Friday, December 14, 2012

Lura, Part 2: Christmas

Do you have holiday memories?

Of course you do. It might have been around 8 crazy nights or Christmas carols, but the memories are there. Some are joyful, some are painful. But memories boil up when you least expect them and, when some of your memories are not so good, you have an opportunity each season to make new memories. Yay.

Lura (my grandmother) loved Christmas. Honestly, I don't know much about her holidays as a child, but I do know fresh fruit was a special treat in her stockin...oh, wait, maybe I read that in a Dickens novel. EIther way, Christmas was very special at my grandmother's house.

Nostalgic ornaments...lined the Christmas tree, multicolored lights, children's homemade ornaments from decades ago, glass balls with picturesque winter wonderland scenes, tinsel all over.

Glass jars of Hershey's kisses in the formal living room...that we'd always go around and sneak.

Christmas Eve services and other celebrations at church.

Breakfast pizza or casserole on Christmas morning. We all wore red and/or green. She wore the cutest matching Christmas sweats each year. With matching earrings. And socks. And necklace. You get the picture.

Food all day...turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole (never "yams"), mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, cornbread dressing (not "stuffing"), sometimes oyster stuffing, carrot souffle, green bean casserole, corn casserole, gallons of iced tea. And pies...pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato, with a heaping scoop of Blue Bell homemade vanilla ice cream on the side. This is the stuff homes are made of.

Presents around the tree. Cameras and happiness. Unwrapped gifts for the "kids," even when we were 22. Santa surely is real. Smiles, laughs and lots of hugs and "thank yous" around the room. Another sunny Christmas day in front of a large bay window of a white brick house in Texas.

Oh, and I mustn't forget the trash...the edible trash...but for another day...

Hold each other tight and remember the special memories. Be sure and make room in your heart for the new memories, too.  :)


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lura, Part 1: Dresses

I've talked about her a lot, especially here on this blog.

You see, I can't go even a day without little things here and there reminding me of her. She was my grandmother, one of my very best friends. Her name was Lura.

She is very much alive in my heart (and others' hearts) and in memories, but she is no longer here on this Earth with us. She and I have a scheduled 'tea' when we're in Heaven together. We will have iced tea and her amazing lemon chess bars around her kitchen table.

Lura (or "Mama" as we called her) was a sister to *SEVEN* brothers. Her father (a real live mailman who rode a horse around to deliver the mail) passed away when she was only 7, so her savvy & resourceful mother had to figure life out from there. She ended up being raised in the Masonic Home for girls in Meridian, Mississippi with visits from her mom whenever she could afford it.

Mama was, understandably, devastated to be torn from her close-knit family and her beloved seven brothers. She was in the middle in the order of their ages, so she felt especially lonely when the boys went to the Masonic Home for boys (hours away) and she went to the girls home by herself. The year was 1927, & the recession was soon upon the U.S.; little did she know that growing up in the Masonic Home was a huge blessing in the midst of financial ruin around the country. She remembered times when Masons (members of the male service organizations that funded the Home) often gave to the Masonic home in their community, remembering the orphans to the point that their own children went without any 'extras.' Families like these sacrificed for families like mine, the social orphans of the Masonic Homes.

The headmaster and his wife soon saw something in Mama that they did not see in the others girls. She was a caretaker, a compassionate leader; therefore, she was assigned to be a houseleader at the young age of 8. She took care of 20-something younger girls, including bathing them, washing and ironing their dresses, getting them ready for school each day and even teaching them manners and life skills. I remember one Masonic home reunion where I met a lady in her 70s telling me that my grandmother taught her all she knew back then. She had so much gratitude for Mama's care. They were only 5 or 6 years apart, but Mama had love and wisdom beyond her years to embark upon 'her little girls.' Can you imagine that? Mama was a little girl who was grieving the separation and loss of her family and home, yet she mustered up the love and maternal instincts that those little girls needed. Through her time at the home, she helped raise dozens and dozens of little girls; she would come back from college to visit them and keep the relationships with the girls going.

Speaking of girls, one of the few moments that Mama had 'social time' with the Masonic home girls her own age was on the school bus. Each girls was given one dress ONLY, and it was handmade by the headmaster's wife. The girls had their own bus to get to school and would tell the bus driver to turn his mirror so the girls could switch dresses on their way to school. One girl would keep guard while the others would scurry into a different dress. Then, on the bus drive back to the Home, the girls would switch back so they wouldn't get in trouble with the headmaster's wife. I suppose fashion was important to them, too.

Funny, even when she was well enough to voice her opinions, she liked it when I wore a dress. She was a classy lady. My mom taught herself to sew at a very young age and, EVERY SINGLE MOTHER'S DAY, she would make my grandmother a dress or suit. Amazing. And I know they looked incredible on her. Nothing wrong with a dress every now and then, right?

Happy eating! Laurel

Gingerbread Cookies: crunchy or soft & chewy

Matt and I had a lot of fun making gingerbread cookies last weekend.

They were

  • Portland-themed
  • fun and messy
  • really crunchy
Here is a pic:

So the cookies were fun, but they were sorta too crunchy to I made chewy ones. I totally used a lady's recipe, and it was a good one. Thanks, Michelle.

Soft & Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
Adapted from Michelle

Step One: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine these 7 ingredients in a large bowl. (Use a whisk or large spoon and stir for about a minute.)
   * 3 cups AP flour
   * 4 teaspoons ground ginger
   * 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
   * 1 teaspoon ground cloves
   * 1 teaspoon baking soda
   * 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
   * 1/4 teaspoon salt

Step Two: In a second (smaller) bowl, combine these three ingredients.
   * 3/4 cup margarine, softened but not melted
   * 1/2 cup  brown sugar (not packed)
   * 1/2 cup white sugar

Step Three: Pour the smaller bowl of wet ingredients into the large bowl of dry ingredients. Stir for a little bit. Then add these 3 ingredients and stir until the dough becomes moistened and thick.
   * 1 egg
   * 1 tablespoon apple cider (OR orange juice OR apple juice)
   * 3/4 cup molasses (use light, full flavor or robust--whichever type you like!)

Step Four: Roll the dough into balls, about 2 TB of dough in each. Space them out onto a greased baking sheet.

Step Five: Using the bottom of a glass (I used a 12 ounce beer glass), wet the flat bottom side and dip it into a saucer or shallow dish of white sugar. With each cookie, DIP into sugar and PRESS down onto the cookie. (DIP and PRESS, smooshing the cookie down to 1/4-inch thick. (NOTE: For a festive look, use red or green sugars.))

Step Six: Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cookies are not shiny looking on top. Let cool on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Eat! Chew! Yum!

Happy eating!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Reindeer Noses

Happy Holiday Season, friends!

We've been enjoying the lights, the turkey (I mean Thai for turkey day), and the festivities in the Northwest. On many corners, I drive by "Christmas trees for sale" signs, & they're for gorgeous firs or whatever kind you like. Even Boy Scouts are selling them for $15/tree. There are even tree farms where they hand you a saw and you get to wander the tree farm for the perfect Christmas tree for your home. You choose it and chop it down. You probably know all about this, but it's a new thing for this lifelong Texan.

We went with our artificial tree this year because 1) I was too excited to wait to I get a live tree and 2) we were trying to be a little greener. But next year...we'll buy a live tree so grand it'll make the Griswolds' tree look like Charlie Brown's little branch...maybe.

Lets make a festive, happy, sweet cookie. Lets be cute yet quick about it, shall we?

Reindeer Noses
~makes 18 cookies~

2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick margarine, melted (8 TB)
1 egg
Powdered sugar
Red sprinkles

Preheat oven to 340. In a medium bowl, combine the first 4 ingredients (dry stuff).

Add in the egg and margarine. Stir.

Roll into small balls, about the size of a ping pong ball. Place onto a nonstick baking sheet.

Repeat until all of the dough is rolled. Dust with "SNOW" (powdered sugar) or turn them into "Rudolph's nose" (red sprinkles). Bake for 10 minutes, or until cookies are slightly firm to the touch. let cool a few minutes before gobbling.

Make these Reindeer Noses with the kids in your life, or feel like a kid making them!

Merry, merry!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Fall Harvest Salad

Enjoying the awesome fall produce right now doesn't mean we have to cook it to death in order to enjoy it. After all of the hearty, piping hot soups and breads lingering around this season, sometimes we just need a salad. Something crisp, something green, something light. But it must be filling, or what's the point?

Fall Harvest Salad
Sweet and tangy, this salad highlights fall's pears and apples, along with the saltiness of a sharp cheddar. Dress with a light dressing, like poppyseed, for a filling lunch.
2-3 cups salad greens (spinach + arugula is in season)
1/2 pear
1/2 tart apple (Granny Smith)
1 ounce sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon salad dressing

1. Wash the greens, chop the fruit and cheese into bite-sized pieces, and layer all on a plate.
2. Top with poppyseed dressing for a little sweetness.

Happy lunching!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Guilt-free Pumpkin Spice Frappe!

Friends, Portland is cold and wet and very Fall-y. It's so fall-y, that I'm convinced I've never experienced real fall until this year. Just imagine, going through 28 falls and it takes this one, the 29th, when I experience the real thing. You know...
  • trees changing color
  • trees becoming colors I've never seen before...yellow, golden, ruby red, pumpkin orange, and a strange puberty stage when they're half green/half red. It's cool, really.
  • leaves everywhere. On the deck, the streets and driveways, falling in my hair. Big, small, wet and icky, crisp and vibrant colors.
  • the need for many hoodies (b/c I always get more wet when trying to maneuver an umbrella in the rain) and even more dry socks. 
  • cold, crisp air that makes you want to eat everything pumpkin and apple-y in sight. (Don't worry, I've done this.)
And that takes us back to food. Oh yes, I've been making warm, cozy concoctions for the last month and am ready to share with you. But let's ease into it, with a COLD treat that has great fall PUMPKIN flavors. Mmm.

I will admit, I love every seasonal Starbucks treat in existence. But I do not like the sugar headache afterward or the empty calories after the giant-big-as-my-face venti drink. Plus, all that whipped cream makes me swim in a dairy coma that leads to a tummy ache. Wow, do I really love those drinks? Is it worth it? Sometimes. But, when you want something with a little less fat/calories/sugar-coma and a little more money in your pocket, this Pumpkin Spice Frappe might be the next best thing.

Guilt-free Pumpkin Spice Frappe!
2 servings; 5 minutes to make (+ freeze time)

1 cup cool coffee
1 cup milk (of your choice)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 TB brown sugar (not packed)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (a dash)
1/3 cup canned pumpkin

What to do:
1. Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl until combined. Pour into 2 ice cube trays and freeze. (2 hours or more)

2. Once frozen, drop the cubes into the blender and blend until creamy. Serve in a glass with chocolate chips or whipped cream on top! 
1 serving of this tasty treat (without whipped cream or choc chips)

 This drink makes two servings, so you must share with a friend (or at least pace yourself and enjoy it two days in a row). Simple, easy, cheap, tasty. Hope you enjoy!!

Happy eating!

Everything's Coming Up Rosie

'Oh! I once heard a poem that goes:
"A rose is a rose is a rose"
Well I don't agree,
Take it from me,
There's one rose sweeter than any that grows!
That's my Rosie,
I'm so glad she chose me;
Life is one sweet beautiful song to me.'

(Adams, Strouse, as sung by Dick Van Dyke in Bye Bye, Birdie)source:

Who doesn't love a rose every now and then? And since Portland is the City of Roses, we thought we'd check out the International Rose Test Garden, the largest test garden of roses in the U.S. Now you might be thinking roses are so Valentine's Day circa 1992, but this garden was huge, colorful, and the intoxicating smell might bring back your love for the world's top selling flower.

Tie Dye made it onto flowers, naturally

Can you believe this is a rose? A big one with a bunch of tiny ones, all grown together!

The Rosie O'Donnell Hybrid Tea
Okay, just wanted to cheer up your day. Are you looking at barren trees and miss the green? Are your toes numb, in spite of the 877 pairs of socks layered onto your feet? Just remember...spring will come back in the not-so-distant future!

Happy blooming day!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pittock Mansion

Some more photos...
Matt & I visited Pittock Mansion in Portland 2 weekends ago, then promptly took my parents to see it the next week. It is supposed to be one of the best views of the city, as the house is perched on the 1,000-foot West "Hill." (The only hills I grew up with were freeway overpasses, so this is definitely a mountain to me.) Luckily, the two of us went on a clear day and took lots of pictures. Unfortunately for my parents, their visit was on a cloudy with low visibility of the mountains. (Perhaps they'll need to come back soon and try again!)

Anyway, it is called the Pittock Mansion because, well, the Pittock family owned this big home. The husband and wife duo were pioneers on the Oregon Trail, Mr. starting the Portland newspaper here and Mrs. being very involved in social work efforts and gardening in the area. I actually read about her in one of my social work textbooks a few years ago...pretty nifty!

We haven't taken the tour of their house yet, but if you go around to the backyard, that's where beautiful greenery and flowers line the 'cliff' of the views. The five or six mountains in the Cascades Range you can see in a 180-degree span include Mts. Hood and St. Helens.

Yellow Rose of Texas Oregon
Wouldn't it be fun to have those views in your backyard? Well, I'll visit this one for free when I'm wanting a giant garden. And I don't have to remember to water the plants... :)

Happy Day!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Simple Focaccia

 I remember the first time I tasted focaccia bread. It was at one of those Italian chain restaurants where they sing you Happy Birthday in Italian and bring out baskets of warm focaccia to dip into herbed olive oil and devour. I think I was 12. The strange looking puffy yet flat bread was piping hot, spongy and really delicious. The soft bread tasted like I imagined Italy felt.

Since then, I've had some more tastes of the bread, topped with meats and cheeses, even used for paninis and sweetened for a simple dessert. It's time to try and make it. Mostly because I love an excuse to use rosemary.

A note on rosemary...I really love this herb. It's hearty and can be grown most anywhere. It's a treat to see it growing wild in Texas, where the heat can destroy even the toughest of plants. Rosemary is pretty as a full bush but also looks nice if flower arrangements and just to have around the house. It's also a plant that's hard to kill (i.e., forgetting to water it for a month, and it keeps on ticking!). We love to use fresh rosemary but dried is great, too. There's a longer stemmed dried rosemary that we get from Whole Foods. It's by far the best quality I've found, and a little goes a long way. So this was definitely included in the focaccia.

Simple Focaccia
This simple bread is wonderful to make while you prepare the rest of dinner, or while you're around the house for 2 hours. No mixer required. Top the bread with the seasonings/toppings of your choice. Some ideas: Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, lots of dried rosemary, thyme, chives, sun dried tomatoes, sliced pepperoncinis, red onions, garlic (roasted, cloves, powder), olives, mushrooms, bell peppers, cheeses (mozzarella, parmesan), prosciutto or pepperoni.
Adapted from here
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 TB instant yeast
1 t. salt
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees-ish)
3 TB olive oil
Toppings/seasonings of your choice

STEP ONE: In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, salt, water, and 3 TB olive oil. Mix for 1-2 minutes, until all combined. Dough will be sticky.

STEP TWO: In a lightly oiled 9X13 baking pan, place the dough, flattening out a bit. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes, or until the dough has risen and is puffy.

STEP THREE: Remove the plastic wrap and poke the dough all over with your fingers. Drizzle with olive oil (lightly) and top with seasonings/toppings. (I used Italian seasoning, dried rosemary, garlic powder, and a little sea salt.) Bake for 40 minutes.

STEP FOUR: After cooling for 5-10 minutes, slice into squares and serve. (Great for open faced sandwiches, dipping bread in herbed olive oil, side bread for a meal, etc.)
Happy eating!

Is My Kitchen Equipped?
Have you walked into a Williams-Sonoma or other lovely kitchen store lately? Have you gazed up at the bright lights reflecting off of the shiny copper pots and pans, fancy knives in glass cases, and kitchen gadgets lining the walls and reaching up all the way to the heavens?

Oh, it's quite a sight, isn't it? And don't even get me started on the baking pans tucked on shelves and the espresso machines that make you drool...a little.

Shiny, shimmery, fancy schmancy kitchen stuff. Does the good (i.e. PRICEY) stuff make you a good cook, even a Top Chef? It reminds me of middle school when the kids on the basketball team would buy Air Jordans to "make them jump higher and get more baskets." Move over Michael Jordan, little Sam's mommy just got suckered into buying him $130 shoes. 

Okay, so we're not suckers; many of us are savvy, bargain shoppers who just want to get better at life (cooking) and want to do it without going into bankruptcy to buy that $1500 pot that was too good to pass up. But a splurge is okay, too, sometimes. The funny Mark Bittman has a great article on the essentials needed in any kitchen. They're practical items that are as cheap as $1 and as expensive as...well, he doesn't recommend any expensive. 

When you look at the photo/diagram of the kitchen supplies he recommends, I (basically a nobody compared to this food giant) completely agree. However, investing in a mandoline has yet to happen, mostly because I like all 10 of my fingers, thank you. But for those of us who are not so clutzy, a mandoline is a great addition.

Hope you enjoy this article. And, if you have another 7 minutes, I'd read his article on Meat (same website on the main page). Interesting stuff, friends. Happy cooking, bargain hunting for a $3 baking pan and *most of all* happy eating!!


Friday, September 21, 2012

Road Trip


I am desperately behind in posting bloggie stuff on here. I will eventually catch up, I promise. So today (my day off) was spent transferring lots of files (photos) over to an external hard drive so I could share more with you! It's a tedious task but feels a little like cleaning the house...not so fun in the moment, but feels great after everything's all cleaned out. I'm in the process right now. Anyhoo, for some photo fun...

I. Texas: Mom & Dad's Backyard

My mom has a love of stars, based on a song, so you find them all over their Lone Star home. (No, it's not a country song.)
Sam's perch on the couch (cat?)

 II. Kansas: Awesome In-laws

HAPPY 3rd Birthday Party Day tomorrow, Libby!!

Chris, Matt's bandmate, came by Kansas for a visit/jam/lunch. Jolly good!
Some, but not all, of our awesome Kansas/MO family!
 I'll post food soon, I promise. I have a few exciting things up my sleeve. Will you believe that Mark Bittman was in Portland yesterday and I *had to work*??? I listened to the interview with the local NPR station on my way to work, which was awesome, but I'm sure hearing him in person was pretty rad. Maybe another time...

Happy eating!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Busy Girl's Smoothie

Wow, what a great couple of days! My parents came through Portland for a couple day stay on their way to Seattle for an Alaskan cruise. We ate a ton and saw a lot. We are so glad they came to visit!

In the meantime, they went on their cruise this morning, and Matt & I went to our neighborhood farmers market. It was so busy and so packed full of enticing fresh organic produce, baked goods, artisan crafts. And lot of crepes, omelets, barbq, gourmet breads, and other ethnic tasties to stuff in our faces. Highlights: my Marionberry scone and Matt's sausage pinwheel sandwich; a 2 1/2 foot long zucchini for $2; and tomato varieties that included chocolate cherry, pineapple and too many heirlooms to count. I'd never seen or heard of these before! How fun.
We got our produce for the week or 2 and are so excited to try! How about now? And quickly, so I'm not late for work?

2 servings
1/2 cup milk
4-6 oz of low fat yogurt
1/2 cup berries
1/2 apple
1 banana
3 cups spinach

Combine all ingredients in a blender, then add 4-6 ice cubes. Drink half and share the rest with a friend!

Happy Saturday!!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Healthy Substitutes

Shortcuts are awesome. They make things quicker and easier...and better for me. And you. Do you have any shortcuts?

Substitutes in cooking/baking take on the same effect. They make things quicker (no extra trip to the store for 1 missing ingredient), easier and are better for you. Many of these you have probably seen before and even used in the kitchen. But I decided to list these for fun and helpfulness in the day-to-day adventures of trying to live a healthy, happy life.

For whole eggs:
Egg substitute/egg beaters
Egg whites (3 egg whites=2 eggs)
Unsweetened applesauce (1/4 applesauce=1 egg; sub in baking only)

For oil (in baking):
Applesauce (equal measurements)

For butter:
Whipped butter (1/2 the fat/calories)
Applesauce in baking
Apple butter/pumpkin butter
Cooking spray, small amount of olive oil

All-purpose white flour:
Whole wheat pastry flour (light and airy for baking)
Oat flour
White wheat flour
Spelt flour

Regular pastas:
Whole wheat pastas (at least 50% wheat flour)
Whole wheat orzo
Whole wheat couscous
Brown rice
Quinoa (key-nwaahhhh--much harder to pronounce than to prepare)

Traditional breadcrumbs:
Whole wheat breadcrumbs
Rice Krispies cereal
Corn flakes

Sucanat (sugar cane natural)
Reduce (the amount of white sugar in a recipe and pump up the flavors of vanilla, almond, peppermint, cinnamon, or nutmeg)
Fruit juice (another type of sugar, but processed a little easier by your body than white sugar)

Savory spices (rosemary, smoked paprika, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, smoked chili powder, black and white pepper, cumin)

Turkey bacon
"Veggie" sausage (Boca, Quorn, etc.)
Thinly sliced prosciutto
Thick sliced pancetta (more flavor=eating less & having my fill)

Milk from a moo cow:
Unsweetened almond milk (vanilla, chocolate, or original)
Soy milk
Hemp milk

Fat free half-and-half (some have lots of chemicals, so read the label first)
Low fat buttermilk (king of baking--can sub for cream + butter in a recipe!)
Silken tofu

I challenge you this weekend to find one of your favorite, go-to recipes and try to make it with one of these (or another) healthier substitutes. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Happy weekend and happiest living!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Those Little Things

Can you believe we've been residents of Oregon for a month now? Wow, neither can I. And we've eaten out exactly 2.4 times since we've been here. I'm actually proud of us for the IMMENSE amount of self control that it has taken to eat at home. Eating out, trying new places and new dishes are thre of Matt and my favorite things, so I know our bank account thanks us for the sacrifice. ;) anyhow, that 2.4 times included:
-a great NE seafood chain with a tasty seafood Cobb (see photo)
-a burger/Chinese place 2 blocks from our house (okay:too greasy)
-and the .4 was a cup of soup from the beautiful Zupan's Market, a specialty grocery in the Pearl District/Downtown. This is my absolute fave kind of grocery store, run like a corner market that you pop into every day or two for a few tasty items. Matt thought they had one of the cleanest and most organized produce section he'd ever seen. It's fun. And, of course, there's a Peet's coffee inside--of course! And I had spicy white chili (photo below), but next time I'll try the banana cold soup(!) (photo below). The description made my eyes pop out with excitement!

Okay, that's all for now. I've learned another thing about Portland (& maybe the NW in general)...personal space is all relative. Not in a creepy way like strangers greeting you nose-to-nose, but sharing tables at an outdoor patio or greeting complete strangers is more common here than in the famously friendly South. Just something to chew on.
I made a super healthy bfast item that ill share ASAP. Happy Tuesday and Labor Day weekend to ya!


Friday, August 24, 2012

Pretzels, pretzels!

Avoiding shopping malls at all costs is such a good idea. Not because of the temptation to buy every cute little something in every store window. Not even because of the hordes of stinky teenagers who lurk around all day. It's because of the pretzels. Dripping in butter, piled on salt, big as your head, chewy pretzels. They smell so good, yet are much too much as a "simple snack for one." (I've obviously committed this crime more than once.) Plus, sometimes they cost as much as a salad or a sandwich. And it's just bread.

I've had this on the list to make for over a year now, so now's the time. Break out the flour, water, salt, yeast. Let's make these thangs. Honestly, these taste like the REAL DEAL (okay, the real mall deal). They are salty, a little 'buttery' and super chewy. However, they are homemade (think: the mall pretzel smell, in your home), more manageable in size and have no butter whatsoever. Plus, the salt content is lessened so you won't choke.

Homemade Pretzels
Chewy, pull-apart pretzels. Great plain, with a little salt and butter, or even cinnamon-sugar. Easier than you'd think.
Adapted from here

Makes 16 palm-sized pretzels
1  1/2 C warm water
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 Packet of Yeast (2 1/4 t.)
1 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Oil or Butter
4  1/2 C Flour
1/2 C Baking Soda
Course Salt

1 Prepare the dough: 
  •  Mix water, sugar and yeast in a large mixing bowl and let sit 10 minutes.
  •  Stir in the salt, oil, and 2 cups of flour. (Use your mixer for this, if you have one.) Then, stir in a much additional flour as you can. Knead for 7-8 minutes, adding flour as necessary.
2 Rest the dough:
  • Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest in a warm place for 1 hour.
  • After 45 minutes or so, bring 8 cups of water and 1/2 cup baking soda to a boil. Preheat the oven to 450.
3 Form the pretzels
  • Punch down the dough and divide into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope 12-16 inches long. To form pretzel shape, fold rope in half, twist twice and fold over. Press lightly to stick everything together and place directly into boiling water. (See photo above.)
4 Boil the pretzels
  • Boil each pretzel for 1-2 minutes, turning once. With tongs or a slotted spoon gently transfer to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with course salt. 
5 Bake the pretzels
  • Bake the pretzels on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Immediately transfer to a cooling rack. Try to let them cool enough as to not burn your mouth! Eat and enjoy.
The Cinnamon Version
These were way easier to make than I thought. Keeping them in the pretzel shape in the boiling water was the trickiest, but it just meant that I didn't press the dough down enough when forming them. No biggie. I hope you try making these...they are super yummy!
Happy eating!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Portland and such

I didn't know a lot about our new city before we arrived here.

-smaller than Seattle (turns out not much smaller)
-really far from Texas (but swest flies here)
-lots of Liberals (a mixture)
-rain, rain (only 1 hr of rain in the last 2 weeks)

Portland (so far) is different than my preconceived notions. I mean, we sort of jumped into this cross-country move head first. (I knew lots more about other cities like San Diego, Denver, NYC, Miami, but Portland seemed like the right place.) And-truth be told-settling in has been a process. We will retire the lovely air mattress for our own bed and furniture in a few days, & I'm thrilled. But here are the top 5 things that have surprised me about Portland so far:
1. It is gorgeous!! Trees, shrubs, bushes and enough flowers to meet Ladybird Johnson's standards.
2. People are friendly and many are not from here. In TX, most non-native borns are from Oklahoma or Louisiana but not here. I've met Brits, Alaskans and many Canadians. Accents are fun.
3. The weather thus far is gorgeous. A 70-degree August day is unheard of in many places, but not here.
4. Coffee shops almost everywhere...this might have to be a line item in our family budget.
5. Lots to explore...many memorials, gardens, trails, parks, rivers/lakes and all sorts of outdoorsy stuff I've never done before. Exciting!

I'll show you more as we experience it in the coming months. Happy Monday to ya. So far, so good here in the City of Roses! (more on that tomorrow)

And a little strawberry apricot oats with apricots from our neighborhood farmers market!

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Friends, I haven't been very present in the last few weeks, and I'm sorry. However, we have been helping to get a family home in Houston ready to sell. Then we're off on a new adventure. Moving to Portland! Next week! So we'll be back in Dallas this Friday, have 24 to finish packing, the movers will arrive Sunday, and we'll be driving our cars to Portland via Kansas to see the in-laws.

Whew, it makes me tired typing it, but we are so excited for our next chapter. We will gladly accept all prayers, kind thoughts, etc. as we try to get everything in place. We know God's with us in this exciting (& a little scary) time.

Happy Sunday, friends.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

4th Anniversary!

No, not of the blog, of mine and Matt's marriage!
What a great adventure thus far. I feel so grateful to be married to my best friend and an amazing guy overall. Matt is a Godsend. The bonus is that each of our families have embraced us as individuals and as a couple. And what an a great family!
Happy Anniversary, Matt! Celebration froyo!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Quickest Yellow Cake Ever & A Special Bday!

Did you know that you can type the word desserts with one hand? It's a fabulous convenience.

Another fabulous convenience is this mini yellow bundt cake mix. It popped out of my head (based on lots of attempts to bake a cake in under 25 minutes, from start to finish) and, with these awesome little bundt pans, it is now possible! And this makes 3 bundt for you, one for your spouse/roommate, and fight over. Yes.

Quickest Yellow Mini Bundt Cake
Makes 3 mini bundt cakes

1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 TB butter/margarine, softened
1 egg + 1 egg white
Dash of salt
1/2 cup skim milk
Toppings: Frozen berries, whipped cream, caramel or chocolate sauce (you choose)

step one: Take the berries out of the freezer. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. (I know, this breaks all baking rules)

step two: Pour batter (no bumps) into 3 nonstick mini bundt cake pans. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Let cool for 2 minutes, then flip cakes onto a dessert plate. Top with cold berries, whipped cream, caramel sauce, and/or chocolate sauce.

"Why do we need cake today?" you might ask.
My sweet husband takes care of Sam and me every day, so it's time we treat him. Here are some of the highlights so far...

Sam dressed up in a bowtie for the occasion.
Balloons filled with "choices" (this or that) for the day's activities.

Some of the day's plans...yay!

Hope you're having a great weekend!

Happy eating!