For years I have been trying to perfect the chicken enchilada.  To me, the perfect enchilada must be moist and creamy on the inside but not so much so that it makes the tortillas soggy.  It must have the right amount of spice and not be too cheesy.  I had pretty much given up hope on finding the perfect chicken enchilada, until one night a few weeks ago my friend and neighbor Tracy brought dinner to me.  Chicken Enchiladas.  I wasn't expecting much...however when I saw them there was a glimmer of hope...they look like what I have been envisioning in my head for a long time.  Still I wasn't holding my breath. Then I took my first bite.  They were mouthwatering, creamy perfect!  The right amount of spice, I could taste the cumin, chilies and tomatoes all bundled up in amazing sauce.  These were the chicken enchiladas I've been waiting my whole life to find! Tracy is a cooking goddess.  She never uses a cookbook and she never measures a thing. She tells me put 'a lot of this, a little of that...' from that I figure out the recipe.  We make a good team - AND when she is old and senile at least I will have written down a few of her recipes to pass along to her children.

4 boneless skinless chicken breast, boiled and shredded
1 diced onion
1/2 cup of chicken broth
1 1/2 - 2 TBL cumin 
1/2 TBL garlic salt
1 can of Hatch tomatoes/green chilies (if you can't find this use rotel)
1 can chopped green chilies
1 block of cream cheese 
Hatch Green Chili Sauce
12 flour or corn tortillas (you pick your favorite - I prefer this recipe with flour even though I normally like corn better!)
Monterey Jack Cheese
Cheddar Cheese

Boil chicken breast and onion together for about 25-30 minutes or until chicken is very tender and shreds easily.
Remove chicken and onions from water - shred chicken.  Reserve 1/2 cup of broth. (I don’t like to waste homemade chicken broth so I freeze leftover broth 1 cup increments in plastic bags.)

In a large pot combine the first 8 ingredients (through cream cheese), letting the cream cheese melt everything into a creamy goodness (you may need to do this over low heat):
Stuff tortillias with chicken mixture and roll seam side down:

If there are leftover juices from the chicken mixture pour them on top of the rolled enchiladas. 
 Pour Hatch green chilie sauce (yes, out of the can!) over the rolled enchiladas.  Top with 1/2 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese and 1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minute or until cheese is completely melted and bubbling.
Top with cilantro, tomatoes, sour cream.....and devour!
I was chatting with a friend on the phone the other day and when I told her what I was making for dinner she responded with disgust in her voice and said; "really, you eat that insert expletive here for dinner?  (Like she doesn't know me!)  Ha!  She is just jealous since she is on a 'NO CARB' diet. I mean really, who doesn't love a little comfort food in the midst of winter  (Texas winter = 75 degrees F, but whatev's!)  AND what is up with a no carb diet?

What you need:
1 package of cubed steak
Two shallow bowls
Vegetable oil
This recipe was passed down from my mother, so I don't have exact measurements, but it is SO simple one does not need exact measurements. 

Remove cubed steak from package - place on cutting board - take a piece of plastic wrap and lay over cubed steak (this is to avoid cubed steak splatter on your clothes and counter)  - with a meat mallet beat the meat (yes, I really said that!) until it is about 1/4 of an inch thick.  Season both sides of meat generously with salt and pepper.  Dredge the meat on both sides with flour (this helps the egg stick to the meat), then dip egg, coating completely, then back in the flour.  (I only do this process one time, but if you like a THICK coating on your CFS, dip in egg and flour again.)

Check out picture 4 - this is how much vegetable oil you need in your pan.  Just enough to coat the bottom side of the meat - heat over medium high heat.   Cook each piece of meat on both sides until golden brown, approximately 4 minutes per side. 

White Gravy
2 TBL vegetable oil
3 TBL flour
1-3 cups milk

 I know some of you are scared of gravy - I get it, but you don't need to be.  Once you get the hang of it is SUPER EASY!  Now again, my measurements are not exact so you may need to play with this a little.  

In a 12 inch skillet use 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil you just cooked the Chicken Fried Steak in (cooking over medium-high heat). Whisk in 3 tablespoons of the flour, making sure to whisk out any lumps.   Add the milk starting with 1 a cup , whisking continuity - gravy will thicken - if it is too thick add more milk a little at a time until it is the consistency you want.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the gravy over the steaks.

Mashed Potatoes
Every single time I make mashed potatoes for guest they ask for my recipe.  I am almost embarrassed to give it to them as there is NOTHING special about my mashed potatoes. I make a very basic and simple mashed potatoes with LOTS of butter!  I use 8 potatoes when I make them, but feel free to cut this recipe half.

8 russet potatoes peeled and cubed
3/4 cups of REAL BUTTER - don't skimp and use margarine (don't tell, but sometimes I use even MORE butter than 3/4 of a cup!)
1-2 cups of milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Place potatoes in large pot and cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil for 25-30 minutes or until VERY TENDER.
When done drain from water - place in large mixing bowl with 3/4 butter and 1 cup of milk.  Mix the hell out of them, adding more butter and milk as needed.  Potatoes should be light and fluffy.  Add salt and pepper to taste!
Throw a little broccoli on the side to make this 'healthy'! HA! 
Hello Chuy's.  You had me at salsa and chips.  You made me fall in love even more when you brought your creamy jalapeno dip to my table. The closest Chuy's to me right now is in Round Rock, about 45 minutes away. When I move back to Korea in a few months the closest one to me will still be in Round Rock, and that is quite the commute for creamy jalapeno dip. So you can only imagine how excited I was when my friend Roxanne brought her creamy jalapeno cilantro dip to a porch party one evening.  The crowd went wild.  We beg her to make it for every event now.  She is happy to comply.
If you too have been craving a little creamy jalapeno dip this version is super easy to make - it may not be exactly what they serve at Chuy's, but it is pretty darn close.

What you need:
mixing bowl
an immersion blender  (I'm sure a regular blender will work fine too.)
6 oz sliced jalapenos
1 bunch of cilantro
1 package ranch dip
16 oz sour cream (yes, you can use light)

Toss all ingredients in the bowl. Blend until creamy.

BAM!  Creamy Jalapeno Cilantro Dip!  Just like Chuy's (almost).

Over the years many people have ask me about military life, they ask questions like:  "Isn't it hard being a military family?"  "How can you move your family every few years?"  "Isn't it hard on the kids?"  "How do your children handle switching schools during the school year?"  "How can you handle your husband being gone for long periods of time?"  "How do you handle deployments?"   And statements like this are made often:  "You are so strong; I could NEVER be a military spouse."  "I wouldn't be able to move like that - I need a place to call home, a place to have roots"

Let me tell you a little about me: I grew up in the same city from the time I was born until the time I graduated high school.  I moved 2 times, once after my Dad died when I was 11 and one time in high school when we moved to another town that bordered my hometown –and that was traumatic!  I thought I was going to stroke out then and there.  There was NO WAY I was going to go to another high school and I didn't.  I used my sister's address so I could remain in the same school.  As a teenager I thought that was probably the worst thing that could have happened to me.  After high school I moved to another town in Texas not too far from my home town to go to college.  After my first year in college I moved to Wyoming to work on a dude ranch for the summer, and that is when I got the 'bug'!  Up until this point Texas was all I knew - I had only taken one airplane ride my ENTIRE life (to California after my father's death),  and I had been to Oklahoma, but come on who counts Oklahoma as a 'destination'?  From there I moved to New York to be a nanny and I went to school part time.  Since my time in NY I haven't looked back - I was hooked on traveling. Up until this point I would have NEVER considered living any place but Texas permanetly.  I was Texan through and through.  If someone had told me back in the day that I would be a military spouse in the future and would be moving every two years on average I would have laughed in their face and told them that they didn't know what they were talking about.   Fast Forward to today, 20 + years, 13 moves, 6 states, 2 countries, 4 kids, 3 dogs, 2 cats, 2 tarantulas, 4 hermit crabs, several water crabs and too many fish to count later, Hubby is going to be the one trying to convince me that it is time to retire from this life.  I love *almost* everything about military life.  First and foremost I adore my husband. (And not just because he has been deployed for 10 months.)  This is not to say we are perfect, because in fact we are FAR from perfect, but I still adore him nonetheless. I love exploring the place the Army decides to make our home for the time being.  We try to see as many sights in the area as possible.  I love meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends.  Since we have been an Army family for so long when we move to a new place we always have old friends to meet up with. So, at this point it really isn't like we are starting all over with each new destination.  I've learn not to say good-bye to friends,  but to say see you at the next duty station.   So you see, I wasn't always the adventurous person that I am today.

To answer some of the questions above -
"Isn't it hard being a Military family?"  No, not really.  It is what you make of it.  The way you live life is a choice. Sure we sometimes have a few more challenges than 'normal' families, but to us this life IS normal. We are a family and we have a strong bond.  This life is a choice, if you choose to embrace this life then there is nothing you can't do!  It is those that choose NOT to embrace this life that have a hard time with it.
"How can you move your family every few years?"  Easy! The Army hires movers; it is part of the package deal!  They come in and pack you up and they will even unpack you at your destination if you choose to have them do so! 
"How do your children handle switching schools during the school year?" I've learn that moving during the school year isn't so bad and the majority of our kids prefer it.  This way they can make new friends BEFORE the summer because as you know, summer is VACATION time, lots of families are gone for at least part of the summer making it harder to meet people!  This is not to say that saying goodbye for the wee one's isn't hard because it is.  There are always tears (and this is the hardest part for me), but thanks to technology kids are able to stay in touch with each other much easier than in the 'olden days' when letter writing and long distance phone calls were the only options!
"How can you handle your husband being gone for long periods of time?"  This is relevant.  I consider a year a long period time.  Two-six weeks is a vacation from cooking and cleaning.  I welcome two-six weeks in the field here and there.  It does a marriage good.  Seriously. When Hubby has been home too long and we start wearing on each other's nerves we know it is time for him to go to the field!
"How do you handle deployments?" One day at a time!  I won't lie, deployments are hard.  Being away from the one you love for extended periods of time SUCK.  Parenting alone sucks. I would HATE to be a single parent.  I am so thankful Hubby and I are on the same page (most of the time) when it comes to parenting!   The kids and I stay busy during deployments.  I volunteer more than normal during deployments.  The kids have LOTS of sleep overs during deployments.  Porch parties with girlfriends are a MUST!  The beauty of deployment is that it makes you realize many things about yourself and your relationship - I have realized that I am a much stronger woman than I ever gave myself credit for and that I love my husband more than I ever thought possible. Plus, I'm the lucky one, I get to keep the kids during deployment - hubby is alone.  I don't know if I could live without hugs, kisses, yelling, tattling and all the other things that come with a family for an entire year.  Oh, and wine helps too. :o)
"You are so strong; I could NEVER be a military spouse." If this life chooses you and you embraced it, yes you could.  In my experience  military wives are just like other wives, you do what needs to be done for your family.
"I wouldn't be able to move like that - I need a place to call home, a place to have roots" Humph...we do have a place to call home, it is where we are living at the time. And as for roots, we have those too, ours just happen to dig further into the ground and spread wider than 'normal' roots.  Our roots are our family values, morals, integrity, each other, our military community, our biological family and the way we give back to the community we live in at the time.   Remember how I told you we have military family where ever we move to?  Those are parts of our roots and like I said, they spread far and wide!  We may not have one particular house to return to, but we do have each other to return to.  That is home and that is where our roots begin.  

Since this is such a hot topic I ask friends to tell me one thing they LOVE about being a military spouse.  Here are some of their answers:

I love the lifelong friendships that I make at each duty station. ~ Crystal
That my husband is a bad ass. He would be anyway, but seeing him in camo with a gun. Mmm. He's hot! ~ Tori
I love the moving...not all the glasses I unpack...I love the friendships...I love the opportunities...dear Lord I could go
on.... ~ Suzy
I lived in the same town until I was 29 and I LOVE moving! Knowing there's a new adventure ahead every 2 or 3 years keeps me sane! ~ Carey-Leigh
I love the travel, our lifestyle, the power as a spouse that we discover as we grow (separations), we can move anywhere and convert a shack into a home, our kids talk about countries we visit not parks so much....I can go on
:) ~ Carmen
I love the moving and adventures of living in a new town. Each time we get orders I get excited to GOOGLE our new place and find exciting things to do...I love being proud of my husband and the sacrifices he makes for our family and Country. And...I love making new friends that become your family! Being from Fort Benning...I love the pride that a Military Community shows toward the USA! ~ Tracy
I love that no matter where I go, the "Sisterhood" goes with me. :) ~ LeAnn
I love that it shows you how much you really love your spouse. I think people throw marriages away every day...but when the love of your life leaves the country to go get shot at, you realize how much he means to you. And you realize how strong you are. Being in the Army has strengthened our marriage more than anything else could have. ~ Peggy
I like that it forces me out of my comfort zone, so I can be all I can be and I'm NOT in the Army! ~ Rachale
I love the adventure and the wonderful people I meet along the way! ~ Cyndi
The people I get to meet! ♥  ~ Becky
I love all the amazing friendships I have made. No matter what happens in your life, these are the women that will be by your side in a minute. ~ Michelle
The challenges we have daily aren't the obstacles so many perceive hem to be....the challenges are like a good spice blend, testing us and challenging us to think outside of the box! It's a blessing! And I would agree about all the
hubby things and the girlfriend "sisterhood." We've learned it truly isn't goodbye but until we meet again... ~ Roxanne B
I have the biggest family with homes all over the world! ~ Roxanne S
And to be fair I ask them what they dislike about being military spouse:
The waiting.... I love having my hunny by me. And I know it is his duty to go where they send him...I just hate
the wait (will always wait for him) but i hate that time more than anything. fear of the unknown i guess. ~ Loretta (Her hubby is about to do a 1 year unaccompanied - that is right, she can't go-  tour to Korea)
I've found those people that I want to be old and senile with, but they live all over the flippin globe.  How the hell am I going to get to all those patios? ~ Jefanna
Having to say good-bye, even thou it's short term because I know there is a Hello! on the other end! ~ Roxanne
Coming across a spouse who wears her husband rank! ~ Wanda
When non-military people forget that there are still people in war zones fighting or in danger, finding a new hair person/church every time we move, leaving good friends behind, developing new allergies, trying to hang the dang curtain rods in cheap dry wall... ~ Rachel
incessantly having to start over . . . and wives that complain the longest and the loudest, but when it comes down to it, they have NO clue what they are talking about . . . ~ Allison
Deployments. Having to leave good friends. ~ Becky
Moving to a place that I don't like or a place that is not on "MY" list of places to live. ~ Beverly
Unpacking glasses, hoping my boys are okay, missing fun friends....and leaving ideal weather.........the large amounts of money, that is not reimbursable to start up a new home.....condiments, some dinners out, cleaning supplies, etc...... ~ Suzy
‎"knowing" where you're PCSing next, only to have it ripped away and somewhere completely different given to you...not that that's happened to me of course..... LOL...and we always seem to find the city's BEST pizza about 3 weeks before we does this consistantly happen??? ~ Cara 
Wondering...will this be a door to door move or....will I actually have a house when we get there....hoping the school system isn't a complete failure....please tell me there's a whole foods or Trader Joes near by.....will I like my more house with suck as* carpet.... ~ Nancy
Unpacking, saying good-bye, and dealing with your kids heartaches due to leaving friends behind--so hard! ~ Kelly
Curtains...I have 2 boxes of them! I just want uniform that so much to ask? ~ Jamie
Having to much furniture or not enough furniture depending upon the house that we are moving to, leaving friends, finding a good dentist and hair stylist, and having to interview for a new job (I really hate this part!). ~ Jane
My kids having to leave their friends is harder for me then leaving my own, routine changes, having to find quality athletic/sports for my kids to participate in (good gym for gymnastics, soccer league, piano teacher), shopping locations and feeling like the first day in high school when you size up who you will pal with:)  ~ Carmen

So, as you see, this military life isn't so bad, and as for me, I wouldn't change a thing...wait scratch that....I wouldn't change much about it....

I have wanted to go to Canton for a couple of years now.  I have friends that RAVE about Canton's First Monday weekend (it is the weekend BEFORE the first Monday of the month). In fact last year I had planned a trip to Canton with a few girlfriends, unfortunately that is when Texas had a big ice storm and we had to cancel our trip because Canton SHUT DOWN.  For years I have heard friends say things like: "The shopping in Canton is amazing", "it is so much fun", "a great weekend away"  and then I heard things like "big flea market", "you really have to look",  "so big", "you can get anything in Canton".  When I heard: flea market, really have to look, you can get anything in Canton, well that was the moment my expectations when WAY DOWN, and THANK GOODNESS they did.  I'm glad I didn't go to Canton with expectations of grander....I went with fun in mind, an escape from the daily grind of deployment and to hang out with and reconnect with a few girlfriends I hadn't seen in a very long time. 

On this trip we stayed on "The Mountain" (this makes me giggle!!)  As I was driving in I thought my GPS must be taking me the wrong way as it was telling me "The Mountain" was 500 feet ahead to the left.  I saw NO MOUNTAIN, no hill, just flat Texas.  The GPS was not wrong and in fact there is a little hill I just couldn't see it from the road.   The way I knew I had arrived at the mountain was because of the sign below! True Story!
We stayed at The Palms; a super cute little hotel of sorts.  Each room has a different theme.  The first picture is of the room I stayed in - the "Western" room.   The next two pictures are of the room Lara stayed in, "The Marilyn Monroe" room.  Check out the ceiling and the floor!  I'm not sure I could have slept in that room because t was so loud!  I offered Lara my sleeping mask just in case she might have a hard time sleeping in this room too!  The other room our group had was the "Tropical" room, but I neglected to get a picture of it, darn it!
We had a great time, and when people say Canton is BIG, you can't imagine how big until you get there.  I don't think we hit even 1/4 of it and we shopped for about 7 hours! 
I REALLY wanted this big chicken, but knowing I am moving overseas in the next few months I thought it would not be fair to the chicken to have to live in storage for the next couple of years.
This guitar is a lawn ornament! Really!
If I need to explain this sign to you then you need to review your 3rd grade spelling list. :o)
Danette dancing with a lawn ornament!
There was so much to see in Canton!  I really wasn't in it for the shopping, but I was totally in it for the sightseeing!  In fact I made a top ten list of my favorite things!  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
10. Bird feeders. Really?  Why on God’s green
earth would you put this in your lawn? Someone ruined perfectly good dishes to ‘create’ this horrible bird
feeder. The good news: at least it is green.
8.  Boot wall art. 'Nough said.
6.  Because Toddlers and Tiaras gets too much attention.
4. I'm at a loss for words.
9.  It took me a little while to figure this one out.  In fact my friends had to help as I couldn't understand WHY one wouldn't just buy bottles instead of changing a can into a bottle.  My friends explained to me that it was for floating down the river or to take into places that don't allow bottles.  Humm...I'm still not sold. 
7. Just in case you really like the Old San Francisco Steak House. 
5.  One can never have too many purses.....
3. When you just don't have room for a wine rack.
I had a really hard time picking the number 1 thing here in Canton.  I got a GREAT laugh from both of these, but in the end I think I ranked them correctly.....drumroll please......
And #2 on my top 10 list is: That's right; it is a boat motor lamp! Who doesn't want one of these for their boat house? Bahahahaha! You REALLY CAN get ANYTHING in Canton!
The #1 thing in Canton that made me laughed until my stomach cramped, THE BATHROOM!!!!!!!!!
That's right, shower curtain for doors!
And look - as a bonus you can see each other! How awesome is that?!? (I have tears rolling down my face just looking at these pictures!!)
Oh, and in the 'bathroom stalls' they used the 5 gallon cardboard Bluebell ice cream containers for trash cans!  Again, at least they are green!!  :o) 
All in all it was a great weekend.  I laughed till I cried several times and I made some great memories with friends.  Here is a recap (for the six of us anyway, most of you won't be able to follow):  Lemon Drop Martinis.  Muddy hills.  Muddy friends.  Muddy keys.  Dogs. Fried Eggs.  Excedrin. Grey Goose. Eye Patches. 6 pieces of BACON. Granny in the Red Golf Cart.  Rain in the Red Golf Cart.  Do You Really Need That Jana?  Texting for water.  Pink Flamingo. French Press. At the coffee shack - out of Coffee? No Problem, we have beans, you have a machine - let's get this done.  Marilyn Monroe.  Rain Boots.  Hand sanitizer.  Getting up to dust the crumbs off your pants after the table was cleaned. Brie, homemade jam & bread.

Canton was fun, but next time let's stay at the Hilton and go to the spa!
Each month of deployment our battalion has held a large event in hopes of helping spouses connect with each other and to help the time go by more quickly.  It is true that you cannot speed up time, but during a deployment time seems to move slower than a turtle running a 5K. 

Month 10 (yes we are ALMOST THERE!!) was marked by having a Cav Hatters Tea Party!  The theme of this even was "the many hats we wear'.  We ask participants to come dressed in their Sunday best and to wear a "Cavalicious Hat" (store bought or homemade)  that shows the many hats you wear as a military spouse.  We had some amazing hats as you can see ---->!

At our monthly events each company (there are several companies in a battalion - six in our battalion) battles it out for the coveted Traveling Trophy.  When a company 'wins' the trophy they take it for the month and add something to it.  This is what the trophy looked like in the beginning:
And this is what it looked like before the Cav Hatters Tea Party:
Things that have been added: Stetson, small base, larger base, pink sparkle spurs, spur key chain, musical notes, pinecone turkey, Christmas ornament & tacky tinsel!
The Fort Hood Culinary Arts Team graciously made all the desserts for us!
I love the detail on many of the hats...notice the peanuts for Georgia and the flip flops for Hawaii?
Don't you just love the two naked baby girls on top of the 'S'? ;o)
This was my hat...
Another view of my hat.
The over-all hat winner! I wish I had a better picture of this one...she ran out of room on her hat, so she had to extend it into a veil!
Ops Company decorated the room and turned it into a Cav Wonderland!!
Musical notes, Stetson...can you guess who this hat belongs to? (Hint, the 1st Cav Band is in the HHBn Battalion!)
I just love the 'Bow Heads'!!
Love my Cavalicious girls!
All things that glitter!
Our British Spouses hat! She is always so elegant!
It sparkles, just like our spouses!!
And the company that walked out with the traveling trophy for this event was Ops Comany!!
Ops Company set up a photo booth for our guest to take silly pictures! How fun is that?
Our guest speaker was AMAZING! Teri drove in from Lousiana to talk to us about the many hats we wear.  She was funny, inspirational and by the time she left she was a part of the HHBn Cav family!  She is not only beautiful on the outside, but on the inside as well. 
She put on at least 10 different hats to represent the different hats we wear on a daily basis!
While wearing this hat she was heckled by someone in our audience (all in fun of course!).
Teri's sister came to offer support! :o)
What a great afternoon with a bunch of great ladies!! Only 2 more months to go!! We can do this!
If you would like to read more about this event here is a link to the article in the Fort Hood Sentinel.
Isn't she beautiful?
Hello FRIDAY!!  Only 12 more Fridays (give or take a few) without the love of my life (I hope I'm not breaking OPSEC here.  :o).  I can't WAIT to see him and share a martini with him....errr....scratch that.  I'll have a martini & he'll have a beer.  Can you believe he doesn't like martinis?  Oh well, more for me. 

Happy Friday!

Zest from 1  lemon
1¼ cup freshly  squeezed lemon juice (about 6-8 lemons)
1 750ML bottle of  **GOOD VODKA**
2 cups  water
1 ½ cup  sugar

Make simple syrup  by simmering sugar and water together in a saucepan until all sugar has  dissolved and syrup get a tad thick.Turn heat off, throw in all lemon zest.Let cool.Once cooled, pour lemon  simple syrup through a strainer to remove all the zest.Using a funnel, pour the lemon simple syrup  into the storage container, (I use a Simply Orange Juice PERFECTLY!)  add lemon juice and vodka. Put the lid on and shake. If you want one  right away, just add ice to a cocktail shaker add a martini and shake, pour into  a prepared martini glass with a sugar rim. If you are making these in advance for a party, they will last a very long time in the freezer – when you pull them out of the freezer just shake and  pour.  Ahhhh……
My new FAVORITE Vodka. Give it a try, cheaper than Grey Goose and a little smoother!