Bob Armstrong Dip

Did you know today is Texas Independence Day? According to my source, “Texas Independence Day commemorates the adoption of the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836. This event marked Texas’ independence from Mexico.” Pretty cool, huh?

So to celebrate, instead of giving away free beer (which is what Rudy’s Barbecue is doing today..) I made Bob Armstrong Dip. Named for the former Texas Land Commissioner who asked a restauranteur’s son to “surprise him” with something new to eat, this dip combines homemade taco meat and homemade queso. A winning combination, in my eyes.

Then again, anything involving cheese is a winner in my eyes…..

This was so easy to make, and I especially appreciated the omission of processed cheese in the recipe. Now before I get pelted with boxes of the orange substance that is a mainstay here in Texas, let me say that I don’t have anything against Velveeta, I just don’t have anything for it.


Which puts me squarely in the minority with that statement.

Bob Armstrong Dip – adapted from Lisa Fain via Matt Martinez

Taco meat:
2 tbs. vegetable oil
1 jalapeño, seeded, stemmed, and diced
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of cayenne

Chile con queso:
2 tbs. vegetable oil
2 jalapeños, seeded, stemmed, and diced
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbs. corn starch
1 cup milk
1/2 lb shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 lb. shredded monterey jack cheese

Sour cream, for garnishing
Tortilla chips, for serving

To make the taco meat, in a large skillet heat the oil on medium-low heat and add the jalapeño and onion. While stirring occasionally, cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.

Add the ground beef to the skillet, along with the cumin, chili powder, pepper, and cayenne. Stir until everything is well combined and then cook the ground beef for 15 more minutes, or until browned. Taste and adjust seasonings. Turn off the heat and drain any excess grease.

To make the queso, in a saucepot heat the oil on medium-low heat and add the jalapeño and onion. While stirring occasionally, cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.

Leaving on the heat, stir in the cumin, black pepper, and cornstarch until the dry ingredients are well combined with the vegetables. Pour in the milk and while stirring cook until the sauce has thickened.

Turn the heat down to low and working in batches, slowly stir in a handful of the cheese. After it’s melted into the sauce, repeat the process until all the cheese is added.

To assemble, pour the taco meat into a large skillet, then pour in the queso over the meat. Top with sour cream. Serve warm with chips.

Homesick Texan’s Spinach Artichoke Dip

Today, as you are undoubtedly aware of by now, is March 1. Which means several things:

° Spring is coming. Hopefully that means warmer weather. And the ability to sit outside on the patio without catching hypothermia.

° Daylight Savings time is next Sunday. Can I be honest? I am soooo looking forward to more sunlight during the day, which (fingers crossed) means I should be able to take better pictures in natural light. Should is the operative word. 

° Easter is a month away! It will be special, because this is our second Easter together in Austin. Hopefully we can convince the Queen Mother and Dad to venture over to this part of the country, gather round the Green Egg, and partake in the leg o’ lamb that will most certainly be cooking on said Green Egg.

And last, but not least, we should begin construction of the ranch. We meet with the builder this week to go over the final round of details/prices, and if everything is correct, we are good to go.

Stay tuned…..


Homesick Texan’s Spinach Artichoke Dip – adapted from Homesick Texan

This may very well be my favorite version of spinach artichoke dip. It was quick to put together, and not heavy or cloying like some versions can be.

  • 1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle chile powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (I used sour cream)
  • 1 tbs. fresh lime juice
  • 1 10 oz box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • tortilla chips, crackers, or a sliced baguette, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a 4-cup greased baking dish, stir together the artichoke hearts, chipotle chile powder, cumin, garlic, cream cheese, mayonnaise, lime juice, spinach, cheese, and black pepper to taste until well combined.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbling. Serve warm with tortilla chips, crackers, or a sliced baguette.

Queso Flameado

Last week, J and I decided to throw caution to the wind, forgo having dinner at home and try the Mexican restaurant right by our house.

Yes, we ACTUALLY went out to dinner. Shocking , I know…… But every now and then we like to shake things up. Live dangerously. Yep, that’s us…the couple that lives on the edge.


Fortunately, the restaurant was very good – we weren’t disappointed in the least. The food was not your standard “American style” Mexican cuisine (read: it was authentic) and we definitely would go back. Of course, I say that and it will be another 6 months before we go out to dinner again… which we’re both okay with..

Anyway, we tried an appetizer called Queso Flameado. Literally translated, it means flaming cheese. I wondered… do they actually set it on fire? I mean, scorching hot cheese does enough damage, as anyone who has taken a bite of fresh-from-the-oven pizza will attest to….not that I have first hand knowledge of that….

This version, I’m happy to report, was not on fire. The roofs of our mouths didn’t get burned, either. And for two people that share such a deep love of all things cheesy (including sappy love songs….awwwww), I knew I had to make this for us, and soon.

Which I did, the very next night.


Special thanks to Alexander for holding the chip so I could snap a picture…

Queso flameado – adapted from The Homesick Texan

  • 1 cup roasted peppers, sliced into slivers (I used leftover roasted peppers that I had in the fridge)
  • 3 cups shredded Munster cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the peppers in about a tablespoon of oil in a large cast iron skillet until they’re sizzling and hot, about five minutes. Sprinkle the cheeses over the peppers and bake for 15 minutes or until bubbling.

Spoon out the melted queso flameado onto tortillas, or dip chips into it.

Cannellini Bean Hummus

With the big game (aka The SuperBowl) looming on the horizon, all thoughts naturally turn to the most critical part of the day:

The Food. Seriously.

Well, truth be told, it appears to me that most people agree on three very important elements in terms of relevance to the big day: the food, the commercials, and the alcoholic libations. In that order.


And although J and I haven’t figured out what we are doing just yet, I am definitely going to make another batch of this hummus, and I am hopeful that this tantalizing hotdish (yesterday, I learned that “hotdish” is the proper term for a casserole in the Midwest) will make an appearance. J’s friend Jamie emailed us the link yesterday, simply saying, “J should make this”.

Of course, J’s affection for Tater Tots is well documented…..

Cannellini Bean Hummus – adapted from mideast food

  • 2 ½ cups white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 tbs. of tahini
  • 3 tbs. olive oil, plus additional for drizzling on top
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 1/2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • water

In a blender or food processor, blend the white beans. Add tahini, lemon juice, cumin, garlic, and olive oil until the ingredients form a creamy, paste-like consistency. Add small amounts of water as needed until desired texture. Pour the mixture into a large serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate for one hour or serve immediately. Before serving, drizzle additional olive oil on top and sprinkle on fresh ground black pepper and cayenne pepper (or smoked paprika).

Chicken Spaghetti

Sometimes, the name of a dish alone is enough to pique your interest to want to try it.

This, however, is not one of those times.

Just kidding.

I actually had a version of Chicken Spaghetti about 4 months ago, and was absolutely mortified when I found out what goes into making it.


Talk about unhealthy … processed cheese, canned soup, canned broth…….. no how and no way.

So I did a leeeetle bit of experimenting, combining several different recipes, and voila:


Yes I know – worst picture ever.

But don’t pay attention to that. Pay attention instead to the fact that this was made with homemade béchamel sauce, real cheese, pasta, and assorted vegetables.


One thing I’ve learned with baked pasta dishes, though, is that you should always always ALWAYS make more sauce than you think you need. And thin that sauce out with additional milk. Otherwise, it gets too dry and gummy and then no one wants to eat it.

Including me. 

However, as proof that this was really good, here is the same dish after dinner:


Granted, Alexander and his 15 year old boy metabolism did 80% of the damage.

Chicken Spaghetti – adapted from several sources on the internet

  • 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • 1 lb thin pasta, cooked for about 4 minutes (or half the recommended cooking time)
  • 3 cups béchamel sauce, thinned with 1/2 to 1 cup additional milk (see below)
  • 2 cups grated white cheddar cheese (or any cheese, really)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients (reserving one cup of cheese for the top) and pour into a greased baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese, and bake at 375 degrees until bubbling around the edges and lightly browned on top – about 30 minutes.

Bechamel Sauce 

5 tbs. butter
4 tbs. all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
2 tsp black pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Cook whisking constantly, for about 3 minutes. Add the milk slowly to the butter/flour mixture, whisking constantly until very smooth. Bring to a full boil, then remove from heat. Season with pepper, and set aside until ready to use. Thin with additional milk if the sauce gets too thick.



Charred Eggplant and Tahini Spread

Happy oh-my-gosh it’s Wednesday!

You know, now that we are here, and settled into our temporary home, I kind of figured that the days would go by at a slower pace, and life would, for lack of a better word, settle down.


It seems like I spend the better part of my days dealing with the Austin traffic (I have quickly learned the best/worst times to attempt to go anywhere), running various errands that need to be tended to, cooking/baking (always my personal favorite), and planning out the dinner menus since each.and.every weekend will most likely be spent working at the ranch.

We had an absolute blast last weekend. Alexander learned how to drive a bulldozer, Sabrina was in charge of the “first-aid” station (i.e. the cooler filled with various drinks), and the men tore down over 120 trees, clearing the driveway and most of the space for our home.

My job? Tagging the trees with either green tape (keepers) or orange tape (trash). And of course, standing near the chipper, watching the boys feed the cedar trees in, while inhaling the glorious scent.


Really though, you know what the best part is/was? Watching my children form a strong, unbreakable bond with J, and their realization that they are, in fact, helping to build our home.

Charred Eggplant and Tahini Spread – adapted from Bon Appetit

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large eggplant, cut lengthwise into quarters
Freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 tbs. tahini (sesame seed paste)
3/4 tsp ground cumin
Toasted sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 475°F. Place eggplant on a baking sheet and toss with 1/4 cup oil; season with pepper. Roast until lightly charred and very tender, 20–25 minutes; let cool slightly. Chop eggplant (skin and all) until almost a paste.

Mix eggplant in a medium bowl with garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, tahini, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and top with sesame seeds.

Greek Style Chicken with Tzatziki

It’s always so groovy when things work out the way you want them to…. you know, when everything just fits together and harmonizes. It makes life so insouciant and stress free.

Stress free…… that’s the way I like it.

That’s the way, uh huh uh huh, I like it, uh huh uh huh…….

Yep – it’s going to be a great day.


Although this dinner wasn’t very photogenic (read: I wanted to eat, not take pictures),  it was so incredibly flavorful and delicious that it really doesn’t matter.

And wait until the kids see what I have planned for tonight.

Greek Style Chicken – adapted from Martha Stewart

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 pounds total)
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest, plus juice from 1 whole lemon
2 tsp. fresh chopped oregano
Fresh ground black pepper

In a large bowl, mix together the lemon zest, juice, oregano and black pepper. Add chicken and toss to coat. Allow to marinate for several hours if able. Cook chicken in a large saute pan over medium high heat for 5-6 minutes per side until cooked through. Serve with sauce.

Tzatziki Sauce – adapted from Ina Garten

1 pint Fage Greek yogurt
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled and seeded
1 tbs. white wine vinegar
2 tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
1 tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh dill
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Place the yogurt in a large bowl. Grate the cucumber and squeeze as much liquid from the cucumber as you can and add the cucumber to the yogurt. Mix in the vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, dill, and black pepper. You can serve it immediately, or allow the tzatziki to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours for the flavors to blend. Serve chilled or at room temperature.