Wednesday, February 24, 2010

are you still there?

If you've read my blog or know much about me, it's no secret I have dealt with fear and discouragement. Truthfully speaking, who hasn't been disappointed with people in their lives or in certain outcomes. Or who hasn't had anxiety over the future, test results, unknowns in their lives and the list goes on.

The problem is not in the initial feeling (because we are, after all, sinful, imperfect humans) but in the way in which we choose to react to the onslaught of these emotions. I think it is times like these when it becomes imperative to be rooted in scripture. The Bible has a wealth of verses in which to speak truth and light into our lives. God's promises are not hidden. We need only to seek them out and etch them on our heart.

A dear friend e-mailed me the following verse (by happenstance) and it really spoke to my heart.

Deuteronomy 31:8
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD is the one who goes before you.
He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor forsake you.

Make no mistake. Life on this temporal earth will certainly be proliferated with disappointments, unknowns, failures and the like. But through it all, God is still there and He has gone before us. He does not fail and there are no mistakes in His plan for our lives.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tasty Tuesdays: #36

I don't know about you, but brunch is hand's down, my most favorite meal. Breakfast? Pshh, not going to get me out of bed. Lunch? Just give me some salad or soup and I'm ready to continue with my day. But combine breakfast and lunch AND give me an excuse to imbibe in champagne prior to 2 PM? I'm sold!

And if I'm being honest, I am quite particular in constructing my perfect brunch menu. It should feature something savory, something sweet, something fresh and of course, dainty champagne flutes filled with bubbly mimosas. If you're not one for lingering over a leisurely weekend brunch, I suggest you let this recipe provide you with inspiration to instate the tradition at least once a month.

Today's recipe would provide the sweet component for your brunch and really is quite the showpiece. I must say even I was pleasantly surprised as I witnessed this tasty treat puff up in the oven and I was equally pleased with the taste. It is truly a snap to prepare and would be perfect for a casual brunch or when entertaining guests.

Puff the Magic Pancake

1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C milk
1 egg
1 egg white
1/2 tsp salt
2 T sugar
1 T butter

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Combine flour, milk, egg, egg white, salt and sugar in a small bowl. Stir just until combined.

3. Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add batter and cook for one minute.

4. Transfer skillet to the oven and bake for approximately 14 minutes or until golden brown.

I suggest sprinkling the finished product with a dusting of powdered sugar and topping pieces with fresh strawberries and bananas.

Monday, February 22, 2010

the three b's


Bridal shower.


I like a theme, so it only makes sense I would try to find a link amongst my weekend activities. This weekend featured all things "B." It begs the question: am I trying to channel a Sesame Street special? I don't know, but it probably doesn't help I've been watching a whole lot of children's programming lately. I digress...but what's new...

Anyway, I had two baking tasks to be completed on Friday. First, I was honored to be commissioned to make the cake for Sunni's bridal shower. Meagan had requested my amaretto cake with cream cheese icing. She also asked for Sunni's colors to be incorporated, so I added a purple border and used green for the H monogram. Mixing colors can be a rather tricky undertaking, but I suppose practice makes perfect?

Next on the baking agenda were cupcakes for Miss Haylee Grace. Since I was unable to deliver Valentine's treats to Pearl last weekend, I promised in her Valentine's card I would bring her cupcakes the next time I saw her. Since I'm a girl of my word, I whipped up some chocolate chip, peanut butter cup cupcakes with peanut butter mousse icing and a chocolate peanut butter filling.

After all that baking, it was time for a little fun, so I loaded up the cake for Sunni's bridal shower and headed to Palio's. The hosts did a great job with the location, food, theme and game. The Crate and Barrel gift boxes were bountiful, the company was delightful and the cake received rave reviews (not to toot my own horn or anything), so it was a successful shower all around.

Finally, no weekend can really be complete (in my mind) without a leisurely brunch enjoyed amongst friends and/or family. I put together a sweet and savory spread for my sister and I to feast upon whilst sipping mimosas. In between dance breaks and copious amounts of coffee, I prepared a broccoli quiche with goat cheese and an oven-puffed pancake. Michelle took care of the fruit and we had ourselves a sumptuous spread. It should be duly noted I went back for thirds...on both the food and the mimosas.

So there you have it, the complete rundown of my weekend featuring the three b's. I hope your respite from the workweek was equally sublime.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tasty Tuesdays: the 35th recipe

Greetings blog world and Happy Mardi Gras to you! I hope each of your weeks has started off well and that you all had a positively lovely Valentine's weekend. I sure did, but you'll have to wait for that post.

I don't know about you, but I absolutely adore shrimp. I love them in tacos, ceviche, in my baked shrimp dish and served over salads. But perhaps my most favorite way to enjoy shrimp is in its simplest form, straight up in a jumbo shrimp cocktail. If I'm being truthful, I can easily put away dozens of shrimp when served in this way.

Today's recipe is another way to serve shrimp as an appetizer if you're wanting to take it just a step above the traditional cocktail variation. It also happens to play into the Mardi Gras holiday since it features Old Bay seasoning which gives it a little kick and makes you think of New Orleans.

Simple Spicy Shrimp

1 1b. shrimp (fresh or frozen is fine, just make sure it's thawed)
4-5 T. Old Bay seasoning
1 T. cayenne pepper
1 scant smidge of butter (how's that for a measurement)

1. Sprinkle Old Bay and cayenne pepper over shrimp making sure each piece is thoroughly coated.

2. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and saute for approximately one minute.

3. Remove from pan and serve with cocktail sauce, salsa and/or hot sauce.

As you can see, this recipe couldn't be easier, but these little shrimpies are quite tasty and are a nice change of pace if you're looking for a super simple appetizer.

Until next time, have a Tasty Tuesday!

Monday, February 15, 2010

i've got a feelin'...

And now an ode to my Heart's Day Weekend in the good ole ATX.

Roses are red, violets are blue,
I needed some fousin time, we were definitely due.

So I headed to Austin, down I-35,
It was a wee bit icy. It made for quite the drive.

We toasted the start of the weekend with a spot of red wine,
we talked for hours on end, twas quite divine.

The next day called for a bit of light shopping,
and coffee at Mozart's. It was definitely hopping.

Then out to Malaga for tapas and more wine,
on flatbread, mahi-mahi and chicken we deliciously did dine.

The following day began with church and a stroll,
with the sun shining bright, there was no nead to cajole.

After some iced coffee and browsing, we made our way
to a Valentine's brunch at South Congress Cafe.

On the delectable menu for the day were items both savory and sweet,
we feasted on carrot cake french toast, an omelette and mango-infused mimosas that couldn't be beat.

We concluded our celebrations with an afternoon show,
as for the film Valentine's Day, it's most certainly a no-go.

Nevertheless, the weekend was just what the doctor ordered and more.
A weekend in Austin with one of my dearest fousins is never a bore.

Thank you China for such a fun weekend! And thank you even more for your wisdom, counsel and friendship. Your presence in my life is a blessing!

thank God snow is white - it works.

If you would have told me at the start of this winter, we would experience snow not once, not twice, but FIVE times, I would have laughed out loud (and most likely, in your face).

And if you know me at all, it is no secret I posses a particular disdain for all things cold, i.e. winter. (Do not ask me how I lived in New York...temporary lapse of sanity I suppose.) However, I have actually rather enjoyed the snow we have had this season and have found myself truly marveling at God's awesome creation as I have watched the snowflakes fall from the heavens. I have even stopped, tilted back my head and stuck out my tongue to catch a few of the icy flakes.

It is safe to say, aside from my time in New York and my ski trips to Colorado, I have never witnessed such a wintry scene in my hometown as I did last Thursday. The snow-flocked trees lining the sidewalks covered in fluffy white blankets composed a landscape so picturesque, I could hardly believe I was still in Texas. The following is my paltry attempt at capturing the scene I beheld.

What a wonderful Savior we have that He might delight in His children so much so that He created beauty even in the precipitation that pours forth from the sky.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tasty Tuesdays: #34 (the love edition)

Yes, I did refer to this post as the love edition, but feel free to exchange it for the "lonely hearts convention" a la The Office, if you so choose.

I must say, no matter what my romantic situation has been throughout the years, I have always viewed Valentine's Day with a warm regard. Growing up, my mom made it such a special occasion for my sister and me. She would decorate the dining room table with a red tablecloth and sparkly heart confetti. There were balloons, cookies, conversation hearts, chocolates and Valentine's cards. I absolutely loved it!

And who could forget the Valentine's mailboxes we would make in elementary school. It was so fun to deliver Valentine's cards to everyone in the class and then open my mailbox and read all the valentines I had received. And talk about a plethora of candy and other yummy treats. I was in heaven.

But, in the event that you have grown up and do have a valentine you want to shower with love and adoration, I can think of no better gift than to whip them up a homemade meal made with love (and your two hands of course). I don't think there is a better way to show someone how much you care about them and I'm sure (after you make the following recipe) they will agree.

Today's recipe is sure to offer a sweet ending to whatever meal you decide to make. Or, perhaps you are not up for preparing an entire meal. That is fine. Why don't you go out for a nice meal and then prepare this decadent cake at home and toast your love with a bubbly glass of champagne? Sounds pretty perfect if you ask me.

But, I suppose I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's get down to business. What I love about this recipe is the "wow factor." It is so easy to prepare, but the presentation suggests you are a trained culinary pastry chef. It will most certainly, at the very least, impress your dinner date.

The original recipe comes from Kraft Foods, but I actually half it to make 2 small cakes. The cake is incredibly rich, so you could even prepare the two cakes and keep one in the fridge for another time. Then, you can be super romantic and share the dessert with your funny valentine.

Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes

2 squares BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate
1/2 stick butter
1/2 C powdered sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
3 T. flour

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter two ramekins and place on a baking sheet.

2. Place butter and chocolate in a small bowl and microwave for 45 seconds-1 minute. Stir with a whire whisk until blended and add powdered sugar.

3. Whisk in the egg and egg yolk until combined. Stir in flour and mix thoroughly.

4. Pour the batter into the ramekins and bake 13-14 minutes. Run a knife around edges and invert onto serving plates.

If you're feeling extra indulgent, go ahead and top the oozing mountain of warm chocolate lava with a little scoop of premium vanilla ice cream. Holy yum!

So a very Happy Heart's Day to all my readers, and until next week, have a Tasty Tuesday and a delightfully, delicious Valentine's Day. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tasty Tuesdays: week 33

Wow. Have I really been posting recipes for 33 consecutive weeks? It is amazing how quickly time flies.

In that same regard, Happy February to you! January has come and gone lickety-split and we are cruising right into the month of love. I promise I will post a lovely recipe next week sure to knock the socks off your funny valentine.

But this week, let's focus on comfort, shall we? Specifically, let's talk chicken and biscuits. Does it get any more down home than that? I can remember growing up, one of my favorite meals was fried chicken (it should be known I would only eat the drumstick AND I mostly just picked the fried skin off and didn't actually eat the meat) with a biscuit. Since we were super classy, I remember having many a KFC meal and looking forward to eating that buttery biscuit with tons of honey on it. Is anyone with me on this?

Well, this past weekend, I decided to pay homage to my childhood years and whip up an old favorite with a couple twists. On the menu was panko-crusted chicken tenders, sweet potato fries, black beans, corn and sweet potato biscuits with honey.

I thought I was making a kid-friendly meal, but alas, picky Penelope (AKA Haylee) proved me wrong once again. She refused to eat her chicken fingers and only ate about half of her biscuit. However, the three adults had no problem doing some serious damage on the savory spread.

(loosely based on Cooking Light recipes)

Panko-Crusted Chicken Tenders

1 1b. chicken tenders
1 C Japanese-style panko bread crumbs
2 T sesame seeds
2 egg whites
splash of milk

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a non-stick skillet, toast the panko crumbs and sesame seeds until golden brown (about five minutes). Remove from skillet into a shallow bowl.

2. Combine egg whites and milk in a small bowl and whisk lightly with a fork.

3. Dip each tender into the egg white mixture and press into the crumb mixture making sure to thoroughly cover each piece.

4. Place tenders on a baking sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil and bake approximately 18 minutes or until cooked through.

We dipped our chicken strips into a sweet chile sauce which went great, but I think a honey mustard dipping sauce would also be quite tasty.

On an additional note, I ran out of the panko mixture, so I crushed up some basic corn chex cereal and coated a few tenders in that as well. This would also work with corn flakes.

And what's chicken without biscuits? Well not a proper Southern meal that's for sure. Since we all know of my affinity for sweet potatoes, it should come as no surprise that I would find a way to incorporate them into my biscuit offering.

Sweet Potato Biscuits


1/2 C sweet potatoes, mashed (equivalent of 1 small sweet potato)
1/6 C milk
1 C all-purpose flour
2 1/2 T cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 T sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, stir together the sweet potatoes and milk.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture becomes "mealy."

3. Pour the sweet potato mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until combined.

4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times, making sure to add flour if the mixture is too sticky.

5. Roll the dough out about 1/2 an inch thick and cut out eight biscuits. (I used heart-shaped cutouts just for kicks and giggles).

6. Place biscuits on a baking sheet lined with non-stick foil. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Serve these warm out of the oven with butter and honey.

I hope these recipes take you back to a favorite childhood memory or just make things feel like home no matter where you are.

Until next time, happy eating and have a Tasty Tuesday!