Spring things

This week it’s back to cooking and enjoying spring.  I have to post this beautiful picture of blue bonnets because they are amazing.

bluebonnets

Again it’s time to host a dinner get together with 3 friends (I party so hard).  I wanted to do this floral arrangement I saw on pinterest.  I saw some tulips and thought how cool it would be to do this arrangement with Peeps and lemon drops.  I’m a good copier.  The arrangement turned out cute.  I had to get some more tulips and peeps to complete it once I figured out to use a cake/punch bowl for the base.  And then I realized how needy tulips are.  They require an entire cup of water a day.  I don’t think these are going to last a week.  It’s been 3 days, maybe they will last 5.  Both my husband and daughter were horrified I used peeps because they are full of sugar and they are worried about ants. Which is definitely cause for concern, especially here.  So far we are ant free.

floral

My big thing was the dessert.  I made the same carrot cake cup cakes which turned out cute last year and I thought were pretty good.  They are made from scratch and have pineapple, applesauce and carrots in them and oh yeah a ton of sugar.  Then they are surrounded with toasted coconut.  The rest of the meal wasn’t as intense.  I made a tortellini BLT salad and served, well salad with it and bread.  LOL, they are so kind saying they liked it, but I don’t know.  I like the BLT salad, it has the cheese tortellini, spinach and cherry tomatoes with a ranch dressing.  The salad was one of those from the bag, it had some kind of  vinaigrette and sunflower seeds in it.  And the rolls were yeast rolls that did take about 1 and 1/2 hours to make.  I’m not really sure they even liked the cupcakes, but what the heck.  We got into the hot tub and chatted for a while !  No one even wanted wine.  What a shame!  I really like fish and not many people here in Texas like it.

However, I did make an AMAZING rainbow trout yesterday.  I didn’t take a picture of it, but it really was good.  The guy at the meat counter gave me this beautiful piece of fish for free.  I thought it was salmon, but he said it was trout.  And I said I have never had that, so he said try it for free.  I put salt and pepper on it and then dredged it in flour.  Then dipped it in egg and coated it with a mixture of panko, almonds and dill.  After it browned in a pan, I put it in the oven with some carrots and asparagus coated in olive oil and rosemary.  Wow!  What a meal.  We squeezed lemon on it and I mean, I don’t think I could have had a better meal here in suburbia.  At least a fish meal.

So excited for next weekend’s tennis tournament, an upcoming wedding and the MS150! April is going to be a great month!

 

Advertisements
Spring things

Happy Valentine’s Day

What comes to mind for me when I think of Valentine’s Day is dinner, chocolates in a heart shaped box and flowers!  And when I was a kid the little valentine cards we would bring for our class mates.  I think it is a sweet gesture to say something kind to your classmates especially when  you are really young.  Going out to dinner is crazy now a days. Most places are packed with a long wait unless you have made reservations well in advance.

Valentine’s Day is on a Tuesday this year.  It’s definitely a night in for us.  So I decided to decorate the table.   The family noticed right away and while it’s not the decor I would like all year, it is fun to have it for a couple of days.  It was cheap too  (and maybe a little cheesy).  I think they like the little extra sparkle that comes around this day and definitely the chocolates!  Although my daughter says, “that is so extra”. And yes, it’s extra special for you 🙂

valentines-day

Looking through Pinterest I found some cute heart shaped meals.  We did a heart shaped pizza last year.  I like to try different things.  Chocolate covered strawberries will be for dessert!

I decided to do a little adult craft while looking for heart shaped cookie cutters, I saw a bunch of corks in my drawer.  I’m certainly not great at crafts and probably spent too much time messing with this today when I had so much to do.  But oh well, sometimes you have to bring the creative out.

cork-heart2

If you love your family by cooking for them, then maybe you can appreciate this plan.  We are starting the day with heart shaped cinnamon rolls and red sprinkles!  For my daughter she will get her belated Valentine’s breakfast tomorrow.  Fried heart egg (using a heart shaped cookie cutter for the yolk).  For dinner, pasta carbonara for the boys with salad, heart shaped garlic rolls (using frozen dough) and salad with heart shaped cucumbers.  My daughter and I will have salmon salad.   And to start the day each of the kiddos get a box of assorted chocolates with a special Valentine’s day note.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I read the history, one story is that St. Valentine performed wedding ceremonies for soldiers during a time that was forbidden for soldiers to marry.  St. Valentine is said to be a Christian and healed children.   True or not, I’m thankful for the celebration of love.  ❤

Happy Valentine’s Day

Taste in Texas

One thing about Houston is the amazing diversity in available food options.   Just because we live in Texas doesn’t mean it’s just BBQ.    As in most big cities, I’m sure, you get a really nice diversity.  You do at least in Houston, especially downtown.   You can get African, Indian, Chinese, Mediterranean, Cuban, Venezuelan, German, Cajun and of course Mexican it goes on!   Believe it or not Houston is famous for Czechoslovakian Kolaches (breakfast food).   Downtown has more specialty grocery stores and more choices for people interested in vegan and organic healthy choices.  I have noticed in the more rural areas, it becomes harder to find the variety.  In Livingston in particular, you can get hamburgers, fried chicken and fried catfish there are not many restaurant choices.    With the expense eating out, I’d rather eat at home anyway.

I’ve probably mentioned my daughter and I like to eat healthy.  She texted me today a picture of a dish that she got from Ruggle’s Green which has some amazing dishes.  I had some salmon in the fridge and thought maybe I’d make my own dish.   Her cost, $16 . Mine, less.  I think the salmon was around $3-$4.  And I only used a portion of the veggies.

Can you tell which is the restaurant version?  I could have added some crushed pistachios and maybe a little shredded parm. some hummus with pita triangles if I really wanted to be fancy.  (But I had already had some nuts earlier).  Anyway, it was VERY satisfying.  The salmon was baked with feta, chives, cilantro and a lemon vinaigrette.

My son and husband ate What-a-Burger.  A Texas legend!  Interestingly enough my son gets the chicken.  He also refuses vegetables except potatoes and occasionally broccoli.  The only fish he will eat is fried.  I ask him all of the time what do you want to eat?  This week, his breakfast request was Pop Tarts.  I have bought them in the past, but my daughter’s non GMO ways are rubbing off on me.  Really it’s more about the ingredients in our food.  I disagree with her on several things.   I think it’s necessary to make modifications to grow more to feed more (farmers have been doing it for years).  But, to her point, there have been some unsafe additions to the food supply that have been pulled out like transfats.

Anyway, I told my son that  I didn’t think Pop Tarts were nutritious.  What if I make “Pop Tarts”.  He made a face that indicated he didn’t like that idea, but I’m going to do it anyway.  My daughter and a friend did a school project with home made “healthy” Pop Tarts and entered a State contest.  They didn’t win, however, the younger generation’s trends may prevail eventually.   I hope the healthier ones will anyway.

So where did I go? Pinterest of course!  How does homemade compare to the real deal?  Nutritiously, there is nothing nutritious about it!  It’s a desert.  I compared a chocolate fudge Pop Tart to a home made Nutella tart.  For the Pop Tart, it’s 400 calories for 2, 10g of fat, 38 grams of sugar, 5 grams of protein, 74 grams of carbohydrates and 460 milligrams of sodium.  Cost about $3.68 which has about 3 servings (6 tarts).  The home made ones are 320 calories for 1!  Oops!  Come on though!  If they  don’t taste good what’s the point?  I’d rather make them 1/2 the size and taste better if I’m going to compete on the calories.  Cost, it’s about $5.19 …ouch.  I’m not doing good here…  I made tarts that are more expensive and have more calories. I used pie crust for the pastry.  I am going to try some homemade preserves as a filler (at least that is real fruit and should have a little more nutritional value).  Anyway, it was fun.  They do taste better and have about 1/2 the sugar . For $5.19 I can at least get a variety.  And the preserves were a gift.

poptarts

Taste in Texas

Will someone please eat my food?

Maybe it’s not the best to write when you are irritated.  I got this really cool pot for Christmas, it’s a Tagine.

tagine

In it  you can make some amazing stews where the meat comes out so tender.  What is so special about this pot is that you cook on low, the juices stay in the pot and there is no overflow.  There is enough room for the air to rise, but it doesn’t need to escape, keeping all of that moisture in.  Once I got the new pot  I instantly thought, wow we are going to put an end to the “what’s for dinner questions” for a while!  My sister-in-law suggested some recipes and I was eager to put them to the test.  First up, chicken masala, then carne guisada.   Chicken breast doesn’t take that long to make, but the sauce takes at least an hour.  And of course you need to marinate your meat for at least 4 hours.  I made this dish, thought it was pretty good and my audience thought it was ok.  Hmmm, well cereal is ok too and it doesn’t take any effort to prepare.   Next up carne guisada, this is a Mexican stew dish.  I thought maybe this really should go in the crock pot because it takes 6 hours, but after reading the recipe online from a person who didn’t have a crockpot, I thought, ok in the tagine it went.  It took all day for this recipe to cook and when it was ready, I excitedly put a plate together for the fam with churro beans and a tortilla.  One said it was good, the other suddenly developed a loss of appetite.  What the heck?  This one that lost his appetite can eat boat loads of Chick-fil-a, What-a-burger and Popeyes.  (His culinary preference).  No problem, I have a bunch of left overs and there will be no need to hit up these places tomorrow because we have food.

Lastly, on my self pity rant, a note about my child who will not eat meat (but will eat seafood).  I get so tired of hearing I want food for dinner.  So, I decided to come up with a recipe for this child to eat.  Think about it, no asking, just a meal prepared for you hot, fresh, home made. Instantly I was asked what it was that I was making.  I responded coconut shrimp, it’s actually in a sauce and served over rice.  It was neither Indian or Thai.  This child (who is an adult) asked for something else instead of my plan.  I said the kitchen was open for her to make whatever.  I am willing to make the dish I purchased the items for.  Here is a decision point.  Do you make the dish you planned to make, or skip it because it was met with some resentment?  Spoiler, made the dish and it is met with total protest.  So, do you waste the time effort and energy making food?  At least I know I have a meal prepared for tomorrow, lunch for me.

shrimp2

So my exciting sudden interest in cooking time consuming dishes has been satisfied and I don’t need to do it anymore.  The fam is fine with fast food and cereal.  Lesson learned.  I know that my food is not bad.  I would admit it if it was awful.  I just have these really picky people, lucky they are able to be so picky.  Of course I would like some additional recognition that the food is better than the usual if I put forth the time, effort and energy that the food prepared is better than usual.  Short cut methods are just as good if not better in some instances.

I have a friend that says she can’t cook.  This is non-sense.  Some things are a hit some a miss.  Again, I really think the dishes I made were really good.  My favorite show is Naked and Afraid.  If you have ever watched it, two people are dropped in a location and they have to find, shelter, water, food, protection for 21 days.  Most starve themselves for the 21 days because they are unable to hunt or find food.  I’m sure these people would be really happy to eat what I prepared.  So that is what I am going with, someone would LOVE what I make.

Will someone please eat my food?

Fall Cooking

With the lower humidity and the absolutely gorgeous sunny 75 degree day, how can you not be fall inspired?  I wanted to cook something different for our Sunday dinner.  (the usual is spaghetti) .  Pinterest, as I have mentioned is my go to place for anything cooking and I saw a recipe for gumbo !  I’m a very small bit Cajun if you claim having lived in Louisiana 🙂  My very Texan husband says that it does not count. Anyway, I’ve always heard you start with a roux.  The roux takes patience.  Like 30-45 minutes of patiently stirring until you have a light brown mixture that turns dark brown.  For me, this is no problem with a good bottle of wine.  Yep, easy passing of time.

So the roux recipe called for 1 cup of flour and 2/3 cup of vegetable oil.  Of course we only had 1/3 cup of vegetable oil.  As it turns out you can use any fat. So I added olive oil.  The picture on the left is what you start with, then 40 minutes later you get the picture on the right.

rouxrouxdarkI thought the gumbo came out a little bland.  So I kept adding Tony Chacheres.  I even added a little Tabasco sauce.  My son thought it was great and my husband says it was too spicy!!  The end result looked like the picture at least!

gumbo

It might have been a little better if I had used homemade broth.  And the recipe suggested “Joe’s Stuff Cajun Seasoning”.  Which I have never heard of.  I love a good gumbo.  This one had andouille sausage, chicken, shrimp, onions, green pepper and celery.   At least this one was made from the  heart with the best intentions!  That’s how it is around here.  I have a picky bunch.  My husband and son eat pretty much meat with very little vegetables and my daughter eats vegetables and fish only.  I would prefer to eat like her, but I do have the boys as I call them to feed as well.  My daughter commented on the huge mess that is left behind. There are three pots to clean and bowls and cutting boards to clean and put away.  I think I get an “E” for effort…there is some self validation!  Here is the thing, at least I know what was in my gumbo.  We went to a restaurant in Galveston and my nephew ordered gumbo.  Let’s just say that the ingredients are not what I would put in my gumbo.  I love my family, and will always try to make things they will enjoy. Somethings are a hit and some things are a miss and that is just life.  I have a friend who says she can’t cook.  Nonsense!  Anyone can cook.  Not every dish has to be perfect.  If you are hungry enough, you’ll eat 😉

 

 

Fall Cooking

Wildtree – Get your grill on results…

What I liked about the Wildtree Get Your Grill On Work shop the most was the fact that I had 2 full chicken“work” weeks of meals planned for the family.  They were easy to prep.  It took me a little getting used to pulling the meal out of the freezer, but I caught on quick.  The family enjoyed rating the meals.  I’m like really?  It seemed a little too easy for them to sit back and rate them when I did all of the work.  I’m glad they enjoyed it!  I didn’t get pictures of everything, but I will share some feedback.

Meal 1: Asian chicken skewers.  They rated it a 7, however of all the meals my family said it was on the bland side.  The reason is probably because they wouldn’t eat the peppers with it!  I served rice with it.

Meal 2: Steaks with the blue cheese “crown”.  The steaks themselves got an 8.  However I think they scraped the crown off.  I’m not sure why that didn’t work out.  My crowns looked weird (maybe it was me?).  I didn’t get a picture of that one.

Meal 3: was the Herb grilled shrimp skewers with angel hair pasta.  This was so simple to make and it got a 7. shrimp

Meal 4: Rodeo blue cheese burgers.  Now, my husband says no burger gets higher than a 7 and this was a 6.7, so isn’t that almost a 10?  I would think it is.  Didn’t get the pic.

Meal 5: Agave BBQ ribs.  I have to say. This was the best.   The ribs fell off the bone.  I cooked them in the crock pot all day and then transferred them to the grill and basted them with the sauce to give it that sticky texture.  It was so important to get exactly the ribsmeat specified, country ribs.  I had a little bone on mine.   We served it with beans and potato salad.  Yumm.
Meal 6: Rodeo chicken.  This was my favorite chicken.  The first night we served it with potatoes lyonnaise.  Then out of the left overs, I made a chicken bacon wrap that was very good.  Wish I took the pic.

Meal 7: Asian beef tips.  Now this was down right yummy.  I used stew meat, so I basted the meat with the sauce on the grill and then added the extra sauce (from the jar) as dipping sauce.  Stew meat is a little on the chewy side.  Superb! beef tips

Meal 8: Herb grilled chicken with fire roasted veggies.  So I skewered this.  I don’t know what it is with me but I like skewering the meat. I added cherry tomatoes because they make it pretty 😉  I served it with pasta.  The meat had really good flavor.  With the final two meals I need to make modifications.

chicken2

Meal 9: Turkey sliders..change up.  Ground turkey needs A LOT of seasoning to taste good.  I made empanadas instead of the sliders and added Sofrito sauce and potatoes.  It’s work but I think it’s worth it.turkey

Meal 10, grilled fish. My family doesn’t like grilled fish.  With that in mind, I’ve learned where to draw the line on forcing the issue.  I am going to use the fish (catfish) that I seasoned and make some of the fish blackened and the rest fried.

I like the idea of improvising.  Meats are versatile.  I accomplished getting my grill on, having meals prepped and tried a few new things.

Wildtree – Get your grill on results…

Party Get your Grill On

New businesses that pop up in suburbia never cease to amaze me.  They go like this, you get an invitation from a friend for a party.  I have been to Pampered Chef (cookware) and Thirty One (totes and bags) to name a few.  The party is a get together with friends with the goal of selling something for whomever convinced the friend to host the party.  And usually there is a benefit to the hostess in the form of free or a reduction in price of product.  This week I went to a Wild Tree party.  The idea is that you will have 10 meals for the family pre-prepped and ready to cook.  Most parties I go to do not have a commitment to buy anything.  This one has a pretty steep price just to go ($80) and what you get for that is six seasoning/sauces/oils and the recipe instructions.  I think that is pretty steep.  I’m game to try something new.    I’m a bit of a short order cook and I tend to go to the grocery store every day with no idea usually what I’m making for dinner.  So the thought that I can actually prepare ahead of time and have everything ready to go sounded appealing.  Of course if you have picky eaters, then a preset meal plan by someone else may pose a problem.  For me I don’t care.  It’s food right?  And it’s not like I’m trying to make it terrible.  Hey maybe the family will actually like to try some different things.  Most of the dishes sound pretty normal.

Beef, chicken, ribs, shrimp and fish.  I think my family can at least try it.  And if they don’t like it, there is always cereal.   So if it’s a big hit, I don’t know what I will do for an encore!

The prep work was pretty tough for someone who goes to the grocery store every day buying small amounts.  (I could so be European in this respect so I have heard).  I actually went to the store 3 times to get all of the necessary ingredients which were mainly meat and some vegetables.  Then I had to cut them and put them in bags to take to the party.  That was easily an hour.  Once there, we added spices/sauces and or oils and slapped a sticker to it.   That took a couple of hours.   I took it home and put it in the freezer.  Then I will take them out a day in advance and cook.  So I like the fact that there is no question to what is for dinner and everybody gets the same thing.  So yippee…nice to step outside of the box and try something new.

I hope the money spent is worth it.  I probably spent a couple of hundred dollars on the food, and for two weeks that is probably not bad.  Adding the additional $80 then eh, I don’t know.  There is so much meat for meals for my family I think I can even stretch it out a little further (maybe double).  Now that everything is in the freezer in individual bags that might be harder.  I’m happy to have this problem, believe me.

Wild Tree has a website and a catalog.  And the lady who was running the party made some appetizers with some of the stuff from the catalog so that you could try it.  There were mainly dips, and I really loved these avocado “fries”.   Their ingredients are all organic.  It’s not that I really care about that.  I try to pick foods that are identifiable which I think is good and then I make the assumption that crops probably need some kind of treatment to keep bugs off them and animals need to be healthy.  I’m really hoping that the treatments for both of these issues are safe for humans.  I tend to eat more fish than any other meat.

Anyway, we have a nice grill and I can’t wait to have a reason to use it.  It’s a nice way to take care of the fam!  ❤

wildtree2

wildtree1

Party Get your Grill On