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!
Serves 6-8

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.