped cream and sprinkle with almonds. Makes one 9-inch pie.


These are heavenly little donuts that go spectacularly with Coffee au lait. I recommend the cooking class recipe offered at Southern Living .  My HEB carries the box mixes.




A King Cake is basically the same recipe as a giant cinnamon roll made into a “crown” shape (Monkey Bread in a Bundt pan would work fine), and the icing is covered in purple, yellow, and green colored sugar, and heaped on top. It is sometimes decorated with glitter sprinkles, mardi gras beads, or masks.  Also, a tiny plastic baby is hidden in the dough before the cake is baked.  When the cake is served at a Mardi Gras party, the guest who ends up with the baby in their serving must host the next soiree!



Background Music: Zydeco Stomp CD, or a New Orleans Jazz CD, some Hank Williams Jr., or a good Harry Connick Jr. album.

Play a game: Gambling is a big thing in New Orleans on the river boats. Decorate a room of your house to look like a Riverboat.  Play card, dice, and domino games, or the game Wits & Wagers.   Another game with a NOLA theme is Party Gras (which is a game played all night during other activities using Mardi gras beads – similar to the clothes pin game played at baby showers).



Watch a movie: Mark Twain – A Film Directed by Ken Burns (2002) would be a  good choice for documentary watchers.  Streetcar named Desire (an oldie).  The Frog Prince (for families with kids).  Double Jeopardy with Ashley Judd, is set partially in New Orleans.  Ghost Rider, with Nicholas Cage.

You could also use this meal as a great starter for a video Bible study (the one I am thinking of is Breaking Free, by Beth Moore, as it was filmed entirely on location in New Orleans, both the original and the revised versions, and is an excellent small-group Bible study) to get started in your home with your friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc.  After dinner you could play the introductory video, pass out the workbooks, and get it started.


~ A Reluctant Hostess’s Bag of Parlor Tricks for Social Occasions ~


Conversation Cards

Conversation Starters for the Table

Okay, the day of my party has arrived.  The food is cooked.  The table is set.  My guests are beginning to arrive.  I’ve shown each where to stash their coats and purses, and pointed them to the beverage station.  I have a few things to finish up in the kitchen, but also want to warmly greet each person who arrives, never-the-less in my flushed and busy chaos I can’t forget what it feels like to be the guest.  I’ve been a guest.  I know very well the inevitable awkward little spaces of time when introverted people start to sweat a little.  I know what it feels like to be out of my comfort zone.  If I don’t know the host very well, or any of the other invited guests, it is easy for me to feel a little bit ruffled.  I’m not sure where to sit or stand, or who to go and mingle with.  I wonder if it would be rude to sit at the table, or okay to hang with the ladies in the kitchen.

Life is so much easier for Sanguines and extroverts.  I  appreciate having them in my life.  I am honestly sooooo much better at coming up with ideas for parties: food, decorations, music, and games, than I am at the social aspects.  It’s probably my biggest hurdle to being hospitable.  I’m not so much worried about my house being clean enough, or putting on airs with a lot of nice things.  It’s the social part that gives me a heart attack.  I usually won’t go out on a limb to invite people over unless I know them really well (family), or I have an accomplice who is funny and outgoing, and with a real gift of gab.  Without my security blanket I’m pretty much a basket case.

This is where a nice set of Conversation cards really comes in handy for those awkward lulls during dinner when I can’t think of anything to talk about, and God forbid am surrounded also by introverts.  They rescue me.  Conversation is what draws us all out of our shells and helps us all to get comfortable with each other, and engaged – as long as we’re not put on the spot in front of everybody.

Sometimes, it’s hard to share our most personal thoughts, ideas, and opinions (unless we know where those around us stand), or without a glass of wine to loosen us up first – ha!, so a set of conversation cards can be a good way to get things going.  There are a ton of sets out there (Amazon).  Food for Talk by Julienne Smith is one of my favorites.

I have found that the best way to get past being uncomfortable and vulnerable in conversations with new people is by practicing treating them the way I want to be treated, and in my limited experience I have found that sometimes when I took that leap of faith and shared my heart with someone, it actually, occasionally landed in safe hands, and it very often was the catalyst to a beautiful friendship.

I have worked pretty hard to be a safe place for other people’s conversations as well. Gossips are not good friends!  Experience has taught me, that it is okay to be observant, cautious, and protective. It is like looking both ways before crossing a road. But when it looks as if the coast is clear, I encourage you (and deal a pep talk to myself as well) to try putting just a little of ourselves out there. And in return, also be a “safe place” for other people’s thoughts and dreams and ideas.

Another thing I struggle with is ADD.  When my mind is racing with self-conciousness, it is hard to pay attention, but we all appreciate a good listener.  Weep with those that weep.  Rejoice with those who rejoice.

I will pray for you, and for myself as well, that we learn to relax and just have fun.  And I pray that our minds don’t batter us too badly later as we lay in bed replaying every careless word we spoke and every clumsy gesture.  Please say I’m not the only one who does this!  Well, if I have a witness, at least you know you are not alone.


“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

…given to hospitality.”

Romans 12:10,13





A Gringo Tamalada, Ole!

A Gringo Tamalada, Ole!

While the rest of my fellow “gringos” are having “Ugly Sweater” parties, Cookie Exchanges, and Gift Wrapping/Mulled-Wine drinking parties for Christmas wouldn’t it be fun to host a TAMALADA just to be different?

I recently tried my hand at making Tamales, and to my delight they turned out, and were actually delicious (thank God), but boy howdy were they a ton of work. Took me ALL DAY! I’m absolutely addicted to tamales at Christmas, but I’m thinking if I ever decide to make them again I will want to make a party out of it, because many hands make light work. So here’s what I’m thinking…

Who to invite? Hmmm, well they’ll need to be reliable guests, who promise to make their dish and show up for the assembly process.

I could send them each a recipe card, after they RSVP and volunteer for a portion of the tamale-making they want to do. The host (which will be me, if I manage to muster the courage to actually do this) will provide snacks, and beverages – I’m thinking some fun drink choices would be Sangria; a Hot-Mexican-Chocolate Bar; Horchata Smoothies; and blended Margaritas. I’ll need to remember to find a good Latino Christmas Album or two or three to play for ambiance during the party, and also dig out an entertaining game to go with the party, that we can play while we’re waiting for the first batch of tamales to come out of the steamers. A couple of my favorites are Mexican Train (dominoes) and Canasta (cards)!

Or, if my family/friends want to bring their Christmas cards, stamps, address labels, and stationery we could get our Christmas cards ready to mail out while we wait for tamales, and we can snack and visit while we write and fold and lick and stamp! Make it kind of a working Tamale party! I can offer this on the invitations, and then discuss it with everybody when they RSVP.

Here’s how I’m thinking we can split up the cooking…

Guests #1, 2, & 3 could each make a 3-lb pork roast (half of the recipe listed below) and shred it, discarding any bone or cartilage, and reserving and bringing the strained pork broth to the party.

Pork for Tamales Tamalada Party recipe card

Printable Recipe Card


Guest #4 could make the Chili sauce up to the point of adding the broth and blending it, and bring the cooked chilies with them to the party.

Red Sauce Tamalada Party recipe card

Printable Recipe Card


HOST: could prepare corn husks

Boiled corn husks


Guest #5 could make the Masa, up to the point of adding the broth and mixing, and bring it to the party

Masa Tamalada Party recipe card

Printable Recipe Card


Click this link for a FREE PRINTABLE of the Recipe cards for Tamalada!

(((((-Full recipes are further down on this page-)))))

My Tamalada Invitation

Printable Invitation

Click this LINK for the printable Tamalada Invitation!

So, I know from experience that it’s going to take at least 4 hours to make the finishing touches on the meat and masa, then assemble, and steam the tamales. So I’ll plan my party accordingly when filling out the details on the invitation. Maybe I should have it on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon?

Once my guests have RSVP’d and volunteered for the dish they want to make, I’ll send them out the recipe card for their items (shown above, in case you missed them).

((((( Click here for the FREE PRINTABLE Recipe cards for Tamalada! )))))



Buy whatever groceries and beverages I’ll need and give myself time to prepare them before the party.

Set up a station for the final masa preparation. I will need counter space, a large bowl, a mixer, and a cup of warm water to test the masa in.

Set up a work station for the final preparation of the red sauce. I will need a large sauce pot for the stove, and a blender or food processor. Someone will be making a roux in the sauce pot, and another person will be blending the red sauce (softened chilies and broth from pork). The pork and the red sauce will be added to the roux.

I’ll set up a large table for assembly. Place the ingredients down the center of my table, the husks next to the masa, the masa next to the meat, and finally a cookie sheet at the end to pile the tamales on. I’ll put a person at each ingredient and we’ll pass each tamal along. They’ll go together pretty quick. I will need some clean kitchen towels and possibly a roll of paper towels, also a masa spreader or spatula, a spoon to measure the masa, a spoon to measure the meat, and a large cookie sheet. And afterward some tin foil to wrap the tamales in for sending home or freezing.

Make room in my refrigerator for whatever uncooked tamales, and whatever else needs refrigerated.

Set up the steamer pots (illustrated below). I will need two large canner size pots with lids and a steamer basket for each inside. I will also need two clean kitchen towels and water for those.

Set up a beverage station with various beverages as mentioned earlier. I can set up a hot cocoa bar, I can also set out a large thermos of blended Margaritas, and a pitcher of Sangria. I might also want to set out some iced tea and water and a cooler of ice, and a variety of glasses and mugs.

Set up an appetizer/snack table where guests can nibble as we wait for the tamales to cook. Decide what appetizers I will serve at my party, and have them ready when guests arrive. I will need serving plates, bowls, spoons, etc. I might want to have a pretty tablecloth for this table, and some festive table decorations.

Set up the music that I will have playing in the background of my party.

Set out a couple of game choices (mentioned earlier), so that once the tamales are all assembled, and the table has been cleared, we can start having some fun. Or if we all prefer doing Christmas cards, I will need to *be sure to note this in my party reminder call, so my guests will know to bring their supplies!

Of course I’ll want a clean house, a spotless kitchen, and a tidy bathroom at least. Ugh! Sometimes this keeps me from throwing parties! My house is truly never clean enough.  Oh suck it up girl, get to scrubbin’ it’s gonna be fun!!!!!!!!!

A day or two before the party I can send a reminder via Text/eMail/Phonecall, so my guests will know if we’ll be doing Christmas cards during the party, or just playing games and eating. They might need the prodding for the dish they are making too!

Day of the party designate various ASSEMBLY LINE jobs:

Someone to wash all the dirty dishes and clean counters (my least fav job)

Someone to make the roux, and mix the meat with the sauce

Someone to finish making the red sauce

Someone to finish making the masa

Assembly line Husk Person, who will dry and pass the husks

Assembly line Masa Spreader person

Assembly line Meat person, who will also wrap tamales

Tamale tie person, who will tear off strips of husk to tie around tamales and stack them on a cookie sheet

And finally someone to set up and load steamers, and babysit them with water




Pork for Tamales

2 3-lb pkgs Pork Carnitas or a shoulder roast

1 large onion, chopped

5 cloves garlic, broken in pieces

3 jalapenos, chopped

1 Tbsp salt

Enough water to cover

DO AT HOME: Place pork roast, onion, garlic, and salt in a large pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer over medium heat until pork is very tender, about 3 hours. Remove pork from water and shred. Store in a Ziploc bag and keep in refrigerator for up to a day, until ready to use. Strain liquid and reserve for use in making the red sauce and the masa. Place in sealed jars in refrigerator for up to a day. Skim the fat off the broth and place it in a separate ziploc bag to use for the roux. Bring the pork, broth, and skimmed fat to the party.

Carnitas Pork

DO AT THE PARTY: Once at the party someone will need to make a roux (see recipe below) and then the pulled pork can be combined with the roux and the red sauce.

chili cascavel


Red Sauce

4 ounces California (or Cascavel) chile pods, seeds and stems removed

4 ounces New Mexico chile pods, seeds and stems removed

1 1/4 cup reserved pork broth

1 1/4 cup water

1 Tbsp salt

3 cloves garlic, broken in pieces

1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin seeds

DO AT HOME: Toast chilies in a hot skillet over medium high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant. Rinse chile pods. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add rinsed chile pods and cook until chile pods are softened, about 15 minutes. Drain water off chilies and discard the water. Add salt, garlic, and ground cumin. Seal in a plastic bag until ready to blend at the party. This can be done up to a day ahead.

DO AT THE PARTY: Pour chilies, broth, and water into a blender and blend until smooth. Place in large kettle until ready to mix with the pork.

Roux: Someone will need to make a roux using ½ cup lard, reserved from roast, and ½ cup flour. Cook on the stove, stirring continually until peanut butter colored. Toss in the pork and red sauce and mix well. I also like to chop another jalapeno or two to add to the meat. Cover and refrigerate, or if near to being ready to assemble, place on the assembly line.

Pork mixed with red sauce





2 pounds Manteca lard, divided

2 teaspoons baking powder, divided

2 tablespoons salt, divided

5 pounds ground masa harina, divided

2 to 3 cups broth reserved from cooked pork roast (or chicken broth), divided

½ bunch Cilantro, finely minced

Small white onion, very finely minced

½ cup Tomatillo Salsa, or Salsa Verde

Reserved pork broth with skimmed fat

DO AT HOME: Place 1 pound of lard in a KitchenAid® Stand Mixer and mix until fluffy, scraping sides so the lard stays in the center of the mixing bowl. (The flat beater is the ideal accessory for mixing.) Add half the baking powder and half the salt to the lard and mix together. Add half the masa harina and mix together. Seal in a ziploc bag in the fridge.

Now do the other half of the same ingredients, and store in the fridge in a ziploc bag for up to a day. Please bring to room temp before bringing to the party.

DO AT THE PARTY: Place one room temperature batch of the masa in a large bowl. Slowly add half the broth, half the onion and cilantro, and half the salsa verde, to and mix until combined. The mixture should be about the consistency of smooth peanut butter. If not, add more broth as necessary. Test the masa by taking a small piece (1/2 teaspoon) and dropping it into a cup of warm water. If it floats it is ready; if it sinks, add a little more lard, beat for another minute and test it again. Repeat this process until the masa floats. Cover and set on the assembly table.

Repeat the process with the remaining batch of masa.


Corn Husks

DO AT HOME: Take husks from package and rinse well in the sink, removing any silks or debris. Fill a large stock pot with water and press the clean husks down to submerge them. Bring water to a boil and soak husks in gently boiling water for about 1 hour. You may need to flip the stack occasionally so the top ones get pliable. Drain water from husks but keep husks in the kettle with the lid on.

DO AT THE PARTY: Set warm, soaked husks, in covered pot on the assembly table. Keep a clean kitchen towel nearby to dry the husks just before spreading them with masa, otherwise the masa won’t stick.



Tamale Assembly Station

Place the husks, masa, meat, and cookie sheet down the center of a table, and seat my guests all around it, except the guest who volunteered to do the mountain of dirty dishes. Assembly will start with corn husks being dried off and passed to the masa person next to them, that person will spread it with masa and pass it to the meat person next to them; that person will top it with meat and wrap it and hand it across to the tie person; that person will tear off a little strip from a boiled husk and use it to tie around the tamal and lay on the cookie sheet. Once the cookie sheet is full and heaping, the last person (ME) will pack the tamales vertically in the steamer with the open end up and start them steaming.

Assembly Line

SPREADING THE MASA: Place the wide end of the husk on the palm of your hand (or on the flat work surface), narrow end is at the top. Starting at the middle of the husk spread 2 tablespoons of the masa with a spatula or masa spreader in a rectangle shape, using a downward motion towards the wide-bottom edge. Do not spread the masa to the ends; leave about a 2-inch border on the left and right sides of the husk. Pass to the person with the meat (or other) filling. There is too wide of a swath of masa on this husk shown below, and also it’s not quite thick enough. You only need enough masa to wrap around the meat and a little extra to hold the husk closed.


ADDING THE MEAT: Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons of your chosen filling down the center of the masa. (When I ran out of meat filling and still had masa, I started making Pepper Jack Cheese and Jalapeno filling. Fold both sides of hust to the center over the top of the meat; finish off by bringing the pointed end of the husk toward the filled end. Pass tamale to the person who will tie the tamales closed.


TAMALE TIE PERSON: Make sure each tamal is snuggly closed and will not open during steaming. You can secure by tying a thin strip of corn husk around each tamal. This will keep the tamal from unwrapping during the steaming process, especially if the husk is too thick and will not stay folded. Stack wrapped tamales on a cookie sheet.


HOST: Prepare the steamer pots… (You will also load the steamer pots)

Steamer Pot

This is my tamale steamer. I can only fill water up to the little rack, but not above it, and start it simmering on the stove. The steamer pot needs to be tall enough for our tamales to sit up vertically above the water and still fit the lid on. (If you don’t have a double boiler, you can improvise like I have. All mine is, is a round cooling rack setting on top of a brick, which I’ve washed several times in the dishwasher, or I could also use a small colander placed down into the bottom of my soup kettle and my rack on top. This set up works perfectly. Each steamer will need to have a clean kitchen towel and a lid.

When a cookie sheet of tamales is piled up high, they can be loaded in the steamer…

Fill the top part of the steamer with tamales. Stand the tamales up vertically, open ends up and folded ends at the bottom, and make sure the folded part is either tied up, or held in place with another tamal. Pack the tamales snug enough so that they won’t fall over during cooking, but not so tight that the steam can’t get in around them. In other words, don’t cram and squish them as tight as they will go, but let there be too much space or they will collapse and mush over. If there are not enough tamales to fill the steamer, use canning jars to take up the spaces so the tamales don’t fall over.

Turn heat up on the water until it boils. Cover the tamales with a clean kitchen towel and then the lid of the pot. Turn the heat down to medium so that it stays gently boiling, but not raging boiling. Set timer for 2 hours. Check every 20 to 30 minutes or so to make sure the water is not boiling dry, and add boiling water as necessary. Make sure the tamales are above the water line and that the bottoms are not siting in water at all.

Steaming tamales

Tamales will need to steam for 2 hours or more. After 2 hours we can test for doneness. Remove one tamale and check if the masa holds together and slips easily off the husk. If so, it is done, if not it needs to steam some more. Check again in 15 minutes when I check the water level.


When a batch of tamales is done they can be eaten right away, or wrapped in foil (1 dozen at a time) and refrigerated or frozen for later.

cooked tamales

Divide the wrapped dozens of tamales among the guests. There should be about 1-2 dozen per guest.

You will want to eat some at the party!!!! There are lots of ways to eat tamales. Some like them topped with just a little of the red sauce, which you can make another batch of while the tamales are steaming. I like mine all different ways. Straight out of the steamer and burning my fingers and tongue as I shove them into my mouth, or if I have all the toppings on hand for Tortilla Soup or Carnitas tacos, I like all of those (minus the tortilla strips) on top of my tamales. I also like them with salsa verde, chopped onions, cilantro, and jalapenos, and a little dallop of sour cream (as pictured below). And I also like them loaded up with red sauce, pepper-jack cheese, black olives, corn and black bean salsa, shredded lettuce and pico de gallo. There is just about no wrong way to eat a tamale.


So there you have it. Sound like fun to you? I’m pretty sure all my Mexican friends reading this are laughing at my gringo-ness; all having hosted and attended a hundred Tamaladas, so hopefully one of you will take pity on me and invite me to your next one, to show me how it’s done! My hat’s off to whoever invented tamales, for passing on this wonderful food, and to my friends south of the border for keeping going this fun tradition. Feliz Navidad!


“The LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine.” Isaiah 25:6



Snowflake Craft for kids

Snowflake Craft for kids

Supplies needed: 

  • Toilet paper or paper towel rolls (empty)
  • Pipecleaners 
  • Scissors
  • Hole Punch





glitter spray


Blog Photo

I did this as a Christmas craft with the students at my granddaughter’s school (pre-K through 8th grade).  We had all just recently experienced snow in our town, a RARE and exciting event in south Texas, so this craft commemorated that very memorable event with a little keepsake.  I also wrote a poem to go with our keepsake craft, so they could be kept forever in a memory book, if anyone wanted. 

Print Poem


You might like to do this craft with your kids during the Christmas break from school.  Here is an idea of something you could do with the snowflakes (besides just hang them in your tree).



“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower
and bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” 

Isaiah 55:10-11

Mrs H’s Indian Fry Bread Tacos

Mrs H’s Indian Fry Bread Tacos

In case you missed this recipe, featured recently in A Native Thanksgiving, here’s a re-run of it all by itself, because it is just too delicious to miss.

There are several ways to make the fry bread. My grandmother used her homemade yeast bread recipe and then divided it into dinner roll size pieces. She pulled those into little robe shapes and gave them a little twist before frying. She called it “Squaw Bread” and I could have honestly eaten the whole stinking batch every time she made it. Nothing better than hot fried bread, unless of course it is hot fried bread rolled in cinnamon and sugar, which she also sometimes did.

You can save yourself a lot of work by just using Rhodes Yeast Rolls that come frozen in the grocery store. Thaw them and then fry them. It’s that easy!

The Native way is also very easy and delicious. This is the recipe:

Fry Bread (2)


This recipe makes 7-8 small ones


2 cups flour

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup milk

Deep hot fat in fry pan or fryer


Sift dry ingredients. Stir in milk. Kneed and work the dough on a floured board with floured hands until smooth. Divide the dough into eight pieces and shape into flat disk shapes, with a depression in the center. Fry in deep fat (about 375°) until golden and done on both sides, about 5 minutes. Drain on absorbent paper.

Fry Bread Taco mrsh


6 servings

Frybread tacos are very much like the Elephant Ear tacos that we used to get at the carnival when the rodeo was in town. Very easy and one of my favorite things to eat. If I have leftover homemade chili I use it in place of the meat recipe here. And when I can’t find Anasazi beans, and I’m in a hurry, I just substitute canned pintos.


6 pieces Indian Frybread — about 6” in diameter

For Chili:

1 lb hamburger

1 big can tomatoes (I used Rotel)

2 Tbsp homemade chile powder (or your favorite packet of Chili seasoning)

salt, pepper to taste

Fry hamburger broken up loose until cooked, then drain fat. Sprinkle some salt and chile powder over it (or use a Chili seasoning packet). Add tomatoes and their juice — break up tomatoes and stir it around. Simmer till meat tender and sauce is thick, 30 – 40 minutes.


1/2 lb cheese grated coarse (Colby/Jack)

1 1/2 c Dried anasazi beans, cooked

1 1/2 c Mache or arugula, washed & stemmed (I substitute Cilantro, chopped)

1 pkg sweet cherry tomatoes, sliced

2 ea Ripe avocados, halved & sliced

1 sm red onion, thinly sliced and diced

1 bunch red radishes, sliced

1 container Golden yellow cherry tomatoes diced

3 ea Green Anaheim (New Mexico) chiles, prepared (I’ve sometimes substituted Poblanos when Anaheims are out of season or unavailable)

1 lg Red bell pepper


22448To prepare the anasazi beans, soak overnight in water to cover. The next day, drain the beans and place them in a saucepan with fresh water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and let the beans simmer until the skins break, about 3 hours. It may be necessary to add water as the beans cook to prevent them from burning and sticking. After the beans are cooked, remove from the heat and set aside. You should have about 3 cups cooked beans.

While the beans are cooking, roast, seed, and de-vein the chiles and the bell pepper, and chop each of the veggies. I usually do this early in the day, place each in a ziploc sandwich baggie, and store together in the fridge until I’m ready to serve.

Prepare the Native recipe fry bread while the meat (chili) is cooking.

Indian Fry Bread Tacos mrsh

To Assemble the tacos, place 1/2 cup cooked beans on each piece of frybread, then a layer of meat mixture, then your choice of the vegetables (I like all of them). Finish with a little Mexican Crema (sour cream), some bottled hot sauce (salsa) on top, and finally a little sprinkle of cheese.

You’ll need a fork and knife to eat this marvelous creation!

Indian Fry Bread Tacos logo

supper grace

Creamy Poblano Gravy (spicy)

Creamy Poblano Gravy (spicy)



It’s funny, the seasons of life, how things have a way of making it around full circle to the exact same place where they started.  For instance, we start off life as little pudgy babies, unable to talk, unable to walk, getting shots, getting sick, wearing diapers, being told what to do, and existing on a mostly liquid diet; and for all the progress we make in our lifetime, we end up right back where we started, in diapers, drinking Ensure, eating mushy stuff, taking meds, being told what to do, and wheeled around wherever we have to go.


It’s similar in a marriage.  First I learned to cook for two, and then to prepare meals for a whole family, and now here we are back at just two again.  I’m finding it a bit of a challenge to learn to scale things back so I don’t waste food, or blow the budget, trying to keep it healthy, but still tasting good!  I don’t want to feed us Lean Cuisines, or fast food, or frozen pizza every meal, but at the same time, I don’t have the energy or ambition to stand on my feet for hours chopping, measuring, peeling, blanching, boiling, broiling, and then washing, wiping, scouring, scrubbing, and putting back together a totally destroyed kitchen…everyday….for just the two of us.  <sigh>

So I find myself making things like quesadillas out of leftover fill-in-the-blank meat, cheese, and hot peppers; or fish tacos from doggie bag catfish gotten at a local restaurant the night before and some sort of cabbage slaw; or crispy fried SPAM-L-T’s (because I usually have Spam in the pantry and I don’t always have bacon) with a side of raw veggies (because that is healthier than chips, but a lot of times, honestly, it is chips); or this wonderful biscuits and gravy meal I recently came up with.  It’s super easy if you roast your chilies one day, toss them in a bag and into the fridge, and then peel and seed them the next day.

I’m sharing it because Husband said this is the best gravy he’s ever had, and at 61 I guess that’s saying something.  However, it could be that he has just totally forgotten what the best gravy was he had before this.  Which is kind of a perk, the memory loss thing, it can really work to an old lady’s advantage sometimes!  Ha!  But I did also feed it to my daughter, the sweet young thing with a chipper young mind, and she concurred, so there you go, for what that’s worth.

Anyway, this gravy isn’t just good on biscuits.  It would be fantastic on Chicken Fried Steak, pepper steak, mashed potatoes, as a dip for Waffle Fries, Chicken strips, or even just toast, if that’s all you have.  I fried up some bacon (in the oven) and chopped up a couple dozen fresh okra from my garden, along with a cold, leftover baked potato, coated the pieces in cornmeal and then fried them in oil, as sides to our supper.  Perhaps this sounds like “jail food” to you?  Well, wait until you’re my age honey.  You’ll be a LOT less picky.  Hubby and I thought it was GOOD EATS!!!!

 Poblano Gravy ad

Creamy Poblano Gravy

¾ of a stick of butter

2 TBSP bacon drippings

¾ cup flour

¼ tsp Salt Lick dry rub seasoning (which is basically cayenne powder and black pepper)

Melt butter in frying pan, add bacon fat, flour, and seasoning.  Stir to combine, then cook, stirring continuously, over medium high heat for a few minutes.  To this rue add:

1 tsp. chopped jalapeno or serrano (or both if you like it spicy)

2 roasted, peeled, and seeded Poblano Peppers, chopped

4 cups of whole milk, or Half-and-Half

Water (as desired)

Stir until thick and bubbly.  Add water to thin the gravy to your desired thickness.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Poblano Gravy Collage


“He was known to them in the breaking of bread.”

  Luke 24:35