Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Happy Paczki Day!

It's Fat Tuesday and in Michigan, most likely due to it's large Polish population, it is traditional to bring out the paczkis (pronounced "punch-keys")!


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Pickapeppa Pecans

It's Super Bowl Sunday again and that means it's time to get to snacking. There's always our favorite chip and dips and of course, wings, upon wings, upon more wings, but this year we were looking for something new and different to add to the menu and "spice things up" (slight pun intended). Thankfully, Garden & Gun's newest addition to their book series, The Southerner's Cookbook, had just the right fix: Pickapeppa Pecans.

While Pickapeppa Sauce actually originates from Jamaica, it is quite the staple amongst Southerners, or at least amongst my married Texas family. It's the perfect stand-by in case of any unexpected visitors, just pull out a chunk of cream cheese, slather it with the Pickapeppa sauce, and serve with crackers. Southerners will swoon.

Southerners are also notorious for their love of the pecan. So what could be more fitting for this crowd than matching the beloved Pickapeppa sauce with pecans - matrimony made in heaven. And better yet, the recipe is so simple, but it will result in impressively raised eyebrows.

Ingredients:

4 cups of Pecans
1 5-ounce bottle of Pickapeppa Sauce
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of water
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Paprika

Directions:

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Maxine's on Main in Bastrop, TX

Lately we've been finding ourselves taking advantage of the lovely Texas weekend weather and doing some day tripping. After a successful visit to San Antonio a few weekends ago, we headed next for Bastrop and found ourselves having lunch at Maxine's on Main Street.

First off to drink, Maxine's is well-known for their wonderful homemade lemonade, served up perfectly in Mason jars, and a healthy serving size I might add. Blend in with the locals as a true southerner ordering some tea with that lemonade - call it half and half, or an Arnold Palmer, whatever you may, it's delicious either way!

For starters there's a wide range of all things fried. Some of my favorites are the perfectly battered onion rings, fried pickles, fried green tomatoes, and fresh fried okra. Oh, just go all in and get the fried veggie basket.

Lunch has an array of salads and sandwiches to choose from, one of my favorites being the Monte Cristo. It's a bit decadent with turkey, ham, and cheese lightly battered and slightly fried on the griddle, but it is well worth it. And the raspberry sauce on the side really satisfies that sweet tooth. Or save those appetizer fried green tomatoes for their Fried Green BLT!

The burgers are also quite nice, so I'm told... char-grilled on the outside with plenty of flavor on the inside.


But hold on, don't forget to save room for dessert! There are homemade cakes and pies galore... Starting with chocolate cake, to carrot cake, italian cream cake, to every kind of cheesecake. There are traditional pies, chess pies, fruit pies, and all sorts of cream pies. They'll greet you on your way in, and tease you on your way out.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Guenther House in San Antonio

A recent trip to San Antonio found us having brunch at The Guenther House.


Carl Hilmar "C.H." Guenther migrated to America in 1848 and soon found himself in the great state of Texas. Shortly thereafter he built a flour mill in the town of Fredericksburg, but in 1858 drought depleted the grain crop and water was scarce to drive the wheel, so he moved his business to the city of San Antonio right along the San Antonio River with hopes of an abundance of water.

The mill, renamed Pioneer Flour Mills, stills stands today right along the River Walk and continues to run as a family owned and operated mill.


In 1860 Guenther built his family a home right next to the mill, where he and his wife raised their seven children. Known today as The Guenther House, the family's preserved historic home serves as a restaurant, museum, store, and banquet site.

Open for breakfast and lunch 7 days a week, The Guenther House is a great place to meet, mix, and mingle with family or friends.


All made in-house from scratch, starting off is a welcoming basket of warm bread and freshly baked mini muffins that are fluffy and delicious.

For breakfast, the waffles made with sweet cream are some of the best I have ever tasted, and although served with a side of syrup, I didn't even need a single drop - it was that good. The biscuits and gravy are also a must.

Lunch options are all house specialties like the champagne enchiladas, the Pioneer taco salad, and the chicken salad plate.



* Images courtesy of the Guenther House *

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Welcome to the start of another King Cake Season!

Today is the Epiphany, which marks the start of the wonderful tradition known as king cake season.

The Epiphany, sometimes referred to as Twelfth Night/Day or Three Kings Day, is when the wise men came to visit baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Hence Kings... King Cake!

From the period between the Epiphany to Mardi Gras is considered to be king cake season - a time to indulge in as many cakes as you can. Thank you French settlers in New Orleans for bringing us this delicious tradition.

The cake follows suite in which the receiver of the slice of cake containing the trinket is crowned king. Being crowned king for the day brings about both privilege and obligation, like buying the next cake.

So bake one on your own (I'm still working on perfecting my own recipe), or buy one from the many different places that partake in the king cake season.

In Austin, Central Market carries a delicious French pastry-type cake with a delightful almond filling. It comes and goes quickly, so get it while you can, and enjoy every last bite, for it only comes but once a year!

Most of the cakes these days are not cooked with the crowning surprise trinket inside the cake anymore. If you're not sure if there is a trinket inside the cake or not, better to be safe than sorry and pop in an extra. After all, two kings are better than none.

So here's what you do... Take the trinket in your right hand and the cake in your left (or vice versa, whichever you prefer). Close your eyes, spin the cake around, place the trinket in the cake from the bottom up, then give it another gentle spin, and open your eyes. Now you get to participate in the fun too!




Sunday, January 3, 2016

Downton Abbey Series Finale

Tonight marks the beginning of the end, it's the last season of PBS's Downton Abbey.

It'll be a bittersweet time, from start to finish.

Cheers!


Monday, December 28, 2015

In December drinking Horchata


In December we always find ourselves singing the Vampire Weekend song that first inspired me to become familiar with Horchata. My first Horchata recipe was a variation of an almond rice milk, but this year I found another similar recipe to try and I am always for trying new things, especially when it comes to cooking in the kitchen, so I gave it a go and voila!

Better yet, this recipe just uses rice milk, which makes it 1) super easy, 2) nut-free friendly for those with sensitivities, and 3) less costly as almonds can sometimes come at a premium.

Ingredients:
3 cups of water
2 cups of white rice
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
4 cups of milk
1 1/4 cups of granulated sugar

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Land's End Wine Tote

Wine and Tote

Land's End now carries single totes and tartan canvas. Check out the new collection!


Courtesy of Land's End

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Grandma's Rocky Road

Grandma Slone was notorious for her Rocky Road. For as long as I can remember, every year at Christmas time we were always provided with a fresh batch to take home and enjoy. And boy did we! It was always such a delicious, special treat.


Now that Grandma has passed on that legacy, I realize that not only is it a special treat for the recipient, but it's also a special treat for the giver since it is so easy! You start with only 3 ingredients to make a smooth, delicate fudge and then add whatever you please (or whatever may be in your pantry). Grandma always added marshmallows, I know that for sure...

Ingredients:
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup of butter
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, peanuts, your choice!)
1 cup chopped pretzels
1 cup mini marshmallows

Directions:
Place the chocolate chips, milk, and butter in a large microwavable bowl. Cook for 3-5 minutes until melted, stopping to stir every minute.

Fold in the nuts, pretzels, and marshmallows until well blended.

Pour the mixture into a greased glass baking dish and refrigerate until firmly solid. Let come to room temperature before slicing into squares.



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Meyer's Iowa Pine Hand Soap


Even though the living room is overtaken by the scent of pine, I still can't get enough. So every sink is now accompanied by this seasonal favorite.

* Image courtesy of Mrs. Meyer's *

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Shortbread Cookie Recipe


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... and that means Christmas cookies all over the house! One of my favorites that I like to kick start the season with is the Shortbread Cookie recipe. It's so simple and fool-proof and the ingredients are almost always already on hand.

3 ingredients and 5 steps!

Hands down the easiest cookie recipe out there and always seems to yield in very satisfying results:

Cookie Batter:
2 sticks of butter, softened
2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of powdered sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. In a large mixing bowl, blend together the butter, flour and sugar until it forms a dough.

3. On a floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to your desired thickness.

4. Using cookie cutters (if you don't have cookie cutters, you can just use the top of a glass and make circle cookies!), form the cookies and place on a parchment paper lined baking tray.



5. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the dough has settled, but before the cookies brown.

Let cool before frosting.

Frosting:
1 cup of powdered sugar
Drop of water

Start with the sugar, add a tiny amount of water (you don't need much) and stir. Continue to add water to the desired consistency. Use food coloring and/or sprinkles as desired.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Season of Red and Green

'Tis the season to be jolly, and what says jolly more than poinsettia plants around the house.

Coming in different colors and sizes, this year the classic mini is my favorite: