Category Archives: Lunch/Dinner

Busy Nights & Shepherd’s Pie

Life is busy. Like, really busy. Time is flying by.

One of the reasons that time seems even more fleeting for me lately is the fact that I don’t like to consider my job as part of my life. When you factor everything in, I am away from home because of work for 50+ hours a week. What do I mean, then? Well, those 50+ hours a week are so that I can have a paycheck to provide for ‘my life’. I don’t love what I do. It’s not totally my job’s fault, though. I realized in college that I am never going to be a career oriented person.

I am a family oriented person. I am a people oriented person. I love being close to my family. I love seeing my friends often. I love being around babies & kids. I love hosting dinners & parties & making food for people. I love going to church & being involved in several different ministries.

Not everyone enjoys all those things. Some people are more introverted & require plenty of chill time to recharge. Some people are extroverted, but not too fond of hosting or cooking. Or, they aren’t fond of children. Some people don’t get along with their families as well as I do. Some people haven’t found a church they call home, or choose not to go to church at all.

Some people love their jobs/careers & get their blood pumping by working really hard to achieve success in their field. I cannot relate. Don’t get me wrong, I am a hard worker. It’s just not something I love.

If I’m being really honest, of course work is a part of my life. I would just rather be doing other things. I know that even people who love their jobs feel like this at times, I just find myself counting the minutes more than most. I look forward to one day being a stay at home mom. That job will be a lot harder than the one I am doing now, but I think it will be a lot more fulfilling to my personality. I’m several years away from that, so for now I suppose I will keep showing up to work Monday-Friday.

Because work takes up so much of my time, I cherish the nights I get to host a meal & hang out with people during the week. Life (including work) gets really busy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t carve out some time for people. The weekend is too short to do everything I want to do & see everyone I want to see.

To feed extra people, I’ve started stocking up on quick/easy ingredients. For example, when pork roast is on sale, I’ll buy one & freeze it until the day my husband & I can share with someone else. I buy meat on BOGO & just freeze them until we use them. I also try to buy certain things in bulk. Ground beef is one of those things.

Y’all might already know that my husband & I are totally beef people. I bought a 2lb pack of ground beef a few weeks ago & just split it to several smaller portions in Tupperware before freezing. So far we’ve made burgers & taco salad with it. Last night, it was shepherd’s pie.

Shepherd’s pie always has plenty of servings, depending on how much you make. Sometimes I make it just for me & hubby; we take the left overs as lunch the next day. This is a recipe that I almost always have ingredients for. It’s perfect for busy nights. There are some recipes that call for lots of prep & fresh ingredients – this is not one of them.

Box mash potatoes + canned (or frozen) veggies = quick & easy dinner. Throw in some ground beef & some cheese & you’re all set.

This one-dish meal is perfect for busy nights, which occur more often than not. It makes weeknight activities all the easier. My brother & my niece came over just in time for dinner. It was great seeing them!

Gotta run – busy, busy! I leave you with this photo collage. I was going to include the recipe, but I realized that I kind of just wing it every time I make this. Don’t get too hung up on recipes. Put whatever kind of corn (I used southwest style) & whatever other veggies (I used canned peas & carrots) you’d like! Season the beef whatever way you want; I always use Worcestershire sauce. Get mashed potatoes whatever way you can – homemade, store bought, instant, leftover, etc! Throw some cheese on top (I used cheddar, but you catch my drift) & broil it until it looks good to you.

Life is too short to get hung up on weeknight dinners. 🙂

Shepherd's Pie - Mrs. Dessert Monster

In The New House Designs


Shrimp & Cheese Grits (with bacon!)

My mother in law recently helped us out big time by grouting the floors in our new house. Method of payment requested: shrimp & grits. I had no problem with this!

It all started during our honeymoon in New Orleans. I had shrimp & grits at least 2 out of the 4 days we were there. The best one was at the Palace Café. They make it with goat cheese! My shrimp & grits doesn’t even compare to theirs.

The first time I ever made shrimp & grits was when my husband & I had our families over to watch our wedding video. We were still thinking about our honeymoon & had a little NOLA inspired gathering. That recipe was a little fattier fancier than this one. It had heavy cream & a ton of butter. Come to think of it, this recipe is just as fatty fancy. It calls for bacon fat & cheddar cheese!

I adapted this recipe from one I saw online, & have made it a few times now. My mother in law loved it!

Shrimp is becoming a staple in our freezer; & grits a staple in our pantry.

Shrimp & Cheese Grits with Bacon - Mrs. Dessert Monster

You gotta love a recipe whose first step is ‘make bacon.’

While my husband was making the bacon, I sprinkled some salt & pepper over the raw shrimp & dredged them in flour. I also minced up some garlic. Then I started making the cheese grits. It’s essentially the recipe from the Quaker Oats Quick Grits package, minus garlic powder & paprika since the shrimp has a lot of garlic & flavor already.

Once hubby was done with the bacon, I threw the garlic into the pan with the bacon drippings (I poured a little out until I had about 2 tbsp. left). This alone made the whole house smell amazing.

After a few minutes, I added the shrimp into the garlic pan.

Shrimp & Cheese Grits with Bacon - Mrs. Dessert Monster

Once the shrimp was cooked, I added lime juice, hot sauce, & water.

Shrimp & Cheese Grits with Bacon - Mrs. Dessert Monster

I made sure to stir it up good so all the bacon goodness left at the bottom of the pan was incorporated. I cooked it for just a few more minutes to let the liquid reduce a bit. Then, once the cheese grits are done the only thing left is to crumble the bacon & plate. I used a slotted spoon to scoop up the shrimp without too much of the liquid. You can drizzle as much or as little as you like on the grits!

Shrimp & Cheese Grits with Bacon - Mrs. Dessert Monster

This is so good, y’all. It’s becoming one of my signature recipes.

Shrimp & Cheese Grits with Bacon

Serves 4


  • 1 lb raw shrimp
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-6 slices of bacon
  • salt & pepper
  • flour
  • 1 cup water
  • hot sauce to taste
  • Juice from 1 lime
  1. Cook bacon in a large skillet, reserving 2 tbsp drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon.
  2. Season shrimp with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour.
  3. Sauté garlic in bacon drippings for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add shrimp & sauté until they are cooked throughout.
  5. Add water, lime juice, & hot sauce, & cook for 2-3 minutes until liquid reduces a little, stirring to loosen bacon bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet.
  6. Spoon shrimp & liquid over cheese grits; sprinkle with crumbled bacon.


  • 1 cup quick grits
  • 6-8 oz cheddar cheese
  • 4.5 cups water
  1. Boil water.
  2. Stir in grits slowly.
  3. Cover & reduce heat to medium-low.
  4. Cook 12-14 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add cheese. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally until cheese is melted.

Asian-style Pork Meatball Stir Fry

Asian-style Pork Meatball Stir Fry

I enjoy cooking, I really do. But the past few weeks my husband & I have been running around most week nights, making our dinners seem more like after thoughts. So I promised my husband earlier this week that Friday night I would make something delicious for us. Not that he’s been complaining or anything, but he did share as part of our wedding ceremony how much he likes my cooking. So I don’t want to drop the ball only 4 months into our marriage!

I’ve had some ground pork in the freezer for like 3 weeks, waiting for both the inspiration & the time to use it. Friday was the night. I finally decided on meatballs.

I’ve been wanting to make stir fry for weeks now, but haven’t been able to find the noodles I like lately. Then, all of the sudden, I realized: Who needs noodles? I have a bunch of veggies in the freezer!

I’ve never made meatballs from scratch, so I looked up some recipes for inspiration & how-tos before coming up with my own 🙂

Asian-style Pork Meatball Stir fry

The meatballs were not terribly difficult to make! I think ground pork might be one of our new freezer staples.

Asian-style Pork Meatball Stirfry

I was tempted for a minute to just cook one giant meatball. But, then what would my husband eat?

While the meatballs were cooking, I made the sauce & cooked the frozen veggies. Once the sauce was done, I took it off the heat & put half of it in with the veggies to give them more flavor.


Once the meatballs were done, I combined everything.

Asian-style Pork Meatball Stir Fry

I thought I was going to have left overs, but this was sooo good we ate the whole thing! The sauce is sweet & spicy. The meatballs on their own have a nice savory flavor. I’m patting myself on the back for my new sauce & very first meatball recipe!


Asian-style Pork Meatball Stir Fry

Makes 24 meatballs

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • Sriracha sauce
  • Vegetables for stir fry
  • Sesame seeds (optional)

For meatballs:

  1. Heat the oven to 400°.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with foil & coat with butter (or use non stick spray).
  3. Combine the pork with the egg, bread crumbs, onion, 1 clove pressed garlic, salt, & pepper. Mix the pork mixture by hand until all ingredients are well blended.Shape the pork into meatballs & arrange them on the baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.

For sauce:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the remaining 3 cloves of pressed garlic. Cook for about 1 minute while stirring continuously.
  3. Add the ground ginger, chili sauce, honey, soy sauce, and desired amount of Sriracha. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 1 minute.

Putting the Stir Fry together:

  1. Cook vegetables in a large skillet. Once meatballs & sauce are done, combine with veggies in the skillet.
  2. Serve, sprinkle with sesame seeds, & enjoy!
In The New House Designs

A Steak & Potatoes Crock Pot Recipe, & Other Tales

Steak & Potatoes Crock Pot

Our friends David & Beth got us a super fancy crock pot as a wedding present.

There’s a bit of a back story. First of all, I had never even used a crock pot until I moved in with my husband. It’s just not a very Cuban appliance. Then, last November Beth & I made 20 crock pot freezer meals. We spent a whole afternoon chopping & prepping.


Since then we’ve had sort of this inside joke about crock pots.

The thing is that while some of these meals were good, others were not so great. I think the ingredients just don’t always freeze well, & if you leave them in the crock pot all day they can get mushy. Plus, one day I forgot to thaw one the night before so I got the brilliant  really, really dumb idea to cut the frozen block into smaller chunks to fit in the small crock pot we had before this fancy one. With a serrated knife. All before I had coffee in the morning (I blame that). That, kids, is how I got the scar on my left hand 3 weeks before my wedding.


Not the best morning I ever had.

Anyway, our new crock pot is awesome. It’s got a few different settings (our old one just had high/low) & the lid locks for easy transport. My favorite setting is the one for 10 hours. I think that was part of the problem with the last set of freezer meals- the fact that from the time I leave my house in the morning to the time I get back is usually 10 hours & the ‘low’ setting on our old crock pot was really meant for 8. Our new one switched automatically to keep warm after the time you set. Beth, have I said thank you enough?

So I was looking online for crock pot recipes for Eye of Round Steak. My husband and I are total beef people. I even got a degree in it! Seriously. Though I don’t work in agriculture currently, my B.S. is in Animal Science – Beef Industries. I like to tell people I studied cows in college.


#TBT to my crazy college days

So being beef people, we look for ways to eat more beef! Last week we bought some Eye of Round on sale. In my search for crock pot recipes, I decided I could probably come up with my own. A) I didn’t have all of the ingredients necessary to make some of the recipes I was looking at, B) how hard could it be?

I chopped up the fresh stuff & set out my seasonings Monday night. Tuesday morning I put the frozen steak, fresh veggies, & seasonings in the crock pot with a little butter & water.

I apologize for the lack of pretty pictures of the finished product. We didn’t get around to eating this until after hand bell practice at church – almost 10PM that night! Which is like 14+ hours in the crock pot (I checked it & tasted it after 10 – right before dashing to practice). And it came out delicious. We were STARVING, & devoured the whole thing! When I make it again, which shouldn’t be too long because we really liked it, I’ll be sure to take some pictures!

Eye of Round Steak & Potatoes

Serves 2

  • 9oz eye of round steak
  • 4 medium red potatoes
  • Carrots (I used baby carrots)
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1.5 tbsp butter
  • 1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1/4 tsp Montreal steak seasoning
  • 1/2 cup water
  1. Chop up the potatoes, onions, & carrots (if necessary).
  2. Add frozen steak to crock pot with all other ingredients. Cook for 10 hours on low. Stir up to shred the steak.
  3. Enjoy!

There’s not a whole lot to this recipe; the Worcestershire sauce is really what makes it in my opinion. I love it because it’s not exactly like a stew; it’s meat and potatoes. I’d experiment with adding different veggies, more meat if I want, maybe a little cayenne pepper for spice, etc!

In The New House Designs

Cuban Black Beans & Rice (Congri)

Cuban Black Beans & Rice - Congri

I’m not a big rice person. Maybe it’s from having to eat it all the time when I was little. Cubans eat rice only second to Asians (One of my old college roommates was Chinese-American & did not consider it a proper meal unless she had some white rice. She also had like this 6th sense ability to know when the rice cooker was done. I love her.) I like to make Cuban food when I’m cooking for people, and most of the time that includes rice. Especially in this case. My husband & I were going to visit some friends who had recently had a baby & bring them some lunch. We asked the new mom what she would prefer & she said rice would be great. So as you can see, I had to. Rice, rice, rice.

I was actually excited to make this recipe. We call it Congri. If you call it Moros, we can’t be friends. Just kidding! If you have no idea what either of those words means, we can still be friends & you learned something new.  My mom gave me this recipe, & I hadn’t made it in a long time. It was also the perfect excuse to break in our cast iron dutch over. The only thing is that I forget that when I took down the recipe from Mami, I was making it for a party. This recipe makes enough rice for like 15 people; 10 if they are big rice fans. Rice.

Cuban Black Beans & Rice - Congri

I gathered & prepped all my ingredients (in my pretty bowls, just for you guys) & got to work.

Cuban Black Beans & Rice - CongriThe first step is to sofreir  -sauté- your rice with oil & Sazón. Mami says this step opens up the rice kernels & makes them taste better. If nothing else, this will help keep the rice from sticking & season it evenly. I did this for just a few minutes until the oil was making a hissssss sound.

Next you add all the other ingredients. If you don’t know what Recaito is, it’s a mix of onions, roasted garlic, sweet peppers, green bell pepper, cubanelle pepper, cilantro, & culantro blended until smooth.


If you make your own beans for this recipe (the old fashioned way it’s supposed to be done), use the water you boil the beans in to make the rice – it gives it that traditional congri color. I didn’t do that. I used canned black beans that I drained & rinsed because the water inside the can is always yucky to me. This is why my rice came out kind of orangey instead of grey/black. My mom gets around this by adding a little bit of browning sauce. But I believe Congri should be judged not by the color of the rice, but by the content of the flavor.

Cuban Black Beans & Rice - Congri

Bring it to a boil, then to a simmer. The highs & lows of cooking. Cover & let simmer for 20 minutes.

Cuban Black Beans & Rice - Congri

After 20 minutes, stir it up. Simmer for 10 more minutes, & voila!

Cuban Black Beans & Rice - Congri

Even for someone who’s not a rice lover (me), this is delicious. I served it with some pork roast I threw in the crock pot with mojo, fresh garlic, & cumin (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that cumin & Cuban rhyme).

Cuban Black Beans & Rice - Congri


Makes 12 half-cup servings

  • 4 cups parboiled rice
  • 2 cans black beans, drained
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 3 strips cooked bacon
  • 2 packets of Sazón (3 tsp)
  • 2-3 tbsp Recaito
  • 6 cups water
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  1. Sauté the uncooked rice in oil with the Sazón for a few minutes.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients & bring to a boil.
  3. Once boiling, turn heat to low & cover. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. After 20 minutes, stir the rice until mixed evenly. Simmer for 10 more minutes.
  5. Serve & enjoy!

In The New House Designs