Monday, January 25, 2010

Shifting Gears

Well the votes have been casted, tallied and the Cookbook Club is ready to shift gears. It was time to move on from the Barefoot Contessa and The Pioneer Woman won by a landslide!

I’m not sure if you have heard all the raving reviews for Ree Drummond (or the Pioneer Woman, PW, as she calls herself), but I’m going to be taking my cooking from prissy to pioneer. The PW considers herself to be an “accidental country girl.” She lives on a ranch with her beloved husband (whom she calls “Marlboro Man” because of his looks) and 4 children. She does not consider herself to be a chef, but instead she is a mother who cooks for her family, takes pictures of the food and writes instructions for food preparation. The PW is inspiring with great love and devotion for providing for her family, the family business on the ranch, and most importantly God. On her blog, Confessions of a Pioneer Woman, she posts recipes, pictures, homeschooling ideas, and home and garden tips. She really is hilarious and I recommend checking out her site: http://thepioneerwoman.com/

Special note to our family blog readers back home in good ‘ole Nebraska- I really think that you all would love the PW! Every time I read one of her posts or see one of her pictures, I think about being back in Nebraska; you all might want to check this lady out and let me know if she is the real deal or not ;-)

After just flipping through her cookbook and reading about her online, the recipes from the PW are more realistic; I don’t have to be hosting a fancy formal dinner party to serve these dishes. She uses fewer ingredients, and ingredients that I have actually heard of; so in addition to being more realistic, I think it will be more hubby-friendly. “Marlboro Man,” the PW’s husband, is a rugged-rancher who claims to be a “steak and potatoes man,” and since this is also what Phil considers himself to be (with the exception of the rancher part of course) I think I’m going to have a much more enthusiastic taste-tester this semester. In fact, some of the recipes in this book are the exact same recipes that are some of our staple meals that I cook all the time, so I’m excited to find new ways to spruce up my old recipes. I already went through the cookbook to tag the recipes I wanted to start with first, and I think I tagged every page…hahaha!

With the last cookbook I needed to get tart pans (which I actually never purchased and I never attempted those recipes), but this time I think I’m going to break down and get the recommended cast iron skillet. I remember my mom having one when I was younger and always wanting one when I first got married. The PW uses hers a lot in her recipes, and since those skillets practically last forever, I should probably invest in one.

Some of the women in my smallgroup from church have already started cooking from the book and consider themselves to be “obsessed”. I have tasted some of their culinary masterpieces and I can’t wait to join the PW ranks!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Adios Barefoot Contessa

I was rushing to get as many recipes completed from Barefoot Contessa as I could before we switched over, and since tonight is the final hurrah, last night was my last official Barefoot Contessa evening in the kitchen…well for a while. I made smoked salmon tea sandwiches and the outrageous brownies. The tea sandwiches were by far the easiest recipe in the entire book. I used apple-wood smoked salmon and toasted 100% whole wheat bread. I didn’t serve it cold because I was too anxious to try it, but I think I will next time. This would be such an easy finger food dish for a bridal or baby shower.
Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches with Herb Butter, page 56

Everyone had been raving about the outrageous brownies and being a chocoholic, I knew that was one recipe I wanted to try before moving on. Since I didn’t have the gi-normous pan size that Ina recommended, my plan was to half the recipe. Well about half-way in I forgot that I was doing half of the recipe and used the full amount of eggs (6!), so I just decided to go back and do the full recipe; more chocolate always sounds better to me. But I forgot about the size of my pan until I put it in the oven…..In order for the middle to cook, I had to leave it in longer. When the edges looked like they were done, I put foil over them to keep them from burning. The edges came out a little crispier that I would have liked, but the inside was decadent and rich. I had never cooked with coffee grounds so I was nervous that the brownies would be a little crunchy, but they weren’t at all. I will probably try this dish out again but with a bigger pan.

Outrageous Brownies, page 172

Alright Ina, thanks for all the recipes and culinary tricks, but I'm putting you on the bookshelf for a while so I can learn some different cuisines (but don't worry, I’ll be back).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reality Checkpoint

Last weekend was our last weekend of Christmas vacation; back to reality or at least back to school. Are we ready? Never! Haha Is anyone really ever ready for vacation to end? I don’t think so! However, we do have a lot of new adventures that we’re looking forward to this semester.

The temperature last week got into the 60’s. Since it is still January I was hoping that it was a heat wave, but this week the temps got even higher into the mid-70’s! It seems like Houston is starting to climb the thermometer to summer and I need to start mentally preparing myself, as I am not a fan of heat.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Phil and I got our pictures taken (one picture was on our Christmas card), well here are the rest of proofs that we got a couple nights ago (there are more on facebook). The Hills did our pictures and they blew us away with their talent (thank you, a million times thank you!). They also made us a video of some of the proofs, check it out:http://animoto.com/play/VPe8oLNNVKC9IDdInSB6eQ?utm_campaign=share_email&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_email


Muffins

Considering that school started this week in our house, I wanted to make sure we had something quick to grab for breakfast as we were rushing out the door. I made these muffins from the Barefoot Contessa cookbook. I halved the recipe and got 10 muffins, which was the perfect number to get us through the week. I couldn’t find just plain granola at the grocery store and didn’t have time to make some, so I just bought a box of Nature Valley granola bars, and ground up one of the packages (2 bars/package). I ground the walnuts and granola pretty small for a subtle crunch. These muffins were simply the most scrumptious and fascinating, combination of moist and crunchy I have ever tasted. I will definitely be making these again and next time I might consider adding oatmeal or berries to the batter.
Banana Crunch Muffins, page 212
I also made a big pot of chili- one of Phil’s favorite dishes during football season. I usually like southern sweet cornbread to dip in my chili, but I was feeling adventurous this weekend so I made Paula Deen’s Green Chili Cornbread muffins from one of the cookbooks my dad gave me for Christmas. They were super tasty and went well with the chili; yum-o! I looked to find the recipe online to give you a link, but I couldn’t find it, so if you want a copy email me ;-)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Almost there

I’m almost finished with the Barefoot Contessa cookbook and this was one of my last full meals. Wahooo! I was nervous that we wouldn’t like the chicken because we aren’t big fans of ginger, but as it turns out this was a pretty tasty recipe. It was so good that I got the okay to make it again! As with most of Ina’s recipes, I only made half of the marinade and it seemed to be enough. Because I didn’t read ahead to see how long it should set, my chicken only marinated for about 45 minutes and I think that was long enough. I had made the couscous before and it was so easy, so I decided to make that while the chicken was in the oven. Great weeknight meal!
Indonesian Ginger Chicken & Curried Couscous

Monday, January 11, 2010

Rushing to Catch up

Since the cookbook club is getting ready to move forward with the new book I wanted to get as many recipes done from the current one before moving on; taking a month break put me a bit behind. For dinner last night I made the BBQ chicken, fingerling potatoes and the croissant bread pudding. All together this was a super fast meal to make. I was nervous to make my own BBQ sauce because I had never done that before but it really wasn’t hard. I will say, when Ina says there are a lot of ingredients, take her word for it! The upside to the many ingredients was that they were all generally things that I already had (with the exception of hoisin sauce, which was totally new to me). I think in the future I will use a little less vinegar so it’s less tangy. I had never heard of fingerling potatoes before, but I think I have a new favorite potato! This was my kind of recipe: put it on the stove and leave it! This required very few ingredients and little of my time. I used organic ruby crescent fingerling potatoes and they were delicious and creamy.
BBQ Chicken, BBQ Sauce and Fingerling Potatoes page 120 & 159
Following dinner I served the croissant bread pudding. To be honest I have never liked bread pudding in my life until I tried some at the first Barefoot Contessa Cookbook meeting. Someone made it and it was delicious. We are having another meeting so I decided to bring this dish, but I wanted to practice before I offered it to the public (a personal rule). Not being the biggest raisin fans, I omitted those but I agree with whoever recommended substituting them with chocolate chips (or even butterscotch chips) and will try that next time. I sprinkled a little bit of powdered sugar on top and it was delicious- even better this morning for breakfast ;-)
Croissant Bread Pudding page 192

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hiatus

My exploratory cooking hiatus is over. I’m back from the traditional recipes of the season and I’m looking forward to trying some new recipes. In light of new years, we’re back on a super healthy kick (hopefully this will last longer than it did last year hehe). I was given a lot of new cookbooks for Christmas (people seem to know me pretty well) and I have been anxious to dive into those recipes and make them my own. In addition, the cookbook club I am in is about to venture to a new book and potentially a new chef to follow, so I’m at the perfect place to start sample from other books. However, since I have become very fond of Mrs Garten these new recipes are also by Ina but from her Back to Basics cookbook. I made the Coq au vin (a French chicken stew) and the garlic ciabatta bread. Since we are expecting an arctic blast in the next few days I figured what better way to snuggle up with my hubby than with a warm bowl of stew?
Coq au vin and garlic ciabatta bread with a baked potatoAdmittedly, yes I do still have all my Christmas stuff out; I just hate to take it down! But so that I don’t burn the place down I assure you that it’s all coming down this weekend and my January d├ęcor that I was working on before Christmas will go up. I promise!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy New Year

May you have a blessed new year! Phil and I are looking forward to what God has in store for us in 2010!
Me in front of the tree getting ready to ring in the new year

Happy New Year from the Hawleys!

Christmas with the Griswolds… I mean Hawleys

If you know of the movies with the Griswolds, you’re familiar with how Clark (the dad) plans for an event/vacation and no matter how much preparation went towards the vacation there is always something that doesn’t quite goes as planned. Well this was how our vacation started. The original plan was to fly into Baltimore visit with some friends, and then rent a car and drive to Richmond the next day to be with my family before driving back north to Pittsburgh to be with Phil’s family. Well apparently God had a different plan for us. Instead, when we flew into B-more (via Southwest Airlines, which by the way really do love your bags and Phil for the first time ever had enough leg room!) we realized that the reason there was so much mid-day traffic in B-more was because the east coast was expecting a blizzard (not “snow storm,” but “blizzard”). Since many times the east coast meteorologists are way off, we decided to go on with our plan and go to our friend Katie’s house. We had a great evening at the Baltimore Aquarium, had dinner out, and visited with some friends from college in Towson, but around 1am the snow started. When we woke up at 8am, there was already 8 inches of snow on the ground and we could tell that there was more to come. We raced around Katie’s house throwing stuff in the car so that we could hit the road and try to beat the storm to Richmond; thank goodness Katie filled our car with snack because little did we know how much we would need it. We said a prayer and started driving our rented Lincoln Towncar (which is a story all in itself, but basically it was quickly obvious that Phil couldn’t fit into an HHR) towards Richmond. Thank God Phil is really familiar with how to drive in the snow especially with a rear-wheeled drive car without chains or spikes! I was so scared and praying the entire time that God would get us home safely and give Phil the wisdom he needed to get us home. We had to stop every 10 miles or so to knock the ice off of the windshield wipers, and every time we stopped I was scared that we wouldn’t be able to start back up. For a while we were counting the cars that were fishtailing, spinning out, and wrecking, until the snow go so dense that we couldn’t even see but a few feet in front of us. The white out was so dense that we couldn’t even read the signs on the side of the road to see where we were. The snow was about 16 inches deep at this point and we decided that after 4 hours trying to get to DC (only 50 miles) that we should probably stop but because of the white out we couldn’t even see if there were buildings on the side of the road for a hotel. We couldn’t take most exit ramps because either they hadn’t been plowed yet or they were uphill (there was no way our boat car could go up hill without spinning out). But it was getting really bad, so we prayed that the next exit that we came to would be the one for us. When we got to the next ramp it was a plowed flat exit ramp; praise the Lord! When we drove up to a stop light we realized that we were at Tysons Corner, a big shopping area near DC, which would have to have some hotels. We tried to go straight through the light but our car wouldn’t go an inch further. It was as if God was saying, Ok Hawleys, this is as far as I want you to go. We could vaguely see a building to the right of us but didn’t know what it was. When we got inside we realized it was the Ritz Carlton Luxury Hotel. Phil and I looked at each other and immediately thought: there is no way in this storm that they have a room available, let alone a room that we could afford. Well again, God was watching out for us because not only did they have a room but because of the situation they gave us a $800/night room, for $150 plus free parking!!! In addition, which we couldn’t see because of the white out, the hotel was attached to the D.C. Galleria so we got to finish our Christmas shopping and get some exercise! Praise the Lord for taking care of us!!! In our affordable and luxurious hotel room we got to do what I think is the best activity for snowy weather: observe its beauty from the inside! Next to the fireplace we had a lovely lunch and watched Christmas movies that we had been too busy to watch in the weeks leading up to the vacation. While our plans don’t always unravel as we had expected, sometimes God has something better in mind for us, and I have to say I did not mind spending my 25th birthday locked up by the fireplace at the Ritz Carlton with lots of shopping; no complaints from me!

The next day the 20 inches of snow had been cleared for the most part and we continued our journey to Richmond. The rest of the vacation was smooth sailing! In Richmond we visited with family, had birthday and Christmas celebrations, visited Ashland (the center of the universe & probably my most favorite place on earth), and finally got to meet beautiful Lexi (born in August). Two days later we were back on the road driving north through the gorgeous mountains to West Virginia. For Christmas we spent time sledding, watching “A Christmas Story” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and playing with our nieces and nephews. The funniest gifts we got were from Micah, our nephew, and Kellyn, my sister. Micah got Phil a rope so that he could “lasso the cows in Texas.” And Kellyn said that of everyone she has given this to as a “gag gift” I could actually pull it off because I live in Texas; sadly, I think she might be right. Kellyn got me a set of Bump-its hahaha! https://www.bumpits.com/?MID=538365

In our Christmas letter I mentioned that we were wishing for snow over the break. This became a running joke throughout the vacation because of how good at making wishes I am. In the future when I make a wish I will be sure to be more specific (i.e. wish for 1-3 inches of snow instead of 1-3 feet and not on days when we’re traveling). But to bring this all together, no matter how many curve balls were thrown, the Griswold family enjoyed their time together; the same was true for us. No matter how many things went totally against “our plan” it was awesome to be going against the grain together. I love being with my family and there never seems to be enough time during the holidays. We’re getting ready to face the long stretch until we see our families again so that will be tough. Though your plans may have deviated a bit, I hope everyone had as wonderful and exciting Christmas as ours!
Our room at the Ritz

Watching the snow come down outside and then looking through a glass door to see the accumulation.

Finally, home-sweet-home in Richmond

Me goofing off in front of the tree & with santa (clearly I'm never serious for too long).

The snow in WV and Phil ready to go sledding.

A Quarter of a Century

Yes the rumors are true, we are now both a quarter of a century old….and from all the cake, now we are on a serious diet (thank goodness that we didn’t slip into a diabetic coma from all the cake and us being so old and all). Someone told us that we sleep for 25% of our lives and if we live to be 100, then we have done all the sleeping we need for a lifetime and now it’s like we’re being born again…..I like that perspective much more than being “a quarter of a century old”
For my birthday my mom or my sister always bake my favorite pumpkin pie!
Phil and I blowing out the candles on our birthday cake at my mom's house.
Phil cutting his birthday cake

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"Here We Go"

While home in Pittsburgh, Phil and I went to the Steelers-Ravens game. In case you didn’t know, we’re huge Steelers fan (i.e. wear only yellow and black on game day, only purchase Heinz products, etc). Phil typically considers my cheering …(how do I say it?)….. “embarrassing;” I, on the other hand, simply consider myself to be “passionate” :-) Anyways, we had great seats and had an awesome view of not only the field but also of the city. The weather really cooperated with us and it wasn’t too cold. While this wasn’t my first NFL game, it was my first game in Steeler Nation and it was definitely an experience I won’t forget and can’t wait for the next game. Go Steelers!


*Sidebar- our good friends delivered their first baby girl on this day. It was a very very good day! Congrats Elams!

Anniversary

Over the holidays we celebrated our 2 year wedding anniversary! We’ve accomplished so much in these short 2 years and I’m so proud of us. I can honestly say that I’m even more in love than the day we got married. Love you Phil!
Us Dec 29, 2007…

and us December 29, 2009.

Phil showing the snow from our wedding…

…and me showing the snow from this year.

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