Category Archives: TaMara

Friday Recipe Exchange: Hearty Tomato Soup and Awesome Grilled Cheese

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Photo by JeffreyW

I’m going to repeat some favorite soup recipes tonight. I’m working on a few new pumpkin recipes, but they are not ready for prime time this week. So you’ll have to make do with repeats.

When I’m busy, soup is the thing. I make big batches and they are quick and easy to reheat and add a sandwich or a piece of grilled chicken for a fast dinner or lunch. I could eat soup everyday during cold weather. JeffreyW is no slouch in the soup department either, so there are over 200 recipes on the blog of the soup variety.

For tonight, here are some soups worth repeating:

Cream of Chicken Soup, recipe here.

Two Broccoli Cheese Soup variations are here.

Tomato-Spinach is one of my favorite hearty winter soups, recipe here.

And combining two recent recipe exchanges, JeffreyW does Bean Soup in a Frybread Bowl, recipe and yummy photos here.

For the pet lovers, there is a Bixby diary this week. He’s four months old now and takes up most of my spare time. Which explains why I’m more often outside and not in the kitchen cooking. Also, I’m having great success with both dog and cat food dispenser/toys, that make them work for their food, story here, in case you are looking for a good way to entertain your pets.

What’s on your menu for this beautiful fall weekend? Do you have a favorite way to make grilled cheese? Do you grill any other types of sandwiches – either the grown-up panini style or something of the more guilty pleasure type, like grilled peanut butter and jelly?

Tonight’s feature recipe was one of the first menus I ever published…and also the first time I made my own tomato soup.

Hearty Tomato Soup

  • 28 oz canned tomatoes*
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 8 oz carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3 green onions, including greens
  • 1 tsp basil
  • ¼ tsp oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour

2 quart saucepan

In a blender, mix tomatoes, garlic, carrots, celery & onions. Blend until liquid. In saucepan, combine tomato mixture with spices, heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. Let bubble (don’t let boil or use high heat, it will scorch) for 5 minutes. Add flour to cold milk, blend until smooth, add to soup. Let bubble again, reduce to low heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

* This is the time to use up any left over garden tomatoes, instead of canned. Blend until you have 4 cups of crushed tomatoes.

Totally Awesome Grilled Cheese

For each sandwich:

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread (or favorite firm bread)
  • Enough favorite cheese (Velveeta, cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack, etc.  to cover bread (about 3 slices)
  • Sliced Jalapeños (if you want some heat)
  • 1 large slice of tomato w/dash of salt
  • 1-2 tsp Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • Butter
  • Spray Oil

Spread salad dressing on both slices of bread and add ½ of the cheese to one slice of bread, place tomato & jalapenos on the cheese and top with remaining cheese and the other slice of bread, this keeps bread from getting soggy from the tomato. Lightly butter outside of both sides of the sandwich and grill in skillet sprayed with cooking spray or lightly oiled on medium heat until cheese is melted and bread is toasted. While it is grilling, press down hard with a spatula, “squishing” the sandwich. We don’t know why, but this makes them taste better.  :-)



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Fun Pet Food Dispensers


Kong Wobble Feeder

This arrived in time for Bixby’s lunch. It was a rousing success. It replaces me making them out of 2 liter soda bottles – which worked ok when I could reuse them for 3 or 4 meals. Now he destroys them in one meal.

He won’t be able to destroy this, that’s for sure. And if you spin it, food shoots out of it like a food sprinkler (I won’t do that again).

It easily holds two cups of his kibble and takes him a good half hour to eat. I kind of wished it had an adjustable size food hole, but since it’s so sturdy, I’m happy to give up that feature for durability. It’s weighted at the bottom (and it’s heavy) so that it wobbles to really engage him. He had a blast.

I will still give him the occasional soda bottle because he loves to destroy them. Something about smashing them down is fun for him and since he’s yet been able to tear into them, no small pieces to worry about him eating.


Petsafe Food Dispenser for Cats

I bought one of these for the cats last spring. It was an instant hit. When I ordered Bixby’s Kong, I got two more of these so they can all play. I use them for a mix of treats/food. That way they can chase them around when they need a nibble between meals. Very sturdy and you can adjust the holes for treat size. Definitely would not stand up to puppy mouth, so I have to keep an eye on where they land. I usually put them up on the cat tree when not in use.


The Bixby Diaries: I’m Four Months Old Now


Hi again. I turned four months old this past weekend and my person says I’m terribly smart for my age. I know the commands: sit, stay, shake, stop, walk, heel, up and off. I’m working on come, but that one is harder because most times I just want to race around and around before I listen to that one. (TaMara’s note: My favorite command for him is, “Is that yours?” and he drops whatever he’s picked up that he shouldn’t be chewing on. Lately, he’ll even bring me whatever it is and is so proud when he gives me it.)

I’ve grown so much, I can’t sleep in my favorite office chair when my person goes to the office.

I love my walks now. My person takes me around the neighborhood and we meet all the neighbors and she takes me around the ponds and we hang out by the waterfall. I love water. My person says I can’t go into the water yet, because it’s still contaminated from last year’s flood. I wouldn’t know about that because, well I wasn’t even an idea yet. But best play toy ever, LFern, says she knows a place where I can go and run in tall grass, my favorite thing to do, and also play in the stream. I can’t wait.

Tall as the deck now

My ears still do what they want. Someone told my person we look alike, I guess because my ears are always floppy and she has curly hair. I don’t see it. I mean, she doesn’t even have a tail. I get two frozen apples a day and a couple of frozen carrots a day and it really helps with my teething. I don’t even chew on my person anymore. Dr. Deb says I can have 6 cups of food a day now. Yay!

I’ve had some great play dates and I really like them. I hear I’m getting a new playmate next week and I can’t wait to meet her. I hope she likes me better than her brother does, because he never wants to play. But Auntie Larilyn thinks the new puppy will want to play with me, so I’m excited.


Had my last visit to Dr. Deb today. She says I look great. But, the shots she gave me have made me very tired, so this will be a short diary. I weigh 51 lbs now and stand 54 inches on my hind legs, which means I can reach up and kiss my person whenever I want. And I do that a lot. – Bixby

Paw print

I Used To Sleep In This Chair

Bixby's Chair1

Bixby came to a meeting today, it’s been a while. He seemed surprised he no longer fit in his chair.

My office assistant1

Here is his first week with me and his first day at the office. He fits nicely in the chair.

Bixby's Chair profile1

Look at that Great Dane profile. He’s my handsome, smart, sweet boy. I love him.

(Only had my cell phone with me, but the quality of the photos does not diminish his handsomeness. <3 )


Friday Recipe Exchange: Chilly Enough for Chili

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I’m having difficulty typing this because at the moment I’m sitting on the couch with a Great Dane draped over my shoulders like Grandma’s shawl. I’m not sure why, just where he landed this morning. And…now he’s snoring. I will do my best.

Sometimes JeffreyW and I have this odd blogging-psychic link and end up cooking similar meals days apart. I knew I was going to do a chili themed recipe exchange as soon as there was a chill in the air and football/baseball/hockey were in full swing (it’s like sports Christmas). So I wasn’t terribly surprised when I opened up the blog earlier this week to see he had created a chili themed post.

Chili is one of those recipes that appears to be capable of causing intense debate, so consider the following as our entries into that debate. Then you can discuss amongst yourselves the merits of your old family recipe for chili. Beans, no beans, fritos, no fritos, vegetarian, spicy or mild. And while your are at it, what’s else is on your plate for the weekend?

The recipes:

Super easy chili, recipe here.

JeffreyW’s Chorizo Chili here.

Even this week’s Dinner menu involved chili: Kid Friendly Chili-Mac, menu and recipes here.

For some great ideas to do with your leftover chili, see Jeffrey’s photos here.

For tonight’s featured recipe, a different take on chili:

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White Chicken Chili. For JeffreyW’s version, picture above, click here.

White Chicken Chili

  • 3 lbs chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 jalapeno peppers, chopped
  •  3 poblano chiles, chopped
  • 3 anaheim chiles, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Salt and Ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1½ tsp ground coriander
  • 3 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 limes, minced fresh cilantro leaves and sour cream for garnish

Dutch oven, blender

In the Dutch over, heat oil and brown chicken thighs, skin side down, until the skin is crisp. Remove to a plate. Pour off all but 1 tbsp of chicken fat, heat and add chiles and onion to the Dutch oven and sauté until soft, then add the garlic and sauté another 2-3 minutes. Remove half of the sautéed mixture to the blender.

Add 1 can of beans and the chicken broth to the blender. Puree beans and onion mixture until smooth. Add puree to the Dutch oven, along with remaining ingredients, except garnishes. Remove the skin from the chicken thighs and add those to the chili and let simmer, covered, at medium heat until the chicken is cooked through and pulls easily from the bone, about 30 to 45 minutes. Stirring occasionally.

Remove chicken to a plate and let cool enough to remove the meat from the bone and rough chop. Add the meat back to the chili and simmer until chicken is heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately with fresh lime juice, cilantro and sour cream for each bowl.

That’s it for this week – hopefully I’ll have a Bixby update for you next week! – TaMara


Dinner Menu: Kid Friendly Chili-Mac

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JeffreyW’s Cornbread Muffins. His recipe:  I always use the recipe on the round box that Quaker yellow corn meal comes in as a base, these also have cheddar cheese, minced fresh jalapeno, and a thinly sliced green onion, white part and all.  A half recipe yielded 4 muffins. I used 1 whole egg in the half recipe, and about 1/4 cup of shredded cheese.


Sorry I have been absent of late. Work has been busy and the deadline of another project I’m working on is looming, so I’ve barely seen my kitchen. Not to mention it’s fall in Colorado and I want to be outdoors whenever possible.

I doubt there will be a Bixby update this week, but he is doing well and growing daily, though he still has not caught up to his ears or his feet. Standing on his back legs he is 53 inches.

This menu tonight is from my Kid-Friendly series. I loved chili-mac as a kid and it’s still one of those quick comfort foods I make when it needs to be easy and tasty.

  1. Chili-Mac
  2. Corn Muffins
  3. Raw Vegetable Tray
  4. Apples


  • 12 oz elbow macaroni
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ½ onion, diced
  • ½ green pepper diced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz can kidney beans
  • 1 tsp to 2 tbsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 2 qt. saucepan, skillet

Cook macaroni according to package directions.  Drain.  While macaroni is cooking, heat oil in skillet, sauté onions & peppers.  Add hamburger, brown & crumble. Add hamburger, tomatoes, beans, chili powder & salt to drained macaroni.  Stir, let simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.

Corn Muffins

( you can’t beat those 33¢ Jiffy mixes, but this is a good muffin recipe)

  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 egg (well beaten)
  • 8 oz can creamed corn
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

muffin pan, paper muffin cups

Mix dry ingredients, make well in the center, add egg, corn, milk & oil.  Stir until just moistened, don’t over mix.  Add paper muffin cups to pan, fill each 2/3 full.  Bake at 425° for 15-20 minutes.


Friday Recipe Exchange: Tortillas


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The day got away from me and I almost forgot to put this together.  So it’s kind of quick and to the point. For the dog lovers, Bixby’s latest diary is here.

Okay, enough of the chit-chat, bring on the recipes.

How about Fish Tacos? Recipe and full menu here.

Kid-friendly Tortilla Pizzas, recipe here.

JefferyW makes all the good stuff you see pictured above here.

And this week’s Dinner Menu – Carne en su Jugo –  recipes and shopping list are here

Now, what’s on your menu for the weekend? Cookin’ something good, share your recipes in the comments.

It’s hot as the blazes here and expected to stay that way through the weekend, so soups are on hold and salads have moved to the front of the boards. Tonight’s featured recipe is a nice fresh Tortilla bowl that you can really fill with whatever makes you happy.

Tortilla bowls

One of my favorite things to do is have salad in tortilla shell salad bowls. I have 4 heat-resistant (Pyrex) bowls – 1.5 to 2.5 qt bowls work best – that I use to make my tortilla bowls.  I lightly oil tortillas, place one in each bowl, so it takes on a bowl shape. I bake them at 425° until bowls are toasted golden, 7 to 12 minutes.

Alternately, there are tortilla bowl forms you can buy if you’re inclined and at the store recently I also saw pre-cooked tortilla bowls – though I would check the fat content on those, it could be very high, since they may be deep-fried. Also, you can make foil bowls, lightly oiled and use those as your forms, that works pretty well. You don’t need the foil to come up to the top of the tortilla shell, about half-way up will allow the tortilla to keep its shape while it bakes.

Whatever way you choose, this is a nice salad to fill them with:

Southwestern Taco Salad

  • 4 tortilla bowls
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 1 lb chicken breasts, cubed or 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 pkg. fajita seasoning mix (recipe here)
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ head iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • ½ head red leaf lettuce, shredded
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2 oz sliced black olives
  • 6 oz canned corn, drained
  • 14 oz black beans, drained
  • 8 oz salsa
  • 8 oz ranch dressing
  • 4 oz shredded Mexican 4-blend cheese


Heat oil in skillet and sauté onions, add chicken and brown for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add fajita seasoning and water. Stir and let simmer on medium-low heat.

Layer ¼ ea: lettuce, tomato, olives, beans & chicken in tortilla bowls. Mix salsa & ranch dressing together, add some to salad & garnish with cheese. Serve.


The Bixby Diaries: I’m Three Months Old Now

Big and sleepy1

I’m back. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, so I’ll just hit the highlights.

My weigh in last week was 36.4 lbs, 21” at my shoulders and 32” inches from my head to my butt. I went to the Vet today for my next round of shots and weighed in at 40 lbs even. I love them there, they give me liver treats and make a big fuss. Could have done without Dr. D taking my temperature. Rude.

Bixby 9 18 14

Everyone I meet says I have big feet. What do you think?

Dr. D says I’m going to start doing something called teething soon. I don’t know what that means, but I do know it means my person has apples and carrots in the freezer and they are yummy. My person says I’m growing like corn in summer. I had to get a new collar today and my person says pretty soon I’m not going to fit in the crate in the car anymore. (TaMara’s note: on Saturday, he fit ok in the crate, on Monday, his head hit the top of it, it was a bit of shock)

Uh-oh 1

Emma was caught sleeping with me. I didn’t want to mention it before but she does it a lot, I thought it was supposed to be a secret.


Fun with Friends

I had a great play date with my new big buddy Kodiak. He belongs to my favorite play toy, LFern. I love her.

I’ve been able to avoid morning walks, well until today, when my person said we’d have to start again, because I was a little too rambunctious in the morning. Whatever that means.

Speaking of mornings, found a great way to wake my person up. I leap up and then belly flop on her and give her wet kisses. Makes her laugh.


I like big slippers, I cannot lie, other big dogs might like sandals or boots, but I like the big fluffy treats. (Insert Sir Mix-a-Lot here) My person seems to find this unfortunate, so she decided to buy me another shower puff, which is great fun.

What Shower Puff

My person works too hard and I like to try and help her when I can. So now, in the mornings, I take the kitty litter bag to the trash. Makes me feel so proud to carry it down the stairs and out to the trash. It’s so much fun, I often don’t want to give it up right away, but eventually all fun games have to end. Or my person uses that voice.

I have a new crate that I like okay enough. When I’m in it, the cats come out a lot more and walk around and sniff at me. But this week, I think I spent a lot of time in it. My person says I’ve been “trouble” and it’s like I’m going through my “terrible twos” I’m not sure what that means, but she does say, “Bixby, why did you do that?” a lot.

What Shower Puff2

I’ll let you in on a little secret; I do it because it’s fun. See you next week. – Bixby

Paw print

Dinner Menu: Carne en su Jugo


I had big plans for cooking this week, which all went to hell by the end of today. So perfect time for a Men Who Cook/Guest Recipe.

Tonight we have a guest menu from my friend Alton Gunn, who has provided us with several good recipes.  It’s delicious, I’ve been lucky enough to have it several times (good are the friends who feed you).

On the board tonight:

  1. Carne en su Jugo
  2. Pico de Gallo
  3. Tortillas
  4. Margarita Melon Salad

Carne en su Jugo

  • ½ lb bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 lb sirloin steak, sliced thin and then cut in 1-inc pieces
  • 1 can (28oz) tomatillos
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • salt
  • 2 can pinto beans
  • sour cream for garnish
  • shredded cheese
  • chopped onions for garnish
  • fresh lime juice for garnish
  1. Brown the bacon in a large dutch oven. Add the beef and cook until brown (leave the bacon grease in the pot).
  2. Blend the tomatillos in your food processor and strain well to remove the seeds. Add about a cup of the tomatillo liquid back into the food processor and blend with the cilantro, and garlic.
  3. Add the tomatillo/cilantro/garlic sauce and the rest of the strained tomatillo liquid to the beef and bacon. Add salt to taste.
  4. Stir in pinto beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beef is tender, about 1 hour.
  5. Ladle into bowls  and garnish with pico de gallo (recipe below),  fresh lime, sour cream.
  6. Serve corn or flour tortillas on the side.

Al’s Notes: I’ve made this with beef and pork. The basic sauce is good for stewing pretty much any meat. Will try chicken next.  Works well in the crockpot

Pico de Gallo

  • chopped onion
  • chopped tomato
  • chopped cilantro
  • splash of lime

Mix together 20 to 30 minutes or more before meal.

Margarita Melon Salad

  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 shots tequila
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (I used Triple Sec)
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ cantaloupe, seeded and cubed
  • ¼ honeydew melon, seeded and cubed
  • ¼ small watermelon, cubed

Many markets sell halved melons and wedges of watermelon, making it easy to prepare this salad closer to desired amounts.

Combine lime juice, tequila, liqueur, and sugar in a bowl. Add melons and toss to coat with tequila and lime. Serve in shallow bowls.


Originally posted July 2010

Awesome Use of a Drone

Probably the next best thing to a drone delivering your beer or pizza:

I don’t know why, but fall colors this year are really making me happy. I think I’m going to take the really long way home from Boulder tomorrow to see some color.


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