Street Tacos and Pico de Gallo

Homemade Street Tacos

Last weekend I attended the very first “Taco Fest” in Reno.  I found some amazing fish tacos that I really liked.  The downside was that it was $3 per taco, and I’m talking traditional street taco size that is eaten in a few bites.  So pretty much I was spending 75c-$1 per bite.  Anyone who knows me will realize that is not my style.  So of course I decided I need to try my hand at making my own street tacos.  Now I will say that the meat will take some time to perfect, and I’ll likely utilize my Instant Pot as I did this time.  That way I can have street tacos in December.  Hah!

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Dutch Babies // Updated


The name is weird to me, but I know Stephanie has made these in the past and they are well liked in her house. David told me last night that breakfast today was on me as he and the girls made breakfast yesterday morning. So I considered making waffles, but decided that’s too much mess. We had just had pancakes. Sophia loves crepes but I suck at them. Then I remembered the Dutch Babies I’d never actually had. Since you can make it in the blender it seemed like the perfect mostly mess-free breakfast option.

I am a big fan of using home milled flour whenever possible because it’s whole grain, freshly milled, and WAY cheaper than buying unbleached flour from the bulk bins at Winco. I get my wheat berries in bulk at Winco as well, so the price is really good. For this though, I may have to turn to my unbleached flour that I keep on hand for feeding my sourdough starter. It apparently makes a big difference, which I’m hoping will turn David around on not really loving this.

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Coconut Shampoo Bars



For Christmas this year I decided that I wanted to make things for my friends and family instead of buying things and hoping they would like them.  Now don’t get me wrong I will never turn down wine, chocolate, or any geek paraphernalia (I do have Star Trek shirts and sweats on my Amazon wish list after all).  I’ve made lip balms and hand creams a number of times and everyones loved them.  What I have not made yet is soap or solid lotion bars, so I figured this was a good opportunity to try my hand at making them!

I have to admit that the idea of working with lye is a big part of why I’d never made soap before today.  And before you go any further please read this – Lye Safety Guide by Soap Queen – It is important that the proper measures be taken when handling a caustic material.  David is insisting I get a vinyl apron, better gloves, and full face shield before I go any further with my soap making.  That is what living with someone who is currently majoring in bio-chem is like.  :P

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Adventures in Backpacking (with kids)

On August 6th all of our collecting (dare I say hoarding) of backpacking gear was finally put to good use and we hiked to Upper Loch Leven Lake in the Tahoe National Forest.  For our first loaded outing it was a hell of a hike, and we learned some valuable things.


David and the girls hiking in.

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Where did the summer go?! (and a PSA)

Awhile ago I swore up and down I would start blogging as soon as summer rolled around.  And then summer rolled around… and we went to the water park, the library, and David started scuba diving courses.  We spent quite a bit of time up at Tahoe when he did various dives.  Then I decided that I too would become scuba certified.  So as of this past weekend I am now open water certified with NAUI.  David… well he went a little crazy with it all and he’s now a certified rescue diver with NAUI.  We have yet to go backpacking, but we have 2 in the works before fall hits (along with more dives, naturally).

The girls are slowly ramping up their homeschooling, and only whining about it roughly half the time.  As stated before that slice of hell will be documented more in depth on my homeschooling blog, where I can assure you I will have a colorful metaphor laced vocabulary.

I’m really hoping to be in the swing of things soon though, and hopefully I’ll have pictures of some of our adventures to share!!  :D

As for my PSA…

I was cruising around on Pinterest, as I do often, and came across a recipe I decided to look at.  In the comments section someone commented how their food didn’t look the same as the picture.  The blogger made a remark about how it took a long time to fashion the food for pictures and that’s why it likely doesn’t look the same.  While I am a photographer and I understand the whole concept of food styling I frankly don’t have the time nor the energy to spend forever making my food look picture perfect.
The pictures I post are of the food I am actually about to put into my face.  Sometimes the lighting is sketchy, and if I’m really hungry you’re likely to get a picture from my iPhone.  What you see is what you get.

The place setting you see is what is at my table that moment.  Sometimes I may angle it if it’s totally heinous non-coordinating.  Although maybe I shouldn’t since most of the time that is care of my 8 year old setting the table to look beautiful.

I’m all for people who do take their time to be meticulous for their blog, but that’s not my style.  If you enjoy that much reality in your face on a food blog, then yay!  If not, that’s cool too.  :)



Finding my Groove

I realized not too long ago that I actually miss blogging.  I miss trying new things, taking pictures, and sharing it with others.  Between getting a job, being struck down by my GI disease and having part of my colon removed due to it, getting married, kids, my husband being back in school, and actively losing weight to reverse other things I’ve been diagnosed with in the last 24 months (PCOS and Hashimoto’s)  … I have been worn out.   I’m trying to get back into making as many things homemade as I can.

We (by we I mostly mean I) decided to homeschool this coming school year, and that slice of irreverent chronicling will take place over at Coffee Until Wine.  Please be aware that my use of colorful metaphors there is substantially higher.  There are a lot of homeschooling blogs that are very faith based and I am kind of the antithesis of all that.  In an effort to keep Gingham Apron a little more friendly, with fewer colorful metaphors, I have created the separate blog for homeschooling. 🙂

Since things will be changing a lot for us with me ceasing to work in order to homeschool I have to hop back on the frugal make-all-the-things-at-home train.  I’ve already begun making my own laundry detergent again, and I’m trying a new dishwasher detergent recipe as well.  Food wise I have been filling my pails with gamma seal lids full of dried goods, and making more things from scratch – sourdough crackers, sourdough english muffins, sourdough pancakes, bread, yogurt, kombucha, “refried” beans, ricotta .. and pretty much anything else I can do on my own to cut costs.

Between now and summer I want to post once per week.  Once traditional school it out I hope to post more often.  I just need to find my groove in all this craziness.



Adventures in Pinterest Fails: Super Smooth Legs

Let me begin by saying that I live in a desert. Anything that helps hydrate skin is welcome, because my skin is not what it used to be. I also loathe shaving. Killing two birds with one stone seems like a no brainer.

I was relaxing with a yummy Snapshot beer by New Belgium and looking at health and fitness pins (yes, I realize what I just wrote) when I came across a pin touting the smoothest legs. It’s pretty much summer here now and my legs need serious help. I also figured I deserved a relaxing bath for Mother’s Day so I whipped up a batch and lit some sandalwood incense.

Super Smooth Legs

The recipe goes something like this … 1/2 cup of coconut oil, 1 1/4 cup sugar, and 3 Tbsp of lemon juice. The directions say to apply, shave, apply again, shave again.

It tastes amazing, and coconut oil is really good at moisturizing (which I knew).

I started with my lower left leg. Not too bad. By the second round of shaving I decided that I might only do one pass on each section. It’s pretty time consuming. 1/4 of the incense was gone by the time I finished my lower left leg.

I question the use of lemon juice. I cut myself shaving every time without fail. Lemon juice and cuts sucks.

Moved on to lower right leg. Only made one pass. At this point I start to wonder about all the melted coconut oil in the tub. My legs were pretty smooth.

Upper left leg. I’m a little concerned about sugar being in such close proximity to girly bits. Sugar and girly bits just don’t mix.

By now more than half the incense is gone. I’ve been forced to stand to properly apply the scrub to my upper legs, and it dawned on me just how fucking slippery the tub was. Regret was setting in.

Upper right leg. At this point I think Helen Keller could have done a better job with a straight razor. My right kneecap was bleeding pretty badly, and of course lemon juice. I was sliding around the tub attempting to not fall. Dropped the razor a few times, and spilled at least 2-3 tablespoons of the scrub right into the tub. It was like the Exxon Valdez in my tub. At that point I said fuck it and gave up.

I drained the tub, poured a 1/4 cup of shampoo in and tried to break up some of the coconut oil. There was sugar all over me. I jumped out to grab the blue sponge scrubber from my cleaning supplies tucked behind the toilet. Tried to scrub with that, and may have tried to scrub myself a bit too. Rinsed myself and the tub off and got out. It still looked like a greased pan, so I grabbed the bleach spray and scrubbed some more.

I apologized in advance to David and issued a warning about his shower in the morning. I really don’t want to be responsible for him nearly falling in the shower ………… again.

Sure, my legs feel softer, but I could shave like normal and then put some coconut oil on afterwards and get the same results. Because to be honest I don’t want to have to scrub my tub like that every time, or spend nearly an hour shaving.

This endeavour officially takes the #1 spot on the “Beauty Tricks I Regret Trying” beating out attempting to do OCM on my back, because there was WAY more oil involved this time around.


Shredded Beef Tacos

In the last few weeks we’ve had dinner over at a friends house a couple of times. Specifically the person who was my best friend in middle school. We’ve known each other for somewhere around 20 years. A really long time when you’re 32. Crockpot cooking seems like it might be a staple since her husband does freelance video work, and she’s currently a producer at a local TV station and will soon to be a 911 operator in training! The last dinner was shredded chipotle pork tacos, but she fried the corn tortillas and sprinkled them with the powdered parmesan like a local taco stand does.

It. is. amazing.

David typically doesn’t eat pork out of personal preference, so I got a nice looking chuck roast on sale last week. Now it’s insanely easy, but I did manage to mess it up, but I’ll explain that after the fact in the form of a “Do as I say, not as I do” type warning. Also my friend used the Dr. Pepper method for her pork. Being a total lush as of late, I used beer. Okay and we don’t drink soda typically. David got an amazing coffee stout that I divided in half for the 2 roasts I got (one went into the freezer to be used next week).

Gingham Apron // Shredded Beef Tacos

Shredded Beef Tacos

1 Beef chuck roast, about 2-3 pounds
1 Bottle of beer, a good dark stout is best
3 Chipotle peppers and adobo from container

Corn tortillas
Powdered parmesan cheese
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped romaine lettuce
Black olives
Refried Beans
Sour cream

Place the roast into the crockpot.

Use toothpicks to secure the 3 chipotle peppers to the roast

Pour beer over the chipotle adorned roast.

Cook on high for 6+ hours, or until the roast shreds easily.

After the meat is shredded use a frying pan to heat enough oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan. Place a tortilla in the pan and place a few tablespoons of shredded meat on one half of the tortilla, quickly fold the taco in half before it start to crisp up. Let the taco get golden and crunchy on both sides before moving it to a tray with a towel to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle with parmesan, and keep making delicious tacos! Add cheese, lettuce, refried beans, black olives, sour cream, or more chipotles if you’re deranged (or David).

I can have 3 folded tacos in my medium frying pan with no issues at one time, because doing one at a time would be painfully long.

As I promised … a warning … Do NOT use the whole can of chipotles. That’s like 8-10 chipotles too many, and it makes the sauce almost unusable. The girls in no way appreciated the spice level of the sauce, so the taco meat was a little drier than it should have been. David managed to make my fuck up tolerable by adding some tomato sauce. That guy is always saving my ass in the kitchen. 😛


Homemade Skyline Chili Recipe

I lived just outside of Cincinnati when I was little. My first real concert was at Riverfront Stadium. Yes, it was New Kids on the Block. I was like 9 or 10. Which frankly scares the crap out of me since Nola is the exact same age, but I digress. I distinctly remember Ollie’s Trolley from visiting my dad at work downtown, but honestly I don’t remember Skyline. Horrible to admit, I know. Somehow in the past few years David has come to like the only variety available to us here in Nevada… cans. Specifically 8 cans for $60. That’s $7.50 a can! O_O

By the time you’ve fed 4 people that devour Skyline Chili you’ve used 2 cans. That’s $15 and you’ve not even gotten the spaghetti, onions, or shredded cheese. I have most of the ingredients on hand at all times already. There is one big change I’ve made to the recipe I found, and that is the type of meat I use. Ground turkey has become more of a staple around here and so that’s what I used. I don’t think it made that much of a difference in taste, and visually you can’t tell either. It still gets consumed at break neck speeds here.


Skyline Chili from Tornado Ali @ – Slight changes by me. 😉

1.25 lbs ground turkey (Jennie-O packs are 1.25 pounds)
2 cups chopped onion
4 cups beef broth
15 ounces tomato sauce
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp cocoa
2 tsps instant minced garlic
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I omit this, kids and all)
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 bay leaf

1 package spaghetti noodles

Onion, finely chopped
Cheddar cheese, finely shredded

Chop 2 cups of onions. I usually use an entire onion and call it good.

In a large pan, I use my enamel dutch oven, cook turkey meat. Brown if at all possible, and do *not* drain. Add onion an cook a few minutes longer.

While turkey is cooking measure all dry ingredients into a bowl. I use Better Than Bullion for the beef broth, and add the vinegar and Worcestershire sauce to that.

Add all remaining ingredients to cooked meat and tender onions. Let simmer until sauce has reduced quite a bit. It can take 60 to 90 minutes. I do use 3/4 of a pound LESS meat than what the original recipe states, so the liquid has to cook down more, but it turned out quite good. David really likes how the sauce cooks down and there is more flavor.

Once the chili is nearly done simmering down, get your spaghetti cooked.

Top spaghetti with a scoop of chili, then top the chili with the finely chopped onions, then top the onions with finely shredded cheese. This my friends is what is called a “4-way”. Sophia prefers the “3-way” since she does not like raw onions (she somehow fails to realize there are onions IN the meat… don’t tell her). I know you can get beans with it, but frankly that just seems sacrilegious.

Try not to become too addicted.

I know that for some spaghetti and chili might seem weird. Okay, chili with cocoa powder might be really weird too, but it’s awesome. It’s not always a dish that is loved instantly. It’s taken Sophia two years to get to the point where she enjoys eating, and is still kind of ambivalent if I try to pretend I don’t want to make Skyline for dinner. Nola … well, she’ll go into near hysterics at the notion of making something else. At least it’s something everyone will eat without complaint I suppose. 😛


Roasted Chickpeas

We like chickpeas in this house. Curry and hummus are the two standard methods of consumption. I’d had roasted chickpeas come across my Pinterest a time or two and thought nothing of it.  After soaking and cooking up a batch for curry a few nights ago I decided to extras would make a good test batch.

Aside from the fact that I think I let them go in the oven a little too long (15 minutes longer than I say in the directions), they were really good. My advice would be to play around with the seasonings! I bet curry would be lovely.


Roasted Chickpeas

1-2 cups chickpeas, cooked
1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Seasonings – All to taste
Smoked Paprika

Heat oven to 425° F.

Combine the olive oil and chickpeas in a Ziploc bag and shake to evenly coat chickpeas with. Add some salt, pepper, and smoked paprika then shake again to coat the chickpeas with seasoning. Dump the contents of the Ziploc bag onto a cookie sheet lined with tinfoil. Make sure the chickpeas are in a single layer to ensure even cooking.

Bake for 15 minutes then shake the pan to move the chickpeas around, bake for 15 more minutes.

Allow to cool as not to burn your tongue (like I did).