Monday, January 30, 2012

Cute Ideas for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is right around the corner - yikes!  In our household it typically means doing sweet things more than it does buying things.  The Nutrition Nazi has a unique idea of gift giving so I never know what direction he is going to go.  Over the years it has been anything from an elaborate indoor picnic to more traditional items like perfume and dinner.  Either way Valentine's is day to remember that sweet someone in your life in whatever form of expression you choose.  And though Valentine's is on a random Tuesday - BOO - below are a few cute ideas to get your creative juices flowing, if you are so inclined.

I hope you all have a great time checking out these blogs and the creative ideas!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

We all like to be remembered as a valued customer, but it is with somewhat mixed emotions that I share this little story with you.  You see sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came.  Many of you have heard me mention Max's Wine Dive, one of my favorite places in Houston to eat, drink, and buy wine.  Max's is so famous for their Fried Chicken and Champagne combo that they were featured on the show Crave on food network, which will be airing again on February 3rd. 

A few weeks ago we actually made reservations, a rarity for us, but now that we have to drive in from the country we are relegated to mainly Friday and Saturday nights at Max's - BOO!  We normally sit at the bar so we can see all of the delicious food going out and also sample some different types of wines, but it was full.  So we walk in and one of our favorite sommeliers comes up and is making small talk, congratulates us on the baby, etc.  He helps the Nutrition Nazi pick out an awesome wine and then goes back to his station because he is not our waiter, but we have helped him make his sales goals repeatedly so he goes the extra mile for us!

  The Best Fried Egg Sandwich in Houston - YUM!!

As the night goes on more of the staff continue to stop by and say congrats.  The creme de la creme is when the executive chef, Michael Pellegrino, comes out of the kitchen to chat.  He tells us that he wants to take our picture to put up on a wall they are starting called "We have the best guests."  I think a more appropriate title for it would be "These people are the reason we take frequent luxurious vacations."  He takes the pic and it is horrible, but NN tells me not to worry because no one will see it.  Wrong!  One of NN's clients did see the pic - UGH!

Max-n-Cheese -Of course I ordered this with the sandwich. 

The mixed emotion with sharing this story is that it is always cool to be remembered as a good customer, but I am a little concerned at how well we are known at a wine bar.  Being well known at your favorite restaurant is one thing, but a wine bar falls in the gray area for some people. I will offer this thought, though ...we registered at Spec's when we got married and that is where most of our gifts came from.  I guess we are not as alone as I thought!  So in the spirit of Max's I say Cheers to all my friends, and visit Max's for some awesome food and wine!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Definitely not the belle of the ball

So I have been meaning to make Dewberry Pie, one NN's family favorites, with the tons of dewberries that I have in the freezer.  You see every year my mother-in-law goes to see the Man from Needville, as NN's grandmother calls him, and picks up our dewberries for the year.  With moving, etc last year I guess I just did not make as many as I have in years past.  A dewberry is similar to a blackberry, but sweeter making it perfect for pies, cobblers and jams.

I use NN's grandmother's recipe typically, which is very simple, and yields more of a cobbler than a pie.  I decided to this time to try something a little different and come up with a more pie-like consistency.  I am prefacing this with the fact that a) I am not a decent photographer on a good day, and this was late at night, and b) this is definitely the ugliest pie I have ever made to date.  The detailed recipe is listed at the bottom.

I start with the usual crust players and cut in the butter and shortening until it is a meal-like texture.  I may have cheated a little on this one because it is not as uniform as it should be.

Next I added about 4 Tbsp of water to get the dough to hold together.

These are dewberries.  They have more of lighter color than blackberries.

I then mixed the dewberries with tapioca, sugar, and cinnamon, and let them sit.

After the dough has chilled for a a little bit, then I took it out and rolled it into what some might call circles.

I placed one of my so-called circles in a pie plate.

Then I added the dewberry mixture that had been patiently waiting for this moment.

Next I added the top circle and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar because NN will not eat the pie unless it has a crunchy sugary layer.  Again not the prettiest thing, but keep reading.

The finished project.  No I did not burn the top, that is just the way the cinnamon turns out.

Here is the inside that actually came out with a nice pie consistency.  In previous pie attempts the inside was flat out runny and the pie would get soggy after a few days.  With that said NN said he liked this, but that he wanted it runnier.  I am guessing that adding less tapioca will yield the desired results.

This was NN's second piece!  I think I should change the name of my blog to Function over Form because that seems to be my baking outcome lately!

Dewberry Pie

2C Flour
1t Salt
1/2C Butter (1 stick)
1/2C Shortening
4T Ice Water

4C Dewberries, or Blackberries
1C Sugar
1/8-1/4C Tapioca  (I used 1/4 this time, but for runnier I will use 1/8)
1t cinnamon

For the crust begin by mixing the flour, salt, butter, and shortening until it has a meal-like texture.  I used a pastry blender to help me with this task.  Next add ice water to help bind the flour mixture.  Divide the dough into 1/3 (top) and 2/3 (bottom), wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

For the filling mix all of the above ingredients together in a bowl and let sit for about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Once the dough is chilled, roll out the 2/3 section for the bottom on a lightly floured surface.  Use your rolling pin to help you out the crust into the pie plate.  Next add the berry mixture to the pie shell.  Roll out the remaining pie dough and place on top of the pie.  Seal the edges in whatever fashion you prefer, and then cut slits in the top to vent the steam.  The final step is to add sugar and cinnamon to the top.

Bake the pie for about 35-45 minutes until the top is golden brown.  You may also want to place a pan under the pie just in case it boils over.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Year, New Friend

In past posts I have written extensively about the process of building our new house and the Team Leader, both of which bring great happiness with a side of frustration occasionally.  In late October we finally had neighbors move in on both sides of us with dogs.  Since we have partial iron fencing on three sides, you can imagine the Team Leader's sheer happiness at this new development.  So recently we had a playdate with one of the neighbor dogs.

This is Simon, who lives next door.  Simon has never really socialized with other dogs, especially not big fluffy poodle-like ones that do sprint circles in the yard when she sees him through the fence.

They seemed to get along well together.  Simon also loves the squeaky balls the Team Leader's grandma bought her for Christmas!

Checking things out in a rare moment of pause! 

These two are like peas in a pod.  If one dog is outside and wants the other to come outside, then the one already outside barks until the other one is let out.  We have tried breaking the habit, but it does not seem to be working.

Simon is still learning, though, that the Team Leader plays hard, so sometimes he has to call a time out and walk to the side of the yard, taking the ball, of course!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Dieters Be Aware...this is not for you!

So today I am making The Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls.  These are definitely never on going to make any of the Nutrition Nazi's eating plans ever.  With that said he enjoyed eating them as much as I did.  You can visit the Pioneer Woman's site for her exact recipe, but in this particular batch I used 5 Tbsp of butter and 2/3 cup of sugar for the filling.  I also use a different glaze for the top that is a cream cheese, powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla mixture.  Email me if you are interested in making the glaze.  Without further adieu, here is my demo of the cinnamon rolls.

This is what your dough should look like after you have added all of the flour, including the baking soda, and the dough has completely risen.  The volume should actually be twice as much, but I had already completed working with the first half the dough before thinking about taking pictures.

I have floured my work surface and am now ready to roll out the dough.

I have rolled out to basically the correct shape.  It is not as nice as Ree's, but the end product is my main concern.

Now you can add the butter or the cinnamon sugar mixture first, whatever makes you happy.  This time I did the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Then  I added the melted butter.   In the past I have typically added the butter first, which I think is still my preference after reversing the order.

Now it is time to roll the dough up.  Again I am not the Pioneer Woman, so this is my less-than-pretty process!

Keep rolling all the way until it is completely wrapped up.  I have no idea why there is a hole, but they seemed to bake fine and we only have 2 of the 6 trays left so I am gong to venture that function won over form.  Take a serrated knife and slice them as thick or thin as you prefer and place them into a baking dish.

Before you can bake the rolls they need to rise for another 30 minutes.

Voila the finished product.  Again I was so excited I forgot to take pics until right before we were getting ready to eat them.  We both have the attention span of gnats when it comes to delicious food!