Sunday, May 29, 2011
Friday, May 27, 2011
I have mentioned in several posts that our urban garden has grown significantly since March. It’s HUGE! These are the pictures I shared with you a few months ago:
Now, I can no longer take a picture from above our plants. I thought this was supposed to be an urban garden. Oh I was SO wrong. This is the *Amazon* of urban gardens. Check out the jungle growing on our back porch:
I had to put my hand next to a bloom as a scale so that you could get an idea of the true size. Keep in mind that my hands themselves are pretty small since I’m only 5’3, and the bloom is bigger than my hand!
Our goal this spring was to grow our own ingredients for pico de gallo and we’re getting pretty close to homemade (and urban) pico de gallo :-) How is your summer garden doing? What gardening tips do you have to share?
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
My wonderful husband planned a Reality Escape vacation for us- hence the title of this post :-). We’ve been working 16-18 hour days, everyday since October (with the exception of 6 days for Christmas) and were due for a vacation. Working everyday, including weekends, really takes its toll on a person, and we were desperate for a
nap break. I was ecstatic when Phil told me that he had planned a surprise vacation for us. I thought about it through all the long days leading up to the get-away as the “light at the end of the tunnel.” To be honest, I think I would have been happy if we just locked ourselves inside for a weekend, but not Phil. That man always goes above and beyond to make sure I feel loved and have a fun and relaxing break. God definitely blessed me with an exceptional husband.
The night before we left, I packed waaaaay more than I would ever need; waaaaay more clothes and shoes than I could wear in 5 days. But the way I saw it, I was prepared for whatever adventures my husband had planned for us :-) Before leaving I got a pedicure (my favorite little relaxation treat for myself) and I picked OPI’s Strawberry Margarita for my color, because it sounded like a great vacation color. Don’t you think so?
Friday morning we left Houston pretty early so that we could have brunch in Austin at Flip Happy Crepes. These crepes were phenomenal. We ordered one savory and one sweet crepe to split: a shredded pork for the savory, and peanut butter, banana, and chocolate crepe for the sweet. I skipped most of the savory, and spent the majority of my eating energy on the sweet crepe. If you ask me, chocolate is always the best way to start a vacation.
In the afternoon we went to Barton Springs to go swimming. This was my first time swimming in a spring and I loved how clear the water was.
Friday evening, we went visiting 6th street and some of our favorite hot spots. Saturday morning we woke up and went on a tour of the Hill Country, stopping at Driftwood Estate, Duchman, and Dry Comal Creek. Getting out into the fresh air, admiring nature, hand-in-hand with my husband was picture perfect!
In between our stops in the Hill Country we went to 2 famous BBQ restaurants for lunch in Lockhart, TX. Yes, I said 2! What do you do when you’re only going to be around 2 well-renowned BBQ places only for an afternoon? You try them both! Our first stop for lunch was Blacks BBQ and we ordered ribs. Our second lunch was at Kreuz Market, and we ordered sausage, ribs, and brisket. Our lunches were amazing; however, we are now certain that we’re officially spoiled and will never be able to eat ordinary BBQ again. I can’t believe that I actually shared with you I ate 2 lunches in one day, but that is how good it was!
On Sunday we woke up early and went to New Braunfels, TX to float the Guadalupe River. This was our second time floating the river and visiting Gruene (check out our first visit in 2009). This time we were the only ones on the river and the water was perfect. It was truly the most peaceful and relaxing river float I have ever been on and exactly what the doctor ordered! We went to the famous Gristmill for lunch and I can’t even tell you how delicious lunch was. I dove into my meal so fast I forgot to take a picture, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Later on Sunday we traveled to Seguin, TX. I have never even heard of this town, but it was the perfect location for our last stop. Phil reserved a place for us at the Mosheim Mansion. This house, turned Bed & Breakfast, was gorgeous! The authentic décor, fabulous service, and delicious breakfast were enough to secure another visit from the Hawleys.
The mansion...I couldn’t get the entire house in the frame…
On Monday it was very difficult to pack up and head back to Houston, but the trip was totally worth it. Some of my favorite moments from the trip were playing 21 questions in the car, floating peacefully down the Guadalupe River, all of the BBQ, touring the gorgeous Hill Country, the Mansion, pit stops at Buc-ees, and lastly but most significantly, getting some time away with Phil.
I appreciate the slower pace of country life, but deep down, I’m a city girl. I loved escaping from the city, but I still love coming back :-)
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Virginia....where the tea is sweet and accents are sweeter, summer starts in April, front porches are wide and words are long, macaroni and cheese is a vegetable, BBQ is the state food, y'all is a proper pronoun, chicken is fried, biscuits come with gravy, everyone is honey, someone is always getting their heart blessed, and we are all "fixin" to do something.
Even though I am from Virginia, I posted the Texas version of this a few weeks ago, because that’s where I live now and I appreciate the Texan culture. But when I put the two states together, there are hardly any differences. I think the real bottom line is that I LOVE the South! It just does not get any better!
Sunday, May 15, 2011
We haven't had a week like this in a while, but sometimes I get this
brainy crazy idea that we should have a week where every meal is indicative of a different culture. I decided to do this the week of Cinco de Mayo, and totally forgot to include Mexican food. How lame is that?! Please forgive me: I’m super oblivious sometimes.
30-Minute Chicken Paprikash - This was my first brush with Hungarian. Before this I had never tasted Hungarian, and I had certainly never attempted to cook it. It was a really tasty chicken stew, but would probably be better on a day that is cooler than Houston in May.
Skillet Baked Ziti and Bread Sticks- I never leave Italy out of an around the world week. NEVER! Looks aside, the taste was great. I used whole-wheat penne and Kraft Italian Cheese Blend instead of the parmesan. Considering the taste, time to prepare, and having all of the ingredients on hand on a normal basis, I will probably make this again.
30-Minute Pork Vindaloo- This was also another first for me. A couple weeks ago Phil asked me what I wanted for dinner and I said that I wanted an adventure and something different (normally I request Italian. Are you seeing a trend here?). So he surprised me with reservations at an Indian restaurant downtown and it was beyond fantastic. Because of my new found affection for Indian food, I had to include Indian last week.
The biggest issue I had with this recipe was finding the spices. First I went to Kroger for the garam masala and couldn’t find it. Then while I was flipping through the cookbook I found a recipe for garam masala. Since I still needed 2 of the ingredients to make my own (coriander and cardamom), Phil & I walked to Central Market to pick them up. When we finally found them in the spice section our jaws hit the floor at the sight of the price tag. It was going to cost us $16 just to make the spice I originally wanted. What?! We decided that it wasn’t worth it and we would just pretend it was there. Since we were already at the market, we walked over to the coffee section (we’re BIG fans) to get our weekly coffee. Since the coffee section is adjacent to the make-your-own spices section, we decided to check if the garam masala was there. *It was there AND for $5.99/lb!* I probably got more than I will ever use for only 42 cents!!!! So the problem was solved and we didn’t have to pretend! It was certainly a hunt but well worth it. I was expecting the spice to be really hot, but instead it had a sweet flavor. I served the vindaloo over whole-grain rice with naan crackers. I was pleasantly surprised with how well this dish turned out. I especially liked the flavor that the cilantro added to the dish.
I just LOVE around the world week at our house. Do you have special recipes that are famous from where you are from or where you are living? Please share them, because I would love to incorporate your favorite recipes into our next around the world week.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Recently, I have encountered chipotle chilies in adobo sauce as an ingredient in the cookbook I’m working through right now (The Best 30 Minute Meal by Cook’s Illustrated). For the past couple months, every time I have flipped through the cook book and seen a recipe with them in the ingredients list, I have skipped the recipe. <wamp wamp>
Why was I so recipe-skiddish? I had no idea what chipotle chilies in adobo sauce were! Never even heard of them before!
Using the chilies, I made Skillet Vermicelli with Chorizo Sausage and Black Beans from the Cook’s Illustrated cookbook. and all I can say is: I HAVE BEEN MISSING OUT! This is officially our new favorite recipe from this cook book. I did not want to put my fork down (I kept sneaking back into the kitchen once dinner was over! In fact, I’m willing to bet money that I’ll sneak back to the kitchen for another spoonful before I finish writing this post). Cook’s Illustrated really hit the nail on the head with this one. I didn’t add the cheese to the entire pot; instead, I just let people sprinkle what they want on their own plate. I provided sour cream, but nobody used it. (FYI- I just tip-toed into the kitchen for another bite hehe) This was fantastic and I will be returning to page 150 for this recipe many times in the future.
Ok, so back to the chilies. After this dish I HAD to know more about these chunks of deliciousness. I asked the women in my cookbook club more about these little guys and they had a lot of chili-wisdom. Since they passed their knowledge onto me, I’m passing it onto you.
The gals taught me that these chilies are really delicious and have more of a smoky flavor than a hot flavor. You wont need a lot to get the desired flavor, so instead of chucking the can, you can either put a top on the can and use them during the week for other dishes OR freeze them. Since each can is about 85 cents, I think you’ll be quite pleased with yourself. In the grocery store you can probably find them in the ethnic aisle.
So if you see chipotle chilies in adobo sauce listed in the ingredients, DON’T BE SCARED. Go for it! You CAN do it!