Very Inspiring Blogger Award

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Rachel of All Food, All Drinks, All Love nominated me and my blog for the Inspiring Blogger Award!  After a long work week, this was so nice to receive.  Her blog is wonderful with great recipes and great photos that really demonstrate how to prepare the food.  Thanks so much!

Rules for this award:

  • Link back to the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate 15 bloggers.
  • Share 7 facts about yourself.

The 15 bloggers I nominated (*Note: I tend to overdo things.  Well, things I enjoy doing, so I nominated 15 people but I also mentioned what I like about their blog.  This is not a requirement if you decide to participate.)

  1. Uni Homemaker for her great recipes and photos
  2. tuesdaynightboyfriend because she’s a great writer
  3. Kaylee’s World love the photos on her site
  4. Happiness Stan Lives Here because I want to try the delicious chocolate marshmallow teacups they posted along with great photos.
  5. iflunch I love New Orleans so does B.  I also love the photos these ladies posted on their site of New Orleans and the Louisiana Bayou.
  6. We Call Him Yes! Chef! Funny writing, amazing photos. This blog has it all.  I’ve been following it regularly, love it.
  7. Cacao, put down the shovel! literally inspiring.  Inspiring me to finally do November’s write a book in a month.
  8. Frugal Feeding one of those blogs that makes you jealous and inspired at the same time.  This author does everything well: photos, writing, and a great theme!
  9. mypenandme I love blogs with people’s writing and blogs about writing.  This one inspires me to start writing poetry again.
  10. Leanne Cole’s Photography Field Trips some great photos and tips on taking photos
  11. Sybaritica some great recipes and preparation instructions.  Plus, this author writes from Nunavut, which is admirable and interesting by itself.
  12. Dieu on the Grass some great photos and writing on this site.
  13. Rebecca I love reading even though I don’t do enough of it lately, so I love sites with recommended book lists.  This site also has some great photos.
  14. janna hill love the photos and writing on this site; plus, she’s from Texas:)
  15. The Illustrious Peacock love the photos on this site.

Seven Things About Me

  1. I love to read, take photos, travel, and write.
  2. I have a husband who makes me laugh everyday, even if I’m in a bad mood.
  3. I love to drive at night, and I love road trips, especially in the summer with the windows down and the radio turned up.
  4. Family and friends mean the world to me.
  5. One of my favorite possessions is my blue feather Christmas tree upon which I hang Dr. Seus ornaments every year.
  6.  My favorite seasons are summer in Texas and winter up north. I think the extreme temperatures make good life and writing material.
  7. I love detective shows: Law and Order; Cold Case etc.
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Cupcakes

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Hey Cupcake! mini-cupcakes

I have wanted to go to Hey Cupcake! since I first saw that adorable darn cupcake beacon spinning atop a shiny vintage RV.

At Hey Cupcake!, I had the “special.”  Yes, cupcake trailers have specials.  This was a cherry sublime cupcake.  And it was sublime in all the ways a $3.00 cupcake should be: the icing was super rich and there was a lot of it, the cake was moist and super rich, and there was a wonderful little sour candy cherry placed perfectly in the middle of the really thick icing.  It was delicious.  I ate ¾ and then stopped.  My husband, despite having this conversation for many years, tried to coax me to finish the cupcake.  “Oh, just eat the rest,” he said (I would, of course, rather him say this than tell me I probably should throw the rest out; not fair of me, I know).

Cherry Sublime cupcake and me

“No, I’m full.”

“Oh, c’mon,” and so forth until I finally just threw it away.  Which really, he was fine with because food trailers only have outside seating and it was 103 degrees in Texas that day, so he was ready to move on over to the air-conditioned bookstore.  Of course, before we left, being the kind husband he is, he decided we should buy the mini-sampler of cupcakes with six adorable cupcakes of probably 800 hundred calories each.

“We should get the mini-cupcake sampler,” he said.

“Ohh, I don’t think so,” I said, hating that he put the thought in my head but knowing it was a gesture intended to make me happy.  Photos of icy, gooey cupcakes might really increase my blog traffic, and, of course, they would taste wonderful.  “No, no,” I said pushing the tempting thoughts away.

“Are you sure?  There’s a red velvet cupcake in there,” he said, knowing my weaknesses.

“Yeah, okay, maybe” I said , but then raising a finger very seriously at him said, “but you have to hide the cupcakes from me.”

“Fine, Irene, I’ll hide the cupcakes,” he said and rolled his eyes.  To some, this might sound like a strange demand, but there is a long history of me demanding that Ben hide sweets from me.  It’s caused a few arguments.

“Just don’t eat the sweets,” he says.  Of course, he is right, but the problem is Ben won’t eat the sweets.  He’ll bring them home, and I’ll finish a box of cookies in  a week.  A week and a half later, B will walk in the kitchen and innocently ask me, “Where are all the cookies?”

We got home and put the cupcakes in the fridge (B must have forgotten he agreed to hide them).   I took some photos of them and didn’t eat any that night.  In fact, I actually forgot about them (there are first times for everything) until two nights ago when B took a bite of one.  Now, this morning, only about twenty-four hours later, there is only half a carrot cupcake left.  I know B likes carrot cake, so I was being nice.  Relationships with food are complicated.

This blog was first published in August, but I did some edit so I reposted.

Bacon and Rosemary Yukon Potatoes

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B bought these adorable little pots at the grocery store the other day.  It was a horrible experience for him.  As soon as he lay them on the counter to pay, the girl checking him out started ohhing and ahhing over them.  B hates public attention, but what does this girl do?   Well, she turns and calls across the isle to her checkout friend, “So and so, come look at these adorable pots this man is buying!”  I wasn’t there, but I can just see my husband simultaneously broadening his shoulders and avoiding all eye contact with anybody.

Cute pots with shirred eggs and bacon and rosemary potatoes.

Pretty soon, there were three checkout girls admiring B’s pots.  Right then, B vowed to never do anything nice for me again (jk).  He bought the pots because he thought I would think they were adorable (update: B does not walk around grocery stores thinking things are “adorable.” He just thought I would like them) and want to use them on the blog, which of course is true.  He didn’t want the women to ohh and ahh anymore, so he didn’t tell the women he bought them for his wife.  Instead, he said that he was going to make individual deserts in them, which is funny because B doesn’t make deserts.  Well, I really wanted some photos with the pots, so B made shirred eggs again; however, he also made bacon and rosemary potatoes.  I don’t know if the popularity of all things bacon has started to turn people off from bacon, but I would recommend these potatoes even if you might be tired of hearing about bacon (’cause people may tire of hearing about bacon but not eating it, right?).

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds yellow (Yukon) potatoes peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3 pieces of bacon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Boil potatoes in pot of salted water.  Simmer until tender.  Drain.
  2. While potatoes are boiling, cook 3 pieces of bacon until crispy.  Drain on paper towels.  Crumble bacon.  Mixed in when he added rosemary.  *Note: Bacon grease was not used to keep it lower in fat.
  3. After bacon is cooked and potatoes are boiled, heat oil in skillet over medium heat for three or four minutes. Add potatoes and cook, occasionally stirring, until brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Add rosemary, garlic, and bacon and cook for about 7 more minutes while stirring.

Shirred Eggs with Hawaiian salt and ground pepper and bacon and rosemary potatoes.

Grilled Ham and Cheese with a Twist

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Sharp cheddar cheese and cherry preserves

This is definitely on of my new favorites. Earlier this week,  I asked B to please make me the best ham and cheese sandwich money could buy. Well, he thought about it for a few days and then he did just that; he’s a great man.

B made this like a regular toasted (I think it would be good grilled also) ham and cheese except that we used sharp cheddar cheese and cherry preserves that my mother brought me back from Traverse City, Michigan.

Ingredients

  • Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • Ham
  • Cherry Preserves
  • Sour dough bread

Preparation

  1. Spread cherry preserves on both sides of bread
  2. Add as much ham and cheese as you like
  3. Toast in the oven at 350 for about ten minutes or grill

Puree of Potato Leek Soup

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Leeks and Potatoes

I try to watch what I eat, especially since starting this blog, so B tries to make low-fat recipes for me.  This is one of my favorites.  It’s great on a winter or fall day.

 

Puree of Potato and Leek Soup

Ingredients

  • 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 4 large leeks, use white and light-green parts, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 cups reduced sodium chicken stock
  • ground pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Combine all ingredients into a large pot and boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about twenty minutes.
  2. Pour soup, as much as you can, into blender and puree. *For things like this, B uses a hand blender that he got for about twenty dollars.  Using the hand blender, he didn’t have to pour hot soup out into a blender multiple times.  Either way, puree all soup.
  3. Return soup into pot and simmer until heated.

Shrimp and Navy Bean Salad

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Shrimp and White Bean Salad

This is one of my favorite recipes.  We got this recipe from B’s mom and have been making it every since.  I have to admit that I like it with a little less shrimp than it calls for in the recipe, but that decision should be based on your fondness or not so fondness of shrimp. We often have this in the summer, but in my imagination, I host fun little get togethers, and this is always served as an appetizer, whatever time of year.  It’s easy to make, and it’s really good.

Shrimp and White Bean Salad

Ingredients

  • 14 oz canned navy beans
  • 10 1/2 oz large peeled and cooked shrimp (*we used small shrimp in the photos above, but we usually use large shrimp and it works out better.  So, you might use larger bread than pictured).
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stock, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic glove, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp flat parsley
  • loaf of French bread
  • 6 baby plum tomatoes, chopped
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

  1. Mix beans, onion, celery, shrimp, tomatoes, and garlic into large shallow bowl.
  2. Add the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of oil, and chopped parsley.
  3. Add a little salt and pepper to taste
  4. Use the rest of the olive oil to brush the slices of bread.
  5. Toast bread
  6. Serve on bread and  drizzle any extra oil. Enjoy!

Caramel Apples with Ginger and or Chocolate Salt

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Prepping to make caramel apples. There are cinnamon sticks here, but we didn’t end up using them.

B is prepping for a test, but I really didn’t want to miss a Sunday post so I decided to make caramel apples by myself.  Well, whenever I decide to cook by myself, I realize how much more familiar B is with the kitchen than me.  My workspace didn’t look anything like his clean and orderly workspace, and I felt completely overwhelmed just making caramel apples.  I’m not trying to be too disparaging of myself; I can do a lot of things, but I know that the cooking is not one of my strengths. So, just as I was about to burn the caramel, B stepped in and helped out.  Sigh of relief.

Prepping for caramel apple.

I was inspired by Martha Stewart’s Living cover this week, but we didn’t use any of the recipes from there.  We wanted to try caramel apples with ginger and a chocolate salt from The Spice and Tea Exchange that B received for his birthday.  I loved the ginger.  The chocolate salt was good, too, but we used too much salt.  If you happen to try these recipes, I would recommend using both sparingly.  The amount of ginger in the photo seemed perfect, but the amount of salt seen in the photos below was too much.  Use just a little.

Chocolate Salt Caramel Apple is in the front. Use less chocolate salt than in this photo; it was too much. Ginger Caramel Apple is in the back.

Caramel Apples with Ginger (my favorite) and or Chocolate Salt

Ginger Caramel Apple with the perfect amount of ginger.

Things you will need

  • Sticks for the apples
  • Parchment paper to put the apples on when finished
  • 14 oz bag of caramels
  • Water
  • Ginger
  • Chocolate salt

Preparation

  1. Unwrap the caramels and wash the apples
  2. Pull stems out of apples and insert stick into apples
  3. Put the apples and the spices by the stove so they are easily available when the caramel has melted.
  4. Cover a plate or baking sheet with parchment paper for the finished apples.
  5. Put the caramel in a saucepan and add 2 tablespoons of water.
  6. Cook on low heat (this will take a bit) until there are no more lumps in the caramel.
  7. Dip the apples in the caramel.
  8. Over the parchment paper, sprinkle the ginger or the chocolate salt over the caramel apple

Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitary

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Both my photos for the weekly photo challenge were taken while I was living in Italy quite a few years ago.  The first one of the man at the Spanish Steps has always been one of my favorites although I realize the lighting is not great and, ideally, it would have been taken at a closer range and it’s too blurry.  Still. . .it’s always been one of my favorites because I took the photo on a drizzly night right before Christmas when I was feeling quite homesick myself.  I loved being in Italy, but I also often missed my family, my boyfriend at the time (now husband:), and friends.  I also missed too much about Texas and the States to name: a language that I knew, Taco Cabana, stores that were open 24 hours, driving on highways late at night with the windows open, bookstores.  So, despite Italy being one of the best experiences of my life, I related very much to the man in this photo.

Man with camera at Spanish Steps

The second photo was taken while I was living in Italy, but it was taken in Brussels.  A friend and I were waiting for another friend, and so I was killing time by taken photos. I took this of myself using the mirror behind the bar.

Me at the bar

Birthdays and Jalapeno Poppers

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Cupcakes for my sister’s birthday

My younger sister’s birthday passed recently.  It’s in the middle of September, right as the leaves are starting to turn rich colors.  Oh wait, I live in Texas.  I meant right as the weather is starting to cool off to a brisk 90˚. Yes, as a Texan, I like to cash in my hot weather bragging privileges as often as possible.

Lately, we’ve been celebrating birthdays the way we used to celebrate birthdays.  By that, I mean that we buy a cake, we cook food, we open presents, and we buy a cupcake piñata (okay, this year was the first year for the piñata).

cupcake pinata

In the past few years, as we, and by “we” I mean my sisters, my brother-in-law, and I (my brother, lucky man, is not thirty yet), turned thirty it seemed we began to shy away from our birthdays.  Our father would call and tell us our birth story (my favorite part about my younger sister’s is that she was born during MASH, great show), and we’d listen happily until the end when he would say something along the lines of, “Can’t believe it’s been thirty-three years.”

Then somehow the fact that we were not published authors (I may as well confess  that except for one of my siblings writing for a living is all of our dream jobs. Yup, my poor parents) or even doing what we imagined ourselves to be doing after thirty would cause a bit of gut wrenching regret.  That is the part about birthdays that gets me down as I get older.  I tend to do better with age, but birthdays do also now remind me that it would be more difficult to accomplish certain things now than when I was twenty. As a child, I really never could comprehend what adults meant when they said, “Ugh, another birthday.”  Really?  Don’t you mean, “Heck yeah, another birthday with cake and ice cream!”  If you’re lucky, maybe you even got the princess shaped cakes like my mom made.  Anyway, my niece has, with her mere presence, encouraged us to move past our vanities and celebrate birthdays the right way again.  So, my dad and mom got my sister an amazing lemon cake with fondant icing molded into the shape of a book because she has finished a book (better than me) but not started sending it out yet.

My older sister and her husband did what they do amazingly: fed us fajitas, bought cupcakes, provided a place for the party, and served one of my favorite appetizers, jalapeno poppers (see end of post for recipe).

And, at my younger sister’s insistence, my older sister bought a piñata.  The piñata spectacle was a sight to see.  All the men just watched, kinda tilting their head in bemusement (we hope it was bemusement and not horror, jk), as my sisters, my niece, my mother, and I blindfolded each other with a sweater, loudly cheered one another on, and dangerously swung blindly at the piñata.  All in all, it was a very successful over thirty birthday party (I have to say it: forty is the new thirty anyway, right?).

Leftover cake and cupcakes the next day

 Jalapeno Poppers

Ingredients

  • Jalapenos
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Cream Cheese
  • Egg
  • Flour
  • Corn meal
  • Oil
  • Ranch for dipping

Preparing Poppers

Preparation

  1. Cut open and remove seeds from jalapenos
  2. Stuff jalapenos with cheddar cheese and cream cheese
  3. Prepare your fry station by the stove by doing the following: crack 2 eggs in a dish that you will be able to roll the jalapenos in.  Next to this, put a cup of flour and a cup of corn meal on a plate. On the stove, heat up about a cup of oil.
  4. Roll the jalapenos in the egg, then flour and corn meal mixture, and then fry in the pan of oil.
  5. Serve with Ranch or other dressing and enjoy!

Carbonnade

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How B preps before cooking

Recently B spent some time in the kitchen making a recipe from The Good Cook by Anne Willan.  This is a perfect fall recipe, in my humble opinion.

Beef with Beer and Onions

Ingredients

Herbs, beer, flour, and sugar

  • 2 pounds beef chuck
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 large white onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups dark beer
  • 1 cup beef or veal stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons herbs de Provence

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Trim beef and cut into 2 inch cubes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Hate 1 tablespoon of oil with butter in covered casserole dish that can be used on stove top and in oven (dutch oven), add the beef cubes and fry until brown on both sides.
  4. Add the onions to the dutch oven with salt, pepper, and remaining oil and cook over low heat until the onions are very soft.  Turn heat up, add sugar, and continue frying until onions are caramelized.
  5. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Add beer and bring to a boil while continuously stirring.
  7. Stir in stock, nutmeg, and herbs de Provence.
  8. Cover the dish and cook in oven, stirring occasionally, until beef is very tender, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  Add more stock if the pan gets dry.
  9. After cooking, the sauce should be dark and concentrated.  If it is thin, boil on top of stove.
  10. Adjust seasoning as needed.