Tales From My Test Kitchen

This is the first week of Crocktober recipes for 2014. Recipes for this week are:
Turkey Chili, Orange Apricot Chicken, Chicken Parmesan Soup, and Lentil-Quinoa Taco Filling.

Crocktober 2014 Week 1 Collage


I launched my blog almost a year ago during Crocktober and decided that another round of Crocktober would be a great way to celebrate Sustaining the Powers turning 1 year old! I can’t believe all the support I’ve received for my blog over the past year.  What started out as a way to document and share my recipes with friends has turned into something so much bigger than I ever imagined. I can’t wait to see where the next year will take me!  


On to Crocktober:  What is Crocktober you ask?  Well, the idea behind it is that October is the start of Fall weather and a great time to start using your Slow Cooker for meals, so you use your Crock-Pot to cook dinner every day for the month of October. Starting today, I’ll be posting 4 Crock-Pot recipes and a shopping list each week until the end of October. (Subscribe in the sidebar so you don’t miss anything!)  One slow-cooker recipe per week will be my own creation and the other 3 will be features from blogging friends or just recipes I’ve found and loved from around the web. (Blogger friends- send me an email if you have something you think I should feature!)  

Note: I’m only featuring 4 recipes per week because we have a leftover night once a week in our house, and we tend to make plans with friends on the weekends. If you have a large, hungry family or want to use your slow cooker every single day, feel free to double these recipes or add to these weekly meal plans.  

Some tips to make Crocktober… Continue reading

The perfect mix of salty, sweet, spicy, and bitter come together in this Texas BBQ rub.

Texas BBQ Rub

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to teach her how to make BBQ ribs. We took an afternoon trip to the grocery store where I gave her a lesson in how to choose the right type of ribs. Then we went back to my kitchen and I showed her how to make this Texas BBQ rub from scratch. The idea of rubbing the meat before cooking it was new to her, but after she got a taste, I think she’ll be making this dry spice rub over and over.  

Texas BBQ Rub

For the uninitiated, a dry rub is a mix of spices and seasonings that applies flavor directly to the meat. It’s used in much the same way as a marinade, but tends to be favored in situations where the meat needs to be cooked longer since a dry rub won’t burn. They also do a better job of sealing in the natural juices and flavor of the meat. In my opinion, dry rubs pack a lot more punch than marinades because they don’t cook off. You get bursts of flavor in every bite. In fact, with the exception of my fajitas, I almost exclusively use dry rubs of some sort whenever I cook beef, poultry, lamb, or pork.  

Texas BBQ Rub

I also love spice rubs because they’re simple to throw together, easy to experiment with, and can usually come together with a few ingredients from your spice cabinet. They’re also a lot cheaper than marinades and so much easier to apply. You just rub them right on and you’re ready to go. 

Texas BBQ Rub

I put this recipe together after many different tweaks, and I feel like it has just the right balance of salt,… Continue reading

All your favorites from 7 layer dip come together in this easy, cheesy, crowd-pleasing, Mexican lasagna!  

Easy Mexican LasagnaJust before my hubby and I got married, my mom gave me a cookbook called 30 Meals in One Day.  The idea behind the book is Once a Month Cooking (OAMC). This is where you make/prep all your dinners for the month in one weekend and then keep them in the freezer until it’s time to defrost and eat them. There are tons of great recipes in the book, but one of our family favorites is my adaptation of their Mexican Lasagna recipe. 

Easy Mexican Lasagna

I like to describe this lasagna as a 7 layer dip with noodles. You’ve got all the melty cheese, tangy sour cream, salty re-fried beans, spicy salsa, savory black olives, and flavorful taco meat that you love, without the guilt of eating a bowl full of chips. That’s why this recipe is my most-requested whenever I share this meal with friends. (Who doesn’t absolutely love melty cheese?) I love being able to tell people how easy it is to just assemble and bake! 

Easy No-Boil Mexican Lasagna

I especially love the no-boil method for making lasagna. If you’ve ever tried boiling lasagna noodles and then assembling them, you’ll know that they’re slippery and often tear or make a huge mess. By combining the sauce with water then covering the dish with foil, the noodles boil inside the lasagna as it cooks and you don’t have the mess.   

Easy No-Boil Mexican Lasagna

In addition to using the no-boil method, I make it even easier on myself by pre-cooking taco meat when I bring ground turkey home from the store.  I keep it in my freezer ready for any last-minute meal prep. You never know when you might need some emergency tacos or lasagna!  

Easy Mexican Lasagna

Throw a Doctor Who season premiere party!

Throw a Doctor Who Season Premier Party

Most of you don’t know this about me, but I’m a MAJOR Whovian. Hubby and I have watched all of the 2007 reboot of Doctor Who at least a few times and have been starting in on watching all the original series. We are lucky to have many Whovian friends, so we threw a huge bash for the 50th anniversary episode, The Day of the Doctor, back in November.

With the Doctor Who Premiere coming up in just a few weeks on August 23, 2014, I thought I’d share some photos, recipes, and ideas from our party so you could throw your own Doctor Who season premiere party.  I’ll apologize in advance for the photo quality.  I took them all with my old cell phone and wasn’t planning to blog them later. 

I’ll start out with a few of our decorations: 

Cosmos Room

Here’s the main floor of our house.  It’s super open and goes right from the front door sitting area into the dining room and kitchen. We decided to stick with a cosmos/TARDIS blue/Matt Smith’s 11th doctor theme. 

Doctor Who Party

We got some TARDIS blue table cloths from the dollar store along with these blue star swirls that were simple to hang from the ceiling and went with our cosmos theme.  Clocks were also brought in from around the house for the food display. 

11th Doctor Table Setting

Here’s a close-up of the table:

Throw a Doctor Who Season Premiere Party


  • TARDIS blue table cloth
    For each setting:
  • Black circle placemat 
  • Red Solo cup 
  • Silver square dinner plate 
    For the bowties:
  • Red dinner napkin – 13″ rectangular “guest towel” napkin or a square napkin folded in half 
  • 5.5 inches of 1.5″ wide red ribbon- attached around the napkin (wrap after you scrunch it) with a bit of double-stick… Continue reading

A hot, cheesy Mexican Corn Salad adapted from the popular Mexican street corn, elote. 

Esquites Mexican Corn Salad

A few weeks ago I got stuck without eggs and made a run to our closest grocery store. I typically avoid this particular because their prices are crazy and they only have what I need half the time. It happened to be a Friday when they were running one of their TGIF specials and corn on the cob was 10 cents an ear.


I decided to take my chances and loaded up on fresh corn. 

Esquites Mexican Corn Salad

I am so glad I bought so many ears because this was some of the sweetest corn I’ve ever tasted. We roasted a few ears and slathered them in a traditional cheesy Mexican corn spread of mayo, chili powder, cilantro and Parmesan cheese. The dish is called elote in Mexico.

I grew up with street vendors selling this corn on a stick and have never been able to get enough. This is the kind of corn you eat with your whole face and end up dripping with amazingly delicious sauce hoping that everyone else is doing the same so they don’t judge you.  

I still had a lot of corn and spread left over, but I knew I couldn’t eat corn like that at my desk at work, so I combined them into this cheesy, tangy, hot Mexican corn salad. 

Esquites Mexican Corn Salad

Upon further digging into my cookbooks, I discovered this Mexican Corn Salad already had a Spanish name, esquites. I guess I wasn’t the fist one to realize that corn on a stick was quite messy for eating in public.  

Either way, I promise you and your family will love this dish on its own, topping some nachos, inside your favorite burrito, on a tortilla chip, or anywhere else… Continue reading

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Welcome! I’m Steph.

Welcome! I’m Steph.

I'm a Texas native living in Colorado who blogs about her favorite Tex-Mex and travel-inspired recipe creations. I love the way food is tied to memories and makes friends out of strangers. I'm so glad y'all are here at my virtual table and I hope you stay a while!

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