Steps to a Great Tuesday

Step 1: Start out the day with sunshine and cool temperatures, cool enough in fact, for a sweatshirt.

Step 2: Keep the temperatures cool enough so that a chalk drawing contest could produce this masterpiece without the threat of a water fight:

DSCN3257Step 3: Be taken, due to the temperatures, to a movie instead of swimming!

Step 4: Treat 5 campers to popcorn and watch their eyes light up.

Step 5: Spend the afternoon at a forest preserve watching said 5 campers chase butterflies and bullfrogs

Step 6: Come home to create a great dinner in 6 steps:

  1. Lay down a La Tortilla Factory foundation:


  2. Top with torn basil leaves: DSCN3262
  3. Top that with fresh sliced tomato: DSCN3263
  4. Add sauteed chicken (preferably with garlic): DSCN3264
  5. Then, top with halved fresh mozzarella balls: DSCN3265
  6. Last, wrap it up, heat in a pan, halve and enjoy! DSCN3267

I’m calling this one a Chicken Caprese Wrap (you know, because of the whole tomato, mozzarella, basil combo, then I added chicken… creative, I know!)

Step 7: Come home to a relaxing evening with my love, my pets, good food, and a comfy couch.

Tomorrow, we’re taking our entire camp up to Milwaukee for the Brewers vs. Mets game… I don’t know who to root for, being a Cubs fan! It will be a good time, no matter what though!

Today’s camper quote of the day: So, when I was really little, like before I was born, I peekeded out of mommy’s belly button because I wanted to watch Monsters, Inc. No, really! I remember! It was like a liiiiitttlllleeee tunnel.” 

Have a wonderful evening!



Posted in chicken/turkey, Italian, simple recipe | Tagged , , , | 25 Comments

Bistec a la Parrilla con Lima y Chile

Circle the calendar, folks! It’s Monday night and guess what?? I COOKED DINNER! While yes, camp was just as tiring as it always is, I had prepared ahead and made sure that we had enough ingredients in the house to make multiple meals this week. Granted, one of the meals this week is “just” going to be pasta with sauce, but tonight, I had a major desire to grill out. The beautiful weather helped, thats for sure!

Tonight, I made (in case you couldn’t translate the title) Grilled steak with lime and chile. I’m a HUGE fan of the chili-lime combo, and I’ve even made a chile-lime pork tenderloin but this one had a bit of a different technique. The main difference was the fresh lime juice (limes were $0.05 a piece!) and chopped garlic instead of crushed. So, here’s my recipe for:

Bistec a la Parrilla con Lima y Chile


  • 1 1.5 lb. flank steak, trimmed
  • juice of 5 fresh limes
  • zest of one lime
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper


Combine all ingredients except the steak in a shallow pan or ziplock bag. Score the steak against the grain about 5 times on each side, then add the meat to the marinade. Allow to marinate at least 30 minutes up to 3 hours. Grill on a hot grill until cooked to your liking, though for flank steak, medium to medium-well is perfect. Slice against the grain, and serve with fresh corn tortillas.

I made some grilled red peppers to go with this delicious steak, and ate strips of peppers with the steak wrapped up in the warm tortillas. Seriously a great meal! This meat would’ve been great by itself, but these tortillas we got yesterday really made the meal. There may or may not have been was also a McD’s hot fudge sundae as dessert… it was cold, fudgy, and just what I was craving!

Now, meet our new friend, won today at Safari Land to keep us company. His name is Mr. Monkey. Say hello, Mr. Monkey!


Mr. Monkey took about 30 rounds of the game “Smokin’ Token” to win (which, has a total double entendre for its name that I JUST got… did you get it?) He kept me company on the bus ride home, and is now happily living on our sofa. Mr. Monkey, just so you know, has a “big face” and “floppy tail” and was hugged by each and every camper on their way out today. (note to self, Lysol Mr. Monkey.)

Tomorrow, dinner will take a bit of a trans-Atlantic flight to Italy… bet you can’t wait!

Camper quote convo of the day: Camper 1: “Mara, I know we just eated lunch, but can we get pizza? And cotton candy? And soda?” Camper 2: “No, silly, we don’t have enough tokens to buy that stuff! Lets just play games.” Camper 1: “Ok!”

Mara Out.

Posted in beef, grilling, simple recipe | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Tacos, Shepherd Style

bsomb.gifWhen Adam and I first started dating, I was generally the one exposing him to new and exciting foods (a.k.a. sushi) and home-cooked things like chicken parmesan. Then, one day, Adam asked me if I’d ever had “tacos al pastor” and, surprisingly, I had to say no! He explained to me that his friend had brought him to a local Mexican restaurant, and had him try these amazing tacos, and we were going to get them for lunch that day. How could I say no?

At the restaurant we went to, the tacos were served simply, in small corn tortillas with only a topping of chopped onions, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. I had never had a taco quite like it before. The flavors were perfect together, the meat was perfectly spicy, and the onion/cilantro/lime combo was, well, amazing! We frequented the restaurant for quite some time, and then just kind of stopped going. (I swear, this story is going somewhere, I promise!) I tried to recreate the meat one time, and failed miserably. I mean, it was good, but it wasn’t the same.

“Al Pastor” is a Mexican term for tacos “shepherd style”, which means they can a) be eaten in a few bites, b) use local fresh meat, usually pork, and c) the meat is cooked with some sort of sweet liquid, such as juice or fruit. True al pastor recipes are family secrets, and most people just make them by feel, rather than a strict recipe. The other reason it’s so hard to recreate at home is that the meat is usually stacked on a spit, and cooked shwarma-style, a technique brought to Mexico by the Lebanese. (and there’s your food history lesson for the day)

Now, did I recreate a real al pastor recipe for dinner tonight? No. BUT, when we were at our favorite international market today, their fresh meat counter had, for sale in bulk, freshly marinated al pastor pork! I promptly ordered a pound of it and was SO excited! I sent Adam back to the produce section to get cilantro, and I grabbed the freshest tortillas in the place.

When we got home, I heated up a pan, cooked up the meat, heated tortillas, and made the traditional onion/cilantro topping with half a chopped onion, half a bunch of cilantro, the juice of one lime, and about 1/8 tsp. salt. The result? AMAZING!

I could’ve eaten many, many more of these, but instead, we saved enough so I can make a wrap for lunch tomorrow. I love that these tacos are fantastic without sour cream, cheese, or too many other ingredients, but could still be dressed up differently if you wanted. I did find a great-looking al pastor recipe in my research of the history, and you can find that here. I’ll be trying it soon!

Speaking of dressing up, last night, Adam and I went to my friend Nicki’s wedding! (like that segue?) I’m definitely sore today, mostly from dancing a good long while in these bad boys:

They were surprisingly comfortable, but my quads are KILLING me today! We of course, had a great meal and cake, but since I was with mostly work people, I wasn’t exactly comfortable taking photos of the meal. I did enjoy a whopping two drinks, and this marks one of the only times in my life that I’ve had an alcoholic beverage two days in a row. I think Adam and I looked pretty great last night, if I say so myself…

me and adam 09.jpg
We went a little Big Lebowski with our drinks in this picture.

Earlier today, I met up with my amazing friend Amy and her husband and daughter for a brunch at Cracker Barrel. They were in town for a very short time, and amazingly had some free time, so we decided to meet up! They live about two and a half hours away, and I really wish I could see them more! Love you Amy!

Tomorrow is the start of week 3 of camp, but I’m BOUND AND DETERMINED to actually cook this week! Expect multiple dinner posts from me!

Have a great Sunday night!

Posted in Mexican/Latin, pork, simple recipe | Tagged , , , | 21 Comments

Cute Food Saturday!

Welcome back to the 17th installment of Cute Food Saturday! Is this your first time here? Make sure you click here to see the other installments.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Have a wonderful Saturday! I hope the cuteness brightened your day!

Posted in Cute Food Saturday | Tagged | 8 Comments

Warning: Post May Contain Hunger-Inducing Images

You may have noticed that I skipped posting yesterday… Adam and I went out with a bunch of my camp friends to a local minor league baseball game and then to a friends’ house, and by the time we got back, it was WAY past my bedtime! So, thanks for coming back!

After one of the hottest weeks I can remember in my ten years at camp, all I wanted to do tonight was to go out for a great meal that SOMEONE ELSE COOKED! Ever have those nights?? I was debating back and forth in my own head as to where I wanted to go. Did I want Thai food? Nah… Sushi? Yes, but I really wanted something COOKED. Then it hit me. I wanted chopped salad and steak. Yup, that was it. Chopped salad and steak from Wildfire.

We have been to Wildfire bunches of times, most recently for Adam’s birthday. For some reason, their chopped salad is the. best. ever. I’ve tried to replicate it and it never works. So, I decided to get us reservations at Wildfire for dinner tonight, and treat Adam and I to a great meal out. When we pulled up, we noticed something we’d never seen before: outdoor seating! The weather finally broke a bit, and it was a perfect 68 breezy degrees, and what could make a great meal greater? Eating outside, in this beautiful patio:


After being seated, I promptly decided that I needed one of these mango-tinis: a martini made with orange vodka, mango puree, mango liqueur and juice of some sort. SO GOOD!

The rumbling in my stomach was quickly calmed by some of each of these beautiful breads. The lighter one was onion and the darker one was a dark rye with raisins:
Choosing our appetizer was easy: Chopped Salad! The salad contains lettuce, tomato, bacon, bleu cheese, crispy wontons, corn, avocado, wood-roasted chicken, and a mango vinaigrette that I enjoyed fork-dip style. The remaining salad after we were served was placed on a very cool stand.


As my entree, I decided on my favorite steak to eat at a restaurant: filet mignon. This one is truly special though! It was topped with a horseradish crust and wrapped with a piece of bacon. Seriously delicious!
This came with a side of a barbecue-rubbed sweet potato. (Excuse the next couple of pictures… my camera battery died, and I was left with my phone!)
We had noticed on the specials menu that the dessert of the month was Door County Cherry Pie. Door County is a region in northern Wisconsin that is famous for its tart cherries, and of course, the pies made from them. We couldn’t turn down SOME of the pie… so we shared half a slice. It was perfectly baked, crispy, and had delicious tart cherries inside. It didn’t need the ice cream, but it was a nice addition.
We left the restaurant full, but both stomach-satisfied and emotionally satisfied. After being so drained for so many days, I needed a nice night out. You may be wondering how camp is going… I’ll let this picture tell the story:
Yes that’s me, kissing a fat-tailed gecko.
It’s past my bedtime again, so I’ll leave you with this: Mara, I think its funny that when I mix my yellow snow cone with my green snow cone it turns blue, but it doesn’t taste like a blue snow cone!

Four year olds are FUN!!!
Make sure to come back tomorrow for Cute Food Saturday! It’s the 17th installment!!
Happy weekend all!

Posted in beef, dinner out | Tagged , | 13 Comments