Texas Easter

The blue bonnets are in full bloom.   We saw the most amazing sunset today passing by an enormous cross with the beautiful pastel colors in the sky.  As we were speeding down the road I couldn’t capture just how gorgeous it really was.

texassky

My husband stopped on the side of the road today between Houston and Austin as did about a million other people to take pictures in the wild flowers.  This is one thing I love about Texas.  The drive between Austin and Houston was mesmerizing looking at the wild flowers on a clear blue sky day with white puffy clouds.  I took a picture of Luna in the blue bonnets, she kept trying to eat them.

lunabluebonnets

I am so blessed to be with my family this Easter.  We had a nice lunch together to include pot roast, carrots, mashed potatoes, salad and an Easter cake for desert.  This lunch came out nice and definitely did not go as planned.  I threw out the first batch of frosting and the roast took way too long to cook…(3 hours late).  Still the end result was excellent.

easterdinner

This time next year, hopefully we will be in the new house.  Closing is now a couple of weeks away.  Yesterday I met with the design consultant.  My husband isn’t visualizing her suggestions, but I am in love with them!  We picked out a sectional and I went to the house to tape off the measurements.  I think it will fit fine.  There is an art at getting the right configuration of furniture in a room.

couch

couchlayout

We addressed the formal dining room again.  It helps to visit the space.  The chandelier has been moved so that it isn’t centered in the room.  In doing so we are going to need a smaller round table to get the chandelier in the center and have enough space between the chairs and the windows.  The 72 inch table would have been great for 8 people, that don’t live here!  The 60 inch table will fit perfectly and with 5 people, it fits our lifestyle.  I can use this room for just us and add a rectangular temporary table if we do a formal gathering.  I love this idea!  What my husband isn’t thinking is that whenever we had company over at our old house, we would try to squeeze as many people as we could around our 4 seat breakfast table.  Without a breakfast room, we are going to be using this formal dining room often!  I’m so happy to not waste this space.  This room is something I’m really looking forward to living in with family.

tab;e

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Texas Easter

January is Ruff

With most of the country in freezing temps, there hasn’t been much to do outside.  This is super frustrating, normally running in the cold isn’t a problem (upper 30s) below 30 is a too cold to do anything.   I guess working out in a gym inside is the solution.   I feel so bad not to move around!  This week has been about cooking and hanging with an 8 week old puppy who has exhausted me.   She does not like to be left alone.  Puppies are so cute and very demanding of time.   I went to potty training class today and will make a few adjustments to the potty training.

babylu

I removed the pad in her crate which I learned needs to be earned (given after no mistakes) .  I have all rooms that have carpet closed off.  In her pen I put potty pads all over the floor and will remove them one by one as a week goes by.   She is allowed out of the pen supervised for safety.  Next week she will have her 1st vet visit.  And the interesting thing I learned is for good socialization she needs to be introduced to 100 different people and dogs.  As I looked at the class that had dogs the size of a 6 month old German Shepard, I thought, how am I going to accomplish the socializing with a 1 lb spunky puppy?  Other dogs will have her for a snack!  This is the challenge for the year!

Staying at home this week with no tennis means more time for cooking for the family.  On this weeks menu?  Potato soup, stew, meatloaf with spaghetti, chicken tacos and chicken tortilla soup.  I grew up with meatloaf as a weekly menu item, we never had it with spaghetti.  This was a friend of my son’s idea, he has it all of the time.  Their family is from Mexico, so I looked up recipes that might have a latin flare.  I found one that had a sofrito base, onions, celery and carrots.  You cook the sofrito base add worcestershire and ketchup.  Then you add raw ground italian sausage and ground beef, panko and an egg.  I bet his mom used chorizo for sausage given that chorizo is in a lot of Mexican dishes, but I didn’t try it.  I put the meat mixture in a a loaf pan and 50 minutes later in the oven it was done.  My son loved it served with spaghetti noodles in marinara sauce.  I had it over spaghetti squash, (once you mix it all together) yum!

meatloaf

I was really excited that my daughter’s Christmas gift came in this week.  I wanted to help her cook her first meal in the toaster oven.  Her studio apartment doesn’t have an oven.  Sadly she wasn’t happy with the dials on the oven.  It is a Cuisinart which is a great brand, and it’s compact size which is important to conserve space.  I made her ziti (actually a recipe she found).  OMG that is really good.   To the pasta, I drenched it in my simple alfredo sauce (butter, whipping cream and Kraft parmesan cheese) then mixed the marinara with it and I added browned ground sausage. Then you just melt the mozzarella cheese in the toaster oven and it did that well!  I tried out toasting, all good.  And finally baking cookies!  It didn’t work at 350 degrees, the top of the cookies got too brown too fast.  I changed the setting to 300 and had perfect cookies!

toaster oven

January is Ruff

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!

 

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