Open-Faced Mexican Pizza

I used to eat at Taco Bell. Like a lot. There I said it. My poison : the Mexican pizza. I don’t know why but man, those things just called to me. I haven’t had Taco Bell in years but I make up for it by making delicious Mexican pizzas at home! I used to eat them back in high school, that’s forgivable right? Anyway, I didn’t really ever crave Taco Bell after I began cooking for myself. UNTIL I was pregnant with Esme. I tend to gravitate to Tex-Mex flavors in general but my cravings were on another level during that pregnancy. Hot sauce and cumin on everything.

Normally Mexican pizzas at Taco Bell are made with a tortilla on the bottom, some sort of meat/bean filling and then topped with another tortilla, enchilada sauce, cheese, fresh chopped tomato and green onion. I’ve made them this way also but have found that there’s a large gap for error, the tortillas get soggy really easily and let’s face it, that’s just about the worst thing ever. The recipe I have for you today only uses one tortilla per pizza and I add the enchilada sauce into the meat mixture while it’s cooking to avoid a soggy tortilla! Oh and less carbs per pizza so you can eat more, right? WIN.

Open-Faced Mexican Pizza
makes 8

Ingredients for meat filling
1 lb ground beef** (or chicken!)
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground smoked paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup enchilada sauce

Ingredients for seasoned refried beans
1 can vegetarian refried beans
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt

To build
8 6-inch flour tortillas
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese

Method
1. preheat the oven to 350F. When the oven is ready place your tortillas directly on the rack to toast up. When they’re golden brown take them out of the oven and set them aside, about 8-10 minutes.
2. While the tortillas toast start your beans. Add the beans and seasonings to a skillet over medium heat. Your goal here is to just warm them up and make sure the seasoning is incorporated all the way through. Remove the beans from the heat and set aside.


3. Next add the ground beef to a skillet over medium high heat, breaking it up as it browns. When it’s completely cooked through drain any fat that it may have rendered. Return to heat and add the remaining ingredients. Stir until fully incorporated and most of the liquid evaporates leaving a thickened mixture.

Assembly
Spread a layer of the seasoned beans on the tortilla followed by the meat mixture and some cheese. Line the loaded pizzas on to a baking sheet and put back in the oven for 5 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted.

Top with your favorites! Toppings pretty much include anything you love on tacos like avocados, onions (I used pickled red onion!), fresh cilantro, sour cream, hot sauce, extra CHEESE?

Do it.

(I feel like I need to apologize for these AWFUL photos. I wasn’t planning on turning this into a recipe for the blog before I started cooking but man, they’re so good! So just pretend these are the best photos you’ve ever seen. Also, how about that paper plate? kbye.)

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Our Learning Tools

I thought I’d write a little post about how I encourage learning with the twins. In my last post I talked a little about how I incorporate teaching basic pre-school subjects (ABCs, numbers, shapes and colors) while we’re out of the house. I do this for a few different reasons. First, none of us thrive while learning sitting down at a table and monotonously repeating letters and numbers. I get frustrated, they get frustrated, it’s just not fun and the only thing 3 year olds care about is having fun. Secondly, we’re usually out of the house between 7:30am – 11am. I’ve learned that that’s kind of the best time for them to absorb information. After that we’ve got a one track mind on lunch and I’m mentally prepping myself for waiting an hour in the carline to pick Eva up.

So this has been trial and error for us. I know that not every person, or child for that matter, is the same and it really does take some time to figure out and get in your groove. But you feel so much freedom once you’ve got it, it’s worth the growing pains. Also, I take a lot of help from outside sources. I use devices and the internet, it’s really okay. If you’re careful and you monitor the usage and what they’re actually learning it can be such a great tool. Our favorite free apps are: Starfall, Quick Math Jr., Letter School, Todo Math, ABC Mouse, A-Z Music Videos (a favorite!), Flash Cards (Spanish learning). We don’t use devices every day but I have to tell you that it’s amazing to watch Esme, who just turned two, correctly match shapes, letters and numbers in some of these apps. They take the stress out for me a little bit and it’s a fun alternative for them.

And here’s what we do on a daily, if not weekly basis!

  1. We sing this song every.single.day. Sometimes more than once a day, and yes it gets old but you know what? It works and they know their letter sounds like total pros. We don’t sing the into, just the letter sounds portion, and after each letter we all take turns saying a word that starts with that sound. Olivia would get frustrated in the beginning with choosing a word that began with the letter because she didn’t understand the correlation between letter sounds and words, she’s more of a hands-on learner and that just meant that I had to help ease her frustration by giving her hints for words (for “S” I would ask her what was the big yellow circle in the sky that made us warm?) and then reiterate the specific sounds “SSSS SUN. SSSS SUN.” We always sing this in the car and it helps keep them awake which in a win in my book.
  2. Another car game! We start by every child choosing a color and then counting how many cars in that color we find. So this one is a combination of colors and numbers, sometimes it works out great and other times not, like when Olivia chooses pink or purple as her color and doesn’t get a single find that car ride. Or like the time Eva chose black and she was up to 64 cars by the time we got home!
  3. We love looking for shapes when we’re out! We talk about the name, the color and how many sides it has.
  4. Whenever we go to a place of business or even just at the gym we talk about the letters we see on their sign and the sounds they make.
  5. I bought a white board at Walmart! After the back-to-school craziness died down I took the kids to Walmart and we got a great deal on a small white board and dry-erase markers. This is a great tool for writing practice! It’s easy for them to hold the markers because they’re slightly thicker than a pencil but not as thick as traditional markers and they have built-in easers so when they mess up they can quickly erase and try again. To be honest we don’t use the white board as often as I’d like to but every time we do it’s a huge hit. They feel like they’re playing and they really learn a lot by putting their letter knowledge to practice. Also a huge bonus to this one is not having to waste a million and a half sheets of paper, which I don’t know about you but that drives me bonkers.

Some of these seem too easy to even talk about but that’s what we do around here to help the basics stick. I mostly do these things with the twins but Esme is always around of course and she already knows many letter sounds, shapes and colors, without me even really trying to teach her specifically. The great thing about kids is that their brains are truly like little sponges and it doesn’t take much for them to retain information. I’ve mentioned before that I felt like I really dropped the ball with teaching them but they’ve thrived in the short months since we’ve intentionally begun at-home learning. I’m by no means equipped to homeschool, nor do I think I ever will be, but I do like knowing my kids have the basics down before starting pre-school. I’m confident that it was a smooth transition for Eva because she went in understanding the basics and it was a stress-free school beginning for her. I can’t believe the twins will start next school year! I’m really looking forward to how they do!

And before you start thinking I’m such a “good mom” for being on top of my kids education.. I’ll have you know that my kids can recite entire Daniel Tiger episodes. Bless you, Netflix.

Priorities and Mom Guilt

It’s no secret that I like to be in the gym every morning. I wake up thinking about what routine I’m doing that day and what workout clothes to choose based on my plan of attack. My breakfast is based around how intense I plan on being in the spin room or on if I’m upping my weights that day on the floor. I leave my house at a certain time so I can be at the gym by 8:30am so I can have those precious two hours when they watch my kids fit around my schedule. This is a priority for me, it’s what drives me in the mornings and it’s what makes me a better mother.

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I think the only downside to priorities is that when something gets bumped up to a higher slot on the list, something has to be bumped down, that’s just how it works. For the longest time I was the last thing on my own priority list. I have so many little people that rely on me and I try to provide a loving, homey atmosphere for my family, I just wasn’t as important to myself as I should have been. There’s nothing wrong with pouring yourself into your family but I do think that not taking care of yourself is a big mistake. I got to a place where I didn’t even feel like a person anymore, just a shell, I got lost in the routine of taking care of babies and other people that I forgot to stop and think about what really made me happy.

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It’s hard when you’re a new mom because you’re just in survival mode in the beginning, feedings and sleepless nights, its just a vicious cycle for the first few months. Once I was able to let go a little bit and not be so focused on my kids I noticed that I didn’t know what to do with myself. This was after 5 years of being pregnant and having babies and being on-call 24/7 for almost that entire amount of time.

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I found the gym just in time to help me come up for air. It relived my stress, it got me out of the house, it helped me let go of my kids a little bit more (they watch them for 2 hours at a time!), it got me around other women, some moms and some not, it forced me to make friends and helped me remember how much I love meeting new people. It gave me a purpose more than just being a mom. I don’t have to tell you that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a mom, but I needed more and I think we can all agree that we can be more than just one thing. I’m able to instill in my kids determination and drive with each new goal I set for myself. I even have friends now! I cannot tell you how long I prayed for friends. I felt like every time I made a friend it was time to move away and with the exception of my life-long best friend (HI ASHLEY!) I really didn’t feel like I had any friends. Internet friends, yes! Lots! But I was missing the personal friendships and I feel like I have that now.

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Okay, so guilt. Oh man do I have it. Let’s rewind for a minute back to when Eva was an only child. The amount of time I had to share with that kid was crazy! We did everything from ABCs to numbers, to shapes, colors and patterns, you name it and we went over it on a daily basis. She was ready for Kindergarten by 3 years old, she could even write her name before she turned 3. BUT the twins are turning 4 in March and they’re JUST NOW learning to write their names. Don’t look at me like that. I mean you have more than one person who needs your constant attention, it’s normal for younger siblings to not get the same amount of attention. I know this, I’m a full supporter in giving yourself some slack because, HEY YOU’RE BUSY. But the guilt was eating me up. I felt like I was failing my kids.

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Isn’t human nature a funny thing? If we gave in to every single desire and want we’d be in serious trouble, that’s why priorities exist, to give us balance. I know for a fact that I am a better mother because I take time for myself every single day. I’ve tested it, I stay home from the gym and I’m a total monster. No, really. I yell, my temper is shorter, I feel like I can’t get enough food in my body because I’m bored and just want to eat but then I feel bad about that and that just makes me even more mad. And since I don’t have a job outside of my home I have no real reason to leave the house.. as much as I wish Target was a necessity, it’s just not. And don’t even suggest to me that I should workout at home, I know you’re thinking it but it’s not the same! I tried that for a while and it works for many people but it’s just not for me.

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So we do what works best for our family and we compromise. I teach them their ABCs and numbers and shapes in different environments like on the way to and from the gym and in return they understand that when they wake up in the morning they need to get ready for the gym and be out the door at a certain time so we can be there by 8:30am. And guess what? They know how to write their names now. They’re little brains soaked in the information in a matter of weeks and now they’re total pros. They know their numbers from 1 – 20, they know their colors and shapes. I was worried for nothing really. Just because I wanted to incorporate something new into our lives (my life affects their life) didn’t mean I had totally ruined their lives forever, even though sometimes it felt like that.

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So, on this Friday I’m urging you to do something for yourself. Prioritize yourself in the mix with your family, it’s possible to do both! And it doesn’t have to be the gym for you, it can be anything that makes you feel joy on the inside. When I know I’ve gotten a work out in I know that I’m furthering my life by I’m staying healthy for my kids, I feel strong and capable, I feel empowered to take on the rest of the day. Do something for yourself that will cause the light inside of you to shine on to others.

Life Lately

Hi! Remember me? Man, it’s been a while… 5 months to be exact! How did that happen? Since I last posted A LOT has happened, lets get started.

WE BOUGHT A HOUSE. Yep, we’re homeowners now. It still seems surreal because it’s been a dream of mine since we got married 10 years ago to have a place to call mine. Many years of renting and packing and moving and new states and repeat are all finally over. For now. I mean, we’re so totally content and in awe of how God made this place possible for us but we also know it’s not our forever home. The kids will eventually outgrow the home and that’s okay, this is the perfect place for our lives right now. Pierre and I went on a quick weekend getaway without the kids and when we returned and walked into the house I got that warm, fuzzy Home Sweet Home feeling. I had been waiting for that moment almost all of my life it felt like and to finally experience it was just the best thing ever.

The house we bought is only 3 years old so there wasn’t much that needed tinkering but we did do a few things like paint a few rooms (me) and power wash the back patio (him). I don’t think it’s totally done or just how I want it but that’s okay, too, a little bit at a time works just fine for me. I think the next big thing I want to do is paint the main floor plan. I cannot stand the color on the walls, I don’t know if it’s orange, brown, taupe or a mix of all three to be honest, but it has to go. So far I’ve painted one of the bedrooms and an accent wall in the kitchen that used to be pokemyeyesout red and it’s now a nice cool grey. We did change some fixtures and bought tons of furniture, so far so good! We love it here.

Eva started KINDERGARTEN and I still tear up when I drop her off in the mornings. She originally got into a science and math charter school but after the move it was going to be a 30 mile commute each way and I had to say no way to that. They didn’t offer transportation either so it just wasn’t going to work out. Thankfully our new house is 3 miles from the neighborhood elementary school and it’s an A+ school. There is a bus but umm I’m crazy so she can’t ride it until she knows our address, phone numbers, license plate numbers, social security numbers and blood types so.. fat chance. Did I mention I’m insane? She loves her school, she love her teacher, she loves her friends, what more could her momma want?

Esme turned two and I’m so in denial that I’m considering strapping bricks to her head so she stops growing. Okay, not bricks.. maybe just a brick. Seriously though I can’t believe she’s two. She talks so much and she reasons with me and you can see her brain working when she’s putting sentences together and it’s beautiful. I know you’re not supposed to have favorite children but what can I say, the stage she’s in now is just awesome.

The twins are just as twinny as ever. But so very much girl and boy in their differences, Olivia professes her love and loyalty to her brother almost every day and Pierre just wants to be left alone and not kissed. They’re so sweet to watch when they’re not hitting, biting and kicking each other, its really really lovely. Just today Pierre was talking about how he was scared (spoiler: he’s afraid of literally everything. His shadow included) of flying jets immediately after declaring he would fly jets as a grown up, I don’t get it either, and Olivia said, “Don’t worry Pierre, I’ll grow up and take care of you! You don’t have to be afraid!” to which Pierre replied nothing. CRICKETS. I mean, how sweet is she? He’s a total male its crazy.

I’ve been doing great! Still at the gym almost every day, when I’m not forced to stay home because of a sick child, the twins had the flu three weeks ago and that was just awful. I’m loving the gym more and more every day, lifting on the floor more and trying new things. I’ve started trying the monkey bars and I’m not bad! I thought for sure I wouldn’t be able to hold myself up but I did almost the entire way. I still haven’t been able to get a pull up but it’s coming! Maybe I’ll post some before and after photos soon, I’ve been taking progress photos since last January so a year transformation post is on the horizon!

I hope you’ve had a awesome day and if it hasn’t been that awesome remember it’s not over until your head hits the pillow and you close your eyes. You still have time to do something that brings you happiness and joy!

Another Week

Sometimes they just run together. Weeks come and go, we follow our little routine and then I check the calendar and suddenly we’re almost halfway through JUNE. But this week has crawled by, I mean craaawwwled. I think because I’m anxiously awaiting next week to be here. Pierre is working from home for 5 whole days and that’s like Christmas for us! We miss him a whole lot and getting home for more then 2 consecutive days is so nice, especially for the kids.

This week has been so hard. Eva was sick over the weekend and passed it on to little Pierre and Esme. Pierre has barely eaten anything in two days and his fever comes and goes, too. Esme’s fever is teething related I’m pretty sure, she has two more incisors cutting through. Having sick kids and with this crazy rain we’ve been having makes for a serious case of cabin fever. It’s been pouring for 4 days straight so Florida is basically under water now. I think the cabin fever is getting to my head because I willingly cleaned our leather couch at 8am this morning. I don’t even know myself anymore.

I made turkey egg cups for the first time!

I haven’t eaten all that great this week either. My meals have been overall healthy but I’ve had more sugar than I normally eat. I made these delicious monster cookie bars with coconut oil instead of butter and with white sugar instead of brown sugar. Also, I didn’t have chocolate chips so we just added a bunch of sprinkles. If you saw my Instagram video about them then you know I’ve had those red white and blue M&Ms since last July! I bought them in hopes that they would help me bribe the twins with potty training and we still have a ton! It was a massive bag from BJ’s. Anyway, I only had one cookie square! I’m going to force feed my kids cookie bars through the weekend to save myself and they better like it.


We don’t have any weekend plans, mostly smothering daddy when he gets home and church on Sunday. I hope the rain stops long enough so we can take the kids to the beach. They’ve been begging to go since March when it warmed up but there’s no way I can take them alone during the week. What are your weekend plans?

Fitness Journey

I feel like my fitness journey has been all over the place for the last 5 years. Mostly because I’ve had 4 kids in that time frame but also because I’ve basically had to learn everything on my own. While my mom enjoys fitness now she didn’t have much time for working out when I was a kid. She worked full time and raised 3 kids. And I don’t think my dad knows what the inside of an actual gym looks like ha. The only sport I was familiar with as a kid was baseball because my brother played and we were always at his games. I was forced into ballet when I was in 8th grade. I hated it at the time but grew to love it and continued for 3 years with ballet and dance. But that was it. No team sports, no real extracurricular activities. I don’t feel like I missed out on much, my parents were doing the best they could as immigrants, working their own business and hoping to provide a better life for their family.

So all that to say that I didn’t have any examples of fitness around me until I met my best friend Ashley in high school. She loves sports and fitness to this day. I still remember seeing her abs at the beach once and thinking how in the heck did she have those? Anyway time crept forward, I went to culinary school and definitely gained some weight. Then I got married and definitely gained some more weight. I wanted to be a good little wife and made 3 course meals for my man every single night. It wasn’t until our third year living in Baltimore that Pierre and I decided to join a gym. The only thing I “knew” how to do was run on the treadmill and I hated every second. But I was determined to lose some weight and I thought running would do that for me. I started slow, I remember I couldn’t run more than 5 or 6 minutes at a time without stopping to catch my breath.

Along with going to the gym I started reading fitness blogs! I don’t remember how I found them or how it all got started but at some point I was introduced to blogs and my life hasn’t been the same since. I began learning about HIIT workouts and circuit training, and weight training. So many different ways to get in shape that didn’t involve staring at a treadmill for 30 minutes and wanting to cry.

Slowly I started incorporating weights and other workouts into my life. I had Eva in 2012 and a year later decided to do one round of INSANITY. It was so challenging but at the end of the 90 days I was so happy with the results. I couldn’t believe I could be as thin as I was, 118 pounds! The thinest I had been since high school. Shortly after reaching that weight goal I found out I was pregnant with the twins! I ate anything and everything I wanted and didn’t lift a finger. That pregnancy was very hard on my body and I used it as an excuse to let myself go. Delivery day I weighed in at 191 pounds! Pretty extreme weight gain in only 9 months.

When the twins were 3 months old I joined the gym again and started taking group fitness classes to get myself back on track. Things were going great and I was really learning more about weight training and getting more comfortable at the gym when I found out I was pregnant again with Esme, the twins were 9 months old. Again, due to stress and moving from Michigan to Florida, I used my pregnancy as an excuse to eat all the things. I didn’t have a firm grasp on the whole eating to fuel your body concept. I always looked at food as more of a reward/punishment scale. If you ate something “bad” then your punishment was shame, guilt and 2 hours killing yourself on the treadmill. If you worked out for 5 days in a row you rewarded yourself by eating anything and everything on the weekends. I can’t tell you how wrong that is and how it really messed with my confidence and self esteem.

I can’t pinpoint the exact day and I don’t even think there was a lightbulb moment for me but I can say I’m in such a better place today than I was even a year ago. Life went on, the stresses of raising 4 little kids were some days too much to bare. I didn’t have an outlet, I didn’t have an escape. I tried several at-home workouts on and off but nothing really stuck. Until one day I met my friend who is a group fitness instructor at one of Eva’s classmate’s birthday party. Turns out her son was in Eva’s class and he’s a twin! She invited me to the gym immediately and I of course out of desperation to make friends joined the gym she worked at shortly after meeting her.

I started going to the gym every day, taking any class I could in the mornings while Eva was in class and fell in love. I started making friends and working out because I was proud of what my body could do and what I was capable of. A lot of days in the beginning I just wanted to give up and stay home but I pushed through. The friendships I began making at the gym helped motivate me to get there. Food used to be an escape for me but now it’s fuel. Yes, eating things that have a lot of sugar and fat are delicious and I eat those things, too. But I don’t feel like I need to eat those things or forbid them from my diet in order to be happy with myself. If I feel like eating something with lots of sugar then I eat it and move on.

In January of this year I signed up with trainer. My goal with her is to push myself beyond my limits with weights and really transform my body, she guides me and gives me workouts to do on my own. Because I was never “in shape” before I had kids I have no idea what my body’s potential really is. That’s my true goal, push my body to it’s full fitness potential. It’s exciting! Everyone’s fitness journey is different and I hope I can motivate even just one person to get up and get moving. I really have fallen in love with working out and pushing myself to try different things at the gym is something that I don’t take for granted. It’s quickly become a passion that I hope to continue to share with you.

I don’t have many photos of myself but I do plan on doing a before and after photo comparison in a few months, when I reach my 1-year goal at this gym. Bottom line consistency is so key. Consistently do what will get you to your goals and you will have it. Don’t give up!

Summer

Help. Me. I don’t know what to do with my kids over the summer! Now that Eva is a school-going kid I feel like she needs to be doing something to hold her attention. The twins, Esme and I usually just go to the gym and wait for Eva to get home from school. That’s not going to fly anymore, they will notice how lazy I am soon enough. We have a membership to the Jacksonville Zoo but it’s so hot and humid this time of year, we can’t go as often as I’d like in the middle of Florida summer.


All water parks are pretty much out of the question, too. My kids are too little for that and the beach is kind of the same because with Pierre traveling so much I’d have to take them alone and I can’t chase them in four different directions. SOOOO what to I do? We have a water table and they like playing with that but usually they get bored after 20 minutes and add dirt to it to make a huge mud table, dig up the grass and catch as many frogs as possible. Even the littlest one is beginning to enjoy frog hunting. Why God why?


We’ll be moving into our very own home this year! Its been a dream of ours for 10 years. I can’t wait until we’re all moved in and have a place to call our own. A place our kids will remember as their house. Exciting stuff! I’m sure I’ll be busy making it our own all summer but I don’t want the kids to miss out on fun memories because I’m too busy doing that. I’d like to make sure I take time out every day for them to enjoy the day somehow. Our new neighborhood has a pool which I don’t see us using much unless Pierre is home but there is a splash pad! I hope we’re there a lot cooling off.


Today is Tuesday and the local library has a story time in the late morning that I’ve started incorporating into our week. The crazy thing is that up until last week the twins had never set foot in a library. Isn’t that insane? They’re three. Taking tiny kids to the library is probably my biggest fear. Zero control over their traveling voices, the fact that you can almost always hear a pin drop makes it a lot harder for me to yell at my kids when they eventually do something catastrophic free of judgment. I’m finally trusting them though and we’ll be going this morning after the gym.

Learning the art of cleaning 🙌🏽

But really, other than the gym and Tuesday library we have no plans this summer. It’s a little freeing but also intimidating. The bigger kids don’t nap anymore but Esme does take a decent 2-3 hour nap every afternoon. That tends to throw us off sometimes but pretty soon she’ll be off to college and I’ll be the one taking naps. Kind of can’t wait for that.

They’re so bored they’ve resorted to this.

What are your summer plans?