IMG_6175I found this iron dragon at an estate sale.  Supposedly it was a gift from an ambassador, although I suspect it may have been the ambassador of Nowhereville.  It’s so fierce, isn’t it? IMG_6176The dragon sits atop a fence in my backyard, and it’s so intimidating that even the birds won’t poop on it, and they pretty much poop on everything.

It’s the end of yet another school year, and I have to admit, this one was a tough one.  If anyone thinks raising kids gets easier as they get older, I have news for you — it does not.  Sure, you don’t have to tote around all that stuff and deal with all the equipment (diapers, stroller, swing, breast pump, high chair, monitor, blankies, binkies, tilt-a-whirls, etc.).  But the issues you may find yourself confronted with as your kids enter their teen years become so much more important and life-affecting than they didn’t get invited to so-and-so’s birthday party.  The issues that can go along with teenagers are the ones that keep you up at night, make you wonder if you’ve been a good parent, require you to take blood pressure medicine, and cause gray hairs to multiply exponentially.  But gosh, I love those kids.

Anyway, like every May, I am draggin’ (groan).  It’s hot, I’m tired, and keeping my son focused on studying for finals can be a job in and of itself.  Picking up my daughter and her dorm room full of stuff (she HAD to live on the third floor) in 90 degree heat and 90% humidity was exhausting, although we are thrilled to have her back home for the summer.  When it comes to cooking dinner, I am riding on fumes.  Inspired by my awesome dragon, I dragged my draggin’ butt in the kitchen and made Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli, a family favorite that doesn’t take a lot of time or effort.  I’ve sent it as part of a compassion meal on several occasions, and it’s always well-received.  We like to make it with cavatappi or rotini, but you can use any pasta you like.  Here’s to the end of the school year, and may the dragon of life only roast your hot dogs and never burn your buns.

Recipe type: Pasta
  • 1 lb. cavatappi or rotini
  • 2 heads broccoli, cut into florets
  • 2-3 links Italian sausage, hot or sweet
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook according to package directions until just al dente. Add broccoli florets to pot and cook for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes longer, until broccoli is bright green and begins to soften. Drain pasta and broccoli well in a colander, then transfer to a large bowl.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove sausage from casings and cook until browned, breaking up with a spoon. Remove sausage to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Add sausage to pasta.
  3. Add olive oil to pasta and stir to combine all ingredients. Stir in Parmesan cheese, reserving 2 tablespoons to sprinkle on top. Add crushed red pepper as desired, and season to taste with salt and pepper, stirring to combine. Sprinkle with reserved Parmesan cheese and serve.



Slap happy over cavatappi


Rotini works too, but it’s not as much fun to say as cavatappi


IMG_6141I found this colorful hand-embroidered runner at an estate sale.  The handiwork was quite neatly done:IMG_6142I used to love to do needlepoint and crewel, but this is a perfect example of why I don’t do it anymore.  I see TONS of needlepoint, cross-stitch, crochet, and crewel items at estate sales.  They seem to have very little sentimental or other value.  It’s one thing to do it to while away the hours, but I can assure you that anyone that thinks their handiwork will become a treasured heirloom is deluding themselves.

Runners like these, and their cousins doilies, are a thing from days gone by.   I picture this runner gracing a table or dresser in an elderly woman’s home.  Maybe there’s a few small glasses for sherry sitting on it.  There would probably be a little bell nearby, for summoning staff or family  (like Hector Salamanca in Breaking Bad).  Can’t you hear it — that faint little “ting-a-ling, ting-a-ling?”

With “ting-a-ling” on my brain, I was inspired to make Beef Tinga Tacos.  Well, that and the fact that Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner.  As the haters are quick to point out, it is a common misconception that Cinco de Mayo celebrates the day Mexico won its independence from Spain (that day is celebrated on September 16 — mark your calendars).  Cinco de Mayo commemorates the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, a relatively small battle that resulted in Mexico’s victory over France in 1862.  In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is not widely celebrated outside of Puebla.

So if Mexico doesn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo, why do we?  According to several sources, Cinco de Mayo was first celebrated in the U.S. in 1967, when some students from California State University decided to commemorate the battle as a way to celebrate Mexican culture. Yet another step closer to being Cliff Clavin

So Cinco de Mayo is kind of a made up holiday.  To which I say SO WHAT?  I live in Texas — we don’t need much of an excuse to drink margaritas and eat tacos.  These Beef Tinga Tacos are effortless, which leaves that much more time for drinking margaritas and busting piñatas.  And I promise, you will not have to ring a bell to get your family to come running for these.

Recipe type: Beef, Main Course
  • 2 pounds brisket, trimmed of fat
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 14-ounce can beef broth
  • 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Flour or corn tortillas
  • Minced onion
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Cut brisket into 3 pieces and place in slow cooker. Add onions and garlic. In a medium bowl, mix together cumin, oregano, coriander, broth, tomato sauce, adobo sauce, and honey, and pour over brisket. Cook on high until meat is tender and shreds easily with a fork, 7-8 hours. When cool enough to handle, shred meat using two forks. Transfer shredded meat and cooking liquid to a large stockpot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until liquid is reduced and meat is still moist but not soupy, approximately 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. To serve, spoon filling into flour or corn tortillas, and top with minced onion and chopped fresh cilantro.



 Cut the brisket into three pieces


Add onions and garlic


 Pour the liquids and spices over the brisket


Set on high and go do something else for 7-8 hours 006Tinga-ling!