TWO Teachers???

Sorry for the lack of post last night... Adam and I were out celebrating! Celebrating what, you might ask? Well, when Adam got laid off in October, he spent months looking for work to no avail thanks to this lovely economy. About 3 months ago, he really started thinking about what he wanted to do... and came to the conclusion that another corporate/office job was not what he wanted to do with his life. So what to do? The immediate answer was "be a teacher." Apparently, it was originally what he had thought about doing, but went to college for business instead. After getting information about what he needed to do to get into a teacher education program, Adam registered for a 5-hour test that Illinois requires to GET IN to a teacher education program. He took the test on June 6. He got the results yesterday. HE PASSED!!! Starting in the fall, he'll be taking classes to become a teacher, and this will become a 2-teacher household! I can't even imagine the number of red pens and papers to grade in this house once he's teaching full time... but I'm SO proud of him and beyond excited that he'll be doing what he wants to do with his life. I love you, Adam!! Needless to say, we had celebrating to do, and what better way than with food? There's a seafood place near us that used to be a Joe's Crab Shack but got sold... so now it's Moe's Crab Shack. They have a similar menu, no cheesy rolls (a good thing) and slightly smaller portions (also a good thing.) My camera and phone were both battery drained from camp, so Adam did the photography on his G1 phone. Now, let me tell you all... we almost didn't take a picture of our appetizer. It is not the usual thing we eat. But, part of this blog is accountability, so yes. We got crab balls (no, not THAT part of the crab... balls made OUT of crab) that came with fries. And they were delicious. And fried.
Yup. SO not good for us

Yup. SO not good for us

Then, we each got the same steamed dinner to counteract (ok, faulty logic but whatever) the friedness of the appetizer. Each of us had a SteamPot full of 2 kinds of crab legs, peel-and-eat shrimp, red potatoes, corn, and one small piece of Andouille sausage.
It was a lot of work to eat!

It was a lot of work to eat!

The whole thing was dusted with Old Bay (which immediately made me think of Rose) and all the hand-washing and wet naps in the world couldn't get the smell out! I think I finally smell normal this morning. Today, I'm actually off from camp, but I know you LOVE the camper quotes so much, so here ya go, as said by a 4-year-old while watching Ice Age 3 yesterday: "Hey Mara! If I draw faces on the eggs in my fridge, will they turn into dinosaurs too? Cuz that would be scary and cool!" I'm off to the Farmer's Market now (my first time to my town's market!) and then Adam and I are in for a marathon cleaning session! There's sure to be a post tonight, Cute Food Saturday tomorrow, and a BBQ recap Sunday morning. Have a great Friday!
Posted in dinner out, family, fish or seafood | Tagged , | 22 Comments

My Hero!

This is going to be short and sweet, because well, as usual, I'm beat! Today, we headed to Miller Park in Milwaukee for the Brewers vs. Mets game.

Miller Park has a retractable dome

1.5 hours in a school bus each way, a game with 2 teams that I really don't care about, and 6 adorable 4-year-olds? It was definitely a good time! My campers zipped themselves (2 of them at a time) into my sweatshirt.
Faces have been obscured to protect the adorable

Faces have been obscured to protect the adorable

Over 2 gallons of nacho cheese was spilled by various campers, somehow finding its way onto pants, jackets, faces, fingers and hair. I hung out with these guys (co-directors, friends, and bosses for the last 10 years)
Good Times Camp directors

Good Times Camp directors

But, who's my hero? Why Adam of course! I came home to this deliciousness:


It had loads of veggies on it, as well as turkey... much needed nutrition after my ball park bratwurst today!


Toldja, short and sweet! Have a great evening and a fabulous Thursday!
Posted in dinner out, friends | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

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