Saturday, November 03, 2007

Get ready to be shocked...

I browned ground beef and heated up tortillas in the microwave -- I've got real cooking skills now!

Believe it or not, the pico de gallo and guacamole was made from scratch.

Here's the "taste of Mexico" spread I had out on the table when Ian came home.

Yes, I actually made this food. I was shocked! The food wasn't just edible, it was actually enjoyable to eat! For those of you who don't already know that I've been trying to learn how to cook and turn my dorm room-like house into a real home. I blogged about it a little here. I'm usually pretty busy during the week, but since Friday is my night off, I decided to experiment. It went so well, that I think I'll try to learn how to cook one new meal a week, always with a focus on dishes from back home that we miss. Tonight I made the kind of food that we miss most of all -- Mexican food! Next week I'd like to make meatloaf (the really good kind with congealed ketchup on top), mashed potatoes, and some kind of vegetable. So if any of you have a recipe for this, please email it to me or give it to me as a comment. And please, nothing too difficult (I'm still cooking impaired) and nothing that includes ingredients that I probably couldn't find in a typical Asian grocery store. The only downside about tonight's meal is that the amount of money I spent making it is almost what we'd spend if we had gone out and eaten it at a restaurant! I had to go to the fancy imported foods grocery store in the basement of Sogo Department Store just to buy tortillas, tortilla chips, sour cream, ground beef, and good avocados! And the taco seasoning I used was mailed from the U.S. of course. Oh well. It was worth it just to see the look on my husband's face when he got home from work tonight! I told him he better not ruin his appetite or I'd be super angry that he ruined my great experiment. Praise God, the experiment was a success!


  1. Hi there! I am connie from Texas.

    It looks like to me you did great with the food. It looks just like what we have quiet often. We have Spanish people who go to our church and they are always making Mexican food for us to eat. Good, Good. I know it must be hard trying to cook in a place where they don't carry everything that you need.

    By the way, I saw a comment on Pen Of Jen that you left and came over for a vist it meet you.

    Hope you have a good day and keep up the cooking experiences. You will get to where you can cook anything. connie

  2. Cahleen How incredible! I am so proud of you!

    My husband is Mexican so this is how we eat every day!

    Here is the recipe for flour is on my other blog and the title of the post with the recipe is tortilla king!!

    A great thing that you can do is look on line and find the ingredients that are in taco seasoning and cater it to your taste. has several taco seasoning mixes recipes. Also several meatloaf recipes!!

    I think you are an amazing young woman!

  3. How wonderful for Ian to come home to all that! Remember "success nourishes hope" so may this success spur you on to the meatloaf dinner - keep us updated :)

  4. Hi Cahleen, that's great that your meal turned out so well. Just keep trying!! It helps to read through cookbooks and cooking magazines regularly, and watch and question older women you know who are good cooks. Some good web sites are and and (sister sites, subscription required).

    I had to learn to cook all on my own, starting when I was about 21. Some things turned out really bad! Don't get discouraged--just keep trying, and you will get better.

    I'll see if I can find a meatloaf recipe that looks good.

  5. You did a fantastic job!
    I love your idea about learning a new dish each week. That is the way to start.
    If you get a good recipe for meat loaf you can make up a big mixture and turn some of it into meatballs. Brown them on the outside and freeze them till you are ready to make spaghetti.
    Also, if you do not have the seasonings for mexican food you can use-cumin,chili powder and garlic power. This will give you almost the same results.
    A pot roast would be a good thing to try. If you cook a decent size one then you can freeze the other half to eat later-you could turn it into a pot pie.
    Lots of ideas here.:)

  6. Connie,

    Thanks for stopping by! You made me miss Mexican food even more. =)


    Thanks for the recipe, and the encouragement!


    Great quote! I'll remember that.


    I wish I could get to your blog, but I can't find a link for it! Anyway, thanks for the links!


    Great ideas! I'll probably be bugging you for more in the future. ;)

  7. Great job Cahleen! Way to go girl!

    We love Mexican food too! Yummy!

    I'm not much of a chef either and I don't have an exact recipe for meatloaf, but here's what I do.

    My husband's a picky eater and generally doesn't like meatloaf but he actually likes mine because I don't put a lot of fillers in it.


    A package of lean ground beef
    Small amount of bread crumbs (very fine, about 1/4 cup)
    1 egg
    A sprinke of onion powder if you have it
    A sprinkle of salt and pepper
    And here's my secret ingredient (you mentioned you liked ketchup):
    I add a few squirts of ketchup into the mix, it makes a nice moist meatloaf.

    Mix in up by hand (squishy and gross, but it mixes best this way) and form into the shape a square shaped loaf in a greased (I use Pam spray) oblong glass or metal baking pan. (I don't actually put the meat into a loaf pan, just make the shape into a loaf in a greased pan approx. 8" x 10".)

    Then to top it all off, I slather that loaf in ketchup and bake at about 350 degrees for about an hour.

    Hope you like it. Simple, but hearty :)

    Oh, and here's my lazy recipe for making homemade mashed potatoes.

    Microwave baking potatoes until done (about 4 or more if you have guests - if more potatoes, increase the amount of butter and milk) Make sure you poke holes in the potatoes with a fork to vent steam before microwaving.

    Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out pulp into a bowl

    Add a chunk of butter (about 2 Tablespoons of so)

    Add salt and pepper to taste

    Heat some milk in a microwave (about a cup or so - whole milk makes creamier mashed potatoes - you may or may not use all the milk depending on how many potatoes you use, you may need more milk, it varies)

    Now I get out my electric hand mixer and pour the warm milk into the bowl a little at a time with the potatoes and butter, all the while beating the potatoes with the mixer until I get all the lumps out and get the right smooth consistency. If it gets cold in the process, just microwave the whole batch of mashed potatoes at the end.

    If you want a fun addition, add a little sour cream while you're mixing in the milk.

    It works pretty good usually and it sure beats peeling and boiling those potatoes.

  8. pico looks great!

  9. Susan,

    Thanks for the recipe! I'll let you know how it turns out.


    I'm glad you stopped by. Thanks!

  10. Hi Cahleen

    Wow, I wish I had your ambition. I so need to learn how to cook better (especially roasts and stuff like that). I try hard, but being a vegetarian myself...I just have never mastered it. ;-(

    YOur guacamole makes me drool, lol!

    Job well Ian loved it!

    mama to 6
    one homemade and 5 adopted

  11. Sue,

    Thanks! You're always so sweet.


    I'm sure you could do whatever you put your mind to!

  12. Janie Cumberford Keller jakeller8559@sbcglobal.netFriday, November 09, 2007

    I so enjoyed your blog, which I just found as a result of looking through the new website, (A new site launched yesterday, Thurs., your time, according to the Taipei Times newsletter I receive via email at my home in Bakersfield, CA, USA.)

    I am a former missionary teacher who spent two wonderful years teaching at Bethany Christian School (Morrison Academy) for Overseas Crusades, Inc., way back before you and your cute hubby were born---boy, do I feel old!!! It was 1975-77, and it certainly was a different Taiwan than it seems to be today! I lived on an aboriginal Presbyterian Theological College on Yamingshan, which is about half way up the mt., I believe. I loved the photos you had of this place. Many great memories...

    May God richly bless you and your husband in your service in Taiwan. I look forward to checking in on your blog from time to time.

  13. Here is my recommendation for the single best cookbook for anything--if what you want is not there, it's too fancy to worry about.

    How To Cook Anything by Mark Bittman.

    I do have other cookbooks and have one or two recipes I do from some of them, but if I see a new vegetable or fruit in the market, I look it up in the index and there is at least one recipe to make with it. This is relatively simple and basic food. (my second-favorite is Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon, but her food generally takes a LOT more time to prepare and I generally don't have that much time--but I do get good ideas from her--and it's worth having the book if only just for her name!)

    I'm even vegetarian, so I don't use any of the chapters on poultry, meat, fish, etc, and the book is still worth the money. (splurge and get the hardcover--I have the soft-cover, and it's too big of a book--it's not falling apart yet, but . . . .) Excellent, much "mo' bettah" than the Better Homes and Gardens (which is probably fine if you live in the US, but living abroad, you can't always find/do what that book assumes you can).

    Your meal looked great, BTW!


  14. Wow- looks so good! :) Great job, mrs.-i'm-no-good-at-cooking, etc... looks like you're a fast learner!

    If you keep working at even one new meal every week or two, you'll soon have quite a repertoire!


  15. Janie,

    I'm glad you found me! It's nice to meet someone who's not only from my home state, but who spent time teaching in Taiwan as well.


    Thanks for the cookbook suggestion! I'll try and find it.


    You flatter me!


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