Fast Easy Low Carb Taco Bowl

Fast easy scratch made taco bowl

This is one of my favorite meals for when I want easy comfort food but can’t afford to eat badly (like when my sister-in-law’s wedding is next week, YAY!). It has 8 ingredients, and by mid-summer, 2 of them come from my garden.

The first layer is ground beef (93/7 fat ratio), browned with 3T of my home made taco seasoning. I’m counting all “seasoning” as one ingredient, fair enough? Add a 1/4 c of water once it starts to really sizzle and cook until it has a very lightly sauced consistency. For adult taco nights, sometimes I deglaze the pan with lime juice and tequila instead of water.

The seasoning mix is very simple, and if you buy the spices in the larger jars it is just pennies per serving. I recommend making this first as one batch, testing and tasting and then tweak to your own taste, especially when it comes to heat. This recipe makes just over 3T which is perfect for 1 lb of meat. Once you’ve got the ratios you like, mix a quadruple batch in a recycled jar and shake it well before each use to make sure it stays blended. Hint: quadruple of 1 teaspoon is 1 Tablespoon.

  • 1 heaping teaspoon each: garlic powder, onion powder, demerara sugar, paprika, cumin, chili powder, chipotle powder and salt
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • cayenne to taste (go easy!)
  • 1 T arrowroot or corn starch or flour (thickening agent)


Then, mix up the guacamole, which is worth a post in its own right. Mash together:

  • 3 avocados- slice around the pit and open it up, then scoop out the green stuff
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, minced (with seeds if you like it hot)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper

Don’t add garlic, tomato, cilantro, or anything else until you’ve tried it this way! The pure clean flavor of this simple recipe tastes like summer. Just throw it all in a bowl and mash with a fork. The longer you let it sit the hotter it will get, as capsaicin is fat soluble and avocado is full of heart healthy fatty acids.

Okay, now make your bowl! Beef in the bottom of the bowl, cover with cheese of your choice, and put pickled jalapenos on top (I love the vinegary tang) and microwave for 30 seconds to melt the cheese. Serve topped with fresh guac and broken tortilla chips.


As pictured at the top, this recipe has about 1o net carbs with about 5 full chips worth of Tostitos multigrain scoops pieces. It isn’t exactly low fat, but with extra lean ground beef and low fat cheese, the fat from the creamy avocado is not excessive, and in fact our bodies need fat. We just don’t often eat the right balance of fats. You can also add all sorts of beautiful veggies. This time I added chopped green onions from the garden. It’s also great with shredded lettuce instead of chips.

This is also great for leftovers for days with just a minute to microwave as you assemble. To store the guacamole, sprinkle with some more lime juice and press plastic wrap down on the whole surface of it to prevent it from oxidizing and turning a light brownish/greyish color. It won’t kill you, but it’s not too aesthetically pleasing. Also, this dish is actually visually stunning with blue corn tortilla chips if you want to dress up your comfort food to impress.

Condensed Recipe: Fast Easy Low Carb Taco Bowl

  • Extra lean ground beef browned with 3T taco seasoning
  • Colby Jack cheese
  • Pickled jalapenos
  • Home made guacamole
  • Multigrain Tostitos

Microwave the first three ingredients together, then top with guacamole and chips.

If you enjoy this, keep an eye out for my mini tostadas recipe coming in the next few days. It uses many of the same ingredients but is totally finger food, and great for parties.


Hail to the Queen

My husband and I make a formidable team. Like Louis XII and Eleanor of Aquitaine before it got weird. As individuals, we have met few challenges we can’t handle, and together we are only stronger. I find that my mind instinctively goes to team work, because that is our strength. So when I got an update on my phone about a severe storm with penny size hail heading for us in the next 15 minutes, I thought for a moment we can just move the weight bench and our friend’s sofa to the back of the garage so I can pull my car in…if he was here. We could do it in 2 minutes together. Me, alone, well, a lot slower and with some banged up shins.

I can’t afford to have my car out of commission right now with a cracked windshield. I could strong Ranger through this one and start shoving furniture, but why? So I thought, what would a smart Ranger do? I started battening down the hatches as I thought and voila, the dogs’ blanket that I put outside to dry needed to come in before the storm, and it is probably…yes…exactly the right size to cover my windshield and moon roof. Slam both doors on it and cross my fingers that it holds. While life is a million times better shared with my husband, when the king is not in the castle, the queen takes care of business just fine




And now for something completely different

There are some things in life that can only ever be experienced in military life. Like Tricare. Like your primary provider working in a clinic named for an attack helicopter. Like getting a well woman check up by your NP’s intern, who happens to be a male captain in ACUs. Not digital camo print scrubs, but full uniform, with a stethoscope. And he was every bit as serious and awkward as DH’s boss–same body language, same tone of voice. I feel for the guy, he was clearly a man’s man trying to be gentle and sensitive while also practicing a new series of tasks and being evaluated. When the nurse asked ahead of time if I was comfortable with a male intern trailing along I said, “Um, sure” because I’m doing a clinical internship of my own and I want to be fair, it can’t be that much worse. Wrong.

Holy moly, after years of exams with my earth mama slightly crunchy certified nurse midwife with thirty years experience, this was a trip for sure.  It started out weird when in an effort to be gentle his touch was so light it was just insanely ticklish and making me squirm, even as I chatted with my NP who is a pro at small talk. Captain K was so serious I was tempted to crack a joke to break the tension (not something I can repeat here in good taste). But then I decided not to, just in case he had actually had his sense of humor surgically removed, because that would ratchet the discomfort into the trillions of times more awkward than your average, definitely not at all awkward pelvic exam.

Pinch, ow, really dude? I tensed. And when he made eye contact with me for maybe the second time in 10 minutes, he raised an eyebrow and began, “Has anyone ever told you your cervix is…” and trails off just long enough for me to think: Oh my God NO! Do not comment on my cervix!  “…um, not in a standard position?” he finishes. And my NP stepped around to see what he meant and it turns out that pinchy feeling was him not looking in quite the right place. At this moment, I really wanted to bust out laughing, but I felt so bad for him and it was obvious that this was even more painful for him, so I had mercy. And then it was over and I went and bought a new vacuum.

This is my life: I spare GI Joe’s feelings by not laughing when he can’t find my cervix.

10 Essential Army Wife Books for $25 (total!)

After receiving the Army Wife Handbook (2007), and flipping through it’s 432 pages, I was immensely grateful for the wealth of knowledge it provided on protocol and etiquette. It’s not for everyone. And more importantly, it doesn’t cover a lot of the most basic necessities of Army knowledge. It doesn’t give suggestions on how to deal with understanding the dynamics of separation and long distance relationships, or how to face your husband’s reintegration after deployment, or how to feel as calm as the face you put on by grounding yourself in your faith. It doesn’t really cover the one million and one sticky situations that come up in FRGs or how to strike the balance between by-the-book prim and proper and seeming too casual and disrespectful (because you will be judged for going too far in either direction, let’s be honest). Here are the best resources I have found to fill in the knowledge gaps.

Everyone Serves: A Handbook for Family and Friends of Service Members (Free)

This e-book and website are a collaboration between DCoE, PBS, and Blue Star Families, to help everyone who loves a service member understand what is going on, for parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors.


Service Etiquette, 5th Ed (recommend buying used)
This is probably the most in-depth guide to military-related etiquette I’ve seen, and this most recent edition covers civilian life as well. If you can wonder it, this can answer it. Especially helpful for military weddings from addressing invitations with rank (who first, Dr. or Lt?) to the saber arch and guest seating.

Basics from the Barracks: Military Etiquette and Protocol (A Quick Guide) (Free download)
The spouses at the Army War College put together a basic guide in 2011, which covers convention as well as general etiquette. I, personally, couldn’t find whether to bring a hostess gift to a Christmas reception in Service Etiqutte and had to phone a friend. I wish I’d had this handy free pdf back then.

Separated by Duty, United in Love (by Shellie Vandevoorde, $3.98 on Amazon)
Really practical information, from OpSec, to the different ways your family is likely to cope with separation, to tips on staying sane.
Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives (by Jocelyn Green, $8.99 on Amazon)
A topical guide to the spiritual issues of military life with brief devotions by wives from all branches of service that include scripture and questions for reflections.

Love Our Vets: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD (by Welby O’Brien, $11 for hard copy, Amazon)This is a phenomenal resource, which is free to borrow for Kindle device owners. The Q&A format keeps it simple, and it is in depth without being full of jargon, and shares vignettes without being patronizing. From a mental healthcare perspective, I highly recommend it, even for family members who are struggling to figure out what difficulties are “normal.”
The U.S. Army Reset Handbook (Free download)

This 36 page pdf cover’s the Army’s guidance on physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health for soldiers and their families during the redeployment and post-deployment process.

Family Readiness Group
Free PDF downloads of handbooks from the Army War College (Spouses Publications):

This link includes free pdf download of the past decade of publications, including 4 great handbooks: the Spouses’ Battle Book, Company Commander’s Spouse Battle Book, A Leader’s Guide to Trauma in the Unit, The U.S. Army Care Team Handbook, and others.

Happy reading!
P.S. I was not compensated for any of this, I just want to share the books and guides that I personally have found helpful, because there are so many on the market.

Ft. Campbell Couponing Alert!

Friends at Ft. Campbell: if you have any of those $2 off 3 hallmark card coupons, right now, all Hallmark cards are being removed from stock at the PX and are 75% off the normal 20% off. They set up a separate rack perpendicular to the card aisle with the Hallmark stock, look for the signs. With the coupon which is available in many stores with card displays (and can be printed here: you can easily get 3 cards for basically free. Most of mine rang up for between 50 and 70 cents a piece. This particular coupon has a $2 minimum purchase requirement, so you need to buy two cards with a list price of $3.29 and one $3.49 for the best deal. That will give you a total of $2.02, so you pay .02. If anyone wants to, try getting three 99c cards (each 20 cents) and see if they’ll take $1.40 off your bill. Some stores will honor a coupon even when your purchase doesn’t quite meet the terms, it’s worth a shot. If it works please comment. Go Go Go!

New Shower Trim

This post is not for the timid.

I take it back, this post is for the timid. I want to prove to you that you can absolutely, 100% take on all sorts of projects, safely, and with professional looking outcomes.

Full disclosure: my grandfather was a carpenter and built not one but two homes for my grandma from the ground up with the help of my uncles. When I was 13 he helped me build a loft bed (notice, he didn’t build it for me, he helped me design and build it). When I was 16 he showed me how to wire electrical fixtures. My mom has been using power tools since before I can remember, and she was the one who showed me how to use a drill. My grandmother’s father died when she was very young in a tractor accident, and my great-grandma raised 7 children and ran the farm on her own. There is no “can’t do” in my blood, especially when it comes to making or fixing things, and there is no man’s work or women’s work, there is only work that needs to be done. My uncle is a contractor, and my go-to guy for “Can I do this?” “Should I do this?” and “How do I do this?”.

I started out asking him “Can I do this?” when I found a non-standard adapter soldered to the stub-out for the bath tub spout. And that was going to throw a wrench in all my plans to put new trim on our shower. Soldering (pronounced ‘saudering’), by the way, is sort of the most basic form of welding–you use a soft metal with a low melting point and put it between two things and melt it to stick them together. It’s not very high tech. I was a little hesitant when he replied that all I needed was a soldering kit (read: blow torch) and a wrench. I just heat the adapter evenly and pull and twist as the metal begins to soften until it slides off. Oh really, that easy, just use a blow torch to melt it off? Okay Uncle K, I’ll try anything once.

Nasty surprise: an adapter underneath the screw on tub spout

Always read ALL the safety instructions

Always read ALL the safety instructions

So, in a move that would make my high school physics teacher proud, I tightened my safety goggles and lit my $12 torch according to all the instructions that came with it. And then it’s like roasting a marshmallow.

Note in the third picture some toasty discoloration. That was my bad adjusting the angle to get all sides warmed up. Luckily, some moderate buffing and it came right out, good as new. Learn from my mistake and try as much as possible to angle the flame away from any plastic trim (which is tricky, especially since you can NEVER EVER hold the torch upside down).

Next, use a piece of fine sand paper and sand that pipe until it shines, with no solder (the silver stuff) left on it. Now install the new spout according to the instructions that come with it, and make sure to use silicone on the joints (more on that below).

Adapter removed!

Adapter removed!

Sand that stub out until the copper shines!

Sand that stub out until the copper shines!

Now it’s time for the shower head (arm and flange seen below). To remove the old shower head, just apply brute force counterclockwise, and maybe a little WD-40 to get things going. It should just unscrew from the wall, and you apply caulk (to prevent water from squeezing through the threads and spraying behind the wall) and screw the new one in its place. Do put the flange on the wall end of the arm before you install it, otherwise you can wreck the finish sliding it the whole length of the arm from the front end. Then, add silicone caulk again to the threads and twist the shower head into place. Easy-peasy.

Silicone Caulk

Silicone Caulk

Run your finger over a dab of caulk to smooth into threads

Run your finger over a dab of caulk to smooth into the threads

That part is a 5 minute project unless you get a well stuck old arm to remove, then you oil it and yank a while, oil it again and make coffee, come back and  yank some more, and just when you think you’re going to have to rent a friend’s husband to give it a little more muscle, it gives way. Then it’s a 45 minute project, but you got coffee out of it.The actual shower handle/knob/adjustment thingy totally depends on the brand and style you have, but suffice it to say, don’t strip it down to the rough-in valve for the love of God. Just take it down to where all the cheap trim is gone, and then pick up the installation instructions at that point for your new trim. It is very important that you match the brand (or get universal replacement trim) or none of this will work. We had a Delta valve, so I simply removed a few screws, slid off the old face, slid on the new face, and put new screws in.

This is the builder grade chrome and plastic trim our showers came with

Before: the builder grade chrome and plastic trim our showers came with

After: new oil rubbed bronze WaterSense trim kit

After: new oil rubbed bronze WaterSense trim kit

This was an extra uber-duber deal because I got the $200 trim kit for $45, and the only installation cost was the benzomatic torch for $12, and much of it is left for another project. And now we will save money on our water bill AND have a shower head that doesn’t sting.

[Update: I forgot to mention that putting silicone in the threads is adequate for the short term and I did it because it’s what I had on hand, but really for longevity, you need to wrap a few time with plumbers tape]

Love is: a Dog

Ranger is my Ranger Buddy. He helps me through everything, and I know some day he will save my life. He has alerted us to threats before (the serious, non-Chinook kind), so I take it seriously when he wakes me up in the middle of the night. Around 3:45 this morning, he starts growling, louder and more persistently until I wake up. I don’t hear anything, but I see bright light coming from the back yard. Did someone trip the motion sensor light? This being Kentucky, I reach for the gun and chamber a round as I sort out a plan of action. I realize it is red light, not the bluish floodlight from our motion sensor. What the hell? Our yard is bathed in orange-red light. So I keep sliding along the windows until I see it. Our neighbor’s house is entirely engulfed in flames. Not like flames coming out the windows. I mean, roof gone, 25 foot flames lapping at the sky, you can see through the rafters and blue electric sparks are shooting out where the grid meets the house. Call 911 from my cell and get an operator from across the state line (good to know for next time…) by the time I get transferred and explain it all again the operator says they are aware, and a few seconds later I hear sirens.

Now, it has been a hot, dry week here and all our fences and decks are wood….one continuous line of dry wood from their yard to ours… oh and a field of golden wheat that our properties all abutt. Panic sticks in my throat, and Ranger won’t stop growling, even when I pick him up and hold him in my arms and tell him I hear him and we’re going to be okay. I grab the fire extinguisher and step out on the deck, ready to get the hose and wet down our fence and our neighbor’s in between. Ranger is at my heels wanting to come out with me but I’m afraid of losing track of him in the dark so I close him inside. The smoke is thick and I can hear other houses smoke detectors going off so I close the door and give it 5 minutes to see how fast they can contain it before I decide if it’s worth it to wet down anyway. Due credit to our firefighters, they got it done like champs. There had to be a handful of trucks there, and they had it relatively contained in 15 minute. Not before the siding on the next door houses melted, but before the fire spread.


I sat in our dining room and watched them finish fighting the fire, with Ranger, now shaking, curled up in my arms. My little hero. His love for me and DH is so profound it moves me to tears. I have no doubt in my mind that he would lay down his life for us. In fact, I’m terrified that one day he will take on a threat he can’t handle, to protect us. He loves us with the purest kind of love, and I trust him with my life. While I sleep, he is alert for the dangers of the night. He gives me companionship through the day and guards me through the night. He is a guardian angel. Love is: a dog.


5 am: I got your back Ma, you can go back to sleep

[Saber is a-okay, but he doesn’t take an active role in this story because he was under the bed. He is so timid from what he has been through, but no less loved. It is part of their odd couple charm that in the face of danger Ranger runs into it and Saber hits the deck.]

24 Hour Slow Cooker Pulled Pork


In case you can’t tell, I’m a big believer in slow. I let bread rise slowly because it’s healthier and adds depth of flavor. I cook meat slowly because it makes cheap cuts tender and flavorful. I think about 48 hours ahead on my meals, and it doesn’t take much longer to prepare, things just need to get started the day before I plan to eat them. It is the best way to eat well (both in the healthy and delicious sense) on a budget. This sweet and tangy healthy pork, I throw in my slow cooker the evening before I want to eat it. It is awesome served as traditional barbecue, but is also great without sauce on quesadillas, or with southwest relish on a salad. My possibly favorite way to eat it is with guacamole on huevos rancheros (my mouth is watering now). This recipe is also awesome for beef brisket!

Scratch-made bbq sauce


  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 standard sized pork loin
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 small onion, sliced (optional)
  • 1 bottle beer
  • 1 c apple sauce
  • 1/2 c demerara/raw sugar
  • 1/2 c ketchup
  • 3/4 c apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 c dijon mustard
  • 1/3 c low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 paprika
  • 2 t chipotle pepper


Pat down the loin with a paper towel and remove as much moisture as possible. Heat a large frying pan with some olive oil on high and swirl it around the pan to coat. Sear the loin whole first all the way around, and then slice in thirds and sear both ends. Place the meat in slow cooker and add garlic to the pan to brown. When it is just barely golden add the beer to deglaze the pan. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and whisk while simmering on low. Pour over the meat and turn the cooker on. My slow cooker has an awesome setting where I can turn it on low for half an hour and then it will automatically go into “warming” mode for 12 hours, and at hour 11 I turn it back on low for half an hour and let it go to warming mode until dinner. Another way that I’ve done is to put it in a pan covered in foil in a conventional oven on 215F for 24 hours.

See how it falls apart?!

18 hours in, and I can easily pull a piece off with a fork to taste. At 24 hours it should literally fall apart when you try to stick a fork in it.

Half an hour  before you are ready to serve it, use a fork to pull the meat apart. Use a ladle to spoon out most of the excess cooking liquid and strain through mesh to remove pieces of garlic, onion, and bay leaf (discard bay leaf). Heat on medium in a small sauce pan to reduce it into a nice bbq sauce. Whisk in extra chipotle to taste and scrape the bottom of the pan periodically as it reduces so the sugars don’t burn.

Serve coated in sauce on toasted bread (ahem, my toasted sourdough brioche rolls) with pickle slices and chopped raw onions.

Pulled Pork (5)

Meet the Fur Babies

Playing with their favorite toys

Playing with their favorite toys

So, I haven’t mentioned them much because I’m a little self conscious about my two best friends being non-human. I talk to them. They sit on the furniture. Heck, they even sleep in the bed when DH is gone, I’ll admit it. They are our first “kids” and DH secretly loves how they light up when he walks in the door after work. After a 14 hour day away, they leap and prance and vocalize and follow him around the house like he’s the freaking prodigal son, and he eats it up. Now, they miss him. We noticed that they reacted just like the chaplain said children would with deployments–I guess our dogs are Army brats. They know what a green duffel bag means and they follow commands.

This is our first dog Saber. He’s a three year old Chow Chow mix. He was rescued from feral and probably abused as a puppy, so he’s even more skittish and shy than Chows normally can be. He spends a lot of time hiding under our bed.

He's such a teddy bear!

Handsome  boy

He’ll share the man chair with DH sometimes but really, he’s a momma’s boy. He’s more afraid of men, so he gravitates toward me and I’m thrilled about that. He feels like a big warm teddy bear. He’s definitely a lover not a fighter, it’s how he survived on the streets. His favorite thing ever is squeezing into my chair with me to watch Northwestern and the Cowboys play football, even when I yell (which I do a lot the last few seasons). He definitely likes my teams better, he doesn’t stick around for West Point or Nebraska. Like I said, Momma’s boy.

Football watching buddy doesn't judge me when I drink Bud and don't wear makeup

Football watching buddy doesn’t judge me when I drink Bud and don’t wear makeup

On the other hand, our four year old terrier mix Ranger is DH’s ranger buddy, no question. We rescued him from a kill shelter just weeks before he was going to be put down, and I absolutely cannot imagine a world in which he doesn’t exist. It’s almost as if he knows DH saved his life by giving me the go-ahead to adopt him. He actually got pretty depressed when DH left, he wouldn’t play with me, he was just curled up in a ball under his desk looking pathetic and not eating. He’s gotten better but man, that was heartbreaking.

Loves coffee time

Loves coffee time

Now, he wants to snuggle with me 24/7. Every time I sit he climbs up in my lap, and at night he sleeps next to me on DH’s pillow. We used to have order and discipline in this household, but with the deployment, Ranger would wait until I was asleep and sneak up the far side of the bed and slowly sneak up on me to snuggle. I didn’t have the heart to kick him out if I woke up in the middle of the night because my arm was on pins and needles from him sleeping literally on my arm. Things just slid from there. He’s a little too smart for his own good. And he is a fantastic guard dog. He is 19 lbs of pure fierce when he senses a threat to our home. His idea of threats are kind of funny, including a new UPS guy, shenanigans halfway down the block, a deer wandering too close to our fence, and his favorite threat to scare off, the Chinooks that routinely fly over our back yard. I’ll have to take video some time of him telling a Chinook who’s boss.

He really does love coffee time

He really does love coffee time

Together, Saber and Ranger are the Odd Couple. Their love/hate relationship and spirited antics bring joy to my day, and their snuggles are much appreciated when DH is so far from home.

Sourdough Brioche Rolls

brioche 3

I adore brioche bread, and have been using this recipe for years. Now that I’m trying to cut out instant yeast, I am going to attempt it with sourdough starter. I came across one other attempt at a sourdough brioche roll recipe, and it is based on a Smitten Kitchen recipe, another favorite food blog of mine. But then, I didn’t have milk. And I really want these rolls today. So…I’ve heard of using yogurt in sourdough starter. Wouldn’t greek yogurt make a nice rich creamy high protein milk substitute? Of course with sourdough you have to fiddle with the moisture content, so this is, purely from eyeballing things one tablespoon at a time, my best attempt at the right dough texture:

  • 1 ample half cup starter
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ c honey
  • ½ c Greek yogurt
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 4 T melted butter
  • 1 c whole wheat white flour
  • 1 c unbleached bread flour
  • egg for egg wash
  • sesame seeds

Brioche 1

Mix up the starter with the wet ingredients, and then slowly add the flour. Knead with a dough hook if you have a stand mixer. If not, it’s a fairly wet dough, and I sometimes leave it in the bowl and first squeeze it through my fingers and then do a lazy version of French style kneading. Stick your fingers in it, then pull one end up and flop it over in half, trapping some air. Turn, pull, fold, turn pull fold. It may not pass the windowpane test very well, but it will hold together nicely after 5-10 minutes. Form into a ball and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Brioche 2

Once it has doubled in size (with sourdough, expect at least 4 hours depending on conditions), knock it down and cut dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball and then flatten down on a cookie sheet. Brush with either egg white or whole egg, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Leave to rise again, preheat oven to 425 F. They are ready when you poke the side in an inconspicuous place and it springs back most of the way. Bake time depends on a lot of variables, after 12 minutes check every 3 minutes through the glass for nice color to develop on top.

brioche 3

These were delicious! A little bit denser than the originals, but I was also in a hurry and did not give the first rise as long as I would have liked. I think for natural leavening they are actually remarkably soft and light, and would have been even more so with a proper first rise. Enjoy your greek  yogurt sourdough brioche!