Saturday, January 24, 2015

My 10 Favorite Things in December

My final installment of "Favorite Things" for 2014 is better late than never, I suppose. I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! December is always such a whirlwind month between finishing up tasks at work for the year, shopping for presents, Christmas parties and activities, and in the special case of this particular year, coming down with the flu! Despite being under the weather for a few days, there was still plenty to be thankful for throughout the holiday season.

1) Our first big Christmas tree
It was so much fun decorating our new house for our first Christmas back in Texas. From the full-sized Christmas tree that actually fit in the living room (instead of the little tree we had to put in our dining room in Boston) to stringing up lights on the house, things felt downright Christmas-y!
My in-laws drove up for a weekend visit and joined us for the McKinney Christmas parade, complete with all the local marching bands, classic cars, fake snow, adorable kids, and floats lit with thousands of lights!
3) Nate and Kate's visit
December also brought us visitors from Buffalo: Nate and Kate! We had a great time taking them around Dallas along with our friend Joseph!
4) My husband's homemade buttermilk white bread
My husband has many talents, including a knack for baking. One chilly morning in December, he got the itch to bake bread, and opted for an absolutely delicious buttermilk white bread from Beard on Bread. That was a good day!
5) Catching a hockey game with my mom and brother
My mom and brother came to town for a little Christmas shopping, which also gave us a good excuse to catch an Allen Americans game. There's nothing like watching grown men get into fist fights on the ice for a little family bonding.
6) Christmas with our families
This one kind of goes without saying, doesn't it? Despite being under the weather, we loved spending time with both of our families this Christmas. 
7) Decorating Christmas Cookies
I loved watching my husband bake his grandmother's famous Christmas cookies, and we made a glorious mess decorating sugar cookies with (homemade) icing and sprinkles and such.
8) Visiting friends in Victoria
We don't get to see our friends Jimmy and Laura too often these days, so we were tickled pink when they invited us to spend a few days with them in their hometown of Victoria over the holidays. We had the best time! We laughed and caught up, we ate Gulf oysters and fresh-caught flounder, we sipped Jimmy's homebrewed sour beer, we lounged in the hot tub, and we even visited the beach! 
9) Fried Flounder
Growing up in Northeast Texas, we didn't exactly have access to fresh seafood, even from the Gulf of Mexico. So eating fresh Gulf seafood right out of the fryer while visiting Jimmy and Laura is right up there with a lot of my favorite food memories. The fried shrimp and fried oysters were wonderful, but the flounder is what really stole the show.
10) Charlie's First Christmas
Can you even believe how cute Charlie is in his little Santa vest?! Nope, didn't think so. This little guy loved every minute of his first Christmas. He got more attention than a puppy could ever dream of, new chew toys, and even a tennis ball cannon! Does it get any better?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Green Chile Cornbread

Happy belated New Year everyone! Boy am I behind! We rung in 2015 back home after travels to Paris, Austin, and finally Victoria to visit family and friends. Our New Year's Eve was quiet -- just the two of us, the dog, and a bottle of champagne. On New Year's Day, I cooked a big pot of black-eyed peas studded with green chiles and bacon. In the south, there's a superstitious tradition that promises good luck for the year to come if you eat black-eyed peas on January 1st. I love silly traditions like that, and it's a great excuse to enjoy one of my favorite legumes. I served them over this green chile cornbread, and it was a delicious way to kick off the year. Here's hoping that plenty of good luck comes to all of us this year!
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 Tb sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup melted shortening
2 Hatch or Anaheim green chiles, roasted, peeled, and chopped (or a 4 oz can of green chiles)

Preheat the oven to 400F. Scoop a little shortening into your cornbread pan (I use a round metal pie pan), and let it sit in the oven while it heats up.

Meanwhile, sift together cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg, and stir in the milk.

Pour the milk and egg mixture into your dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in melted shortening and green chiles.

Remove the cornbread pan from the oven. By this time, the shortening should be melted. Swirl it around a bit, so that it coats the bottom of the pan. Then pour the batter into the pan. You will hear it sizzle a little bit.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.

Monday, December 22, 2014

My Favorite Christmas Cookie - Snickerdoodles

My very favorite cookie, especially around Christmastime, are these wonderfully soft Snickerdoodles. Based on a recipe from The Kitchn, they're always a big hit. Soft and buttery with a cinnamon-sugar crust, I love them with a steaming mug of black coffee, preferably shared with family or friends. Throw in a Christmas tree and a crackling fire, and you've got yourself one heck of a cookie!

P.S. Sorry that I don't have a pretty picture of the cookies...we forgot to take one before eating them!
(photo from WooHome)

1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup white sugar
1 Tb cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Once melted, remove from the heat. 

While the butter cools, mix together your dry ingredients (brown and white sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt).

Whisk the eggs with the vanilla extract, and then stir in the cooled melted butter (you don't want to scramble your eggs).

Stir together the wet and dry ingredients, just until combined. 

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1 Tb cinnamon. Roll the cookies into 1 inch balls, roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture to coat, and place on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 8 minutes. 

Remove from the oven, let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, and then remove to a cooling rack.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

All I Want For Christmas - 2014 Edition

Ok, it's that time of year again! Christmas is almost here! Our tree has been up for weeks, a wreath is on the door, and lights are on the house, but I'm scurrying around doing last minute shopping. Here are some things I'm loving this year! Happy Christmas shopping to those of you who, like me, still have a couple folks left on your list!

How cute is this Julia Child cookbook bookmark? She never fails to make me smile.
(Photo from Food52 Provisions)

I'm a sucker for just about anything from Rifle Paper Co, and these Floral Coasters are no exception.
(Photo from Rifle Paper Co)

Wouldn't this 2015 calendar be perfect in the kitchen?
(Photo from Food52 Provisions)

I'm dying to add this East of Eden print to the collection in our library.
(Photo from  FRAMEDVINTAGE Etsy Shop)

A cheery monogrammed Ring Dish would look great on someone's nightstand.
(Photo from Anthropologie)

Have you seen this Coloring Book? What a perfect way to spend dreary winter afternoons!
(Photo from Amazon)

Who doesn't like a cozy pair of PJ Pants?
(Photo from Old Navy)

Even though I have no room for new cookbooks, I would love to have David Lebovitz's newest, My Paris Kitchen. He's just the best.
(Photo from Amazon)

I know I asked for a pretty copy of Little Women last year too, but have you seen this In Bloom version?! Swoon.
(Photo from Rifle Paper Co)

Finally, how about this completely gorgeous Smeg Toaster? How can someone make a toaster that pretty?
(Photo from West Elm)

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Reunion in Dallas

This past weekend, our friends Nate and Kate came to town to visit us along with our friend Joseph! As I've mentioned before (and again here), Nate, Joseph, and I came to be good friends while studying abroad in Toulouse, France. We even gave ourselves a cheesy nickname -- The Trio!  We've been scattered across the country over the past few years, but upon our recent relocation to Dallas as well as Joseph's, we figured it was high time for another reunion. We had a great time catching up and exploring our new home together.

We kicked off the weekend in McKinney. We took them to some of our favorite spots, tried a few new ones, and spent some time at our house playing with Charlie and mixing cocktails in the kitchen.
  • We sipped wine at a cozy corner table at Lone Star Wine Cellars.
  • We devoured breakfast sandwiches at Snug on the Square. The spinach mushroom melt with their homemade green salsa is the best.
  • We brosed shelves piled high with rare and vintage books (including some cool signed first editions) at The Book Gallery.
  • We had pie for lunch at Emporium Pies. Our favorites from the winter menu were the Father Christmas (peppermint cream pie with chocolate cookie crust), Buttermilk Blitzen (chai-spiced buttermilk pie), and Merry Berry (cranberry pecan topped with a layer of chess pie)
  • We went wine tasting at Mitas Hill Vineyards right outside of McKinney in a little town called Squeezepenny.  We loved the "Sip and Savor" deal where you could try four different wines while chatting in the tasting room and admiring the lovely grounds.
The whole gang at Mitas Hill:

Next, we headed into the big city. It was time to explore Dallas with Joseph's apartment as our home base. We rolled into town just as the sun was setting Saturday!

  • We explored the Bishop Arts District! After reading about this trendy part of town flourishing in the Oak Cliff neighborhood, we were excited to see what all the fuss was about!
  • We snacked on appetizers and clinked cocktail glasses at Stock and Barrel. This place was phenomenal. We loved the goat cheese dumplings and the caramelized Brussels Sprouts doused in chili oil. I can't wait to go back for a full meal sometime soon!
  • After sampling the BBQ at Lockhart Smokehouse, we sipped cider at Bishop Cider Co. The boys preferred their peach and pecan-laced cider, but Kate and I loved the OC Funk, an unfiltered and wonderfully funky (as the name implies) cider.
  • We poked around the crowded shelves of M'antiques. What a cool antique store, targeted toward the men-folk, but just as enjoyable for the women.
  • We took a little hike along the Katy Trail on Sunday morning and stopped for breakfast at the Katy Trail Ice House. The outdoor tables are plenty warm thanks to blankets, heaters, and wood fires, and we loved introducing our Buffalo friends to breakfast tacos! The classic bacon, egg, and cheese was great, but our favorite was the brisket, egg, and cheese that they made for us upon special request. The Paloma cocktail was pretty delicious as well!
  • Lunch found us back in Bishop Arts at El Corazon de Tejas for our TexMex fix. Along with $1 mimosas (!!), my lunch combo of a sour cream enchilada and a cheese taco (doused in queso) was ridiculously good. The atmosphere is also lots of fun for TexMex newbies and veterans alike.
  • After lunch, we popped into the Zoomos Pop-Up Shop where we posed for photos with their fantastic "You + Me = Love" mural. Super cute, right?

This was our last stop before delivering Nate and Kate to the airport, and what a perfect way to wrap up a fun weekend with such special friends!  I'm so glad they came to visit!