My Texas Desebrada for Shredded Beef Tacos

Every time we go to our neighborhood Mexican restaurant, I order their desebrada, a shredded beef stewed in tomatoes and spices. Well, it tastes and looks like tomato. I order this for dinner as well as breakfast (Texas is the land of breakfast tacos). The beef tastes amazing cradled in soft tacos. I keep saying I will try to make this at home. Why put off today for another day and another day, etc.? Desebrada is traditionally made with goat meat. I’ve opted for chuck beef, which is shoulder meat.

chuck roast
Searing the chuck roast in a cast-iron skillet with oil

Before I get to the ingredients and recipe steps, I want to stress the importance of the right equipment. For this recipe, I have a cast-iron skillet and a crock pot slow cooker. In lieu of a skillet, I recommend a Dutch oven to sear the meat. While you’re cooking, you can sing out “Desebrada” to the tune of “Desperado!” (my boyfriend’s idea).


  • 2.5 pound chuck roast
  • vegetable oil

    All the ingredients assembled in the slow cooker, including red wine and Rotel
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 jalapeños
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 Texas sweet onion
  • chili power, cumin, salt and pepper
  • freshly chopped cilantro
  • Optional garnishes/sides: homemade coleslaw (just mix mayo, lime juice and Rice wine vinegar and toss in a bag of shredded cabbage); avocado; shredded cheese; sour cream, jalapeños (freshly sliced or pickled) and hot sauce

Directions: Heat vegetable oil in big skillet over medium-high heat. Start prepping non-meat ingredients. Peel and smash garlic on cutting board with French chef knife. Place in slow cooker. Peel, slice and chop onion and place in cooker. Drop in a bay leaf or two. Put on gloves and cut, core, slice and dice the jalapeños. Place diced pepper in the cooker. Added a teaspoon each of chili pepper and cumin. Freshly grind salt and pepper over the rest of the ingredients in the cooker. Now, remove meat from package and place in hot skillet with oil. Brown it all the way around. You might have to cut it into two or three pieces to easily move it around in the skillet and prepare to fit with the other ingredients in the slow cooker. When browned, place it in the cooker and pour over it the wine and Rotel. Sprinkle a hearty handful of chopped cilantro over it and cover the cooker.

Cumin and chili powder atop garlic, onion and chopped jalapeño
Cumin and chili powder atop garlic, onion and chopped jalapeño

Turn to high heat. Once it is hot, lower to the low setting and let it slow cook for about 8 hours. Check on it every few hours and after 8 or so hours, see if it pulls apart with a fork. If so, turn off heat and let temperature drop to a level you can stand while shredding the meat into the sauce. I used a dinner fork and a spatula. Now, you can serve it all at once or freeze some portions for a savory and satisfying weeknight dinner. This shredded meat is perfect for tacos. You’ll want to serve it with more fresh chopped cilantro, sliced jalapeños, fresh lime, shredded Mexican cheese, perhaps a dollop of sour cream, hot sauce, etc. Maybe some sliced bell peppers and rice.

shredded beef slow cooker
Shredded beef after several hours in the slow cooker

The list goes on. Get creative. There is a lot you can do with this meat, including putting it in a casserole or mac-n-cheese. For us, tacos are in order, maybe even for breakfast.


The Sage Leopard

Party Pleasers: Easy Appetizers & Sides

Pigs in a blanket, deviled eggs, cucumber salad and hummus are go-to dishes for parties. I used to panic a little about appetizers for parties, until my Mom put me at ease with these wise words: what about pigs in a blanket? Everybody loves pigs in a blanket. They are also foolproof to make. These are my simple steps for hors d’oeuvres.

Pigs in a blanket and deviled eggs are party classics.
Pigs in a blanket and deviled eggs are party classics.

Pigs in a Blanket: Buy two packages each of Hebrew National hot dogs and Pillsbury crescent rolls. For the latter, you can use the round ones or the traditional. Preheat over to 375. Open hot dog packages and slice each dog into thirds. Unfurl the crescents dough and slice into smaller strips to roll up the pigs into their blankets. Bake 9-10 minutes on lightly greased cookie sheets or until the blankets are golden brown. Serve with mustard of your choice. You’re done!

Deviled eggs: Either buy hard-boiled eggs in the eggs section of your grocery story (yes, this is a thing) or make a dozen hard-boiled eggs at home. (To make your own hard-boiled eggs, gently place uncooked eggs in a pot and cover with water, filling to about an inch over the eggs. Bring to a boil, lower to low and cover. Set timer for 15 minutes. Usually eggs will hard boil in 12 minutes, but because there are a dozen here, go ahead and let cook a few extra minutes. About halfway through the time, turn off the burner to stop the simmering and let them continue cooking until time is up. Transfer eggs with a slotted spoon to a colander in the sink. Rinse with cold, cold water. While you let them cool off further, gather the other ingredients: mayonnaise, mustard, cider vinegar, paprika, Cajun seasoning, green onions and pimentos. To peel the eggs, set colander upon a tea towel or dish towel on the colander. Next to that, set some paper towels on a cutting board. Take an egg and gently tap the shell with the back of a knife blade to create little cracks all the around the egg. Peel egg. Be careful not to pull too fast so the egg white stays together. Place egg in back in colander. Repeat 11 times. Then, take a really sharp knife, such as the kind you use to trim fat from meat, and slice each egg in half lengthwise. Take a teaspoon and pop out the egg yolks in a big bowl and place the empty egg white halves on a platter. Add half a cup of mayo, a tablespoon of mustard and a two tablespoons of cider vinegar. Stir vigorously with a spatula until smooth. With two teaspoons, pick up little dollops of egg yolk mixture and place inside egg white halves. Once the eggs halves are full, sprinkle eggs with paprika and Cajun spice. Top with sliced green onions and pimentos. You’re done!

Cucumber salad is a refreshing complement to many BBQ meats.
Cucumber salad is a refreshing complement to many BBQ meats.

Cucumber salad: Grab six cucumbers, two jalapeños, a bunch of cilantro , red onion and roasted unsalted peanuts. Select a rice vinegar, perhaps a seasoned one. Peel the cucumbers and seed them. A regular potato peeler is the perfect tool; use the peeler blade to slice off the skin while retaining as much cuke as possible. Cut cucumber in half lengthwise and then use corer (the hook side of the peeler) to pull out the seed core.

Cucumber canoes! These would be great serving dishes for tuna or chicken salad too.
Cucumber canoes! These would be great serving dishes for tuna or chicken salad too.

Now, you have cucumber canoes. Flip them over on a cutting board and slide them into 1/4 inch crescent moons. Place cucumber pieces in a large bowl. Put on latex gloves and similarly halve, core and slice the jalapeños and place in bowl. Clean and dry big hunk of cilantro and finely chop to place in bowl. Thinly slice about a half-cup of red onion and place in bowl. Mix 3/4 cup of rice vinegar and 3/4 cup sugar in a bowl, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Toss salad with dressing and sprinkle top with half of cup of peanuts. You’re done!

Hummus: one can of Bush’s Beans chick peas, 1/4 cup of Tahini paste, juice of two or three large lemons, two cloves of peeled garlic, extra virgin olive oil, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Drain and rinse chick peas in a colander in sink. Place in Cuisinart with Tahini, lemon juice, a couple of generous drizzles of oil, the garlic and some of the spices. Cover and spin the blade. While the machine is on, open the chute to drizzle in more olive oil until smooth. Taste test. Spice to your personal preference. You’re done!


The Sage Leopard

Home Cooking, Happy Accidents and a Cookware Sale

They say when the oven door closes, the microwave door opens. Or, something like that. Life is funny: when you plan to do something, it might just fall into place, fall to pieces or turn into something else than intended. It’s preferable to consider these events in terms of silver linings. What does that all have to do with cooking? Well, in cooking we call mistakes “happy accidents.” That’s sort of how I ended up telling you about a cookware sale.

raclette grill
The signature Velata raclette tabletop grill comes with a granite top as well as an aluminum nonstick grill

A friend of mine is a Scentsy lady who has built a successful team of Scentsy wax and warmers purveyors bringing scents and warmth to many a home. She told me about Scentsy’s sister company Velata, which makes cookware and specialized ingredients, such as crepe mix, spice blends and Belgian chocolate. Knowing I love to cook and bake as well as write a lifestyle blog, she suggested I check out Velata and see if it can sell well online as opposed to just house parties. Well, I’m a social media specialist too so I decide to give it a try with The Sage Leopard lifestyle blog. Admittedly, while I blog a lot about my cooking and my outdoors activities, I’ve only occasionally written about Velata. Because I’ve been too busy with my own business (communications consulting for small business clients) I did not have much time for crafting or pushing my Velata marketing. Here’s the unexpected turn: after three years of trying to build the Velata business, Scentsy came to the conclusion it didn’t have a big enough Velata salesforce and I happened to be one of the last ones in the door! Now, the company is selling some items at a discount, which leads to your chance to get high-quality cooking gadgets and ingredients on sale.

An unusual opportunity to get in on a sale of high-quality and unique cookware and entertaining options
An unusual opportunity to get in on a sale of high-quality and unique cookware and entertaining options

This is only while supplies last until the end of August when its taps for Velata. I can tell you from personal experience that the raclette grill is a major upgrade in my cooking. Instead of sautéing vegetables in olive oil, I lighten up on the calories by applying a mist of olive oil spray to the raclette grill and cook up the veggies there. It’s also easier to clean than a pan. An electric grill with two tops – granite and nonstick aluminum – it doesn’t burn the food, so I can step away, take a call, start some laundry, etc., without worrying or having to hover over a pan. The grill is my favorite Velata item. I also love the crepe maker, which is unavailable at the moment but expected to be available again at the end of May. They sell two kinds of crepe mix, classic and gluten-free.

Gluten-free crepes won't leave anyone out of the fun
Gluten-free crepes won’t leave anyone out of the fun

Another unique Velata product is the fondue warmer which keeps melted cheese and other dips warm with an electric bulb under a silicon bowl with a metal base. This device has made it easy to leave queso unattended by the hostess during parties. Same goes with chocolate fondue. I also use the Velata dip chiller for keeping sour cream-based dips cool. Frankly, I’m bummer that Velata will come to an end August 31, but in the meantime, there is a quite of collection of entertaining and cooking gadgets and ingredients to stock up on. So, you may just hear more about Velata before the sales and inventories end.

The Sage Leopard

Oatmeal chocolate chip salted caramel coconut cookies

I think I may have learned how to bake crack. The saving grace of these cookies is that they contain oatmeal, which one can rationalize makes them healthy.

Oatmeal chocolate chip salted caramel chip cranberry coconut cookies, yes. Right out of the oven.
Oatmeal chocolate chip salted caramel chip cranberry coconut cookies, yes. Right out of the oven.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  It’s amazing how you can have just one taste of something and your worldview changes forever. When first presented with a salted caramel, I thought it odd. Until I tasted it. Now, they sell salted caramel chips in the baking aisle of the grocery store. This is a perfect addition to my oatmeal chocolate chip cookie repertoire. I started adding dried cranberries years ago. More recently, I’ve folded in a little bit of shredded coconut. The universal love for the combination of salty and sweet was popularized by peanut butter cups. Of course, GORP is a classic salty and sweet. Good Old Raisins and Peanuts with M&Ms, that is. The natural extension of all this is the salted caramel, which I first tasted standing on the town square of a historic town in North Georgia. Whoever came up with converting the salted caramel square into baking chips is truly brilliant.

Add shredded coconut after dropping the cookie dough onto the baking sheet by the spoonful
Add shredded coconut after dropping the cookie dough onto the baking sheet by the spoonful

Now, for the cookie recipe. It all started with an L.L. Bean chocolate chip cookie recipe I’ve used since I was a kid. I altered it though by using butter instead of shortening (no more Crisco for me) and adding the cranberries. And, the salted caramel chips. And topping with shredded coconut. Here’s the basics, per the L.L. Bean cookbook and my adaptations:

Getting the ingredients together
Getting the ingredients together

1/2 cup butter (1 stick) softened to room temperature

1/2 cup dark brown sugar (firmly packed) & 1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (go ahead, make it a full teaspoon)

3/4 cup flour (to which you must add a healthy dose of ground cinnamon)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups oatmeal (rolled oats)

1/4 cup chocolate chips & 1/4 cup salted caramel chips

1/4 cup dried cranberries

pinches of shredded coconut over each cookie

Directions: Beat butter and sugars until smoothly combined. Beat in egg, water and vanilla. Toss together flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Blend that dry mixture into the creamed sugar. Next, stir in oatmeal, and then in turns, baking chips and cranberries. Dropped by teaspoonful onto greased cookie sheet and place pinches of shredded coconut on each. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes at 375 degrees F. Let rest for a couple of minutes on stove top and remove from baking sheets with a spatula. Enjoy.

Happiness is a warm cookie
Happiness is a warm cookie

The Sage Leopard