Friday, December 31, 2010

Wrap it up now

Happy New Years Eve!!!

Like I said, I like the eves way better than the actual holiday.  So, I'm all aflutter today.  We have some fun errands planned including a lunch at one of my favorite local places and a fancy home-cooked surf and turf dinner. 

We got a jump start on celebrations yesterday with happy hour at a new-to-me bar.  See, I love pubs.  A lot.  There's something about dark wood and really great, diverse beer selections that hits all the right buttons with me.  So, today, I want to list my favorite bars, in case you're in any of these areas and are looking for a place to ring in the new years!

They actually have these all over the place, but the one in Ft. Worth is my favorite so far.  

This one is in Denton, TX, on the Square, which is gorgeous at night.  Plus the food is killer.

This is the pub we went to last night on a recommendation that I'd love it.  He was right.  The menu was to die for, and the atmosphere was very non-Plano-esque.  Just chill.  I liked.

No source, we took this one on our honeymoon!

This was a find on our honeymoon in Baltimore.  A place so nice we visited it twice!  There was a redheaded bartender that took shots of a rare and newly imported Irish whiskey!  I loved that and instantly felt at home.  I'd be a fixture in this pub if I lived in Baltimore.

We went to Austin just for this one, and it was everything I could hope for and more!  Luckily, they're all over Texas, so you don't have to be in Austin to enjoy this one.  You just have to come to Texas, y'all!  

I hope you all have wonderfully fun and safe new year eves!  Please let me know what you decided to do!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Food in Review

So, I decided to skip the real “food in review” this week, recapping our meals.  It’s just too random during the holidays.  So, I’ll just call this general meanderings about food this week.  

We ate at my grandparent’s house for breakfast Christmas Eve.  We had an all-seafood meal at the in-laws that night.  No lunch.  :)  Perhaps that’s why I gorged myself on two and a half biscuits slathered in homemade gravy?  Nah, I did that simply because that stuff is pure euphoria on a plate and worth every calorie!  

We were at the in-laws or driving from Friday around lunch straight through Sunday evening, so I didn’t get to cook anything.  My in-laws made a lovely feast for lunch on Christmas day, but everything else was literally just munchies.  One meal.  That’s it.  No wonder my husband only ever ate lunch every day before I came along.  I changed that!  

All I could think of by Sunday was “I want something green!”  The only veggie I’d seen all weekend was a potato cooked in heavy cream!  Don’t get me wrong, it was delightful, but still.  So, I’ve been feasting on all things vegetable since.  For lunch every day this week, I had a spinach salad topped with bleu cheese, homemade balsamic dressing, and about two cups worth of roasted veggies (sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower).  Hooray veggies!  Such a nice change from the decadence and sweets.  

I even had veggies on the mind for dinner.  I picked up a package of Bob’s Red Mill Vegi Soup mix.  I am really impressed with this mix.  I customized it, which is what they intend for you to do, hence the fact that it is totally unseasoned.  So, no overwhelming salt of fake anything here!  Just lentils, two kinds of split peas, little pasta, and barley.   I opted for an entire small onion, two cloves of garlic, and a can of fire roasted tomatoes.  I seasoned it fairly simply with salt, pepper, hot smoked paprika and regular Hungarian paprika.  I also chunked up some ham that my mother-in-law sent home with us.  I hate seeing things go to waste!  I only used a cup of the soup mix and it made enough for two full dinners for two hearty-eating people.  We’re the type that will go for seconds without batting an eye if we’re still hungry.  This is another reason cooking healthy food is so important to me.  Because if I want more, I’m getting more.  Period.  

I picked another Bob’s Red Mill mix up for my New Year’s superstition fix.  I must have my black-eyed peas!  And cabbage.  And pork.  But that’s another issue.  For the black-eyed peas, I picked up the Bountiful Black Bean mix (black beans, navy beans, black-eyed peas and barley).  I really hope this is as good as the Vegi Soup mix!  I’ve always been a fan of their oats and flours, and I am just so pleased that the “entree” mixes are just as good.  

Did anyone else go through veggie withdrawal or did you have more control over your food than I did?!  

I don’t know about you all, but I’m way more excited about New Year’s Even than I was Christmas. We’re continuing the tradition of “entertaining in” with a home-cooked, yet utterly fancified meal.  I’ve got it all mapped out in my head.  You bet your sweet patootie I’ll be sharing it after the new year!

And so you don't think I forgot, here's a little puppy love for you all!  My hubby sent this to me at work.  Those are his feet and PJ'ed legs and her sleeping soundly on him.  Melts me to my very core.  I love those two so much. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

First use!

The mixer has been christened!

After looking for a recipe for garlic knots and not having all the ingredients for any of them, I decided to just improvise and change a recipe I did have all the stuff for.

I took the cinnamon roll recipe from Side of Sneakers I used to make the Non-Cinnamon rolls and made it garlicky!  

I swapped the teaspoon of cinnamon for a teaspoon of garlic powder.  For the "filling", I mixed olive oil, roasted garlic, and Italian seasonings.  I let it rise for half an hour on the stove, then baked for 20 minutes at 350. 

I need to use more roasted garlic next time.  I had half a head in the fridge, but a whole head would have worked much better.  So, I made a little garlic butter and dipped these.  The texture was excellent, though.  I wouldn't change anything about the dough.

And I love my new mixer!!!!  :)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bead on a Wire

So, now that the gifts are doled out, I can show you the beading I did for Christmas.  Unfortunately, the overseas folks haven't gotten theirs yet (the husband's cousins are friends of mine on facebook and might see), but I think it's okay if they get a sneak peak.  I was told they're only getting mail in Italy once a week.  So no one knows when the packages will arrive!

For my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law, I made rosaries.  I'm not catholic, so this took a little research.  Thank goodness for the Internets!  :)  My mother-in-law was so thrilled.  Yay.

For all the other relatives, I made bookmarks with the first letter of their sir name as the "charm" at the end.

Forgive the photos.  The white balance is all off, but hopefully you get the idea.

Monday, December 27, 2010


So, generous doesn't even begin to describe my family or in-laws.  They're all very giving people. And around the holiday's they're extra giving.  So, I got way more than I could possibly have guessed.  It was a little overwhelming!

 Reversible PJs and slippers from my mom. 

 Storage containers from my mom.  Apparently she saw my pathetic collection at Thanksgiving!  Hehe. 

Funny masks for the hubby and I from his brother.

These gorgeous hand-made earrings from my brother made by my insanely talented cousin in Seattle.  You can find her work here.  I have a pair of her Itty Bitties, similar to this but just two tiny rings, that I love that she gave me when I found out that I would probably be watched for cancer, well, forever.  And for my brother to order a pair, just for me, in colors I love from a lady I love.  They're just doubly special!  I cannot wait to wear them!!!

So, this BLEW me away.  I know how much these KitchenAid monsters cost!  I never, even asked for one....because I know how much they cost!  But the hubby knew I wanted one.  So, he told his parents to put all of their gift money toward me for this mixer and give him nothing (well, he benefits from me having the mixer, but still).  How sweet is that?!  Well, of course, they ignored him.  He got a very nice gift, but I still got the mixer.  I have visions of non-cinnamon rolls dancing in my head!

From left to right, a card from my grandparents, a gift certificate to a new spa from my bro, a card from my uncle, and a card from my mother-in-law.  The cards all had generous gifts inside!  My other uncle handed out gifts as well, I just didn't have a card to display to show it.  :)  And that spa thing is so cool!  It has like 7-8 different treatments, and I get to do them all!  I've had one massage and three pedicures in my life.  That's it.  So, as you can imagine, I am utterly thrilled to have that gift.  

Christmas has never been about "what can I get" for me, and I am not at all good at receiving really generous presents.  My family continues to awe me with their generosity year after year, nonetheless.  I am so grateful to have them!  I love you all. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas pets

So, our Christmas has been largely dictated by these pesky critters. 

Thank goodness they're cute!  Because all of the growling, hissing, spitting, shedding, and general nuisance has not really been so cute.  Three dogs and three one area....all weekend.  Yeah, annoying doesn't even begin to describe it.  It's been good for Riley though.  She's learning boundaries.  The big heeler there is teaching her when no means no!  He is also quite protective of the cats and the tiny dog.  So, he basically acts like the bouncer and bites Riley's snoot any time she steps out of line.  Nothing that draws blood or anything.  She's my baby; I wouldn't let THAT happen.  But I will let him make Riley mind her manners.  It's only proper, yes?

We're on our way back home.  Let's hope traffic is also polite.  All of you traveling out there, please be safe!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Adventure

So, yesterday there was a whole lot of this:

But we made is safely without incident. 

Before we left though, there was a lot of this:

Yes, that's my mom in footy pajamas.  HA!
 Aren't they cute together?

And here he's showing off the Scooby Doo just-his-size backpack that we got him for Christmas.  

I would have taken a photo of the older nephew to share was well, but he's just too cool for photos.  You know how that goes.  Still, Christmas with my family was awesome.  The food was amazing, as usual.  I ate two and a half biscuits loaded with gravy, just because I could!  My uncle brought Christmas crackers, so we all got to pop them together, wear paper crowns, and read silly laffy-taffy style jokes with one another.  The cookies were a hit (thank goodness!), and everyone was in a fantastic mood.  It's just how I like to see my family.  I wish we were able to do that just a little more often.

Now we're with my husband's family.  There's sure to be a feast tonight and lots of presents this afternoon.  I'll have to get back to you with the gift, as I left the ones my family gave me at home.  I want to show you everything at once, because I got some great stuff!  My brother got me a very special gift that I'm excited to show you.  It'll have to be Monday though. Sorry guys!

I wish you all the happiest of holidays shared with someone who appreciates you. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Giving goodies

My family received "build your own" goodie tins!  I laid out platter of homemade treats for them to eat during the festivities (even though we won't be there) and provided containers to take their favorites home.

This platter contained peppermint bark which was dark chocolate layered with white chocolate spiked with creme de menthe extract and green food coloring topped with crushed candy canes.  Peppermints are my grampa's favorite candies.  So, this was specifically for him.  Still, I hope everyone likes them.

The other little delight is a homemade peanut butter cup.  The bottom layer of chocolate is dark chocolate.  The peanut butter is homemade from my food process with simply roasted peanuts, kosher salt,
and canola oil.  Just for fun and for a little something different, I made the top layer of the cup white chocolate.  White chocolate is the husband's favorite!

This platter has something for my grampa and my brother.  Never Home Maker's cornmeal cookies really caught my eye.  My family thrives on cornbread, so a cookie that has no chocolate (grampa's not a fan) and contains cornmeal is seriously up his alley.  I really hope he likes them! 

 The half dipped cookie is for my bro.  It's his favorite of my cookies.  Sadly, it didn't turn out right.  See, I usually use packaged sugar cookie dough.  I was attempting to make everything from scratch, so I made the sugar dough instead.  Sadly, the dough I picked, while delicious, was far too puffy.  It created a soft cookie where I was looking for a crisp cookie.  Oops?  Still, I truly hope my bubba likes them anyhow.  The method for this cookie is to cut sugar cookie dough VERY thin.  I usually freeze the dough and shave it off with a sharp knife into little discs.  I cook them till golden, allow them to cool, then do them up sandwich style with raspberry jam.  The ends get dipped in chocolate, well, because raspberry and chocolate are just meant for each other, aren't they?  I gave these to everyone several Christmases ago, and my brother literally stole them out of people's gift baskets.  So, on his birthday, I made an entire batch (that's not nearly and entire batch in the photo!) just for him.  Well, he ended up eating the whole thing, save four that he gave to coworkers, in ONE day.  Talk about a tummy ache.  He said it was 100% worth it.  So, though these aren't quite the same, I hope it conjures the same memories.  I used Mama Pea's sugar cutout dough, though mine had butter.  Great for puffy, soft sugar cookies! 

Okay, I DROOLED over Mama Pea's peanut butter dough balls, and I knew my mom and grama would go gaga over them too.  So, this was at the top of my must-make list.  And oh my word, they are so much better than I could ever imagine.  New favorite cookie right there.  Now, I used butter in this too.  See, the store I went to didn't have earth balance, so I rolled with unsalted organic butter in all the recipes. 

The last cookie is a delicious failure.  It was my first attempt at making graham crackers for the girls at work.  I mis-read an ingredient though.  I thought it said whole wheat pastry flour.  Nope!  It said whole wheat flour.  Quite  different beast!  So, I kept adding the pastry flour and it never hardened enough to roll out.  Instead of giving up and tossing it after adding an additional half cup of flour, I decided to bake it.  Thank goodness I did!  These are excellent.  And the dog loves them too.  Molasses must draw dogs in.  Who knew?!  So, if you think a cookie version of a graham cracker sounds good, then just take Ashley's recipe and use 2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour instead of the recommended flour!  

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas Eve!

I don't know about you all, but I've always loved the eves better than the actual holidays.  Christmas Eve and New Years Eve just hold so much anticipation and magic. 

This morning, we're having breakfast with my family before we hit the road to the husband's parent's house.  I expect my grama will have a huge southern breakfast full of bacon-lard laden gravy!  Don't judge me too harshly, but bacon fat rules in gravy.  I usually don't make it that way, so I consider it a supreme treat!  Then this evening, we're having the Feast of the Seven Fishes with my in-laws because my mother-in-law is both very Catholic and pure-bred Italian.  I hear there is sea bass this year. 

I'll post the goodies I made for the family a little later (after they get them).  They are pretty darn tasty!  Till then, I hope you're with the people you love, enjoying the magic of Christmas Eve!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Food in Review

Since Thursday is my (and a lot of other people's) Friday, I decided to do the food in review post early.  I've been pathetic this week....and stilll we had a few good meals.

Friday: We joined my husband's old boss, turned my new friend via Facebook and Pampered Chef, treated us to happy hour and our dinner.  What does that say about the husband that an old boss would buy us beer and a pulled pork quesadilla?!  Go baby!  And thanks Brenda!

Saturday: I found skinless chicken sausages at Target that had a great ingredient list, so I picked up a package.  Served with grilled onions on whole wheat buns with sweet potato fries.  These were actually very good.  I prefer the CM sausages, but these are a great packaged option.

Sunday: I took out some reserved lamb stew meat out of the freezer from my last farmers market stalk up.  I cooked it Guinness stew style with carrots and potatoes.  I was SO looking forward to this meal, and it was supposed to constitute two dinners.  Yeah, it was horrible.  Like nearly inedible.  We ate the potatoes and carrots with as little broth and lamb as possible and threw all the rest out.  I do not like wasting food ever, so you know it's bad when I say that we bagged it and put it at the curb in the morning.  Total fail. 

Monday: I found some great tofu at Whole Foods that is packaged in smaller blocks!  That means less wasted tofu, as we never seem to need a whole block.  I used Emily's tofu method, as usual.  Then I stir fried onion, carrots, baby bellas, and frozen snap peas.  I served this dressed with 365 brand ginger sesame sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sriracha over soba noodles.  Totally delicious and made up for the stew!

Tuesday: Still elbow deep in Christmas making. so we opted for Panera.  Our landlord dropped off a gift card.  How cool is that?!  I had a soup and salad.  The husband had a panini.  It was excellent.

Wednesday: The left over sausages were added to cupboard and pantry items.  I used some onion, garlic, frozen bell peppers, and frozen spinach with a can of Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes with garlic.  This went atop gnocchi with some grated fontina.  Thank goodness, another really good dinner! 

As soon as work lets out, it's holiday time.  Not sure I'm in the spirit, but at least I'm all prepped! 

Riley is ready.  Are you?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Work Gifts

Was anyone curious what was in the goodie boxes for my coworkers??  Well, here it is!  S'more kits!

The ladies got homemade graham crackers a la Ashley at Edible Perspective with marshmallows and Ghiradelli chocolate squares.  I even made a gluten free batch of grahams with rice flour.  They were far more crumbly but the taste was still spot on!

Fun fact: Riley LOVED graham cracker dough and thought it was make for her.

In return, my boss and coworkers gifted me with these lovely items.

That's a beautiful turquoise sweater from Old Navy, a Target gift card, homemade sugared pecans, chocolate covered pretzels, and chex mix, and a scrapbook.

The scrapbook was from my boss, made by her good friend and neighbor Amber at Lily Pad Designs.

Pretty cool, right?!