Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pie Night

This past weekend, we went out for a "Pie Night" in downtown McKinney. I must be my mother's daughter, because I do love a themed evening. For every party or get-together growing up, she was always intent on having a theme. I thought it was a little silly and unnecessary at the time (though I do have particularly fond memories of a watermelon themed birthday party), but now I find myself doing the same thing. I suppose we do turn into our mothers! Anyway, all of that to say that when my husband said he was in the mood for pizza this weekend, an idea struck. We would have a pizza pie for dinner and traditional pie for dessert - a Pie Night! It was one of my best ideas yet, if I do say so myself!
We kicked off the evening with a return visit to Cadillac Pizza Pub. Gosh I love this place. We started with a cold beer and a little baking dish of meatballs, blanketed in marinara and melted mozzarella, right out of the oven. Things were off to a good start. Our pizza was half Sporty Pepper (our favorite from our last visit) and half the special for the evening: a delicious Hatch green chile pizza. But as good as dinner was, dessert stole the whole dang show.
After a short stroll through downtown, we arrived at Emporium Pies. The menu is simple, just pies and coffee (from wonderful local roaster Cultivar Coffee). We sat down with French Press coffee and two slices: French Silk with a pretzel crust for my husband and the Could Nine for me. His was rich and  chocolate-y with a crunchy salty crust. Delicious. But y'all, the Could Nine. I don't even know how to tell you how good it was. In a beautifully flaky pie crust you start with a silky layers of caramel and then butterscotch custard. On top is a thick layer of brown sugar meringue, light, airy, and perfectly toasted. It was one of the best pieces of pie I have ever eaten. How lucky are we to have this just a few miles up the road?

So please come visit us in McKinney. We'll go get pie!


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Grilled Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Steaks

Can I share one more summery recipe with you before we wean ourselves from the grill and return to simmering stews, roasts, and all things fall? I'm a huge fan of roasted and grilled vegetables, and I need you to know about these beautiful grilled cauliflower steaks.  You cut a large head of cauliflower vertically to create thick slabs (or steaks). They're liberally seasoned with lime and smoky chili powder, grilled, and garnished with cilantro, cotija cheese, and another good squeeze of lime. It's a great side dish (or heck, main dish).

Now, you also end up with lots of loose florets in the process. I tossed them onto a piece of foil, drizzled them with oil, seasoned them with a curry salt blend (use any spice mix you like!), and folded the foil into a packet. We roasted them on the grill for about 15 minutes while we cooked the cauliflower steaks, and I served them over with couscous the next day for lunch. If that doesn't float your boat, just save them in the fridge for another meal.

Happy grilling!
Serves 2-4

Ingredients
1 large head of cauliflower
2 Tb olive oil
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 lime, cut into wedges for serving
1/2 tsp agave syrup (or honey)
1 Tb smoked paprika
1/2 Tb ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
2-3 Tb crumbled cotija cheese
 
Directions
After trimming away the leaves, set the cauliflower head flat on the cutting board. With a large knife, slice down through the cauliflower. First, loose florets along the sides will fall away, but when you get closer to the center of the head (which is attached to the thick stem) slice it into 3-4 one inch thick steaks. The amount of steaks you can get will vary based on the size of your cauliflower.
 
In a bowl, whisk together the lime juice, agave syrup (or honey), and olive oil. In a separate bowl, mix the lime zest, paprika, ancho chile powder, and salt.
 
Brush each side of the cauliflower steaks generously with the lime juice, oil, and agave mixture (be sure to get the sides of the steaks as well. Then sprinkle each side of the steaks liberally with the spice and lime zest mixture.
 
Grill the cauliflower steaks over high heat for about 5-6 minutes per side until done and slightly charred. (If you don't have a grill, place the steaks under a broiler preheated to High. Just keep a close eye on them, as the timing will probably differ)
 
Remove the cauliflower from the grill, and sprinkle with chopped cilantro and cotija cheese. Serve with lime wedges.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

My 10 Favorite Things in August

September really snuck up on me. Even now, four days in, I keep thinking it's August. Maybe it's that September in Texas still feels an awful lot like August. It's still sunny and hot, but hints of fall are beginning to pop up, even if the temperature hasn't shifted much. College football is in full swing! School busses are out in force every morning. Peaches, watermelon, and tomatoes are a dwindling presence at the market. As happy as I am to be back in Texas, where summer can stretch on into October, I can't help but wonder what's happening in New England. Are the mornings a little cooler? Are the leaves beginning to show tinges of fiery orange and red or golden yellow yet? Are orchards opening their doors for apple picking, warm apple cider donuts, and fresh apple cider? I'll miss the New England fall, but that won't keep me from enjoying the last dregs of summer and sunshine around here. Without further ado, these are my favorite memories of the past month!

1) Discovering the McKinney Farmer's Market
 We finally made our way to the local farmer's market this month, and gosh is it a good one! While we don't pay them a visit every week, we try to make it as frequently as possible!
 2) These "Caprese" Toasts
 Thanks to some beautiful heirloom tomatoes from the aforementioned farmer's market, we whipped up these ridiculously good toasts (or open-faced sandwiches) this month. Throw on a second slice of bread, and you've got yourself a mean grilled cheese.
 3) Celebrating with our friends Brad and Ashleigh
We sure do love Brad and Ashleigh, and we were pretty tickled that we got to help Brad celebrate his 31st birthday earlier this month! We whipped up a proper Texas menu of smoked ribs and chicken, Tex-Mex squash casserole, homemade pinto beans,  and my husband's famous gooey butter cake recipe.  But even better than the food was the company!
 4) This breakfast sandwich from Snug on the Square
Y'all, this spinach and mushroom breakfast sandwich is ridiculous -- do you see all that melted cheese? Snug on the Square is the cutest little coffee shop located (obviously) on the square in Downtown McKinney. The staff is friendly, the coffee is great, and now we've learned that the food is good too.
 5) Snowcones on a hot day
And from a pirate ship, no less! Few things are as satisfying on a sweltering day than a cup of shaved ice doused in sweet syrup.
6) This spicy, citrusy Cucumber Salad
I still can't get over how good this salad was. Crisp, cool, refreshing. I need to make another batch!
 7) Painting our kitchen and library!
We were busy bees and got both our kitchen and an accent wall in our library repainted! The kitchen was tan, which felt a bit washed out with the backsplash and cabinets, and the library wall was an aggressive fire engine red. The kitchen now feels warm and vibrant (and very blue) while the library will now be a peaceful room to curl up with a good book.
Gosh does it feel good to have a freezer full of roasted, peeled, and chopped Hatch green chiles! We began putting them to good use with this grilled pizza topped with pepperoni, mushrooms, and a generous scattering of chiles.
 9) A glorious reunion with Half Price Books
Oh Half Price Books, how I have missed thee! After 7 years of separation, we're reunited at last! My husband got me a Half Price Books gift card for my birthday, and I finally put it to good use. I might have gotten a little carried away, but hey, we have new library bookshelves to fill!
 10) Hosting Mom's 60th birthday party
Finally, this weekend (technically on September 1st, but I'm counting it), we threw a 60th birthday party for my mom. It was so much fun to do something special for the woman who has always done so much for me!
 
Fun Side Note: This is my 200th post at A Texas Belle. Kind of hard to believe.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A 60th Birthday Party

Y'all, I feel like I have hit another "grown up" milestone. On Monday, I hosted my first family birthday party! My beautiful mother turned 60 (even though she sure doesn't look it), so we gussied up our half-finished house as best we could and had a proper celebration! My brother was even in town from Midland, so the whole gang was there! Days like this are such a huge part of why we moved back to Texas. After years of only being able to participate in family events via a phone call, I can't tell you how much I treasure these moments now.
Everyone piled into my parents' car and drove over to McKinney for lunch. Before they arrived, we decorated the house with paper chains and bunting, pretty flower arrangements, and old photos of Mom (thanks to a little help from my grandparents). We put on some Beatles tunes (Mom's favorite band growing up), and we were ready for a party!
Once everyone arrived and hugs were given all around, we gave a tour of the house to show off our latest progress, and then settled in for the important stuff -- food! Folks snacked on ranch dip with vegetables and crackers that my grandmother brought over and chatted while Brad and I finished up lunch preparations. We stuck with a southern-inspired menu of Jalapeno-Cilantro Pesto Stuffed Pork Loin and German Potato Salad with Bacon and Green Beans (both from The Homesick Texan's new cookbook) and Grilled Corn with Chili Lime Butter. I also made a pitcher of Watermelon Limeade and a pitcher of sweet tea (word to the wise - don't ever invite my family over for a meal if you aren't prepared to make sweet tea).
We squeezed seven people around our 6-person dining table and dug in! After plates were cleared, we got a little more comfortable in the living room, Mom opened presents, and we served coffee, Blackberry Peach Cobbler, and Blue Bell vanilla ice cream. Who needs birthday cake when you can have cobbler and Blue Bell? (Side Note: Blue Bell is another reason we needed to move back to Texas). With everyone full and happy, presents opened, important topics discussed, and dishes cleared, we said our farewells so they could hit the road back to Paris. Afterward, poor Charlie forlornly sat at the front door for a few minutes wondering where everyone had gone. It's not every day that he gets 7 people to shower him with attention and tummy rubs. What a day!
So with our first family event now a fond memory, here's looking forward to many more happy celebrations under our little roof!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hatch Chile Season!

Friends, do you realize what time of year it is? It's Hatch Chile Season! I'm always sad to see the end of summer draw near, but late August also brings the arrival of those treasured green chiles from Hatch, New Mexico, and that's something to be very happy about! Last year our wonderful friends Brad and Ashleigh mailed us a box full of Hatch chiles (and other assorted chiles and salsa), as they're much harder to come by in Boston. It was like Christmas in August!
But this year, we're in Texas. Our neighborhood grocery store held a Hatch Chile Festival where they were sold them by the case (!) AND roasted them for you in huge rotating metal drums (!!). Living here certainly has its perks. We couldn't pass up that kind of opportunity, so we came home with a case, half mild and half hot. We spent two evenings peeling, seeding, chopping, and bagging them, and now they're nestled in our freezer, ready to cook with!
So what do you do with Hatch Chiles? Add them to every recipe you can think of (I'm only barely exaggerating). One of my favorites is this Shrimp and Cheese Grits with Charred Corn and Green Chiles.
We also like to sprinkle them liberally on grilled pizza. I know it sounds weird, but even chain pizza delivery companies in New Mexico offer green chiles on their pizzas, and they're not wrong. It's delicious!
I also love the Homesick Texan's Hatch Chile and Potato Casserole. It's so rich and comforting.  And how good do these Hatch Chile Flour Tortillas look?  I also make a mean Green Chile Breakfast Casserole recipe from my mom (similar recipe here) that's a great way to start the day. If you want something classic, you can't go wrong with the New Mexico specialty, the Green Chile Cheeseburger.

Now, if you can't find the regional variety from Hatch, just substitute Anaheim chiles or canned green chiles. The important thing is to eat green chiles and to eat lots of them! Happy Hatch Chile Season everyone!