Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hello, 30!

Well folks, it's official. I'm 30. And you know what? Not only am I ok with it, but I think my 30's are going to be really great! I was tempted to say that it's hard to believe that my 20's are already behind me, but that's not really true. I squeezed a lot of wonderful memories and adventures with really great people into my 20's. I was (and am) very blessed, and I feel like I have only enjoyed myself more as I get older. So when I say that it definitely feels like 10 years have passed since I turned 20, I mean that in the best way possible.

To celebrate, we really turned it into a birthday week, which is my favorite way to go! There was a Paris celebration with my family the weekend before my birthday. We had a nice dinner at Perry's Off the Square with custom table decorations courtesy of Mom. There were lovely flowers and old pictures featuring me over the years with each family member. My in-laws also sent a GORGEOUS bouquet to the house. Talk about making a girl feel special!
After dinner, there were more presents than a girl deserves followed by my favorite dessert, my great-grandmother's peach cobbler recipe!
The grand finale was a fireworks show out at Dad's farm!  On the first explosion, we sent the cows running for the back of the pasture. Mom and I sat in the back of the truck toe enjoy the show while my husband and dad were on pyrotechnics duty. It was such a blast (literally)!
Back in McKinney on my actual birthday, there were balloons, a sparkly banner, and the cutest itty-bitty pinata that you ever did see (named Li'l Sebastian after Parks and Recreation). I couldn't bring myself to bust it open with the broom handle, so eventually I cut it open to retrieve the candy inside.
After dinner at a new restaurant in downtown McKinney called Sugarbacon (where the Wild Arugula Salad really stole the show), there was a dreamy Lemon Raspberry cake courtesy of Nothing Bundt Cakes and even more presents.
Finally, last but not least, the weekend after my birthday brought visitors to us! My in-laws and my husband's aunt drove up to join in the fun.
Saturday night we went to dinner at Patina Green, also in downtown McKinney.  It was an absolutely fabulous experience.  The chef does a multi-course blind tasting menu where he cooks whatever he is inspired to make based on what he found at the market that week. Seven courses went by all too quickly, each as good as (or better) than the last! It's a casual environment where fine-dining worthy dishes are brought out in cardboard boats, which was fun. The food was delicious, and even we learned some new (to us) ingredients like Papalo and pullet eggs. The chef didn't lead us astray once.
The weekend was also filled with more presents (talk about spoiling a girl) and all kinds of projects around the house. They were kind enough to help us paint one of our guest bedrooms (finally removing all evidence of the most horrid stripes), AND my husband and father-in-law went to some pretty great lengths to hang a porch swing for us. Does it get any more southern than that? Despite how hot it has been, I'm absolutely loving evenings spent in the swing.
After a birthday week full of fun memories with family and friends, this new decade is off to a fine start. I look forward to seeing what is in store for us!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Quinoa Bowl with Kale and Chickpeas

August is here, and the dead of summer is upon us!  While it's definitely my favorite time of year, the heat can be a bit de-motivating when it comes to the kitchen.  It's even too hot to grill (yesterday, it was 107)!  So tonight, I turned to a quick salad that only required cooking a batch of quinoa on the stove.  Everything else is just tossed into a bowl as-is! I loved the heartiness of the greens, grains, and chickpeas along with the crunch from the pepitas, the sweetness from the golden raisins, and the vibrancy of the vinaigrette and feta.  Now it's time to put my feet up and enjoy the AC for the rest of the evening.  Stay cool, everyone!
Serves 4

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
3 Tb olive oil
1.5 Tb white balsamic vinegar
1/2 lemon, juiced (roughly)
1 bunch lacinato kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup golden raisins (roughly)
1/2 cup pepitas (roughly)
2 oz feta, crumbled (roughly)
1 tsp salt

Add quinoa and water to a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let cook for 15 minutes, and then remove from the heat. The water should be absorbed, and the quinoa should be tender.

While the quinoa cooks, make your vinaigrette. Whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, and salt until the salt is dissolved. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil until well combined. 

"Massage" the chopped kale a bit by squeezing it firmly with your fingers a few times, until you notice that the leaves are a bit more tender. Toss the kale, chickpeas, and golden raisins with the vinaigrette, and let sit until the quinoa is done. 

When the quinoa is finished, toss it immediately with the vinaigrette, kale, chickpeas, and golden raisins. Then toss in the feta cheese, and stir to combine. Taste, and add more salt or lemon juice if desired. 

Serve topped with a good handful of pepitas.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Texas July 4th

Well, I suppose now that it's officially one month past the 4th of July, it's fitting that I'm finally uploading a few photos of our celebration. July 4th is one of my favorite holidays as it combines many of my favorite things: summer, fireworks, watermelon, small town parades, and Sousa marches.  It was such a fun weekend that, belated or not, I hate to let it pass by without a little reminiscing.

We started the weekend in my hometown of Paris where we spent the 3rd of July with my family. That evening, after indulging in BBQ, beans, deviled eggs, and watermelon, we went to see the Paris Municipal Band concert (as a former member, I love going to their concerts) and the Paris Fireworks at Noyes Stadium. We doused ourselves in bug spray, lugged our lawn chairs out onto the football field, chatted with old friends, and then sat back to enjoy the show. This was my husband's first time at the Paris July 4th festivities (and the first time at my high school football stadium), so it was really special to be able to share it all with him.
Once the last march was played and the last firework exploded, we made the trek back to the truck with a few more mosquito bites on our legs and with a smile on our faces. It was such a fun evening, small town life at its best.

On the actual 4th, we bid Paris farewell and hit the road back to McKinney, but on the way, we made sure to stop at a country fireworks stand to load up on sparklers for later evening!
We were invited to celebrate that evening with our neighbors and some of their friends, so we figured we would bring along our backyard games (ladder golf and corn hole), some Roasted Jalapeno Lime Hummus, and a few packs of sparklers since they're hard to come by for city dwellers. So yeah, we were the people that showed up with no kids of our own but with plenty of flammable objects for other people's kids to play with!
After dinner and fun out in the backyard, dusk finally arrived. We dragged our lawn chairs to the corner of our street, one of the guests pulled up their truck and turned on the radio so we could hear the music to go along with the fireworks, and then we waited. The kids ran around squealing with excitement until it was finally dark enough for the first firework to go off, and then everyone settled in for the show. And what a show it was! We enjoyed the heck out of it. After a fantastic finale, it was time to call it a night. Little ones were exhausted and melt downs were occurring left and right. We bid everyone farewell, and the celebrations drew to a close.

I hope everyone else had a lovely 4th of July as well! And enjoy these wonderful long summer days that we have left!