Friday, June 29, 2012

The Stars at Night...

Are big and bright, deep in the heart heat of Texas.  Temperatures have ranged between 103 and 106 degrees Fahrenheit.  There are countless photos that people have snapped of the temperature read inside their vehicles so I won't show you mine that read 113 degrees! in a parked vehicle, of course.

So how do we beat the heat, you wonder?

Like this,
and this.
We floated for hours at Reimer Ranch Park in Travis county.  We also visited Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels.  The lines were not as bad, mid-week, as I imagine they'd be on a weekend.  If you 're ever in Texas, these are not bad spots to visit.  

We stayed in Austin...was nice to visit my old stomping grounds.
This motel is smack in the middle of great dining and shopping on Congress Street, and just a few minutes from down town.  Actually, it's pretty central to a lot of Austin attractions.  You can easily get to Barton Springs pool and park, the capitol, 6th street, you get the idea.
We ate here, which is walking distance to the motel.  It's not my favorite Mexican food place in the world, but is in walking distance to the motel, is good, and reasonably priced.  
The scene was much the same, a few shops have changed...many have remained the same.  One noticeable change was the addition of many food trucks.  I like the "chicken" signage for this truck.  I suspect the recent tv show series on Food Network has had something to do with the food truck phenomenon in Austin.  I can say that there were slim to none on Congress, with the exception of 1st Thursdays, five years ago.

All in all, it was a nice little get-away.  Austin, I miss you.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Recipes from Bon Temps, Louisiana- Burgers and Chocolate Cake

Some of you may have heard of Merlotte's Bar and Grill located in the made-up town of Bon Temps, LA.  If so, then you may have heard of Lafayette Reynolds; he's known for his burgers.  ; )
image source
Here's my attempt at Burgers Lafayette sauce...


Of course Merlotte's, Bon Temps, and Lafayette are all inventions of Charlaine Harris' Sookie-verse and I love Sookie-verse.  It's not enough that I'm completely enthralled with season 5 of HBO's True Blood which is based on Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels, I've also had the pleasure of delving even further into her fantasy by reading book 12 and, now, this book...  
Looka!  It includes a short story!!!
I've never read Ms. Harris' short stories so this was a first and I really liked it, but the best part of the companion was the inclusion of recipes.  I love books with recipes.  My favorite authors have been from the South and cooking has found its way into their books:  Mary Kay Andrews, Fannie Flagg, & Michael Lee West have all done it (included the recipes of foods mentioned in their novels) so I'm glad to see Arkansas native Charlaine Harris jump on the band wagon.  What better way to bring the book experience to life than by touching on our senses through food?!

Tonight, I made not only Lafayette's burgers, but Mrs. Bellefleur's prize-winning chocolate cake.
I think my husband is adding this to his favorites list; the icing is sooo good!
Of course, Mrs. Bellefleur's cake recipe was top secret in the books so I'm not going to give it away here.  You'll have to read the "Companion" to find out for yourself.  There are many fun recipes included in it.  I have it in mind to try the Country Porch Lemonade and the Mardi Gras Corn Salad.  You should check out the book, too, if you're interested in trying any of the recipes, AND if these recipes are  not enough for you, you will be pleased to know a True Blood cookbook complete with images from the series will be coming out this fall, I hear.  Sounds like a perfect Christmas gift.  (Hubs- this is a hint.  Wink, wink!)

For a sneak peak, here's the recipe for Burgers Lafayette Sauce
Ingredients
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 stick margarine (I used unsalted butter)
1/4 cup vinegar (I used Sherry vinegar since the recipe didn't specify)
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
Dash cayenne
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup ketchup

Directions
Saute the onion in the butter or margarine.  Add all of the other ingredients.  Simmer for about 20 minutes.  Place the cooked hamburgers or leftover roast in the skillet and steep for at least 10 minutes.  Place the meat on a bun and put a spoonful of extra sauce on top.  Makes enough for about 4 hamburgers.  **Our burgers were on the small side so I was able to place six burgers in the sauce.

Recipe courtesy Charlaine Harris


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pimento Cheese

Classic pimento cheese sandwich, sliced homegrown tomatoes sprinkled w/ salt & pepper on the side.

When I think of pimento cheese, I recall making sandwiches with Pringles original potato chips stuffed alongside the cheese spread in between.  I made this sandwich, almost daily, as soon as I'd come off the school bus which I rode to my Grandma's house.  My grandparents always seemed to have pimento spread in supply.  Sometimes we would line celery sticks with the concoction, other times it was spread on a Ritz.  Having been in track for many years, I was a hungry girl and could afford the extra calories of the mayonnaise-y, cheesy mix...today, not so much. ; )

I never gave pimento cheese a thought until I was grown and would see it in magazines like Southern Living.  Those write-ups and images put the spread on a pedestal and I thought how funny it looked under the spotlight.  Pimento cheese is humble, after all, but it's also good eating.  I guess it deserves a little spotlight.

If you've never tried pimento cheese spread OR if you've only ever tried the processed stuff from the grocery, try your hand at this recipe.  It's simple, cheesy goodness. 

1 cup mayonnaise (I only use Duke's mayo)
1 tsp. onion powder or 1 tbsp. freshly grated onion
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cajun seasoning
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce or a tsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice 
a splash of pepper sauce such as Tabasco
1 lb. mild cheddar, shredded
1 (4 oz.) jar diced pimentos

Grate cheese and set aside.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise and seasonings, mixing until full incorporated.  Add shredded cheddar and pimentos, stirring until cheese and pimentos are completely coated in the mayo mixture.  Keep refrigerated.  Yields about 2 and 1/2 cups of spread.  Serve on white bread, toasted or not, for a sandwich.

This recipe can be easily tailored to your liking.  It's just the bones really.  You can finely grate your cheese or shred it coarsely, put it through the food processor or mash it with a fork; use sharp or extra sharp cheddar or a combination of the two.  Heck, you could even incorporate new cheeses, Colby Jack maybe?  People have added diced jalapenos or pickle relish to their spread.  Your imagination is the limit.  It's really just a toss up and your preferences may depend widely on how you grew up eating it.
I tried my sandwich with toasted bread, a piece of bacon, and my tomato jelly.  It was pure bliss.

Sharing at  Ms. enPlace  and at A Slice of Southern's Southern Sundays.  Be sure to click on their links to find other great recipes.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sick Days: Cooking, Baking, and Other Nonsense

Bebe's been sick; this is the sixth day.  A trip to the doctor proved to shed no light on this mysterious 6 day stretch of fever and occasional vomiting.  I'm mentally exhausted, worried, and we are both a little stir crazy.  Being house-bound this many days should give me ample time to bake, cook, and blog about it, but I just haven't had it in me.  My apologies.

We have made delicious dinners, though, and I even made my favorite chocolate icebox pie. Click on that link to make this easy chocolate dessert.

I tried Marguerite's, of Cajun Delights, crab cakes from this blog post, and I made this spicy avocado sauce to top them.  I baked them as Andrea of Recipes for Divine Living suggested.  The cakes were placed on a bed of salad and that was Father's Day supper.


I ought to mention that I attempted to drizzle the avocado sauce as Andrea did in her image below.  See? Pretty isn't it?
photo credit

This attempt, because I didn't puree the sauce and because I snipped the end off of a Ziploc baggy to pipe it, resulted in a clump of avocado blocking the opening, building up pressure, thusly exploding across my arm, counter top, and cabinets.

I should have snapped a pic of that.

It would have put a smile on your face.  I know it put a smile on my face.  Despite the pity party I'd been having for myself, I laughed out loud.  Hubby got a good laugh, too!  I declared that it served me right for trying to be a fancy-pants, piping avocado sauce to impress my fellow bloggers.

Well, the taste was good anyway.

Stay tuned, I've been working on this when Bebe's been resting...

I hope the end result of my first refurbishing project is how it appears in my mind. : )

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Can you help me identify this spider?

Could you help me identify this spider.  It was making webs under the ledge of my kitchen cabinets and when I was sweeping it came scurrying out.  I damaged it with my broom, I think, but not enough to distort the body.  I'm worried it may be a brown recluse, but couldn't identify it by comparing images on the web.  Any thoughts would be appreciated.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lasagna Olé


Here's a dinner recipe my Grandma provided for the Saturday Club of Rising Star, TX.  It's called Lasagna Olé, a Tex-Mex twist on lasagna.  It was really easy to put together and the flavors were great.

Here's what you'll need-

Ingredients
1 lb. hamburger meat
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (10 oz) can Ro*Tel
1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 pkg. taco seasoning,** or see recipe below
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
8 corn tortillas
1 cup (8 oz.) shredded cheddar
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
(12 oz) slices Monterrey Jack cheese slices
(4 oz) shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  I cooked the onion and meat together in a large skillet over medium heat.  When the onions had gone soft and the meat was cooked, I added the canned tomatoes and taco seasoning, stirring to incorporate all the ingredients.  Adjust seasoning with salt & pepper to taste.  I let this simmer for 10 more minutes.

Pour half the meat mixture into a casserole dish.  Layer tortilla rounds over meat, they will overlap some.  Spread sour cream over tortillas, then sprinkle cheddar on top of the smoothed over sour cream.

Pour the remaining meat mixture onto the sour cream and cheddar.  Spread it so that the meat mixture is set evenly.  Place Monterrey Jack cheese slices on top of meat and sprinkle Parmesan on top of that.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes in oven.



A green salad would go nicely as a side for this meal.

Taco Seasoning Recipe
1 tablespoon Chili Powder
2 teaspoons Onion Powder
2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Cumin
A pinch of Red Pepper

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chicken Conundrum

Raising chickens is new to our family.  We have three hens, plenty to give enjoyment and eggs (usually) for our family.  We studied up before getting the girls, but I've discovered being a chicken owner is a learning process.
Here's a picture of them leaving the cinder blocks.  Usually those are lying flat, but, from time to time, I pull them away and the girls race over to see what bugs have been hiding beneath the blocks.  They eat, peck, and scratch in a frenzy, then move along to other parts of the yard when they've decided the area has been picked clean.

One thing learned, for example, is when we first got birds, I'd read about Diatomaceous Earth (DE) being used to control pests.  It's non-toxic and therefore not supposed to be harmful.  When I first located it at a local feed store (I'd asked for food grade) the girl pointed me in the direction of what they had which ended up being an ag or horticulture grade.  I asked if it was safe to sprinkle in the run, and was told it was.  What I learned later, much later, was that it is not.  It turns out that food grade DE is the way to go.  The flour-like texture of the powder is made up of the fossilized remains of diatoms whose structure is very sharp...which is good for cutting the exoskeletons of insects thereby causing them to dry out and die, not so good for chickens.  I wouldn't want that grade of DE cutting up anything in my gals; whether it got in their eyes, crop, or lungs, the outcome would be the same, bad.

Another thing I'm learning about is the pattern of egg laying.  We got our hens early March.  Only one was old enough to start laying and she did begin by the end of March.  Up until three weeks ago we enjoyed an egg a day from Shelby.  Now, nada.  I know the heat has to have something to do with it.  I asked the lady behind the HenCam blog for her advice.  There's a lot to consider.  Here are some of the questions she posed and the answers I've given... 

Is the nesting box too hot?  No hotter than the rest of the run, but all is completely shaded and a breeze does cross through.  They roost in a box at night and it is ventilated, but our temps are 98 degrees Fahrenheit.  It's hot.

Too sunny?  No

Is your hen panting? Yes, sometimes

Is she so hot she doesn't want to walk across a sunny patch to get water? There are no sunny patches in the run and the area we keep water and food is as shaded as the rest of the pinned area.  They walk about happily.

Or, she might have decided to hide her eggs. We've searched and there are no hiding eggs.

Or, there might be a snake eating them (uggh, but it happens in your neck of the woods.) Lord, I hope not!  We haven't seen signs of a snake.  Fingers crossed that we never do.

Or someone has become an egg eater and you haven't caught her in the act.  I haven't seen any evidence of cracked egg anywhere so I don't think this is it either.



There are feathers around the run so I'm beginning to think that the hens are experiencing a heat/stress induced molt, more to come on that theory later.

I also learned that cracked corn is not all it is cracked up to be.  Cracked corn doesn't have nutritional value so should be used sparingly, as a treat once in a blue moon, and not daily as you would provide laying pellets/crumble.  Hmm, wish I'd known before I bought the big bag of cracked corn.  It's a good thing that we've only offered it to the hens twice.

The same goes for meal worms, so I've read.  You can read more about that on Terry's blog, here.

I've got to do more investigating on this molting issue to see if this is what is happening to my hens.  If you've got good advice to share about your experiences raising hens, please share.

In the mean time, here are some tips I've read about keeping chickens cool in the high Texas heat.

  • Place ice cubes in the water to keep it cool and replace the water daily so that it is as fresh as possible.
  • Place the water up above the ground so that less dirt gets in it.  It's best to keep the water clean.
  • I use electrolytes/vitamins once a week to replenish the birds.  There is debate about the effectiveness of this.  It seems it is a matter of choice.  I know some people can't fathom the heat of my area and so find the supplements unnecessary.  For now, I'm giving electrolytes a try.
  • I place frozen water bottles in the run to cool things down.  The birds seem to push water bottles aside and lay in the condensation that's cooled off the ground.
  • As the heat increases, I plan on placing a boxed fan at the entry and just outside of the run to cool the birds.
  • I toss vegetables/fruit with a high water content to aide in hydration.  The gals love tomatoes and watermelon wedges so I feel that if they're not drinking as much, at least they're getting hydrated that way.  I do this sparingly, not as their sole diet.
  • We placed the pinned area for our birds in complete shade and in a spot good for a cross breeze.
  • I have a area of loose dirt for the hens to dust bathe.  I water this spot, sometimes, because the hens like scratching and settling into cooled ground.
That's all I've got for now.  Have a good day!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Three Bean Salad


When the heat is up, like it is in South Texas, I like to keep the kitchen cool.  Last night we grilled beef fillets and served them alongside salads.  I already got the Three-Bean Salad in the fridge, mixing it ahead of time so that the flavors had time to develop.  Okay, I added an additional variety of beans so lets call it a Four-Bean Salad to be clear.  This is a forgiving recipe and many substitutes and additions may be made.

Here's what you will need...

Ingredients
1 can Red Beans, drained and rinsed
1 can Cut Green Beans, drained and rinsed
1 can Wax Beans, drained and rinsed
(I added a can on Chickpeas which is not necessary, you could also try Cannellini or limas if you want)
3 to 4 stalks of celery with tops, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 small jar chopped pimentos
1/4 cup apple cider or red wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
*optional: chopped red or green onion, chopped dill or parsley.

Drain and rinse canned beans and add to a mixing bowl.  Wash and chop the onion and bell pepper; add to the beans.  Dump pimentos and mix into bean salad.

In a separate small mixing bowl whisk vinegar, sugar, oil, and salt & pepper.  You may want to taste the dressing before pouring it onto the salad so that you can adjust the salt, etc.  Pour over bean salad and toss to coat evenly.

Cover and place in the fridge for four or more hours before serving so that salad has the chance to fully absorb flavors.  If you don't have the time to marinate the salad before serving, it won't be the end of the world.  I completely understand digging in before the recommended eating time. ; )

Monday, June 11, 2012

Zatarain's Creole Breakfast Casserole


I made this breakfast casserole recipe for a friend's visit a few weeks back and was pleased with the results.  I forgot to take a picture at the time, but luckily she returned the favor and made the recipe when I visited her this weekend and I remembered to remind her to snap a pic (the above picture is of the casserole she made).

I didn't follow the recipe exactly, but close enough.  Here's what you'll need...

Ingredients
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 cups chopped andouille sausage (I used your standard breakfast sausage...cooked it with the onions and peppers once they'd gone soft)
5 cups French or Italian bread cubes
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon ZATARAIN'S® Big & Zesty Original Creole Seasoning


Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper; cook and stir 3 minutes or until softened. Add sausage; cook and stir 1 minute.

2. Spread 1/2 of the bread cubes in greased 13x9-inch baking dish. Layer with 1/2 each of the sausage mixture and cheeses. Repeat with remaining bread cubes, sausage mixture and cheeses.

3. Mix eggs, milk and Creole Seasoning in medium bowl until well blended. Pour evenly over bread mixture. Press bread cubes lightly into egg mixture until completely covered. Let stand 10 minutes.

4. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until center is set and top is golden brown. Remove from oven. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. 


**Recipe courtesy of zatarains.com; you can visit their site for other yummy Cajun and Creole recipes.

Nutritional Info per 1 serving

Calories: 324Sodium: 877
Fat: 20Carbohydrates: 17
Cholesterol: 157Fiber: 1

Sharing @ A Slice of Southern's Southern Sundays &  Ms. enPlace


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Painting Party



Here are some pictures of a fun evening at Tipsy Canvas in Corpus Christi.  You can bring your own drinks and snacks; in our case, wine and cheese.  You have a guide telling you where to start, what to do next, etc. which is exactly what this amature needs.  It was a fun way to get out with a good friend.  If you've got something similar in your town, try it out for something different.  I think we will be doing this again sometime!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dumb Dora Coffee Cake



I've wanted to make a Dumb Dora Coffee Cake for some time.  With a name like Dumb Dora, I just had to see what it was all about.  Names like "dumb Dora" and "lazy Susan" crack me up and I wonder how such names ever came about.  If I were a Dora or a Susan, I'd be highly offended. ; )

Well, this coffee cake was very tasty and so easy to make that even this dummy didn't mess it up.

If you'd like to have a recipe on hand to serve guests in a pinch, this is it.  The cake is easy to put together and the ingredient list is composed of your kitchen basics so you're sure to have the fixings on hand.

Here's what you'll need...
2 cups All Purpose Flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 scant tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup soft butter (1 stick)
2 slightly beaten eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.  Grease and flour two 8-inch pie pans or one 10 in. like I did.  I use Baker's spray that has the flour combined in the nonstick spray.

In a mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; work in the stick of butter with a fork or pastry cutter until crumbly (I use my hands to cut in the butter).  Remove 3/4 cup of crumb mixture for topping.

In a separate bowl, mix milk, eggs, and vanilla.  Pour liquid into dry ingredients and stir until all is combined.  The batter will be somewhat lumpy...no need to beat with a mixer.  Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and top with crumble topping.  Place in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Optional:  May cover cake batter with thinly sliced apples or peaches before sprinkling with crumb topping or may sprinkle cinnamon over crumb topping.

I had a few peaches from our tree and from the farmer's market so I peeled those and sliced them thinly to place on top of the batter.  I went hog wild and sprinkled cinnamon on top of the crumb topping, too, before popping the cake in the oven.  Hey, who said I can't be daring?!

I found this recipe courtesy of Sue McCarty in my Corpus Christi Republican Women's Club recipe book from 1984.  


Sharing @ Slice of Southern's Southern Sunday, Rattlebridge Farm's Foodie Friday, and  Ms. enPlace










Friday, June 1, 2012

Spinach Artichoke Baked Pasta Review


Here's another easy dinner idea from Pintrest, Spinach and Artichoke Baked Pasta courtesy of the Budget Savvy Diva.  We had a warm loaf of French bread, cheeses, wine, and a salad to complete our meal.  I also added pieces of cooked chicken breast meat to our pasta to satisfy the meat eaters in the family.

This reminds me of Spinach Artichoke dip turned into a meal.  I love it.

Ingredients

14 oz of Orecchiette Pasta ( or short pasta)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Cup of Chopped Onion
3 Cloves of Garlic ( Minced)
1 Cup of Sour Cream
4 oz of Cream Cheese ( Room Temperature)
3/4 Cup of Parmesan Cheese
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice + Zest
10 Oz of Spinach ( Make sure to squeeze excess moisture, after it has been thawed of course)
13.5 Can of Artichoke Hearts rinsed and chopped
1 Cup of Mozzarella
1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
1 Teaspoon of Pepper

What To Do
Preheat Oven To 425
Cook pasta according to the box. Keep 1/4 Cup of the Pasta Water before you drain the cooked pasta.
Heat oil in pan and cook onions for 8 – 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute.
In a large bowl – Mix Sour Cream, Cream Cheese,  Parmesan, Lemon (juice and zest), onions and garlic. Add Pasta and mix.