Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall Has Arrived!

Last week was busy! I feel like I’m beginning to start every post in the same way, but last week really was busy; honestly! Phil took his first exam of the semester and did great! I worked on a paper for one of my courses and turned it in yesterday so hopefully I do as well as Phil. Friday night, to celebrate Phil’s awesome test score, we went to RA, our favorite sushi restaurant in Houston. As always it was delicious. Saturday Phil and I started the weekend at our work-outs (note, if we worked out together I would probably die, I just can’t keep up with him). On Saturday evening we were in a bake-off competition. Actually I think it was more of a “sweet-off” competition because any sweet treats could be entered. This was my first competition of this sort and it was really fun! There were 2 prizes, one for best looking and one for best tasting. We were ok with not placing because we still got to try all of the yummy treats.
The “Sweet-Off” Competition
Who needs dinner when you can fill-up on treats?!

Best in taste winner!

Best in looks winner!
As with last weekend, there was a lot of football watching this weekend. University of Houston, where Phil and I take classes, has not had a very good football team since we have been living in Houston. But a couple weeks ago something happened and they are awesome this year! The UH vs. Texas Tech game was so awesome to watch! Go Cougs!

Last week was the coolest it has been in Houston since March! We had a “cold front” come through here and the temperature high was only in the high 70’s!! It was awesome! I can’t believe that I’m going to say this, but I even got to wear long sleeves last week! Since it was cooler and I have been fighting myself on it for the past 2 weeks, I finally let myself decorate for the season. I’m not a big Halloween person, but I love the season of autumn so that’s mostly how we decorated. Once we were done, and I had lit all of the candles, it looked like I had built some sort of shrine to the gods of autumn haha just kidding, but seriously I might have gone overboard on the candles. Our house for autumn:
The Kitchen

The dining room

The living room (notice who is on tv!)
Last year for Christmas I gave Phil tickets to go skydiving, because he said that he has always wanted to do that. Well, we haven’t done it yet. When we saw tickets on sale for the Steeler-Ravens game at the same time that we will be home for Christmas, I told Phil that he could “cash-in” his skydiving tickets for the football tickets. Needless to say, Phil is very excited about the football game.
This will be the beautiful view of the Three Rivers from our seats in Heinze Field
This week starts the second annual Octoberstach in our house. The guys at Phil’s work shave off all of their facial hair on October 1st and grow it out for the entire month of October. Last year we got so many funny looks when we were out in public. I was a little hesitant about starting this tradition last year, but I can’t lie, it is funny! Most of the pregnant ladies in our smallgroup are taking pictures week-to-week of their growing bellies, I’m considering taking a picture of Phil’s moustache from week-to-week to monitor the growing process, hahahaha!
This is Phil at the end of October last year as a cop for Halloween. haha
Speaking of pregnant women from our smallgroup, Congratulations to the Bercaws on the birth of their new baby boy, Danial Isaiah, on September 25th.
Have a great week Hawley Blog Readers!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lobster (+Crab) Pot Pie in under 2 hours, for only $16.50!

In my cookbook club we have all been dreading the lobster pot pie recipe, not because of the difficulty but because of the cost. Well I managed to make this meal for only $16.50. Most of the ingredients I already had, which made this a much cheaper dish. However, I purchased only Kroger brand products to help keep the cost down. When I made the crab cakes the crab cost me a little over $8.00, so this time I got the crab and lobster that was in a pouch in the seafood section by the meat counter…so not the freshest but not in a can; somewhere in the middle. I figured if they were only $3.25 I would give it a shot. Below is my cost breakdown; I included all of the costs, even for the items that I already had (so technically this dish is even cheaper!). Notice though that I omitted fennel, pernod, and frozen whole onions (mostly because I couldn’t find fennel & frozen onions and I’m still clueless about pernod). Since I couldn’t find the fennel and frozen onions I included more seafood…who doesn’t love more seafood?!
Onion: $0.75
Butter: $0.25
Flour: $0.25
Clam Juice: $2.25
Salt: $0.05
Pepper: $0.05
Cream: $0.50
Lobster 8oz: $3.25
Crab 8oz: $3.25 (x2)
Peas: $1.00
Parsley: $0.05
Pie Crust: $1.50
Egg: $0.10
Total: $16.50!!!
Before I put the top crust on.

Right out of the oven.

Tips from my experience: To save time, I bought the piecrust dough, which comes 2 per pack, which is perfect for recipes like this one. For the parsley, I used 1 tablespoon of dried parsley flakes because ½ cup seemed like way too much! When I got to the part of the recipe that called for the clam stock, I realized that I had only bought 1 cup. So I just refilled the jar with water, shook it up and then added that water to the clam stock. It worked like a charm! I have two recommendations for preparations…In the recipe it says that there is “no need to defrost” the peas, I disagree because it adds too much water to the mixture. Just put the bag in the microwave for 2 minutes and then let the peas drain in a strainer while you’re preparing the rest of the dish. When baking the potpie, set the pan on a baking sheet in case some of the filling spills over (this prevents your oven from getting dirtier…and no one likes to clean their oven!). This was a delicious dish and I recommend trying it…. it’s fast and cheap! (I bet no one expected that comment for the Lobster Pot Pie!)
Yummy Lobster and Crab Pot Pie (page 132)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cookbook Club Updates

Last week the cookbook club blog was very busy! Every time I signed on there were 2-3 new postings with delicious dishes! Not only did all of the dishes look yummy, but everyone’s photography skills were amazing! I felt a little behind with my cooking so this weekend I tried to catch up.

I made the cheddar corn chowder (page 74) and the parmesan croutons (page 87). The chowder was very yummy! Phil told me many times that he really liked this recipe and it was his favorite so far. I followed this recipe fairly closely except for a few things. As I was cooking I began to notice how much I was cooking. This recipe makes way more than 10-12 servings. I only used 3 large onions and 9 cups of chicken stock because my large stock pot was over flowing. I had to cook the corn, cheddar (I used regular yellow cheddar because that’s what I had), and half & half in my crock pot because there was no more room for it on the stove. Once the chicken stock solution was finished I just added it to the corn mixture and let it cook on high for about 2 hours and then I let it simmer one low over night in the crock pot. This recipe is great, but I would cut all of the ingredients in half. Phil’s suggestion, if you have room of course, is to add cooked chicken instead of the bacon.
This is the corn chowder before the corn was even added... a very full stock pot!

Since the stock pot was so full, I cooked the corn mixture in my crock pot.

A splatter screen covering the stock mixture. Next to tongs...this is now my favorite kitchen gadget because it reduces my mess!

Cheddar Corn Chowder (page 74)

For the parmesan croutons, I used dried parsley instead of basil and they were so yummy in the soup. I wouldn’t leave them in the oven for longer than 10 minutes at 400 degrees because they could end up being too hard (too hard even for croutons!)

The croutons, before...

...and after! Parmesan Croutons (page 87)


So far I have encountered many ingredients that I have never cooked with before and I have enjoyed learning about them: capers, turmeric, clam juice, white wine vinegar, and eggplant. There have been 2 ingredients that I didn’t even know what they were so I omitted them out of the recipes: fennel and pernod.

I have added an icon on the side of my blog that is a link to the cookbook club blog that I contribute to if you’d like to check it out.

I didn't expect that to happen!?

Last week was a very exciting week; everything that we didn’t expect to happen, did. The theme for the week actually started on Wednesday night after small group. We were driving home and had just exited 610 and were stopped at a red light before turning onto Westheimer when I noticed a funky smell. I looked at the car next to us and told Phil, “I sure hope that is their car and not ours.” I really thought it was their car since their car was a much older model and we had just purchased our car. I mean that is logical right: a new car shouldn’t smell funky?! Then I began to see a little bit of smoke around my door, so of course I decide this is the perfect time to hang my head out the window to check it out further. But my smeller isn’t that good at detecting the origin of a smell so my investigation was incomplete. The light turned green and we decided to keep driving and if we got to the next light and the smell and smoke was still there, then we would do something about it. Well when we got to the next light we were certain that the smoke and smell was most definitely coming from our car. This was confirmed when the city bus pulled up next to us and the driver practically fell out of the window to tell us to get out of the car ASAP! So we followed the bus driver’s instructions and pulled over and got out of the car. Our jaws hit the ground as we stood there at 11pm watching our brand new car smoke……we were not expecting this. We thought my car that rattles and rolls would do this. So we called AAA had the car towed to the dealer and had to take some time from work the next day to deal with it. It turns out that our car has a bad part….but not just our car, every Mazda CX-7 made our year has a bad air compressor. I was looking online and there are numerous forums and blogs of people talking about how their cars blew up while they were driving or caused fatal accidents because of this part blowing up while they were driving down the highway. My obvious question was how many people have to get hurt for this part to be recalled?! I would expect a company to take care of that so no one else gets hurt. We were so lucky that nothing serious happened to us, and we are even more blessed because the dealer covered all of the expenses for the damage and labor to fix our car. So it cost us nothing, but we just were not expecting it and we were not expecting to have the repairs done at no cost.

More unexpected events came on Saturday and Sunday in the sports world. We were so excited to be going to go watch the Mayweather-Marquez (a huge comeback fight with a new leader in the boxing world). As big as the fight was, we could not find it playing anywhere in Houston. It was such a big fight and we thought that it would be showing everywhere, but it wasn’t. We will just have to wait until next week to watch it at home. In addition to the boxing world that Phil and I like so much, we of course are excited about football. This weekend all of our picks for games had unexpected results. Despite the teams that we were rooting for, there were several games that we thought the outcomes who be so different but we were so wrong.
The Mayweather-Marquez fight that we are going to have to wait and see when it's televised next weekend.
Our teams this weekend where we watched the unexpected happen.
Phil and I are in a bake-off of sorts this coming up Saturday and I wanted to practice over the weekend. We wanted to do something that everyone would love. We chose a Turtle Cheesecake. I mean who doesn’t like cheesecake?! Well, the unexpected happened with our own taste buds, we didn’t even like it! So we have to think of something different for the contest.
I feel safe mentioning it on the blog because I know that we won’t be entering this in the contest next weekend.
Aside from the car, sports, and cheesecake unexpected events, it was a fairly normal weekend. Phil has his first exam of the semester on Tuesday this week so he was been studying for that over the weekend and I was continuing to resist decorating the house for autumn (I have decided that I will do it next Saturday). So the lessons learned from this week, never forget that God may have the unexpected planned for you. Have a great week!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Eggplant-Potato Gratin

You will search and search and not find this in Ina’s book; this is a variation of the potato-fennel gratin (page 156) recipe. I was watching her show last week and she made an eggplant gratin and I decided that I wanted to try both so I mixed the two recipes together since they weren’t that different. Here is the recipe for the eggplant gratin: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/eggplant-gratin-recipe/index.html

I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and buttered my baking dish. I fried the eggplant like the online recipe suggests and let the paper towels soak up the oil while I mixed the other ingredients. In a bowl I mixed the heavy whipping cream, egg, ¼ cup ricotta cheese, salt, pepper, and cheese (instead of Gruyere or Parmesan, called for in the recipes, I used sharp cheddar because it’s more cost efficient and still has a strong flavor). I put the eggplant slices on the bottom of the dish and sprinkled cheese, salt, and pepper on top. Then I added about ½ of a cup marinara sauce (in the show Ina said that this doesn’t have to be homemade marinara sauce but it can be if you want it to be- mine was Prego). Then I put a layer of thinly sliced potatoes and covered them with half of the creamy mixture, and then repeated. Lastly, I sprinkled cheddar on top. I put it in the preheated oven for the first 15 minutes at 400 degrees and then I turned the oven down to 350 for 45 minutes. The preparation is really fast (maybe 20 minutes) and you have some wiggle room for the ingredients on doing more or less to fit your taste.

This recipe was really yummy! Normally I’m not too good with mixing and matching recipes, but this time it turned out pretty good and I would recommend the dish. This is a great dish to get little ones (or husbands) to eat their veges!

Eggplant-Potato Gratin (page 156 & Ina's website)- Fresh out of the oven

I served it with a fresh romaine salad with feta cheese and vinaigrette dressing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fall Is On Its Way!

While fall doesn’t technically start until September 22nd, last weekend certainly demonstrated all of the signs that summer is coming to an end and the beautiful season of autumn is about to begin. Now in Texas the signs of the season are not identified by the weather getting cooler or the leaves changing to the beautiful hues of red, orange, and yellow. Instead, fall is marked by football, and football is all encompassing sport in this state. Thursday was the first game of the NFL season and boy were we excited about that! The Steelers played the Tennessee Titans in a really close game that went into overtime. We started watching the game out with some friends from church and then watched the second half at home. It was extremely intense to watch, but so very fun!
After the intense game (on top of an exhausting work week) I fell asleep and Phil took this picture of me. I guess I'm even a fan in my sleep!
Friday night my friend Bella (her real name is Kristen Bellamy, but I never call her that) went to see the Phil Griffen Band. Bella went to RMC with Phil and me, and was in my sorority (Delta Zeta). She moved down to Houston about a year ago and we are very active in the alumnae chapter here. The chapter hosts an annual charity event to benefit our philanthropy and this year Bella and I are chairing the event. I say all this because that is why we went to see this band; we have hired them for the event and wanted to see them play. The band was great and I can’t wait until they get to play at our DZ benefit. On Saturday we went to check out the venue that we have booked. The event will be at the Historical Heights Fire Station and it is going to be beautiful! I will write another post on the actual event sometime soon.
The Phil Griffen Band played at Goode Company out on 290.
The band and the two-steppers. I did not two-step because I have yet to master that dance.
Saturday afternoon Phil and I spent a lot of time on homework, but managed to spend some quality time together making "Linner" (lunch and dinner). We had steak (when I say “we” I mean Phil hehe) and jumbo shrimp. Lately Central Market has been having some awesome deals. We got fresh, and natural meat for both of us for the price it would have been for one of us to order dinner out; crazy!
The grilled shrimp in rice pilaf with yellow and red peppers and feta cheese. I didn’t get the camera out fast enough for the steak.
For the entire day on Saturday I was forcing myself to focus on the things I needed to get done because I had so many distractions! The weather was a bit rainy and a few degrees cooler and there was football everywhere! I wanted to snuggle up on the couch with my book and some delicious coffee. I also was struggling to resist making a big pot of chili and pulling out all of my autumn decorations. While I managed to wait on the decorations….the chili could not! So on Sunday after church I made a yummy pot of chili and we watched football….like every single football game that was televised! It was a great weekend and the smells of the season are hear; my favorite time of the year!
Football season is just not complete without a large pot of chili!

The Hawleys wish you a great week!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Toughest Recipe Yet!

For my first official cookbook club recipe I wanted to pick something easy; something that would be tasty and I could not mess up ….. Well I picked the wrong recipe! I have to say that I attempted the hardest, most exhausting recipe I have ever tried! I wanted to make the crab cakes; I mean they looked so yummy in the picture!

The recipe preparation itself wasn’t all that difficult. I mean there were a lot of ingredients but nothing that was difficult or time consuming to prepare. The part that got me was the frying. I have fried things before so I was familiar with the challenges of frying things. If however you try this recipe and have never southern fried anything (like real southern fried, as in a family recipe from Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, or the Carolinas) then this will be a disaster. This is not the recipe to learn how to fry food. My problem was that the recipe said to make the crap cakes into bite size portions….well if I did that and left them in for the amount of time that the recipe called for then they charred, but if I made them any larger then they fell apart when I tried to flip them and ended up burning anyway. So I’m not sure how Ina thought that the recipe would make 26….I certainly did not get 26. It is possible that I had a hard time frying because of the various modifications that I made to the ingredients (see below). I feel like I might have to attempt this recipe again now that I know what to expect. I mean mine weren’t so bad because they were all still eaten in about 30 minutes….but I know that I can do better.

Tips for others doing this recipe….light a candle before you start because the smell of frying lingers and remember that hot grease jumps (wear long sleeves). The recipe says that the vegetables should be diced small. Do not overlook this step, take the time to make sure they’re small; you’ll be glad that you did. I was trying to be cost efficient with the crab meat. I checked to see about how much 8oz of fresh premium crab meat would be and then looked around for other deals. I checked out everything from frozen crab meat to caned and pouched crab meat. If I had bought frozen or canned I would have had to get numerous packages to get up to 8 0z which in the long run would have been more expensive than if I had just bought it fresh. So I went with the fresh crab meat.

All of the recipe ingredients



My crab cake recipe variations:
-I used regular table salt and pepper instead of kosher and freshly ground
-I used 3 tsp of dried parsley instead of fresh
-I added extra old bay to the crab mixture before adding the vegetables
-I used EVOO instead of olive oil
-In the recipe it called for “good mayo”. To me that’s an oxymoron; is there such a thing as “good mayo”? And if there is, does the “good” refer to the taste or the health component (because I’m certain that I have never experience “yummy” or “healthy” mayo)? Needless to say since I couldn’t figure this out, I just used what we had, regular mayo and I don’t think it affected the flavor at all.

My remoulade sauce recipe variations:
-This recipe also called for “good mayo”, but I reduced the amount of mayo because it looked like way too much. In fact I think less mayo improved the flavor.
-I used drained dill relish instead of diced pickles
-I added a bit of old bay seasoning to help it match the crab cakes.

Crab Cakes and Remoulade Sauce page 44

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Weekend

We had a fabulous Labor Day weekend. On Friday night we went to an Astros baseball game with some friends. We sat about 15 rows back, behind home plate! I have never sat so close in a baseball game that I could see every players' facial expression.

The view from our seats

Us at the game

After the Astros won the game, there were fire works. While they were taking the roof off of the ballpark to set-up for the firework display, there was an eating contest. This contest wasn't just for the normal, run-of-the-mill eater. This contest had some serious eating competitors. If you follow the famous Coney Island 4th of July Hotdog Eating Contest then you would know of many of the competitors there. The 2 time winner from Coney Island, Joey Chestnut, was there along with his arch rival, Pat Bertoletti. In this particular contest the contestants had to eat as many kolaches in 10 minutes as possible. This was not a pretty contest to watch, but Joey Chestnut ate 45 kolaches, beating Bertoletti by 3. I'm glad that the fireworks were so good to help me forget the kolache eating contest details.

Taking the roof off of the stadium

Kolache eating contest

Fireworks

On Saturday, Phil went brewing with a friend (it entertains me to think of Phil as a chef hehe) and his wife came over to our house. Us girls went to the pool, while our hubbies were cooking. Since they were in the kitchen all day (like 8 hours!!!), we decided to make them dinner. Central Market was having an amazing special: ribeye steaks that were normally $16.99 per pound were only $5.99 per pound! We picked up some steaks for the men and some fresh salmon for us. For our appetizers we made jalapeno poppers and a Jarlsberg cheese spread. Since we are both in the cookbook club we figured that we should choose some dishes to cook from the book. So with our main course we grilled fresh vegetables and made Parmesan Smashed Potatoes.

Some of the ingredients the guys were using to cook with....looks like Christmas ingredients, doesn't it?!

Grilled vegetables- page 166. (This is a fool-proof recipes that is open to the chef's personal taste. We used squash, zucini, portabello mushrooms, and asparagus. Yum-0!)

Parmesan Smashed Potatoes-page 158 (This recipe has a lot of fatty ingredients in it. We left out the butter and the half-and-half. In the future I don't think I will do that, but instead follow this recipe a bit more closely for taste.)

After church on Sunday we went and played tennis (it was so hot!). After all the running around in the heat we came home and moved to part 2 of the Rocky marathon. I have not seen the Rocky series, which appears to be a cardinal sin in our household, so I decided that I would start getting to know this Rocky character. Last week I watched Rocky 1 and this Sunday I watched Rocky 2...so I'm well on my way to being a Rocky expert. We ordered a pizza and called it a day. On Monday, Labor Day, we did a lot of chores. That's something that I love doing on federal holidays. I know we are supposed to use the time to rest and remember...but I never do that. For some reason I always think that those days off are better spent working because no one else is, in theory of course. I'm not sure why I think that, I just do. Anyhow so we got a lot of stuff done around the house, went to the gym, and did a lot of work for school. Right before we had dinner, we got in the pool for about an hour just to cool off and enjoy the day. For dinner, (Phil loves "left-overs," and I wont say that I don't, it's just that they get boring to me) I took the left-over grilled vegetables from our Saturday night cookout, sliced them smaller, added some lean beef, and wheat rice and wa-la, we had stir-fry.

In addition to the grilled vegetables (page 166) being tasty on their own, they are also yummy when used in a stir-fry.

All-in-all we had a great Labor Day weekend and are ready to start the new week!




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