Activity-kids, Food, Shenanigans, worry

What in the actual heck happened, is happening, will happen?

I mean c’mon, right? I think we all need to just come out and talk about this pandemic elephant in the room, let’s stop pretending it doesn’t exist and live in reality. Ha! Just kidding. I mean – I think all we are ever talking, reading, hearing about these days is COVID-19.

This time 6 weeks ago I couldn’t have told you what an N95 mask was, what “PPE” stood for, that the term “shelter at home” was something you could do without a tornado warning, and which of my kids does really well with online learning (hint: ZERO).

I also now know that Lexapro is a faithful friend. I’ve discovered that (at least) one of my kids, when bored, keeps cutting (and/or coloring) their hair and piercing more holes in their ears (and maybe other places. Wait. what?!).

I call this one:
Fun with filters and Alli’s right arm

Social distancing is an actual phrase now – although one of my word nerd friends reminded me that technically it’s physical distancing and should be referred to as such. I agree with her.

I also started, thanks to Alli (who now has bangs), an online baking class which is FUN (when the internet works and I don’t spend the entire class time switching out my internet and asking everyone to hold up their thumbs if they can hear and see me moving). So far we’ve baked together: Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cinnamon Rolls and Lemon Bars.

I’ve coped by online shopping. Specifically: New running shoes, glasses, books, organic hand sanitizer, new bedding for our bed, paint and canvases for art therapy.

Let me be honest here: this has been HARD. I know I’m not the only one and I hesitated to write about this subject in this space because seriously, who needs one.more.person. writing about their coping during this bizarre time in our world’s history? But I missed you guys in this space and I felt I couldn’t just all of a sudden start writing about random things that pop into my head when all of this is going on.

Anyways (and always), thanks for reading. I promise to talk about something else, anything else! next time I pop-in.

Onward and upward,


Food, Recipe

Just dump it!

Leftovers smeftovers. We actually call leftover night “Smorgishborgish”, much more fun to say! That’s when we just throw it all on the counter and let everyone choose. We also have “La Gringa Cafe” and “Dump Soup”.

Tonight it’s “Dump Soup”. I was seriously doubting my decision as I looked over the items that were to go into this soup:

  • Broccoli
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Red Beans and Rice with Andouille  sausage
  • A noodle casserole dish with tomato sauce, green onions, cream cheese, cheese, ground beef
  • Chili (canned-we used it on top of hot dogs the first time around)

In it all went. I heated it, stirred and blended with my magic immersion blender, added enough water to make it the consistency of “creamy vegetable soup” and dug in for a try. It’s amazing!! Seriously this is the best thing ever! Okay, “best thing ever” but be going a bit far, but the girls like it, too.

Maybe someday I’ll have the guts to serve it to guests (my nephews don’t count-we made “Shrek Soup” for them and well, it’s was green, ‘nuf said. But they ate it, and I think our girls actually enjoyed it-they asked for seconds!!).

I’ll make some cornbread this afternoon and we’ve got dinner AND an uncluttered fridge!


Food, Recipe

St. Patty’s Day a la StradaTostada


So what if we celebrate it more here than the Irish? I say: If Americans want to eat strangely flavored beef brisket and desire the smell of cooked cabbage wafting through their homes once a year-let ’em at it!

And as if our last names didn’t just scream “IRISH!”  already, we’d be dead giveaways regardless given the amount of blarney from El Guapo’s tall tales and the freckle-age from yours truly. El Guapo adores his corned beef and cabbage. He’s not going to be home for Dinner on St. Patrick’s Day this year though, so I thought I’d make something the girls and I can really wrap our mouths around!

Check this recipe out. I don’t have currants-raisins will have to do. I don’t have buttermilk nor plain yogurt so sour cream mixed with milk will have to do (50:50).  p.s. is this stealing/illegal to paste the recipe right on my post? Is that “reprinting without permission”?

This sweeter, richer version of Irish soda bread is more in tune with American tastes than the traditional Irish bread, which simply combines flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. Still, it’s not as sweet as many American soda breads; chewy and light, most of its sweetness comes from its currants, and a crackly-crunchy sugar crust. 


  • 12 3/4 ounces Perfect Pastry Blend OR King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/4 ounces granulated sugar
  • 4 1/2 ounces currants or raisins
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, optional
  • 1 large egg
  • 14 ounces buttermilk*
  • 2 ounces butter, melted
  • *No buttermilk in the house? Substitute 1 cup milk + 3/4 cup (one 6-ounce container) plain or vanilla yogurt



1) Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
2) In a large bowl, whisk together the pastry blend or flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, currants, and caraway seeds.
3) In a separate bowl, or in a measuring cup, whisk together the egg and buttermilk (or milk and yogurt).
4) Quickly and gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
5) Stir in the melted butter.
6) Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Draw your finger around the edge of the pan to create a “moat.” Drizzle the bread with the 1 tablespoon of milk; the moat will help prevent the milk from running down the sides of the loaf. Sprinkle with the coarse sugar.
7) Bake the bread for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean; the interior of the bread will measure 200°F to 210° on an instant-read thermometer.
8) Remove the bread from the oven, loosen its edges, and after 5 minutes turn it out onto a rack to cool. Cool completely before slicing. Wrap airtight and store at room temperature.
Yield: 1 loaf.
This recipe reprinted from The Baker’s Catalogue, Spring through Summer 2001.
Hands-on time:
10 mins. to 12 mins.
Baking time:
50 mins. to 60 mins.
Total time:
60 mins. to 1 hrs 12 mins.
1 loaf

Top O’ the Morning to ya!

La Gringa

education, Food


Our curriculum this year takes us around the world, exploring different countries as we move around the continent.

Early February had us in Germany. We have two weeks to study the specific country. The curriculum suggests to have a dinner party at the end of the two weeks that includes specific foods from that country. Although I haven’t pulled that off for every country-we did for Germany-with the help of my German neighbor and friend. She was awesome and helped me plan a wonderfully delicious typical German meal: Spatzle (see first photo), Schnitzel and Black Forest Cake. She and I (and our six kids) cooked all afternoon and feasted together once the dads got home. A really great way to celebrate Germany’s culture and friends all at the same time!

She had this really cool grater thingy that made these Spatzle noodles. They were really good!



The kids helped decorate the black forest cake. Yummy!

La Gringa
Food, Recipe

(Not at all) Crumby Coffee Cake

Another recipe! Yay!!

This coffee cake isn’t crumby (despite its name) and it’s so worth every stick of butter! The almond extract in the crumb topping seals the deal. I just made this one this morning for my small group. Always a hit! Oh-and I grabbed it from my favorite baking cookbook King Arthur Flour’s Baking Companion. It’s the one in the cupboard where the cover is torn and the pages are stained. Yes, it’s that good.

Crumb Coffee Cake

from LaGringa at LaStradaTostada

The recipe will make two 8-inch round coffee cakes or fill a 9X13 pan or a 9-or10-inch tube (Bundt) pan.


2 ½ cups (10 ½ ounces) flour

1 Ÿ Cups (8 ž ounces) sugar

½ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp. cinnamon

1 Cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) butter, melted

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. almond extract


8 T (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter

1 cup (7 ounces) sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

2 cups (8 ½ ounces) flour

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting


Preheat oven to 350’. Grease preferred pan(s).

To make the crumb: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Melt the butter in the microwave or small saucepan and add the extracts to it. Pour the butter into the flour mixture and mix until all the butter is absorbed and you have a uniformly moistened crumb mixture. Set aside while you make the cake batter and don’t forget to try some-it is absolutely, sinfully delicious-come on, it’s got a cup of butter in it : )

To make the batter: In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat between additions. Scrape down the mixing bowl, then beat in the vanilla and sour cream. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder together. Add to the butter/sour cream mixture, mixing until evenly combined. Pour the batter into the greased baking pan(s). Crumble the crumb mixture over the top, until the batter is completely covered. Bake for 20-25 min. for 8-inch rounds, 30-35 min. for 9 X 13-inch pan, or 35-40 min. for a 9 or 10 inch tube (Bundt) pan. Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a rack; dust the top with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.


This is how happy this coffee cake will make you!


Bon Appetit, or, in keeping in step with the secondary language of LaStradaTostada: Buen Provecho!

La Gringa

Now, I must do laundry.


And this is how laundry makes us ALL feel!




Waste not, want not Part Dos: La Gringa Cafe

I’m very excited about sharing this one! This is for those of you wary of my first idea below (Dump-Soup) and for my friend who said, “Really? Can I do that with the fish sticks and the ravioli in my fridge?” Although I would try it (with a frozen pizza as back-up, thanks Jill for that one) this might work a bit better if you are like her and have VERY random items in your fridge as proof that you do cook weekly meals at your home.

It’s called “The Cafe” and it’s delightful to do. My girls love love love it and ask for it every night-which is fantastic! We probably have “La Gringa Cafe” about twice a month-which keeps them coming back for more : )

The general idea is this:

1. Do a run down review of all of the items that need to be eaten in your fridge.

2. Create a menu  including the above items (printed from a word doc or use your easel/white/chalk board). I categorize between main dish, side/veggie and dessert. I also offer milk and water-that’s all we ever have. Well, maybe tea, if it’s left in the tea-pot from the morning.

3. Create a restaurant-type ambiance (anything different from the norm-not major-this is supposed to be helping you get rid of stuff-not make your life more difficult! I put a tablecloth on the table and light a candle). I categorize them into either main dishes and veggies and fruit/dessert and type them up in a word doc (you could write them on an easel/white/chalk board, too).

4. Warm the items on the menu first (this will help with serving time).

5. Welcome your guests-I use my best British accent-aren’t all fancy waiters British? I also call them madame (or him sir).

6. I offer them something to drink and then serve chips or a cheese stick or something from the leftover pile that isn’t on the menu as an appetizer.

7. Take their orders (using your tablet or have them circle it on the paper), create each plate in the kitchen and serve them up all at the same time.

It’s seriously so much fun!! Let me know if you try it!

Here’s a sample of our latest menu:


Thank you for choosing LaGringa CafĂŠ!

Please circle one item from the list below:

  • Sausage Pizza
  • Mac n’ cheese
  • Pork fried Rice
  • Beef Tacos

Please circle two items from the list below:

  • Carrot slices Cucumber slices
  • Broccoli with lemon wedges
  • Corn
  • Salad with your choice of dressing- circle one: ranch, raspberry vinaigrette, Italian

Dessert-please circle one of the items below:

  • Rice Crispy treats
  • Bananas drizzled with chocolate
  • Chocolate chip cookie


Drinks-please circle one of the items below:

  • Milk
  • Water



Food, Recipe

Waste not, want not: Leftovers Part Uno

I love not throwing anything away…but sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with, ugh, that broccoli that’s been in the back of the fridge for a few days. I’ll share one idea I have below, and another in a few days. Here’s to making the most of what we have!

Who on earth really likes leftovers? Granted, some things do taste better the next day, but certainly not 5 days later. My cousin suggested this simple remedy for aging casseroles, potatoes, rice and veggies in your fridge. She shared her idea with me a few years ago and we’ve been crazy for it ever since!

Dump it (ALL of it-and by “it” I mean every leftover you have in your fridge) into a pot-no matter how different the flavors. Heat, purĂŠe using an immersion blender or regular blender and add chicken broth to achieve desired consistency. Serve with fresh rolls.

I’m pretty sure you are all doubting me right now…so to bring this home I will share with you what we just ate last night-everyone loved it at our house-asking for seconds! This one we did last night lacked meat-but some leftover chicken or steak or ham would be lovely in it, too.

Dump-Soup (I know, it’s a horrible name, but it reminds me of the ever-loved dump cake, so I had to name it this way)

2 tubs of mashed potatoes

1 sweet potato (this was uncooked but we microwaved for 5 minutes before throwing it, sliced, into the pot)

1 small tub of cooked carrots

1 small tub of steamed broccoli with sun-dried tomatoes

5 sprigs fresh parsley

2 tsp. chicken base/bouillon

5+cups of water

I dumped all of this (except the water) into the crockpot until it was bubbling around the edges. Then I plunged my immersion blender all around and pureed everything. It was pretty thick so I added a couple of cups of water and set it on low for the rest of the day. About an hour before serving I thought it looked too thick so I added more water until it was just right.

We ate it with rolls and a dollop of sour cream and hot sauce (for the grown-ups). It was so good-we all seriously could not get enough…and the best part-there’s just enough left for a single serving lunch-that’s it! My fridge is cleaned out, we’re less wasteful and enjoyed soup on a day where the temperature didn’t rise above 20 degrees all day!

Seriously, this works!


Food, Uncategorized

Baking Essentials

This list is for your enjoyment-or for those of you who have someone in your life asking you what you’d like for Christmas and is willing to pay extra for 2-day shipping.

A caveat (I love that word-and I won’t tell you how recently it was that I read it in a book and read “cave-eat”). Keepin’ it real.

Okay, the caveat is this-you don’t NEED these items. But they really make baking and cooking easier. I actually take most of these items with me whenever I visit someone for more than six hours-how long can YOU last without chocolate chip cookies?!

by the way: *I tried to find the brands I use or prefer. Cook’s Illustrated is my go-to for equipment reviews.*

Zero idea what I’d do without this:

Silicone Rolling Mat

Why this is fabulous: It’s silicone (think grip tape for your dough and the countertop). The measurements on the sides and the diameters in the middle come in super handy-as does the pie crust recipe printed on it.

Don’t knock it until you’ve weighed it:

OXO 1157100 Digital Food Scale 5lb

Why this is fabulous (and dangerous): I started weighing my ingredients about five years ago. It is so simple and so much more accurate than my half-ass measuring that I was doing. Yes, I did just say that. I am not a perfectionist which is tough when you’re a baker. This scale keeps me consistent-no matter how little time I have to pull something together. The dangerous part: It’s SO easy to make something (think no measuring cups to sort through and wash) that I bake more often…and unless I have someone to take it to it ends up on my lips…and ultimately my hips : )

For use with the above rolling mat:

Ateco French Rolling Pin with Tapered Ends

Why this is fabulous: Everyone needs a rolling-pin-no brainer there. However, I’m partial to the weight (so light!) and style (so easy to roll things out without the limits of separate handles) of this French rolling pin. It’s super cheap, too.

What don’t I use this for?

Winco DSC-3 Dough Cutter - Stainless Steel with Wood Handle

Why this is fabulous: Dividing dough for rolls, loaves, various shapes. Slicing off chunks of butter; since I weigh my unsalted butter and neither Costco nor Sam’s club sell sticks (just 1lb. slabs) of unsalted butter I find this is very handy for slicing off pieces of butter for recipes. I also use it for transferring diced objects from my cutting board to a bowl or pan, cutting brownies or anything into geometrical shapes.

No sheet-these are the best! If you’re not laughing right now you have to say that out loud. Ha!

Chicago Metallic 77823 Commercial 18-by-13-by-1-Inch Cookie/Jelly-Roll Pan, Set of 2

Why this is fabulous: I don’t know what brand I have-but I absolutely love my rimmed baking sheets. I line them with parchment and bake cookies, rolls, croissants on them. I pull them out when play-dough is involved. Beads stay put on there, too-which makes them great for containing crafts. The size also holds an entire batch of cookies (one that uses 1 cup of butter and about 3 cups/15oz. or so of flour) to make into bars when you’re supposed to meet friends for a picnic in the park and have 30min. from start to sitting on a blanket basking in the sun. Smash it in and bake for 20min. and you’re good to go!

That’s it for now…what do you have an essential item in your kitchen?

Oh. My Crockpot. That goes without saying. I think I’d like to be buried with my Crockpot in hopes Jesus decides I can have it with me in heaven. I think he’d agree its really important and essential and would really save him time. He’s got a lot to do between breakfast and dinner!

La Gringa