Monday, February 28, 2011

I built the ones on the floor

Here is a picture that I took of the bookshelves right after we renovated the office in summer 2009. There are 4 white book cases in a row. Phil built the 2 on the right in Virginia when we were in college, & I put the 2 on the left together one night when I had insomnia. I was so proud of myself & I even screwed them into the wall so nothing could ever possibly happen. And nothing did happen....until last week. Phil was sitting in his recliner & I was blogging in the dining room. Everything was at peace in the Hawley house....until I heard Phil yell, “uh oh!” From his recliner he could see 2 of our large book cases fall forward in the office with a big crash. No one was jumping, there were no pets to knock it over, there was no real reason for them to fall forward. But the 2 on the left, the only 2 screwed into the wall, fell forward. Waaa! Aside from having to reorganize the books, there were only a few things broken, some apothecary jars with sea shells & some candles. No real damage, but it certainly was humorous to see my “sturdy” bookshelves come crashing down. I guess I better leave the crafting around here to Phil.
This is after Phil picked up the now empty book cases & we cleaned up most of the books & glass. It still looks like this by the way.

The Sweetest Distraction

I will be up-front & completely honest: I’m obsessed with PW. But I guess if you haven’t picked up on that already, then I don’t think you read our blog enough ;-) With that said, PW’s new book went on sale Feb 1st & I had mine pre-ordered months before; I was so anxious for it to arrive. This book is truly the sweetest distraction I have ever had: I stayed up too late to read, I was late to things because I was reading. I reread & reread this book because it’s hilarious. I don’t remember the last time I was this sad that a book was over; I wanted the story to go on forever. If you have not read a good book in a long time, if you’re planning a trip & you need reading material, if you’re getting your summer reading list ready, if you have “too much to do” & need a distraction, GET THIS BOOK! I promise you won’t regret it.
Here is the cover, but the book is even pretty with the book-jacket off.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

First Impressions

My 2 new cookbooks arrived a week ago & I have spent some time going through the books to tag the recipes that may entertain my taste buds. The first book I ordered was The Best 30-Minute Recipe that my cookbook club just voted on for the semester. This is my first journey with Cook’s Illustrated, & so far I feel like it is the most entertaining textbook I have ever owned (and I have a lot of textbooks). As I was flipping through this “textbook” I learned so much! In addition to the 300 recipes (which have been tested over & over again), shortcuts & techniques to speed up preparation & cooking time without minimizing flavor, as well as the best cooking products for the money to help you out in the kitchen were sprinkled throughout. So educational! By the time I finally finished reading, I realized that I had tagged almost every recipe. (Very ambitious of me, but let’s see how many actually get done. Ha!) My favorite part of the book so far is the entire section devoted to turning leftovers into something else. Was this book written especially for me?! Adios leftover boredom! I also ordered Screen Doors & Sweet Tea: Recipes & Tales from a Southern Cook by Martha Foose. This book was a big contender for the cookbook club, & honestly, I really just fell in love with the title so I had to order it even though it didn’t win. This cookbook is definitely a storybook & a cookbook. With each recipe there is a subtitle to initiate a conversation between Foose & the reader. Her subtitles stem from a personal story, a story that makes you want to tackle every single recipe- she’s very charming like that :-) Next to the pictures of her yummy recipes she leaves room for notes. I love this because I always write all over my books (even though I was taught not to, oops, sorry mom!). She gets you started in the note section with her own personal notes (e.g. how to store the dish, what kind of function you could serve it at, the best way to select the ingredients, substitutes, tips for easy clean-up, recipe no-no’s, etc.). Her notes make me feel like she too has cooked these recipes, several times, but also that she has an emotional attachment to the recipes & has perfected them in her own home. So far, I think I have found a new friend in Mrs Foose; I can’t wait to report to you how her recipes taste.
Do you see all those tags?....I have some cooking to do....Ahh! Gotta go!

Christmas in February

My dad sent me 2 of my Christmas gifts a couple weeks ago that I couldn’t fit into my suitcase back at Christmas (apparently I packed too many shoes- oops!). My dad gave me a handheld blender that I have heard so many wonderful things about from fellow cookbook bloggers & a quesadilla maker. As soon as I opened the large package I was planning what I was going to make.

First I used my Wand (this is what I call my handheld blender) to make strawberry-raspberry smoothies. They were delicious! I will admit, I was so scared that I was going to have smoothie everywhere since there isn’t a top, but there wasn’t a single pink drop anywhere. Do you have one of this nifty kitchen gadgets? I’m new to the wand world, so please post your recipes that you use your wand with.

Ready for some wand magic!
Next I made some pork BBQ quesadillas. This quesadilla maker is so much fun (and oh so easy!).
I love the chili pepper handle; it’s so festive.
To add some kick, I used some habanero cheese & jalapeno tortillas.
These were fabulous quesadillas. I see many more in our future. I loved getting these treats in the mail! Thanks Dad!!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cowboy Up XXX

I got this habanero salsa at the store for my “cowboy”....it was spicy & delicious! Texas friends, this is a must-try!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Greek Week

Martha sent me a recipe for Greek meatballs in January that I just had to try. The Mediterranean ingredients were fantastic in these meatballs & the tzatziki sauce was out of this world! What made these meatballs Greek? Basically, feta, oregano, & red-pepper flakes were added to a regular meatball recipe, & of course the tzatziki sauce completed the meal. Apparently I missed the part in the instructions stating that the recipe was for a double-batch, so I had to get creative the rest of the week redressing these meatballs.
The first night we had skewered Greek meatballs.
Night 2, I put the left-over tzatziki sauce on some French bread, & added the meatballs for awesome Greek sandwiches.
On the third night, I boiled some spaghetti noodles & added the meatballs to some marinara for Greek spaghetti.
We had a delicious Greek Week! Thanks Martha!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Huxley

Last week I got a surprise package in the mail from my thoughtful sister. She saw this adorable little guy & thought I had to have him- clearly she knows me all too well. So this is my new writing buddy, Huxley. Being a “writing mouse,” he sits next to me while I write, guarding my latte & sending creative brain waves to my mind. Thanks Kellyn, you’re the best sister ever!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sweetheart Cupcakes

For Valentine’s Day I made these cupcakes for Phil (and myself- if I didn’t include myself I would be a big fat liar!). I think you could really make these cupcakes for any occasion by changing out the center shape and/or color.
I split the cake batter, 75%-25% and used food coloring to dye the 25%. Then I poured it into a sheet cake pan and baked it about 20 minutes.

I put the red cake in the freezer to cool down while I made dinner. After dinner, I used a small heart cookie cutter to cut out the red cake. I think you can guess where the left over hearts went ;-)
I filled the cupcake tins about 2/3 full and then put the hearts in (point down- so when you cut into them you could see the hearts.) From this view you can’t really tell the red cake is a heart, but that is because you’re looking down at the top of the hearts.
I covered the tops of the hearts with the remaining cake batter, and put them in the oven at 350 for about 24 minutes. After they had cooled I iced them (you will want to make sure the cupcakes are facing the same direction so that you know which direction the hearts are facing). Voila! A sweetheart cupcake for my Valentine.
Hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day! What did you do special for your Valentine?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Boil Buoy


This kitchen gadget was featured in my Food Network magazine this month from quirky.com, and for some reason I found it so quirky (pun intended) that I had to share it with you. By putting this buoy into your boiling water, you will know exactly when you should add your pasta and for how long (much like a tea kettle whistling so you don’t have to stare at boiling water). This may be weird to you, but I was taught to test my noodles by throwing one on the fridge….if it sticks then it’s ready. Maybe I should invest in this tool so I’m more “sanitary”………nah, who am I kidding? My way is definitely more fun!

Check out the official Boil Buoy website.

Coming up next...

If you’ve been following my cooking adventures you’ve learned a lot about me (e.g. I’m easily bored, can’t stand leftovers, & I enjoy a culinary challenge). The cookbook club that I joined a year & a half ago has now completed 3 books:
Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten,
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond,
and The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life by Ellie Krieger
A couple weeks ago we voted on our next cookbook, and the winner is:
The Best 30-Minute Recipe from Cooks Illustrated
So, for the rest of this semester I will be cooking from here a lot, be on the lookout for my posts on my kitchen-capades

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Football Pops

I've seen cake pops on a lot of websites, but never really knew what they were until last week at small group (thank you ladies for introducing me to the delicious world of cake pops!) Once you pop, you can’t stop <-- was that slogan for Pringles? Or was it cake pops? Oh who cares? :-)

I tried to make my very own cake pops for snack at Sunday school on Superbowl Sunday.
Bake a cake...
...and crumble it up (seems like a crime, right?)
Add in 1/2 a can of frosting, & mix it up until it's not gooey, but still moldable.
Mold the "dough" into any shape you like (I tried mini footballs for the Superbowl), then put in the fridge and go fold some laundry....oh sorry, I meant come fold MY laundry!
Make the chocolate
Dip the pops into the chocolate, stick it into the hardened dough, & put them back into the fridge (this step uses the chocolate as glue so the dough doesn't fall off the pop)
Once the chocolate on the pops has hardened, dip the entire football into chocolate. Once that dried, I used yellow icing to add laces to the footballs.
The website recommended standing the pops in styrofoam for serving. I added some black & yellow ribbon to dress mine up a bit.
Here was the finished product at church. We also made a Steelers vs. Greenbay cake just like my birthday cake. Phil stuck some of our Steelers Christmas ornaments in the cake for added effect.
I have to say: I haven’t been challenged this much in the kitchen in a long time. They weren’t that difficult so much as they were time consuming &, well, I’m a perfectionist. From what I hear, they were good, so maybe I will make them again......but not until I forget how much time they took. Here is where I got the recipe. Mine are not nearly as pretty as hers, but after all that work, I'm pretty proud of the ones I made.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ice Day

Last Monday (1-31-11) the meteorologists were predicting a “wintry mix” for the weekend (I was stoked!). As the week went the forecast was specifically expecting 3-5 of snow for Friday. By Wednesday, schools were closed, even though nothing had happened yet. L-O-L! I have to say that I didn’t mind all the closings though, traffic was so much easier. Friday morning when Phil & I woke up we ran straight to the window (picture 2 little kids running to the window to see if school would be canceled). Unfortunately we saw nothing, so we went about a normal morning trying to get ourselves out the door in a timely fashion. Phil left first but returned within 10 minutes. He said that he slid across the garage because there was so much ice. Here is the ice on our car.
Yes that is a real icicle in Houston!
I decided that I would still go to Texas Children’s Hospital (where I volunteer). I got out of the parking deck just fine (there was less ice around my car), & headed up to the freeway (in Houston if you’re going anywhere you have to take the freeway). As soon as I got onto 59, I felt like I was in a parade...I was the only one driving on the road, everyone else had spun out & was sitting on the side...watching me...waiting for me to spin out & join them. I had no intentions of playing bumper cars with the other Houstonians so I immediately got off the road & went home! As soon as I got home, I stepped on the first step up to the door & slipped. As I was falling, in what felt like slow motion, I remembered Phil telling me right before I left (only 5 minutes earlier), “Be careful D, the last few steps have ice on them.” Well isn’t that convenient to remember AS I’m falling. So I slipped going UP the steps, hit my knee cap on a very hard cement step, & spilt my hot coffee all over myself. Graceful? I don’t think so! One of my neighbors was outside smoking (who smokes at 5 in the morning?!) & had a lovely little chuckle at my performance. Throughout the day I monitored my left knee & the various shades of changing purple.
Ready for the ice!
So what does one do on an Ice Day for fun in Houston?
-I took a 45-minute shower as soon as I came inside; quite frankly, that’s how long it took me to thaw-out. (Oh no! I’m adapting to Houston weather!)
-I g-chatted with some of my favorite people (thanks for keeping me company Ashley, Katie, Kellyn, & Miriam)
-Checked my email (of course!)
-Wrote a few posts for you fine folks!
-Made a delicious breakfast for Phil & I
- Researched things to cook for Sunday’s football extravaganza
-Considered getting our tax stuff ready for the accountant, but that idea was short-lived
-Walked to the local grocery store & meandered around but bought nothing
-Ordered 2 new cookbooks from Amazon for only $20 including shipping, (they were on sale AND I had a gift card, wahoo gotta love a good deal!
-Considered going to the gym but decided to order a new Scentsy instead (Priorities here people!)
-Kicked the monkey grass covered in ice because it sounded really pretty, like glass wind-chimes
-Monitored the Transtar website all day. This Houston-based website tells people where the accidents & traffic are. There are cameras that you can select to see what a specific road looks like, but these are some overviews. There were over 800 accidents that were reported (imagine how many more that weren’t reported) from Thursday night until Friday night! WOW!
All those red dots are accidents. This is at 8am
All the accidents at 11:30am
By 4pm things were finally starting to clear up on the roads
Friday evening we had a relaxing dinner & stood around the fire pit. We were enjoying being outside while it was cold. And really, who knows when it will be that cold again? It was a great Ice Day, but mainly I think because we did nothing of real significance but felt productive & had fun anyways. Why don’t we always have 3 day weekends?!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hawley Readers

Do you follow our blog? I hope you do, and I hope you love it! A fellow blogger and wonderful woman, Amber, taught me about Delurking Day. I had no idea what this day was all about, but in the blogging world it’s a day where you invite your readers to leave a comment on your blog, in case they have never done it before & to get to know your readers better. So since I missed Delurking Day this year, and instead of requesting comments (which of course you know that you’re always welcome to do), we’re encouraging you to become an official Hawley blog follower. I’ve added a new feature on the right panel, “Official Hawley Readers,” and we invite you to sign in by clicking “Follow” and then follow the instructions. You will get updates from us & of course get a special spot in the Hall of Fame as an Official Hawley Reader. Hope you sign up & thanks for being the best blog readers ever!!!!

Creole Seasoning

Looking for something to entertain your taste buds? Here is my very own creole house seasoning that I use fairly frequently. I use this as a rub before grilling and even to make spreads. Try this one out & let me know what you think. If you have any special house seasonings, I’d love to try yours too!
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
This is what it looks like when it is all combined.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Kitchen-capades

Thanksgiving & Christmas in our house are about tradition, so I am ok with fixing a traditional menu- as long as it's only twice a year ;-) Here are a few new recipes that I snuck-in during the holidays & some since the holidays:

Pecan Pie Muffins- I made these to send to work with Phil for his coworkers one morning. At Phil's company Christmas party one guy said, “Can we have more pecan cupcakes?” Per the usual, I always end up changing something about the recipe. For this one I used light brown sugar & butter. Beef Bourguignon- We had a few cold days in December, & this stew was such a warm yummy stew to come home to. Red Onion & Wheat Pasta- I’m sure glad that I took a picture of this one, because I totally forgot about it. If I’ve forgotten, clearly it wasn’t that entertaining or horrible...so I guess, just a blah dish that I wont repeat. Salisbury Steak- Phil said this dish made him feel like he was back home in his mama’s kitchen. That’s the best compliment I could ever receive! Chicken Empanadas- I had never heard of empanadas before moving to Texas, & I’ve never even tasted one before this night. They were really yummy, & have a lot of wiggle room to add your own personal flavor. Lucy’s Chocolate Pie- I’m not sure what happened with this one; I don’t know where I went wrong. I was just dying for some chocolate, & this did not hit the spot (& it wasn’t even pretty!). The crust & the meringue were fine (which is where I usually mess-up), but the pie filling was more like pudding. Maybe I should have heated the filling longer on the stove longer? Maybe self-rising flour goes bad? I made a chocolate cobbler a few weeks before this, which also called for self-rising flour, & I had the same gooey outcome. Does flour go bad?! Chicken Parmigiana- This is one of my hubby’s favorite dinners. When he walked in after work that evening, he sniffed & said, “Yum, garlic!” We both really enjoyed this rendition.
Monster Cookies- This recipe is from the PW (my fav!), and is super yummy. But, make sure that you’re not in a rush & put too many on the cookie sheet, they will grow together when you’re not looking. The plus on that though, is that you get to cut bigger cookies :-)
Creamy Italian Chicken- This was the simplest sauce I’ve ever made for chicken & rice!
Short Bread Cookies- These are the same cookies that I made from my first semester in the cookbook club when we cooked through one of Ina Garten’s cookbooks. Last time I made fall leaves, but this time I made hearts for my valentine.
Sushi- Phil & I had another sushi date night at home last Sunday (The Pro Bowl was on, so we had a night off from football). I have to say, I love cooking sushi with Phil more than I like cooking any other dish. We have so much fun! Last time we used tuna; this time we made various maki, sashimi, & nigiri with salmon, crab, & shrimp. I think we're getting a lot better, but not good enough to open our own sushi restaurant yet. Ok now I’m officially caught up on all of my cooking escapades! Are you hungry now?
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