Friday, December 30, 2011

First Annual Yule Log!

I hope the holiday season found everyone well this year! Mike and I had a very happy holiday! Here's a little recap of our December 2011:

I refrained from decorating or listening to holiday music until precisely December 1st...and then it sort of looked like Old St. Nick himself threw up in our living room...
Our first Christmas tree in our San Antonio home -
a 6-foot live fir.

Mike and I had rival each had our respective nutcrackers before we met, ironically.
On the 2nd, the 24th Air Force (where Mike works) had their annual holiday party. Mike was asked to Emcee the event and he did a spectacular job. He and the other Emcee, Lance, conspired to wear tacky Christmas sweaters that evening. Mike already had a puff painted Christmas sweatshirt, but we decided we could do better. So we added some jingle bells and LED, battery-powered Christmas lights:
You already saw our Gingerbread "houses" that we also made that weekend. You can also read about it on Ellie's blog.

Our friend's Onae and Thomas had a Christmas party at their house for our San Antonio group of friends. We played some fun games, to include a gift exchange, and watched the 2011 and 2010 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show (why not?!). We had a really great time. I am so happy we have such great friends here after only a couple years! We'll be so sad to leave them!

On Thursday, the 22nd, we left for Opelousas, Louisiana, where we would spend Christmas with Mike's family. We arrived that afternoon and had ribs for dinner in honor of our nephew, Landyn's, birthday. The next day Mike and I took Landyn, 8, and CJ, 5, to lunch and the Children's Museum so that Mike's sister, Courtney, and their mom could do some shopping without the little ones. It was our first time alone with children and I like to think we did an awesome job. We ate lunch at a place called Walk-Ons and the kids were extremely well-behaved. They got their kid's meals on frisbees, so that was pretty cool.

At the museum, the kids put on a puppet show:

Landyn got to get in the front and the back of an ambulance. (He told his mother this after we were done and neglected to mention it was at the museum! I quickly followed with "at the Children's Museum!!" Hahaha!)
Future paramedic?
CJ loves to cook! She whipped up some crawfish, cake and burgers for us! Delish!
Future Iron Chef?
 Perhaps the coolest part of the museum was the bubble section. They had big bubble wands with waist-high trays of bubble solution. They even had one you could stand in and make a bubble around you. The kids were really good at it.

After the museum we picked up Courtney and went to the zoo to see the light displays. The kids played on a playground while the adults sipped hot chocolate. Needless to say, the ride home was very quiet. :)

On Christmas Eve, Mike's step-siblings came over with Gumbo and we had a big Christmas dinner with another gift exchange. Mike and I ended up with Home Depot and Target gift cards so we were happy.

On Christmas Day we went to Mike's mom's house where Santa had brought lots of fun toys for Landyn and CJ. We ooh'd and ahh'd at their gifts before they left to spend the day with Courtney's boyfriend's family. Mike's mom, Mr. Bo, Mike and I had a quiet day with turkey and all the trimmings followed by a nap. When the kids got back we watched "Big" on TV (I forgot how great that movie is!) and then we had a light dinner before playing "Headbandz" with the kids. If you've played that drinking game where you put a card on your forehead, it's very similar to that...minus the alcohol....and with pictures on the cards as opposed to playing cards...oh and you have a little headband that holds it up for you.

We drove home Monday. My mom had flown in to San Antonio the day before to be with my Aunt Rhonda for Christmas. We had a nice dinner with them and enjoyed Mom's visit before she had to leave Thursday. We went to Fredricksburg where we did some shopping and ate German food, we went to the San Antonio Art Museum, and we saw "The Artist" which I highly recommend.
Mom and I at Los Patios after Mike and I ran 8 miles.
Mom and Rhonda went for a walk on the trails, too
In Fredricksburg, TX
For New Year's Eve, Mike and I went to our friends, Justin and Clarissa's, house. We watched some You Tube videos and New Year's Rockin' Eve. We played a game called "Things" which was pretty entertaining.
Around 2:30am Onae and Thomas went home. Mike and I were staying the night since we live about 30 min away. I went to bed, but Mike and Justin stayed up 'til 5am playing video games! They're so funny!

So we had an excellent holiday season! I'm so grateful we could spending it with so many friends and family! I'm really excited to see what 2012 brings us! I hope the New Year finds you well and best of luck in 2012!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Feeding Friendship: Peppermint Red Velvet Cake Balls

It's the most wonderful time of the year!! How festive that Sarah chose peppermint! I'm always a sucker for peppermint bark, but I went ahead and made it a blowout extravaganza. We were headed to a Christmas party Saturday night and lets just say it's not Christmas unless your shoving lots of high-calorie food down your loved one's throats!

So here we go: Peppermint Red Velvet Cake Balls!

1 box of Red Velvet cake mix and other required ingredients for the cake* (you'll want a 9"x13" cake)
1 tub of vanilla frosting*
1 lb white chocolate morsels
12 candy canes

*Feel free to make either or both of these from scratch. I felt dirty using prepackaged versions, but there just wasn't time.
(not pictured: chocolate!!)
mixing bowl
9x13 cake pan
plastic ziploc-esque bags
large mixing bowl
wax paper
cookie sheet
microwaveable bowl or double boiler set up
spoon or fork to roll and retrieve cake balls in chocolate

Makes about 35 balls

1) Bake the cake according to package directions. (I substituted applesauce for the oil.) Let the cake cool completely.
(I made Flourless Peanut Butter Kiss cookies while I waited for the cake to cool)

2) While cake is cooling, crush the candy canes by putting them in a plastic bags and tapping them with a hammer.

3) Crumble the cake into a large mixing bowl. The recipe I followed mentioned cutting out two big pieces and rubbing them together. This worked really well. What it didn't mention is that edge pieces won't break down very well. I "discarded" many of those. Go back with a fork to get any chunks out. It should look like this:

3) Add about 3/4 of the tub of icing. You want a doughy texture, but not too moist. Just add a bit at a time and see how you feel.

4) Roll cake/frosting mixture into 1/2" balls.

5) Put the cake balls in the refrigerator for a few hours or the freezer for 15 min. (I went with the freezer!) This firms them up so they don't crumble in the chocolate.

6) Melt the chocolate according to the package instructions.

7) Roll the cake balls, one at a time, in the melted chocolate and place on wax paper topped cookie sheet.

8) Sprinkle with crushed candy canes

9) Place coated cake balls in the refrigerator for half an hour or so to set the chocolate.

10) Share with your crazy friends!!
My San Antonio friends and me with our White Elephant gifts!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Feeding Friendship: Orzo with Caramelized Fall Vegetables & Ginger

This round of Feeding Friendship features the sweet potato!

I can't tell a lie, Feeding Friendship Followers. I did not enjoy this dish. It just felt like a random collection of flavors that didn't "mesh." I considered doing another sweet potato dish, but it just didn't happen. You may be able to save this recipe by tweaking it a bit. Perhaps leaving out the ginger? Anyway, let's just get it over with shall we?

I used this recipe.

1/2 pound orzo pasta
Grapeseed, peanut, or vegetable oil 
1 large sweet potato (about 3/4 pound), peeled and diced into 1/4" cubes
2 medium onions (about 1 pound), finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3-inch piece fresh ginger — peeled and grated, about 1 tablespoon 
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps diced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 big leaves chard or kale, stalks removed and leaves finely chopped — about 2 cups
Freshly ground black pepper 

1) Cook the orzo according to the package directions until it is al dente. Drain and coat with oil.
2) Heat a dutch oven on high heat and add 1 Tbsp of oil (don't use olive oil due to a high smoke point).
3) When the oil is hot, add the sweet potato cubes in one layer. Brown for about 4 min an then turn.

4) Turn the heat to medium and push the sweet potatoes to one side of the dutch oven. Add the onions and sprinkle with salt.
5) When the onions beging to brown, add the garlic and ginger and mix in with the onion. Push all of these to the side of the pan with the sweet potatoes where they will continue to caramelize.
6) Add the mushrooms. Cook for ~4 min and then stir them. Cook for ~4 more minutes.

7) Whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons of oil. Pour this into the pan with the vegetables and mix everything together, scraping the bottom as you go. Cook all the elements together for about 3 minutes on medium heat. Then turn the heat up to high, as high as it will go.
8) Add the cooked orzo one cup at a time, stirring and scraping as you go. Once it's all in, let it cook for about 5 more min to brown the orzo.
9) Add chopped greens and cook for 1 more minute or until greens are wilted.
10) Add salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Homemade Gingerbread "Houses"

On our trip to Wichita, Ellie mentioned she'd like to make homemade gingerbread houses. At the time there were many suggestions: a gingerbread outhouse, a gingerbread trailer, a gingerbread post office, etc.

So on Saturday, Ellie and Geoff came over with the ingredients and we baked the necessary amount of gingerbread for one house and one Alamo (Geoff's idea, with which Mike ran). There was some left over dough for gingerbread men to eat, of course!

On Sunday, a cold and rainy day here in San Antonio, we bought candy decorations and Ellie and Mike worked on their final products while Geoff helped and I provided moral support (and watched Christmas Vacation).

Festive roof!

Perfecting Davy Crockett's facial expression.

The cat's view.

Historically accurate gingerbread replica.

Blood = Siracha

Santa Ana looks sad!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thanksgiving Road Trip to Wichita

I always enjoy going up to Wichita to see family and friends, especially around the holidays...

...but this may have been the first time I was truly sad to leave.

Mike, Ellie, Geoff, Rhonda and I all piled into Rhonda's van early Wendesday morning. We drove up I-35 and dropped Ellie and Geoff off with Ellie's aunt in OKC and then got into Wichita at about 7:30. Of course, the first stop was Il Vicino for some DELICIOUS wood oven pizza!

Thursday morning, Mom, Rhonda, Mike and I put on our running/walking shoes and went out to the GraceMed 1st Annual Say Grace 5K.
Before the race, at the starting line.
Mike and I both did really well (for us) and Mom and Rhonda successfully completed their first 5K!
YAY Mom! Good job! When's your next race?!
After getting cleaned up, we went to Dad's house for Thanksgiving lunch. Grandma Farney was also in attendance.
We picked up a pre-cooked meal from Dillons. I think this is how Mom was meant to cook Thanksgiving dinner:
Two microwaves, one glass of wine and an evil grin.
Mike carved the turkey. This is turning into his traditional role at our Thanksgivings.
We had a very nice meal where we discussed current events as well as past Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations in our family.
At Dad's house, even the kitties get Thanksgiving dinner...
Then, of course, there was the customary post-meal nap...
After lunch at Dad's we went to my Aunt Marlene's to see more family. That evening we went to see Tower Heist at the Old Town Warren. It was a good movie to see with the fam on Thanksgiving.

Friday was Mike's birthday. Also, LSU was playing Arkansas, so we all went to the River City Brewing Co. for lunch and Mom, Dad and Rhonda left Mike and I there to finish watching the game. LSU won!
That night we celebrated Mike and Rhonda's birthday...
This was actually the 2nd time they got candles. 
And we had a gift exchange and some more leftovers.
Uncle Terry even made it back from Colorado!
On Saturday we had a 2nd (3rd?) Thanksgiving celebration at Aunt Marlene's and got to see some more family. That night was my 10-year high school reunion. It was so great to see old friends again and catch up!
Although I was sad to leave, I realized that when we got home it was time to put up the Christmas tree and other decorations and I was excited again! I hope everyone had an equally fun Thanksgiving! It was so great to see everyone on our trip! Stay tuned to hear about our trip to Louisiana for Christmas!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Feeding Friendship: Chocolate Bread Pudding

Alright! It's time for another exciting round of Feeding Friendship! The secret ingredient is:
No, I didn't drop the egg carton. These are fresh eggs from our chickens. They peck them so some of the eggs are a bit worse for the wear, but they'll work (unless you want to hard boil them, then you have to use the less-pecked ones...).

I chose to make Chocolate Bread Pudding as my Feeding Friendship recipe. I learned to make this at a cooking class at Central Market back in February. After the first bite, I turned to Mike and told him I was leaving him for the instructor (for his culinary abilities more than anything). It was honestly the best thing I've ever eaten.

Here's how I made it:


Bread Pudding
1  loaf Challah bread (recipe says French bread), day old, roughly torn up
1.5  cups semisweet chocolate chips
6  eggs, beaten
1  quart half and half
1  Tbsp vanilla extract
1.5  cups sugar
6  Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1  tsp ground cinnamon
1  tsp salt
4  Tbsp unsalted butter
4  Tbsp brown sugar

3/4  cups sugar
3  oz evaporated milk
2  Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2  egg, beaten (odd, sorry, but the original recipe makes too much sauce...)
1/2  tsp vanilla
1/8  cup Kahlua

To prepare bread pudding:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2) Butter a 9x13 baking dish and fill it with torn bread and disperse the chocolate chips amongst the bread pieces.

3) In a large bowl combine the eggs, half and half, and vanilla.
"Farm" fresh eggs, ready to be beaten!
4) In another bowl, combine sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt.
I think cocoa is so beautiful!
5) Gradually stir the liquid into the dry mixture until well-blended (I use a hand mixer...)

6) Pour over the bread in the baking dish. Bake for 1 hour.

7) Remove from oven, dot top with butter and sprinkle with brown sugar. Put back into oven for 5-10 min, until butter is melted and brown sugar is saturated. Let cool before serving.

To prepare the sauce:

1) In a medium saucepan, before placing over heat, stir together the sugar evaporated milk, butter and eggs. Stir to blend thoroughly.

2) Place pan over medium-low heat and add vanilla and Kahlua.

3) Chill sauce.

4) Serve bread pudding warm with cold sauce and top with a dollop of whipped cream and grated chocolate, if you like.
I enjoyed mine with a glass of milk!