Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Brennan's of Houston Pralines

A tray of the famous pralines at Brennan's of Houston
Recently we attended a rehearsal dinner at Brennan's of Houston and it was amazing. The food was delicious with seafood so fresh you could taste the ocean. We were overloaded with crab, shrimp, lobster, fish, and a terrific gumbo!

And as if the dinner itself wasn't enough, there, sitting under a spotlight on a silver tray near the door was a heaping pile of pecan pralines, just asking to be eaten. And eaten they were, and yes, they were just as delicious.

Recipe? Thankfully, they are kind enough to share...

Brennan's of Houston’s New Orleans-Style Pralines
Ingredients: 
1 quart whipping cream 
1 lb granulated sugar 
1 Tbs light corn syrup 
1 cup medium chopped pecans 
Zest of 1 medium orange
Method: 
1. Line three cookie sheets, preferably with parchment paper, but wax paper will work. Also have dessert spoons close by to spoon the pralines onto the parchment when it's time.
2. In a large heavy saucepan, slowly simmer cream, sugar, corn syrup, and orange zest over low heat. As cream mixture simmers, be careful of boil-over in the early stages. Let mixture reduce, stirring occasionally.
3. When cream mixture first starts to stick to bottom of pan, you need to stir almost continuously until done. As mixture reduces and the sugar starts to caramelize, the mixture becomes thicker and begins to turn light brown in color.
4. When mixture reaches the soft-ball stage of 240 degrees, stir in pecans. Continue stirring while looking for the point when mixture starts to pull away from sides of the pan.
5. Drop a small amount (quarter size) onto a lined cookie sheet. Look quickly to see if the praline runs out flat or holds a nice rounded top shape, and if the praline has a dull-looking appearance. Also, the mixture shouldn't have an oily look while in the saucepan; that means the mixture has cooked too long.
6. When ready, the mixture should be close to a firm-ball stage of 248 degrees. However, don't depend entirely on the candy thermometer.
7. Use two dessert spoons to spoon out the pralines onto the lined cookie sheets. Use one spoon to dip up the hot mixture and the other one to push it off into the paper.
8. You should be able to pick up a praline in about 30 minutes. It should appear dry and not be chewy. If after a couple of hours, you can't pick one up, leave them on the pans in a cool dry area for a day or two, until they dry out.
Some tips from Brennan's: 
  • Use a heavy whisk or wooden spoon for stirring 
  • Try to not over-stir, as this lightens the color too much
  • Once you place them on the wax paper, leave them alone for at least an hour 
Yield: 4 dozen
* Photo courtesy of Brennan's *

Monday, May 16, 2016

In Search of Pupusas...

It was Match Day. Technically it was just a friendly. DC United versus C.D. Guadalajara at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. Many, many moons ago... But I remember it like it was yesterday.

The stadium was packed full, so full that they had to add temporary bleachers to accommodate some more of the fans. We were seated in that section, or rather standed since no one sat the entire game. No, it wasn't in my head, the bleachers were actually moving, like ocean waves, from all of the people jumping up and down. Noise makers were not easily ignored. Crowds were cheering, mostly, "Chivas! Chivas!"

All of this I vividly remember, but what I truly remember most of all was that it was my first experience trying a pupusa.

For the occasion, they had brought in a local Salvadorian vendor that sold the stuffed corn tortillas. Despite my many travels, to Mexico and Central America, I had never had a pupusa before, but boy, oh boy, was I smitten! Order up, one stuffed with cheese (queso) and one stuffed with pork (chicharron) and they were delicious. Ever since, I have always been in search of finding these marvelous wonders.

So I was struck with only the most excitement when Whole Foods announced that it would be featuring pupusas on the menu of its local food truck test kitchen for the month of May and June.  The options include a slow-cooked beef, chicken mole, slow-cooked pork, smoked brisket, rajas, and a few other vegetarian dishes. The truck is also serving up complimentary-style sides such as street corn, fried plantains, and cinnamon sugar churros. Yum, yum, and even more yum!

* Image courtesy of Whole Foods Market *



Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Daily Philosophy

Every morning I am greeted with this lovely message. It makes me think of my children, myself as a child, and reminds me to prioritize that which is truly important. Thank you, Philosophy.


"purity is natural. we come into this world with all the right instincts. we are innocent, and therefore perceive things as they should be, rather than how they are. our conscience is clear, our hands are clean, and the world at large is truly beautiful. it is at this time we feel most blessed. to begin feeling young again, we must begin with the most basic step of all; the daily ritual of cleansing."


Monday, May 2, 2016

C.O. Bigelow Lip Care

A lip conditioner and breath freshener all in one:

Mentha Lip Gloss for the Girls


Mentha Lip Balm for the Boys 


Courtesy of C.O. Bigelow

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Bouillabaisse a.k.a. Fish Stew

The Spring always brings about the best of the fishing season so seafood is at its peak for the freshest catch of the year.  

Bouillabaisse, a fancy French word for Fish Stew

Ingredients:
1/4 lb. Cod
1/4 lb. Haddock
1/4 lb. Shrimp, peeled
1/2 lb. Mussels
Fish Bones, skin, and Shrimp Shells
1 Tbsp of Olive Oil
1 Large Shallot, chopped *
1 Small Leek, chopped *
4 cloves of garlic, chopped *
2 Vine-ripe tomatoes, chopped *
6 sprigs of Thyme
Fistful of Parsley, ~ 1/3 cup
3 Stems of Basil Leaves
Fennel Fronds, ~ 1/8 cup
1 Bay Leaf
6 cups water
1 9 oz package of fresh Fettuccine
Dutch Oven

* Don't worry about dicing the vegetables as they are only used to flavor the broth, so in this case, size doesn't matter.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

'Nanners on Banana Pancakes

Don't forget to top your Banana Pancakes with none other than... bananas!



Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Skyline Drive


Some of the most beautiful views in "our country tis of thee" are along the Shenandoah National Park's Blue Ridge Mountains Parkway, also known as Skyline Drive.

It's a scenic ride to be enjoyed leisurely - and legally at 25 mph.

The Spring season, is one of my favorite times to take the drive with all of the trees so freshly full of green. It competes closely with the Fall when the leaves change to their oranges, and yellows, and reds.  

As the saying goes - A picture is worth a thousand words - so now I'll let the images of Skyline Drive speak for themselves:









Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Cinnamon Roll at Upper Crust

The Cinnamon Roll at Upper Crust Bakery has recently stolen my heart. I've indulged in the pastry more times than I'd like to admit in the past month.


It's just the right combination of butter and sugar and flakiness. Sweet, but not too sweet. Flavorful, filling, but not too full.

Inside it has that gooey goodness that is cooked but not at all over cooked. The long-time Austin bakery really has perfected their recipe, and definitely has me hooked, headed back for more and more...


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Striped Caroline Flats

Thank you Tuckernuck for bringing these adorable Striped Caroline Flats by Southern Proper to my attention! 

       

Aren't they perfect for Spring/Summer?!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Pink & Green Poncho

Some seem to be calling it a wrap while others seem to be calling it a poncho. While I believe it to be the latter, whatever you want to call it, these coveralls are hot right now. 

Image courtesy of Lilly Pulitzer

They make for a perfect season to season transition piece. And for me right now, expecting a baby in less than a month, I think it is going to be the crucial piece to my wardrobe on a day to day basis. Mothers of newborns, you know what I mean... style and practicality, ingenious!