Wednesday, December 8, 2010

snowy birthday weekend

this past weekend i turned 26. ryan had the whole weekend off!! (he was incredibly thoughtful, as usual :) i seriously have the sweetest husband!), we went out to breakfast, saw a movie, did a little shopping for me,  had a little mini pizza and wine birthday party at the house...and it was gorgeous white outside. perfect birthday weekend!

our snowy bungalow!

my man on our porch

from our Christmas light-lit porch

smoked gouda sweet potatoes

I tried a different spin on sweet potatoes this Thanksgiving. Instead of the pecan/marshmallow/gooey sweet goodness on top.. I made sweet potatoes with rich smoked gouda and lingering cayenne pepper flavors. Quite tasty, if I do say so myself. 

What you need:
4 T butter
3 T heavy whipping cream, divided
1/2 t coarse salt
1 t sugar
1/8 t cayenne pepper (or more if you like more kick)
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices (cut as thin as you can!)
1/2 cup (2 oz.) shredded smoked Gouda cheese
6 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
2 green onions, chopped

What to do:
Heat the butter, 2 T of the cream, the salt, sugar, cayenne and sweet potatoes in a large saute pan over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, stir to coat the potatoes. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the potatoes are very tender, about 30 to 40 minutes (I had to cook mine longer than the recipe says and I added a little skim milk in the last few minutes of cooking.), stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add the cheese and remaining tablespoon of cream; cover for 1 to 2 minutes until the cheese melts. Mix thoroughly to mash the potatoes. Top with crumbled bacon and onions just before serving.

pumpkin bread pudding with dulce de leche

I'm not traditionally a "bread pudding person". I don't know why. I love bread and I love dessert, but I've just never gotten into the bread pudding thing.  I'm into this one though. It's fun to make, it's festive, and's just really good!! (oh, there's not a healthy thing about it. we can all splurge once in a while... :) )

what you need for the bread pudding:
1 can (15 oz.) pure pumpkin puree
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup light-brown sugar
1/2 t coarse salt
3/4 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t anise seed, roughly chopped
10 oz. day-old bread, such as brioche or sourdough, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped

what you need for the dulce de leche:
6 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 t coarse salt
*remove from heat and whisk in:
3/4 t baking soda (mixture will foam)

what to do for bread pudding:
Butter a 2-quart baking dish.
In a large bowl, whisk together the custard: can pumpkin puree, 1 cup whole milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 2 large eggs, lightly beaten, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon anise seed, roughly chopped.
Arrange bread pieces in a dish and pour custard over bread and top with pecans, roughly chopped.
Bake at 350 until custard is set, 45 minutes. Let cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzled with dulce de leche. To store, cover and refrigerate, up to 2 days.

what to do for dulce de leche:
In a medium saucepan combine ingredients, then cook over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
Remove from heat and whisk in 3/4 teaspoon baking soda (mixture will foam).
Return to simmer and cook over low, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, until sauce is deep golden brown and lightly coats a spoon, about an hour.

favorite salad at the moment

I don't know if it's the ingredients or the dressing or just how pretty it looks, but this salad is an easy crowd pleaser and a very quick healthy dinner. And again, this is one you can add to or take away from or use another dressing if this isn't your thing. Enjoy!

what you need for the salad:
-fresh spinach leaves
-grape tomatoes
-1 avacado, sliced
-crumbled feta
-dried cranberries and/or pomegranate seeds

what you need for the dressing:
2 T red raspberry jam with seeds
2 T red wine vinegar
1/3 c olive oil
freshly ground black pepper to taste
salt to taste

what to do:
Combine as much of these things together as you'd like, mix dressing in a jar and shake, add as much dressing as you'd like. Ta-da!

apple cider roasted vegetables

You can alter this recipe and use pretty much any vegetable you choose. I chose parsnips, rutabaga, baby carrots, and mushrooms. mmm!

what you need:
-about 5 parsnips (or 1.5 lbs), peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
-1 lb. bag baby carrots
-about 3 large rutabaga, cubed
-1 lb. baby portabella mushrooms **
-4 T brown sugar
-4 T olive oil
-2 T apple cider vinegar

what to do:
Heat oven to 450. Place vegetables in roasting pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar. Pour over the vegetables and toss to coat well.
Cook until tender, about an hour, stirring halfway. **Add the mushrooms during the last 10 minutes, toss to coat well, and finish roasting. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

holiday brie

you can call this "holiday brie" or in Peace Meals it's called "cranberry salsa with warm brie and pistachios", but none of these names really describe the "party in your mouth, can't stop eating it it's so good" type of appetizer that this really is. see....


1 small round of Brie cheese
1/2 cup chopped pistachios, toasted
water crackers (I use Carr's brand)

Cranberry Salsa:
12 oz. fresh cranberries (or frozen)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 small jalapenos, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
2 T peeled and grated fresh ginger
2 T fresh lemon juice

What to do:
Rinse the cranberries and discard any that are soft or bruised. Reserve several of the whole cranberries for garnish. Place the remaining cranberries in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (do not overprocess). Transfer to a bowl and stir in the remaining slasa ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350. Place the Brie on a rimmed baking sheet and heat for 15 to 20 minutes until softened. Transfer to a serving platter and top (generously!) with Cranberry Salsa. Sprinkle with pistachios, reserved whole cranberries and additional cilantro.
Serve warm with crackers.

ok one more look at it :)

our first (married) thanksgiving

We spent Thanksgiving in North Carolina this year. Ryan had to work so we didn't go to Texas. Thankfully our friends Travis and Laura stayed in town too. So the four of us celebrated together at our house! We got married in March and the Lintners (travis and laura) got married in all of us will always remember our first married thanksgiving together in winston salem :) We had a great time and enjoyed some good food!

On the menu:
-Holiday Brie
-A Smoked Greenberg Turkey (provided by my in-laws..woo hoo!)
-Spinach Salad
-Stuffing made by Laura!
-Cranberry Sauce made by Laura!
-Smoked Gouda Sweet Potatoes
-Apple Cider Roasted Vegetables
-Pumpkin Bread Pudding and Caramel Yummy Bars

Table setting...simple, but still festive :)

Thanksgiving menu recipes coming soon...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

black bean soup & drop biscuits

The other night my mom asked me what I was planning to make for dinner. She thought my idea, black bean soup, sounded fantastic too so she made it the same night. I guess I shouldn't be too hard on myself  considering that: 1. my mom is the best cook I know (no, seriously!) and 2. she's been cooking for quite a bit longer than I have, but all that to say...her soup turned out much better! I'm going to share her recipe instead of mine :)  (they were almost the same, but I like that hers called for more black beans, half of them pureed, and less rotel) Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients (for soup):
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T olive oil
5 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup chopped celery (optional)
4 ears corn, kernels removed
1 orange, juiced
2 26 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can mild rotel tomatoes
1 vegetable bouillon cube
salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin

Directions (for soup):
Heat olive oil in large pot. Add onion and saute till beginning to soften. Add garlic, carrots and corn (and celery). Stir in tomatoes and orange juice. Process one 26 oz. can black beans in food processor with a little water, pulsing till chopped but not too mushy. Add all beans, vegetable bouillon, water to desired consistency and season. Cook till carrots are slightly done and soup is very hot.
*Serve garnished with mandarin orange segments, avocado slices and greek yogurt or sour cream.

I made these drop biscuits (from Cooks Illustrated) to go with our soup! They were delicious, if I do say so myself :)  

Ingredients (for biscuits):
2 c all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t sugar
3/4 t table salt
1 c  cold buttermilk (I used non-fat)
8 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus 2 T butter for brushing biscuits

Directions (for biscuits):
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Combine buttermilk and 8 Tablespoons melted butter in medium bowl, sitrring until butter forms small clumps.
Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until just incorporated and batter pulls away from sides of bowl. Using greased 1/4 cup dry measure, scoop level amounts of batter and drop onto parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Makes 12 biscuits.
Bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Brush biscuit tops with remaining 2 T of melted butter. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Curried Pumpkin Mushroom Soup

One of my favorite things about cold weather is soup. I really love a good cup of soup!
My husband, on the other hand, doesn't get quite as much joy from a cup of soup for dinner as I do.
What does he mean "soup's not a real meal?" :)

Even he loves this one...

(I'm back to revise this post a year later. I made this soup this weekend for a little "fall party".  It was a  big hit and it's just so easy. I made a few tiny changes.)

 1/2 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 c chopped onion
2 T flour
2 T butter
 3 c organic low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
2 T honey or agave nectar
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t curry powder
1/2 t salt
 1 12 oz. can fat free evaporated milk (OR 1 pint half-and-half (fat free organic))
black pepper to taste
cayenne pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a stockpot over medium heat; add the mushrooms and onions, and saute for 10 minutes. Stir in flour and curry; add broth and stir for 1 minute.
Add the pumpkin, honey or agave and seasonings, and mix well. Stir over medium-high heat until the soup comes to a simmer. Reduce heat and continue to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the half-and-half and heat through without boiling. Serve immediately.
Top with chives or toasted pumpkin seeds and serve with warm, toasty bread.

It's like Fall in a cup!

s'more cups!

Several months ago my friend, Sarah, introduced me to these delicious (and horribly addicting!)  gooey chocolatey crumbly treats!! Perfect for a holiday party, or a shower, or a Friday night..or a birthday party...or Thanksgiving...or just cuz. catch my drift? they're great anytime! :)

7 whole graham crackers (I use low fat honey graham crackers)
¼ cup powdered sugar
6 tbsp butter, melted
4 bars chocolate candy (or 2 KING size bars), divided
(I use dark chocolate Hershey bars. You will use 2 bars for the middle layer of chocolate and 2 bars to dip the s’more cups in…the final step) 
12 large marshmallows
Deluxe Mini Muffin pan
Yield: 24 cups

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place graham crackers in food processor and blend until fine (or place in large plastic bag and crush)
3. Add graham cracker crumbs to melted butter. Add powdered sugar to butter and graham cracker mixture. Stir.
4. Put small scoop of graham cracker, sugar, butter mixture into bottom of each (24) cup of muffin pan.  5.Press crumbs to form shallow cups.
6.Bake 4-5 minutes
7. Break 2 candy bars into rectangles and place one rectangle into each cup when you remove from overn
8.Cut marshmallow in half crosswise using kitchen shears and place one marshmallow half, cut-side down, into each cup
9. Return to oven 1-2 minutes
10. Let cool for 15 minutes
11. Carefully remove cups from pan. Cool completely.
12.  Break remaining candy bars and place in microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute to 1.5 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring every 20-30 seconds.
13. Dip the top of each marshmallow in melted chocolate. Turn top-side up and let stand 40 minutes-1 hour or until set. (I’ve never waited this long before I eat one… They’re too hard to resist! )

Saturday, October 30, 2010

assuming the best

I've been meaning to share this story, but just haven't gotten around to it yet. There's a man named Clarence (I hope he doesn't mind that I share his name) that lives in our neighborhood who comes to our house pretty often to see if he can trim bushes, mow, rake, etc. A couple weeks ago when Jay was visiting Clarence came by and mowed and weed eated. He charges $25. He came back about 15 minutes after leaving. He was holding the 5 dollar bill and told us that he'd dropped the 20 on his way to put up his lawn mower at a friend's house. Ryan, Jay, and I didn't have any more cash and were totally skeptical and assuming the worst. What an easy way to earn $45 insted of $25, right? I hear Clarence say, "I owe a friend $20 and told him I'd pay him today, could I borrow the money and pay you back tomorrow?" Instead Ryan and Jay said that they'd retrace his footsteps with him in hopes of finding the  money. The three of them walked back the way Clarence had come and had no luck finding the money. Clarence thanked Ryan and Jay for trying to help him and said that he had to go get his mower so he could try to mow another yard before it got dark so he could pay his friend back. They said bye and Jay and Ryan headed back to the house. They were kinda frustrated and felt like maybe Clarence wasn't being honest about the whole thing. They were confessing to each other that it's so much easier to distrust than trust when you don't really know someone. Some leaves blew and there was the $20. They grabbed it, ran to find Clarence, and couldn't find him. They saw some people out in their front yard and asked, "Have you seen an older guy..maybe with a lawnmower..?" "Oh yeah, Clarence? He's over there." They pointed Jay and Ryan towards Clarence...they found him and were able to give him his $20 back. I'm thankful for humbling moments like that that help me remember the importance of assuming the best in people.

"h" for hazelnut

This morning Sarah and I went to a new store called Vintage Jane on Main St. in Kernersville. We both loved it! I went looking for Christmas presents and left with 3 magnets, a frame, and a vintage-ish cork board/frame/dry erase thing to hang somewhere for fun little notes or "to do" lists (all for me..oops). I'll try again soon and have better self-control next time.
Before we headed to Vintage Jane I stopped at Cafe Roche to get some coffee. I ordered a decaf mocha for Sarah and a skim latte with almond for me (and I was very excited about it!) I saw the barista pour the milk into one and real nicely I asked, "oh, was that skim milk in mine?" He smiled and said, "I know I don't really know you yet, but what's your profession?"  "oh, I'm a teacher" I said.  "Oh" he replied "well I won't tell you how to teach and you don't need to tell me how to make your coffee." Well, ok then. :) I think I pretty flawlessly rolled with his joke and proceded to keep my mouth shut and let the man do his job. He set down the coffee in front of me while I paid. Then he took a sharpie and wrote an "H" on my cup and circled it. I took a look at it and said, "H for...?" "Hazelnut!" he said "Uh you mean almond?" "Damn it! you did say almond didn't you?" "Haha, hazelnut's my second favorite..don't worry about it.. "  :) I guess we're even.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

pumpkin crunch

This Fall treat is a great snack to have on hand, a great treat if you're having company over, and a sure way to make your home smell like the holidays fast!

The recipe calls for maple syrup...I used Agave Nectar instead...worked great!

1 cup pumpkin seeks (raw, without shell. I bought mine from Whole Foods in the bulk section)
1 ½ teaspoons canola oil
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or agave)
1 ¼ cups dried cranberries (or dried cherries if you prefer)

Preheat oven to 300. Coat baking sheet with canola oil and spread pumpkin seeds evenly over sheet. Roast for twenty minutes or until almost dry. Place pumpkin seeds in a medium bowl and mix in maple syrup until coated. Combine spices in a large bowl and add pumpkin seeds. Place back on baking sheet and return to oven. Roast for fifteen minutes or until dry. Set seeds aside until completely cool – about thirty minutes. When cool, combine seeds with dried cranberries.

it looks so pretty too!

enjoy :)

fresh homeade salsa!

3 roma tomatoes
1 can tomatoes (I use diced canned tomatoes with chiles for a little added "kick")
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded
1/2 white onion
1/4 bunch cilantro
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
dash of tobasco

Directions: Place all ingredients in food processor (or blender) and process to desired consistency. Refrigerate and enjoy :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Angel Hair with Shrimp & Zucchini

I participated in a recipe exchange today and this is what I shared. Easy and delicious!

1 lb. medium-large frozen shrimp
1/2 box whole wheat angel hair pasta (or thin spaghetti)
olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 zucchini
1 roma tomato

Directions:1. Thaw shrimp and take the tails off (just set bag of shrimp in the sink for a few hours before you'll be using it)
2.Chop zucchini into long thin pieces
3. Dice tomato
4. mince garlic
5. chop fresh basil
6. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil (over medium-high heat) in large saute pan
7. add zucchini.
8.  when zucchini is starting to get tender add shrimp. saute for 2-3 minutes.
9. add tomato and minced garlic. Saute another minute or so (garlic burns quickly!)
10. cook pasta al dente (bring water to boil, add pasta, cook uncovered for about 9 minutes.)
11. Drain and add shrimp, zuchinni, tomato, etc.. mixture to pasta.
12. add more olive oil to taste (until pasta is not sticking together. probably about 1/4 to a 1/2 cup more) and a tbsp. of butter (if you want!)

*Add salt and pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.
 *sprinkle fresh basil over the top of the pasta.


hiking in NC

This past weekend, our friend Jay (one of Ryan's roommates during all 4 years of med school) came to visit! Ryan had the whole weekend off. The weather was perfect. Time with Jay was great. It was a much-needed relaxing and fun weekend. Jay asked us, "What's your favorite thing about living out here?" Coming from flat, mountain-less Texas, that was a pretty easy question to answer...

gorgeous Fall trees on our way to hike in Boone

Hiking Boone Fork Trail

JD, my man, and me :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

what's all the fuss about

a lot of people I know LOVE fall. people rave about it!
 i enjoy a good piece of pumpkin bread or a pumpkin latte once in a while. 
but i guess if i'm honest, i've never really considered myself a LOVER OF FALL. now living in north carolina, i am starting to see what all the fuss is about.
the leaves are changing. it's cooling off (scarves, boots, jackets!).
 pumpkin cake has never tasted better. it's absolutely gorgeous here! 
to some of you, that is nothing new and may not seem noteworthy. 
being a houstonian all my life, having 4 seasons is a new and exciting thing for me. i am becoming a true and genuine lover of fall :)  roasted pumpkin seeds. 
lots of hot chocolate on the porch. pumpkins in the house. pumpkin on the porch. fall flowers. fall cookies. my favorite fall thing of all, though, are the leaves....

beautiful, huh??
what do you love about fall?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Paul & Kristen's Homemade Hot Chocolate

When we went to visit our friends, Paul & Kristen, in Denver last year we were completely spoiled by their homemade hot chocolate. For part of our wedding present, they finally shared the recipe with us. Hope they don't mind that I'm unleashing their drinkable secret....

1 8 qt. box powdered milk
1 lb. box Nestle's Quick
1 (8 oz.) jar coffee creamer (I use french vanilla)
1/2 box powdered sugar

What to do:
Mix together!
Use 1/3 cup mix to 1 cup hot water
Top with whip cream or marshmallows

We have already enjoyed several cool nights on our porch, delcious cocoa in hand! :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

fall cookies

A few Fridays ago I brought a treat to school for some of my coworkers. 
just a little "we made it to the weekend!" pick me up :) 
I brought s'more cups, a delicious recipe from my friend Sarah that I will share with you soon. 
Today in a meeting, a s'more-cup-loving work friend said, "
Kate, I've been thinking about those s'more cups!! Will you pleaseee bring another treat soon?" 
How could I resist? I came home, looked in the pantry to see what I already had, and was able to make these! They are sort of a hodge podge type of cookie, so if you're 
not into nuts and oats and a party in your mouth, 
you may want to leave out a couple ingredients :)

1 c. melted butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 c. peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. uncooked oatmeal
6 oz. chocolate chips
*1/2 c. chopped pecans
*cinnamon to taste (I used about 3/4 Tbsp)
*ingredients that I added to the recipe
*3 heaping Tbsp. homemade hot chocolate 
(I'll share that recipe soon!) (substitute with a packet of hot chocolate)

Mix all ingredients together and place by spoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet. 
Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 10 minutes. 
Cookies will still be soft when done.

teaching requires a lot of patience :)

                                                                                            5th grade student
                                                                                          during guided reading

what's going on

Ryan and I got married in March and moved to NC in June. He started pediatric residency in July and I started teaching in Kernersville (fondly known around here as "K-Vegas") in August. I am called a PRT, a Primary Reading Teacher. This is my dream job that I never knew existed. I've been wandering a little bit (we'll call it "exploring my options"...since May, 2007 I think I've had 9 jobs... so call it what you want) for the last few years. I worked for an inner city ministry, the insurance industry, substitute taught, helped with some non-profit development projects for a few weeks, did some temp work, assisted a lawyer, worked at a women's shelter, was an assistant 2nd grade teacher, contemplated going to grad school about a 100 times, and now I'm a PRT in Kernersville, NC of all things and I LOVE it! I teach reading to small groups (4-6 students) of 2nd & 5th graders. I work with 2nd grade for a little over an hour and then am with 5th grade the rest of the day. Oh, did I mention that I work part-time? That may factor into the "dream job I never knew existed" thing. My hours are 7:45-12:45. I'm much more productive in the mornings...this job really is custom made for me! I don't know why I ever doubt God's faithfulness, but I still find myself surprised sometimes by it. Ryan and I have been so aware of God's faithfulness and love for us lately. His provision is incredible--our church, small group, some great friends in a new town, my job, our house, Wakeforest residency program, the list goes on and on. HE IS GOOD!
"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever."   Psalm 107:1