Tasty Tuesday–Valle Taco Express

If you have traveled on IL 159 in Swansea recently, you may have noticed that there’s a new taco place in town. Specifically a taco truck and a taco stand…Valle Taco Express. The stand is only open when the truck doesn’t have an engagement, so you want to check their Facebook weekly page for their hours and locations.

Now, on to the food. I tried the taco plate, which included three tacos…steak, chicken, and fish, plus sides (I had a double order of the street corn), while Ryan had the steak and chicken Fuego burritos.

We both thought the steak options were a little dry, but still tasty. The sauce on my other two tacos was great…it had a nice kick to it. The meat was also cooked just right. The real star of the meal, though, was the corn. It had a nice char, and the addition of the cheese was the perfect topping.

I definitely enjoyed my meal, and I’d like to eat there again…it would also be fun to catch their truck at an event!

Tasty Tuesday–Gyros Night

One of my favorite things about making lamb for Easter is that we often have enough leftovers to freeze so we can enjoy gyros in the weeks following. I’m not claiming they’re authentic (I’m certainly not shaving the meat off of a vertical rotisserie!), but I do make homemade tzatziki sauce to go with them, so the flavor is pretty much what I remember from growing up in the Chicago area!

Tasty Tuesday–German Night

I don’t cook German food very often, certainly not as much as I should, but when I do, it’s always a popular meal! I fried some pork schnitzels I found at Aldi (my new favorite store!), and made a jaeger sauce to go with them. I also made homemade spaetzle and served it with sauerkraut, also purchased at Aldi.

I do have to admit, it’s not a very interesting plate to look at…Turkey commented on how everything is pretty much the same color…but it certainly was delicious!

The Boys Are Back in Town!

It’s that time of year again…today, the Cardinals returned to Busch Stadium for their home opener! I made sure we had the ingredients for all of our baseball favorites on hand for tonight’s dinner…pretzels with cheese sauce, stuff for hot dogs (including the chili and Chicago-style variety), brats, nacho fixin’s (I finally bought a container of Matt Carpenter’s Mojo Salsa at Schnucks!), and “Baseball Cakes” for dessert, in both the day game and night game flavors:

It’s always a fun meal to put together, and everybody’s dinner ends up being a little bit different:

It’s too early to say whether or not the Cards will have their first Busch Stadium win of the 2019 season today or not, but it’s been a fun day, and it’s #TimetoFly!

Tasty Tuesday–Lime-Chicken Soup

I tried a new soup recipe last week, but being me, I had to tinker with it the first time I made it. The end result was delicious, and it was a pretty popular dinner, so I know I’ll be making it again!

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (can also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or a combination of the two)
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped, plus extra for garnish
  • 4 jalapeños, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 4 avocados, cut in cubes
  • Queso fresco, crumbled

Place chicken in stock pot and cover with water. Heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer, about 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Cool enough to chop.

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add cumin and stir well, heating for about a minute. Add onion, 1 cup cilantro, jalapeños, garlic, and lime juice; sprinkle with salt. Sauté until tender, about five minutes.

Stir in chicken broth and chicken; heat through.

Serve with remaining cilantro, avocado, and queso fresco.

Tasty Tuesday–Stromboli

This is one of our family’s favorite recipes, and Turkey’s go-to when he picks his birthday dinner.

  • 3 loaves Rhodes bread dough, thawed
  • Dried basil
  • 20 slices deli ham
  • 24 slices deli Genoa salami
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375.

Split bread dough in two equal portions. Roll each out in a rectangle, about 15×10 inches. Sprinkle each with basil, then top each with half of the ham, salami, and mozzarella. Roll each from the long side; pinch closed. Place each seam side down on a baking sheet; rub with olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until bread is golden-brown. Let stand five minutes before slicing.

St. Patrick’s Eve

Sometimes, you just have to celebrate a holiday on an alternate day. St. Patrick’s Day is one of those days for us this year, so today, we had a St. Patrick’s Eve celebration!

We started with our traditional breakfast of Lucky Charms…but this time, they were Lucky Charms with Frosted Flakes! They were very popular. We also checked our Leprechaun trap, and discovered that, as always, it was empty. There were some delicious mints for a consolation prize, though!

We had a couple of special treats with lunch…Irish cheddar, and St. Patrick’s Day Cakes:

And our traditional St. Paddy’s dinner…well, mostly traditional. Instead of the roasted potatoes I usually make to go with the corned beef and cabbage, carrots, and soda bread, I made mashed potatoes and colcannon:


And our favorite Guinness cake for dessert!

It was a little weird celebrating a day early, but any family feast is a fun occasion, no matter when it takes place!

Tasty Tuesday–Texas de Brazil

Ladybug and I have been planning to go to dinner at Texas de Brazil in the St. Louis Galleria for almost a year…Saturday was finally the day!

As soon as we walked in, we were impressed…there were color-changing lights behind the bar, which looked really cool through the various bottles!

The table was super fancy, and Ladybug was shocked by the napkin service, which is something she had never encountered. Not only did they place our napkins in our laps when we sat down, they refolded them every time we got up from the table!

If you’ve never been to Texas de Brazil, here’s how it works. After you’re seated, you can visit the salad bar. There were so many delicious options! (But watch out for that plant…it attacked me several times!)

In addition to the cold offerings, there are also some heated options, including their famous lobster bisque, Brazilian black beans, rice, and moqueca (fish stew):

At your table, you’re given a “coin.” One side indicates that you would like the waiters to stop by with whatever carved meat they’re carrying, and the other that you are content with what you have (at least for the time being!):

There are so many meat options, from all of the main meat groups…beef, chicken, pork, and lamb (plus the fish family at the salad bar…I tried all five kinds of meats!). Some are wrapped in bacon, some are seasoned with parmesan cheese, and all are delicious. In general, the meats are prepared medium-rare, but you can request more or less done options. And watching the waiters carve the meat table side is quite a treat!

In addition to the salad bar offerings (both cold and hot), a few side dishes are brought to your table, including garlic mashed potatoes, sweet fried bananas, and Brazilian cheese bread (Pao de Queijo), which I’ve actually made before!

We enjoyed everything we tried, from the drinks (Ladybug had a Brazilian soda, and I had their signature drink, the Caipirinha), to the salad bar (the pineapple carpaccio, couscous salad, and giant capers were some of our favorites!), to the meat (I was so happy to see so many rare options, including filet mignon and plain old steak):

And then the desserts. There was a tray with some of their offerings, including Brazilian cheesecake, carrot cake, and key lime pie), but they also have other choices including Brazilian flan, Crème Brûlée, and Brazilian Papaya Cream.

Ladybug and I both chose the chocolate mousse cake, and we were definitely not disappointed…it was AMAZING!

This was a very fun and special evening. I wish it was a place we could all visit someday, but it’s not practical for a large family. I do hope that I’ll get the chance to go back with somebody someday, though, because I had a great time, and really enjoyed my meal!

A Markel Family Thanksgiving, Broken Ankle Edition

Normally, Thanksgiving in our house is a three-day affair, beginning on Wednesday (pie day) and culminating the day after. Because of my broken ankle, this year Thanksgiving had to be a four-day holiday. I started by baking four pies (S’mores, Nutella, pecan, and pumpkin), on Tuesday, (and we had a regular school day, too!), in addition to making the cranberry sauce and chopping the vegetables for the stuffing and the turkey soup. I knew there was no way I could do all of that, plus the other five pies and stuffing prep on Wednesday, and I’m glad I planned it that way, because even just that was a lot of work on my booted leg!

On Wednesday, the other five pies were prepared (banana cream, caramel apple made by Bunny, strawberry, cranberry apple, and butterscotch), plus the stuffing was finished and ready to go in the slow cooker Thursday morning. We also read all of our favorite Thanksgiving stories (it was the least I could do to make up for the lack of our regularly scheduled Thanksgiving school) and made hand and footprint turkeys. This was an exhausting day!

I do have to admit, all the pies did look really nice!

Of course, Thursday was the Big Day. There was more work, including giving the turkey a bath in the sink and prepping the rest of the menu. We also watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and the National Dog Show, which are Thanksgiving highlights for me. I also love setting a nice table for a holiday!

In case you’re wondering, my motivation for doing all of this even with a broken ankle was the Fab Five. I have been aware that “the days are long, but the years are short” since the very beginning, and that’s becoming even more real now that we’re getting closer to the time when the children will all start scattering as they reach adulthood.

We had our usual Thanksgiving feast…roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, carrots, Brussel sprouts, green beans with almonds, cranberry sauce, and rolls with butter:

Red and white wine, and red and white sparkling grape juice accompanied our meal:

It was a delicious feast!

And then, after much clean-up, the annual watching of Holiday Inn, and the boiling of the carcass for turkey soup, it was pie time!

I went with my favorite, cranberry apple, plus the Thanksgiving standard of pumpkin pie with whipped cream:

The celebration continued this morning with our traditional day after Thanksgiving breakfast of pie:

And then, something new this year! Moose got to march in the town parade with his school’s band. We’ve never attended before, and despite the wind, it was a lot of fun!

This year, our annual day after Thanksgiving Lego build didn’t feature a Winter Village set. Instead, I carried the year’s Harry Potter theme through to Thanksgiving, and we built the Whomping Willow set, plus a free-with-purchase Diagon Alley set.

And then turkey soup for dinner!

And more pie for dessert…this time, I went with the chocolate-based pies…S’mores and Nutella.

And that’s the end of another Thanksgiving in the Markel house. We didn’t go to downtown Belleville following our turkey soup dinner this year, partly because we don’t enjoy the tree-lighting as much without the community sing they used to have, and partly because rain postponed some of the other activities. But almost everything else went according to our normal Thanksgiving traditions, even if the timing of some them were altered a bit…but there was no way I was going to allow a broken ankle to ruin our holiday!

French Toast Mode

They’re forecasting our first significant snow of the season tonight and tomorrow. Actually, they’re saying it might be one of the biggest November snowstorms in St. Louis history! In honor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Weatherbird’s “French Toast Map” and all of the people who hit the grocery stores to purchase large quantities of milk, eggs, and bread before a storm hits, I made French toast for dinner. It’s a win-win situation…we like the snow and don’t freak out about it like so many in St. Louis do, and French toast is one of the children’s favorite special dinners!