Monday, August 31, 2009
Might it be possible we could fast forward to Friday, por favor? No?
Be that as it may, instead of posting my customary weekend wrap-up, I would fancy switching things up a bit. I'm certain I don't need to inform you today is the last day of August. Do you know the catastrophic implications of this? It means my beloved season of summer is technically over, effective tomorrow. I know, I know. Summer in Texas usually stretches through September (and into October for that matter), but the traditional three months of summer are bidding us adieu and I am hanging on to that summer breeze with a death grip that's tighter.
In honor of my fair-weather friend, Summer, I would like to take you on a brief journey as I reminisce the highlights of summer's 2009 tour.
1. The birth of my niece, Meredith Hope Mendez, on May 21. Yes, according to my definition laid out above, I know she wasn't born in the "three months of summer," but she's too cute and miraculous to not be included. Sue me.
2. My Memorial Day weekend which included an inaugural stay at the Kingland Manor. (If you've been reading my blog this summer, you may be a tad confused thinking I live there...I wish. This has served as my "home away from home.") It was on this trip that I got the privilege of spending time with Ed, Lianna's husband. It was also on this fateful trip I was introduced to beer bread (word to Elisa) and fell in love with star gazing.
3. Serving as the co-inventor of ghetto sangria. It will always remind me of my summer days in k-land, and I consumed many a glass under the sun and stars.
4. Attending "Lakes Get it On" (Lianna's bachelorette bash) which included a whole lot of lake, dance parties, belinis, amazing food and divine company.
5. Finally getting up on the water skis and managing to have a good time while I did it. Determination does pay off every now and again I suppose.
6. Lianna's wedding weekend: trying Indian food (and a chile-infused champagne cocktail) for the 1st time at the rehearsal dinner, going to a cocktail party with the Austin capital for a backdrop, barely making it through an emotional reading during their wedding and getting down at their rockin' reception. It was THE highlight of my summer, without a doubt.
7. Preparing homemade feasts with loved ones and enjoying sublime company while dining alfresco...be it at the lake or on the patio. This summer truly sparked my desire to experiment in the kitchen and to savor long dinners with family. Thank you Elisa and Christina. I hold you responsible.
8. Tie-dying shirts for the very 1st time ever. I'm definitely in need of a tutorial as my first finished product was severely lacking.
9. Playing in the pool with my most favorite 2-year-old in the whole wide world: Princess Pearl (Hay-Hay). I cherish the moments you clung on to me like a koala bear. You are loved beyond measure.
10. Participating in my first cooking competition: Kingsland Cocktail & Salmon Throwdown. While we lost the cocktail round, China and I fought back with a vengeance and ruled the salmon round.
I could go on and on gushing over the qualities that are inherent to my first love, summer. I have not taken one sunny weekend for granted. I have savored drinking my iced coffees, reading outside in the hammock, eating my weight in food hot off the outdoor grill, dining outdoors, taking long walks in the summer breeze, laying on the deck gazing at the stars, sipping frosty glasses of sangria, strolling barefoot in the grass, wearing sundresses and flip-flops, driving with the windows rolled down and taking the time to feel the sun on my face. Suffice it to say, it has been an abundant summer and I have loved every last precious warm moment (well, at least the parts that weren't work).
Should you be interested, my last "summer" weekend was comprised of pool time, may-juh chat time (with my BFF Kori), errand time, cook time (rocked the tequila-lime shrimp tacos for my sis and her fam), nap time, church time, movie time, God time...and various other "times." I'm sure it's all a bit blah, blah, blah, so I hope you enjoyed the switcharoo post.
I know this is a marathon post, but one final (and most important) note is necessary. I leave you with a few verses from Galatians. Although it is short, there is so much that speaks to my heart in just the couple lines. I find it so interesting that scripture lets us know we will be delivered from the evil we currently experience, BUT it is according to the will of God. What does this look like? I'm sure it doesn't always (or ever) look the way we anticipate or even pray for. However, His will is perfect and far superior the ideas and schemes we concoct in our heads and heart. I hope it speaks truth to your heart and refreshes your soul.
Galatians 1: 3-5
Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I got a little carried away there, but I hope I've still garnered your attention for today's tasty recipe. This is BY FAR my most requested recipe in my repertoire, so I thought, why not give the people what they want? Ask and you shall receive.
Today's recipe is...drum roll please...MONKEY BREAD. This is a crowd pleaser without a doubt. It puts the shamma-lamma in the ding-dong and is the bomb-diggity. Health nuts beware: there is absolutely zero nutritional value as it involves butter, sugar, brown sugar, processed cans of bread product and basically results in the most gooey, glorious breakfast treat you ever laid your lips on.
me with my favorite breakfast treat
My family started making monkey bread for Christmas morning roughly ten years ago, but let me tell you, we have brought it out of the "Christmas only" recipe category and it has been making numerous appearances at many a brunch. It has graced the tables of New Years brunch, Sunday family brunch, Lianna's bachelorette party brunch and many, many more. This recipe makes me think of family, and produces a warm fuzzy feeling every time I make it.
a plate of monkey bread, ready for its closeup
It is worth noting, however, that in an attempt to make things easy one fateful Christmas morning, my dad had a momentary lapse of insanity and purchased frozen, pre-made monkey bread. Do NOT do this. You will be sorely disappointed, and you have no excuse for such tragic errors in judgment now that I'm bequeathing this recipe to you.
the pops with one of his versions on Christmas morning
While my dad and I go back and forth as to what the optimal recipe/prep method really is, I think I have it down to a science...at least to my liking. There are gobs of recipes out there for your perusal, but this is based on Pillsbury recipe with a couple tweaks.
So without further ado, I give you monkey bread!
1 can Grands* biscuits
1 can cinnamon rolls (8-count, not grands)
1/2 C sugar
3-4 T cinnamon
1 C brown sugar
3/4 stick butter
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a bundt pan.
2. Combine white sugar and cinnamon in a ziploc bag. Cut each biscuit and cinnamon roll into quarters. Drop quarters into the ziploc bag and shake evenly to coat.
3. Melt butter and brown sugar together and stir to combine.
4. Place half of the coated biscuits/rolls into the bundt pan. Drizzle with half of the brown sugar/butter sauce. Arrange the remaining biscuits/rolls into the pan and top with the rest of the sauce.
5. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until cooked all the way through.
6. Make a valiant attempt to not consume the entire pan in one sitting.
the money shot (try to refrain from drooling)
It should be noted that this bread should not be cut, but rather picked apart. In fact, the action of picking at the bread is where monkey bread derives its name. When people gather around and pick at the glistening, golden brown sugar laden bread, they look like monkeys picking at their food.
Hope your family/friends enjoy this recipe as much as mine!
Monday, August 24, 2009
My good dose of laziness presented itself on Friday night in the form of our DVR and a whole heap of recorded Food Network programming. Add in a little takeout, a comfy couch and no agenda, and you've stumbled upon my perfect "end of the workweek" night. Most people want to mark the start of their weekend in a celebratory way with dinners out and parties to attend. However, I prefer a night of recovery before I start rockin' and rollin' my way through the weekend.
Saturday called for a morning run, a little baking (rum cake, banana nut muffins and a quiche), some computer work, a bit of reading and a refreshing dip in the pool. Luckily, thanks to Meagan, I was able to locate a quasi-calm oasis at a pool behind her phase. Twas a hidden gem for sure, and I was so happy to escape the 24-hour reenactment of Spring Break 2000 that occurs at the 25 other pools.
The night called for something a bit different and is actually the reason behind my title for this post. Saturday night was "Floating French Movie" night at a friend's house which featured an outdoor (poolside) screening of Amelie on a projector screen strategically set up in front of the pool. The theme was carried throughout the party with french wine, french food (brie anyone?) and most importantly, charcoal face painting. I'm not necessarily convinced this was a pivotal French element, but it certainly added fun. The night also included several impromptu dance sessions which always equals a successful party (and stellar choice in invitees) in my opinion. I have no doubt you concur.
Krystal utilizing her amazing face painting skills at French Night
In the grand tradition of weekends, Sunday flew by in a whirlwind. It was a family affair for brunch and we gathered at the 'rents home to indulge in a tasty spread with a few of the usual suspects: my amped up quiche (with chipotle peppers added...sorry guys), smoked sausage, fruit salad, banana muffins and the always necessary mimosas. We had a special guest join us for our Sunday brunch: Hailey, my former teaching partner in crime. It was such a treat to have her over and I'm so glad she got to meet Meredith, who, by the by, loved her and was a perfect angel for her the whole time.
a very alert Meredith being entertained by Hailey, no doubt
Hailey with her wannabe adopted senorita
The day ended with a birthday celebration in honor of our friend Stephonie. She is such an amazing person and has such a giving and loving heart. She's a gourmet chef, a talented florist (she did Michelle's wedding flowers), amazing with kids, handy with tools, knows her way around a shooting range...the list goes on. I was honored to celebrate another year in her life and I pray this next year will be full of abundant life.
me with the gorgeous birthday girl
I suppose I shall wrap things up, but I hope your weekend was equally enjoyable, nay stupendous. May God grant you grace and mercy as you navigate another workweek or just another week in this crazy, imperfect life. Au revoir!
Friday, August 21, 2009
To give you a bit of background, I was once a proud, card-carrying member of the Dallas Public Library which, to my utter delight, my mom would take me to on lazy summer afternoons. I would check out as many books as possible, and devour them in lightening speed. It was such a source of sublime pleasure in my young life, and I look back on those library days with fond memories. I still remember the smell when you walked in, and the push gate entrance that led to glorious rows of literary treasures.
My innate fondness for books has not waned. Actually, it is quite the opposite, and my appetite for the written word is almost insatiable. I adore books of all kind, be it a memoir, faith-based, fiction, autobiography...and the list goes on. I am totally enamored with the English language, and believe it to be a crying shame to resort to curse or slang terms when we have a superfluous supply of words at our disposal.
Be that as it may, I would like to share with you a few of my favorite reads, and I will do so by breaking them into a few categories:
1. Books that challenge me: Crazy Love by Francis Chan, The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian McLerran, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
2. Classics: Emma, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice
3. Modern fiction: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, The Nanny Diaries
4. Memoirs: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, Here if You Need Me by Kate Baestrupp, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
one of my favorite pictures of me reading
This list is just the tip of the iceberg and is by no means exhaustive. I adore the Chronicles of Narnia (read first when I was about 10 years old), the many autobiographies I've read, books I've read for school, books I've read for pleasure. If I attempted to list them all, this post would be ridiculously lengthy.
However, it should be known that Emma is one of my hands-down favorite reads of all time. I feel as though I was born in the wrong time period, because I long for the days of Jane Austen when woman were revered for their ability to carry articulate conversations and "men were men."
Reader question: What is your favorite book? What book do you think I absolutely must read next and why?
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I first tried this buttery deliciousness over Memorial Day weekend at the lake just a few months ago. I have since passed it on to my sister extraordinairre who does not fail to make pans of this bread almost weekly. It is without a doubt one of the easiest, most user-friendly recipes I have ever made and it has a tendency to disappear within the course of one meal.
Today, I bring you BEER BREAD!
3 C self-rising flour
3 T sugar (more if you like your bread sweeter)
1 bottle of beer
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the ingredients in a bowl and pour into a greased 8 x 8 pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes. Pour 1/2 stick melted butter over the top and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
This bread is excellent paired with chicken, fish, roast, barbeque...oh, who am I kidding? This bread is divine with anything. While it's absolutely perfect on its own, a good dose of honey doesn't hurt either.
When Elisa made it for us on that fateful night back in May, we devoured it so quickly that she had to bake an additional pan of the delicious goodness. It is just THAT good.
Monday, August 17, 2009
I blissfully slept in the next morning, and arose at my leisure. 'Twas glorious indeed. After sipping some coffee out on the deck, we commenced with a marathon shopping trip to the heeby-jeeby which included a top-secret mission...more on that later. Once we had successfully purchased half of the store, the four of us were homeward bound and more than ready for some cruising, skiing and tubing. (Yes, I am 26-years young and happen to really like tubing).
After spending a couple more hours outside relaxing, reading, chatting and hammocking, it was time to stop fooling around. More specifically, it was time for a THROWDOWN. That's right, since this was potentially our last summer lake weekend (at least for a while) and since we had the added pleasure of Trishey's (a friend of Elisa's) company, I suggested incorporating a bit of a competition at dinnertime in the form of a throwdown. (I know, shocking. Me, competitive?) Yes, this is a blatant reference/copy of "Throwdown with Bobby Flay." We had originally posited a version of Iron Chef, but had to come down from that cloud and ultimately settled on this alternative.
Elisa artfully posing with her winning tequila cocktail
my gorgeous teammate placing our salmon entree into the oven
Trishey, Uncle Chris, me and Christina enjoying our meals
Later, I threw together a quick dessert of bananas foster over vanilla ice cream for us to enjoy, but sadly, there is no picture to document this delicious treat. I can assure you it was tasty and happily consumed.
a close-up shot of the always photogenic monkey bread
sipping our brunch cocktails
After consuming my weight in cinnamon-sugar goodness, we had just enough time to squeeze in a quick dance party, and then it was back on the road to face my arch nemesis (I-35). Despite the beastly traffic, I still had a kick in my step and a smile on my face as I relished in the memory of another classic Kingsland lake weekend. It has been a summer to remember, and one I won't quickly forget!
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Today's recipe du jour (I'm feeling trilingual) is a cocktail concoction of sorts and was actually featured in a previous post. While I typically stick to wine and champagne, I do occasionally choose to imbibe in a margarita (or two). And if you're going to do a margarita, you might as well do it right. This recipe is just the ticket for your next Mexican fiesta and will not disappoint.
the juice of 2 large limes
1 part orange liqueur
2 parts tequila
2 parts orange juice
1 T of powdered sugar
Combine all of the contents in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and pour into a chilled glass. And try to resist the urge to kick this back in several large gulps. Savor the flavor and make sure you have supplies to whip up a few extra. You'll be glad you did!
Now tell me, have you tried any of these recipes? Have you experienced the phenomenom of a watering mouth while perusing anyo of the recipes? Have you at least been inspired to whip up come creations of your own in the kitchen? Please comment and let me know. I'd love to hear of your culinary adventures!
Monday, August 10, 2009
I wish it were Sunday.
Cuz that's a fun day.
My "I don't have to run" day.
But it's just another manic Monday.
Anyone else have the urge to ignore the alarm this morning? Why is waking up so ridiculously impossible? I am utterly betwixt and befuddled at my inability to adjust to a normal schedule. Pardon my whiny lamentations on a simple fact of life (i.e. being required to rise prior to your body's natural "wake-up" time), but I felt compelled to comment. But enough chitchat, let's commence with the usual tom-foolery, shall we?
This past weekend was all about the three F's for me: food, fun and family. It included quality time with my Grandma on Saturday afternoon, pool time with the girls (the sister, Hay-Hay and Meredith) that night and grilling out with the whole fam on Sunday.
On Saturday afternoon, my dad took four of his best girls over to our Grandma's house for a long overdue visit. He was seriously outnumbered (four to one), but after almost 30 years of being the lone ranger, I think he's probably used to it (and secretly likes it). It was so good to see her, hear stories about the "old day" and look at pictures of my dad when he was Haylee's age (and when he was a 20-something hipster). Speaking of Pearl, she LOVED playing with all of her great-grandma's "vintage" toys. Per usual, there was a bountiful feast of roast, mashed red potatoes, carrots, broccoli, bread and sweet tea. If I could characterize my Grandma's house by one meal, it would be roast, mashed potatoes and carrots. I cannot tell you how many times I ate this meal growing up, and it will forever be embedded in my mind. I love that food is attached to memories, and that there are stories and traditions behind different dishes. Ahhh...I digress...as usual. Sadly, I am remiss to inform you I have no pictures to document our time. C'est la vie...
Since the day/night was still young when we arrived back at my house, the sister and I took Meredith and Haylee to party central (i.e. any one of the pools in Austin Ranch). We drove around until we found an environment we deemed appropriate (i.e. not overrun with the unwashed miscreants attempting to relive frat party 2009) to expose Haylee to. While mama bear (Michelle) stayed in the shade with Meredith, I served as Haylee's own personal flotation device as we navigated the crystal blue waters of the A.R.'s finest. Pearl especially enjoyed the waterfall and spent some time frolicking in the kiddie pool as well...oh, to be a kid again.
Haylee clappin' it up for some fun in the sun
the littlest water baby
me (ruining the photo opp) and Haylee in the pool
Haylee all wrapped up in her towel
To keep the "fam-tastic" theme of the weekend going, we joined up once again for a little grillin' out with the whole fam at the 'rents new digs. We enjoyed some delish food, and the menu was as follows:
creamy black bean dip w/tortilla chips
taco-seasoned grilled veggies
roasted sweet potatoes
My dad manned the grill while I took care of all things kitchen-related. We are a dynamic culinary duo and an unstoppable force...wow, not sure where that came from. Regardless, the spread was delightful and I happily consumed my weight in food.
the blog-worthy grilled vegetables...holy yum
my drool-inducing plate of food
The gut-busting dinner was capped off with a sweet finale: a white cake w/blackberry filling and homemade buttercream icing. Because apparently, no family gathering is truly complete without a cake made by me.
the beauteous pink cake in all her glory
It was truly a "fam-tastic" weekend and I am so grateful for the family God has given me. They love me no matter what, and I am blessed to have them in my life.
I shall leave you with this classic pic of Haylee as her alter-ego, Pearl. You're welcome!
Pearl, dripping in beads
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
If you have already viewed the post below and found yourself experiencing major food envy, you are in luck with today's recipe. I proudly bring you tequila-lime shrimp tacos and hope you will enjoy them as much as we did on Saturday.
Tequila-lime shrimp tacos
for the marinade:
1/2 cup tequila
the juice of 3-4 large limes
1 tsp bottle minced garlic
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
the juice of 1/2 orange
1 bag frozen jumbo shrimp, thawed & peeled
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
sour cream, optional
Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl. Transfer to a large storage-size ziploc bag. Add the shrimp to the bag and refrigerate for at least one hour (the longer, the better).
While the shrimp marinate, saute the onion and bell pepper in a bit of olive oil. Once done, transfer to a serving platter. Add shrimp to the pan and saute for three-four minutes or just until pink. Arrange shrimp over onions and peppers.
To assemble tacos: warm corn tortilla, place a small amount of spinach on the tortilla, add onions, peppers and shrimp, sprinkle with cheese and add sour cream or guacamole if desired.
the beauty shot of the finished product
Enjoy and have a Tasty Tuesday!
Monday, August 3, 2009
In keeping with my weekend ritual, I followed the summer breeze down south where I spent some time in Austin this past weekend with one of my favorite girls, Elisa. If you've read my blog at all, you will know this is quite literally my home away from home.
My Uncle Chris took us for a mini-trip out to the lake on Saturday. While he picked up "Old Faithful" (the endearing name bestowed upon their amazingly dependable boat) from the boat shop, we occupied ourselves by laying in the hammock, lounging on the deck and perusing our current reads. The weather was unseasonable cool (anything below 100 degrees equates a cold front) and a gentle breeze blew as we enjoyed the sounds of the water rocking back and forth. I could have easily drifted off into a mid-day catnap as I lazed around in the hammock, but we had to take every opportunity to utilize Old Faithful so it was out on the boat we went.
kickin' my feet up, enjoying a little boat ride
We cruised around the lake for a bit, and apparently, I thought it was a stellar idea to test out my rusty water skiing skills.
lookin' fly in my x-large life vest, ready to tackle the skis
If you recall from the bachelorette party post, the last time I attempted such feats, it took roughly 6-7 embarassing tries for me to actually perform said maneuver. Well, that was all a distant memory, and I was ready to give it my all...which, when it was all said and done, clearly not enough. I should have called it quits on my 2nd go round seeing as though my swimsuit bottoms managed to end up around my ankles...but I'm no quitter.
I think it's safe to assume the face says it all
Swimsuit or not, I was determined. Unfortunately, determination alone couldn't carry me and I had to give throw in the towel and settle for a rather raucous tube ride.
this was most likely my 4th and final attempt at reliving the glory days (i.e. when I could water ski like it was as easy as walking)
Tubing was a little bit easier, and Elisa and I were pulled on a couple of wild rides. Things started off easy peasy, but when the figure-8 steering kicked in, I thought I was toast. I managed to hold on despite the rodeo reenactment, but I confess I have some may-juh sore back and shoulder muscles to contend with as a result.
feeling a bit more confident that I could at least hold onto a tube (as opposed to stand up on skis)
that's me on the tube, getting a pretty wild ride
a salute to a fine day at the lake
Once we wrapped up our lake shennanigans, we were off to pay a visit to the heeby-jeeby (aka HEB) to gather supplies for the night's menu. Why oh why are we not graced with HEB's presence up here in DFW? Does anyone have an answer to this mystery? We enjoyed the requisuite smattering of samples they always have on hand (fresh cherries, spinach dip, raisin bread, sushi, WINE, cheese, queso...seriously, I could easily consume a meal) and concluded our shopping trip with a quick run to the liquor store since we wanted to try out a new recipe.
The theme for the night's menu was cuban, and not to toot our own horns, but Elisa and I did not disappoint in the kitchen. Here is a look at the menu we created:
tequila-lime shrimp tacos w/sauteed peppers and onions
roasted sweet potatoes
black beans w/cotija cheese
margarita sunrise cocktails
While I took the lead on dinner prep, Elisa commanded the role of bartender to create the night's signature cocktail: the margarita sunrise. Six squeezed limes later, we reveled in the delicious fruits of her labor (pun intended) and were sipping on one of the tastiest cocktails I've ever layed my lips upon.
margarita sunrise, enough said
Meanwhile, I got the sweet potatoes roasting in the oven and the shrimps marinating in their tequila-lime bath. Elisa sauteed the plantains, I topped the frijoles negros with the cotija cheese and wrapped up the prep by sauteeing the onions, peppers and shrimps for the tacos. All in all, the dinner came together fairly easily.
don't be fooled, that's no banana. it's a plantain masquerading as a banana
a vessel of glorious black beans, quite possibly a perfect food
shrimps 'a sizzlin'
Since we were blessed with mild weather, it was a gorgeous night to dine al fresco. I think we all went back for at least seconds (as for me, it was thirds or fourths). In my humble opinion, there is nothing better than cooking for/with your loved ones in the kitchen. It beats dining out any day in my book.
cheers to a lovely meal and equally lovely company
Dinner was followed by a rather lackluster (on my part) game of Scrabble. I will admit that my lack of skill is reflected in my less than enthusiastic participation. Sunday included church, egg scrambles, mimosas and a whole lot of food network programming. 'Twas a perfect day!
*Shout-out to the newly-crowned Next Food Network Star, Melissa! You proved yourself time and time again, and deserve the title more than every competitor combined. You didn't win in spite of your home cook, stay-at-home mom status, but rather, you won BECAUSE of that. So to all you moms out there who might feel a little less accomplished because society fails to hold your "profession" in high regard, let this serve as a sweet sliver of validation. You can "hang" with the best of them!