Recipe of the Month – Tex-Mex Meatball

Another one of my daughter’s finds on Delish.com, this one was good, but we all agreed we want to try it again without the chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. That is not a taste we are use to and I think it will be even better without it – or by adding some red pepper to the sauce for a kick. I’m going to list it as optional in the ingredient list and suggest if you have young kids that you omit it.

 

Ingredients

1 1/2 lb. ground beef
2 c. shredded Mexican cheese blend, divided
1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp. freshly chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
1 large egg
1 tsp. ground cumin
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 (15-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp. chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (optional)

Directions

In a medium bowl, combine ground beef, 1 cup of cheese, bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, jalapeño, egg, and cumin and season with salt and pepper. Mix until combined, then form into meatballs.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add meatballs in a single layer and sear 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Add onion to skillet and cook, stirring, until soft, 5 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes and chipotle in adobo and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and return meatballs to skillet. Cover and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Top with remaining 1 cup cheese, then cover with lid to let melt, about 2 minutes.

 

 

Finally, the kids return to school

It has been 7 months since my kids have seen the inside of a classroom. The COVID-19 pandemic not only ended their in-person instruction last spring but also delayed their return to school in August. They have been doing virtual learning – live classes through Zoom – for the past 7 weeks.

Originally, our school district said only the first three weeks of school would be done online, but since COVID-19 cases were high here in Texas that date got pushed back. Instead, they only brought back those kids who really needed to come back. That was those students whose parents worked and couldn’t supervise at home instruction, had a lack of internet access or had a learning disablility that made virtual learning difficult or unrealistic. This was called Phase 1.

Now, I could have had Lexie go back during Phase 1 as she has ADHD and would have fallen into the difficulty learning exception. But all of Phase 1 learning was basically just the students going to school and still doing virtual learning. So what would be the point of sending Lexie to school to do the exact thing she was doing at home? I work from home so it made no sense for our situation and she stayed home.

Phase 2 was the same thing but just more students were allowed back. Phase 1 let 5 students in a room and Phase 2 allowed for 10. They still were not rotating to their classes but rather sitting in one class all day as a teacher watched over them as he/she taught his/her own Zoom classes. (This applied only to the middle and high school levels. Elementary were actually doing a hybrid in-person learning since they dont’ have multiple teachers.)

Now, Phase 3 is here! This is the one we have been waiting for. This phase is up to 15 students per class and more importantly, we are back to in-person learning. This means students follow their schedule and are taught by their teachers in their actual classrooms! Who-hoo!

This means Jase will actually be going to a brand new school (for him). He is a freshman in high school and has only been to the school a handful of times. This means he has no clue where his classes are. And he will be riding the bus for the first time. Yikes – lots of new things all in one day, not to mention he has to social distance and wear a mask.

The high school will let Freshmen back on Monday, Sophmores on Tuesday, Juniors on Wednesday and Seniors on Thursday. This is good news as it gives Freshmen at least one day to find their way around before the other students return. As it is only a little over 1/2 of the student population will be back by Friday.

For Lexie, she will be going back to school on Wednesday. The middle school is opening Monday and Tuesday just for 6th graders – again for the reason that they are new to the school and don’t know where anything is. They will get two days before the 7th and 8th graders return. And just like the high school, the middle school will have only about 1/2 of the students returning at this point.

Both kids are excited about returning to school – even if they have to wear masks and may only see their friends from a distance. I think it will be good for them but it will be awfully quiet here at the house this week. Now I just hope everyone stays healthy and the schools remain open.

Creating a character list

Creating characters can be fun. You develop their characteristics, physical traits, and their backstories. And you get to name them. Now you don’t always need to spend a lot of time on characters. If they are a minor character, you will spend less time developing them then say your protagonist. But as your protagonist runs into people sometimes those people at least need a name – and perhaps a description.

The pert waitress may come over and announce her name is Sally, interrupting your character’s dark thoughts. Sally won’t probably get even a last name. Heck, you probably could write the scene without giving the waitress a name.

But if your character runs into many of the same characters – perhaps who live in the same apartment building or down at the local bar, those people might be better off with names.

The other day, I was working on my current WIP. It is the first book in a second trilogy about Lina and Val, the main characters from my first trilogy, The Elemental. There was already a large cast of characters in that trilogy and now we are adding to that group. And that means naming more major, minor and bit characters.

I’ve written several posts about how to name characters. But the tricky thing is that after six books, I’ve used a lot of the names I like. Plus, I am writing fantasy so none of my characters have Christian names like John and Michael. I am for more unique names though there are a few common names mixed in.

Since I am working with a large cast of characters in this world, I do have a spreadsheet of the names. Actually, as I write any of my books, I usually have a spreadsheet with the character names, locations, travel times, timeline and chapter lengths.

It was when I was naming two thieves that my latest WIP that I realized that I might need a master list of names I’ve already used and in which book they appeared. It isn’t that I can’t use names again, but I would rather not always use the same names – no matter how much I like them. I mean I know not to use Val, Grayson or Soren as these were main characters, but what about Elias or Darius?

I’m not saying you need to do this, but it has turned out to be very interesting. I did find out that I have a character named Delwin and Elden in every one of my books. And I have 265 named characters over 5 full-length novels, my short story and my current WIP. That feels like a lot, and I expect this list to continue to grow as I write the rest of this trilogy.