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Central Texas Foodie and Sightseeing Tour ~ Part 1

28 Jun
Blanco River in Wimberley

Blanco River in Wimberley

Warning: Long post. I did split it out into two posts, though, with another one coming soon. You’ll also notice in this first post that I don’t have many of my own pictures as I didn’t snap many photos until about half-way through the trip.

I had sort of promised a recipe from Texas in my last post, but decided instead to introduce you to some of the fine Texas fare we indulged in on our whirlwind trip for a family reunion, as well as some sightseeing tips if you ever happen to travel into that part of the country.

After the flight into Austin with my daughter (the hubby opted out of this trip), my parents picked us up and drove us 45 minutes away to Wimberley, a charming town on the Blanco River in the heart of Texas Hill Country. On our way out of Austin, I demanded to be brought to Taco Cabana, a fast-food Tex-Mex restaurant found all over Austin (and Texas) that was my cheap staple of late night cravings while attending college there in the early- to mid-80s. Hey, I was hungry!

Taco Cabana Salsa Bar

Taco Cabana Salsa Bar – photo credit Taco Cabana

I ordered a Carne Asada taco and a bean and cheese taco, and filled up several plastic containers with some of the six or seven fresh-made salsas they had at their salsa bar. They even had a pineapple chipotle salsa. It ain’t no Taco Bell, that’s for sure. You can find them by the bright pink signs off I-35.

The next day, we got up early-ish and set out for Houston to have lunch with my Aunt and Uncle on the other side of the family, one of my brothers, and several childhood friends I grew up with in Houston. Although the mileage is 175 miles, I made it to Houston in record time, as the speed limit is 75 mph there on I-10. Considering the max speed limit in my area is 55, and only 45 in town, I felt I made it there twice as fast. I might have, in fact, since my speedometer was pushing 85-ish most of the time lest I get run over by all the trucks. It felt strange driving so slow back in Oregon.

Chapultepec Lupita Restaurant in Houston ~ photo credit to christao408

Chapultepec Lupita Restaurant in Houston ~ photo credit christao408

We met at Chapultepec Lupita, which my Uncle promised was The Best Houston Tex-Mex place to eat. It’s located in the middle of an old downtown neighborhood in a dive of a building, but it was charming! I’ve mentioned before that my litmus test of a good Tex-Mex restaurant is by ordering the chile rellenos, which is exactly what I did. The tortilla chips they served before the meal were a bit disappointing because they were stale (boo hiss) but my chile rellenos, beans, and rice were done to perfection. Good job!

After a mediocre dinner with my daughter and Uncle at an unnamed tavern, we retired for the night and then got up the next day to travel to Pflugerville, north of Austin. Again, record time. My dear Uncle told us we HAD to stop at Buc-ees in Bastrop, a truck stop on the way back for lunch. He said they have THE cleanest bathrooms anywhere around. I had to check that out.

Buc-ees

Buc-ees ~ photo credit Robin Jerstad, For The Express-News

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it sure was interesting. It was the size of a department store, with everything from ordering food at computer terminals, to souvenirs up the yahoo, to a complete grocery store, a camping/hunting section, and about 50 gas pumps out front. Very surreal. I had me some BBQ brisket sandwich, with pickles and onion. Not bad, really. They made it right there in front of you. And, the bathrooms were spotless.

We then spent the afternoon with yet another brother and his wife and their daughter in Pflugerville (I love saying that name), then left my own daughter there to spend the night with her cousin a year older than her. Apparently they shopped at “The Domain,” a trendy outdoor mall in Austin, while I then traveled 20 more miles north up the road to visit a dear high school friend in Georgetown. We quaffed more than a few beers and she made us some yummy taco salad for dinner. Can’t have enough Tex-Mex while in Texas!

Chuy's Carne Guisada

Chuy’s Carne Guisada ~ My cell phone takes horrid pictures!

The next day, we lazily got out of bed and decided on Chuy’s for lunch in Round Rock. Chuy’s is an iconic Tex-Mex restaurant that has its roots in Austin near Zilker Park, and has branched out to other areas. I adore Chuy’s with their funky atmosphere and to-die-for Charro Beans and light, crisp (and fresh!) tortilla chips. Lucky me, their Carne Guisada was on special, so of course had to get that along with the Charro Beans. I swear I swooned eating my meal. Just. That. Good. I also bought the hubs one of their t-shirts for a souvenir, because every time I go to Texas he gets a new one. This time he got the funky tie-dyed fish on black. Cool.

Chuy's Fish T-Shirt

Chuy’s Fish T-Shirt ~ photo credit Chuy’s

Onward back to Austin! Now I’m at my sister’s then brother’s house in East Austin (they live a block apart), and most of my relatives are now showing up from Oregon. My brother has a bunch of chickens and chicken paraphernalia around his house. He loves his chickens, and so do I!

Chickens in the Window

Chickens in the Window ~ My brother’s chickens love to check things out in the kitchen!

My parents then showed up with with massive containers of family-sized take-out from Trudy’s Texas Star Cafe, another iconic Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin just off the UT campus. I worked the late shift there in college, and was so happy to have some of that food even if I didn’t make to the restaurant. We chowed on various tacos, enchiladas, beans, and rice. My sister made an awesome homemade guacamole to go with it all. If you ever make it to Austin, this is another great restaurant to stop in for some Tex-Mex.

Me and Sister with Trudy's Plate of Food

Me and Sister with Trudy’s Plate of Food

We stayed the night at my sister’s house, then again lazily got up and walked approximately two blocks to experience The Best Taco Truck in Austin, called Veracruz All Natural. It sits next to a Shell Gas Station and Piñata store in a parking lot. Seriously! My sister said I had to order the Migas Tacos, so of course I did. WOW! I can now say I’ve had the best breakfast tacos ever in my life. And the homemade salsa was divine, served in an authentic molcajete bowl.

Veracruz All Natural Migas Taco

Veracruz All Natural Migas Taco ~ photo credit ginnysaustin.com

The next most amazing thing I had was their Watermelon Agua Fresca. I didn’t order it at first because I’d brought a bottle of water with me, but then tasted my sister’s and fell in love. Ever “drink” a watermelon?? It comes in this ginormous styrofoam cup, and didn’t think I could handle that much liquid, so ordered a small. “I’m sorry, it only comes in one size.” I looked over at my daughter’s smoothie she ordered in a small styrofoam cup, but let it go. My taco order wasn’t out yet, and who am I to complain with the one making my meal? OK, large it is. And yes, I drank every last drop of it!

Next stop: Tubing the San Marcos River… to be continued later this weekend!

anotherfoodieblogger’s Top 10 Recipes

29 May
Blooming Bush at Camp (and Boat)

Blooming Bush at Camp (and Boat)

After a five-day camping trip where I vowed not to bring my computer (no internet anyways) or to blog about what I made (I just wanted to relax and eat my camp food without writing down recipes and taking photos), I came back to an extremely busy week at work and social activities for my daughter after work. Hence no new recipe today.

So what’s a foodie blogger to do? Well why not post the Top 10 Recipes viewed on this site?! I can thank Pinterest for an incredible fascination with my Pepperoni Pasta Salad, Hash Brown Egg Muffins, and Coke Ribs in a Crock Pot, and the past Memorial Weekend for a sudden interest in Grilled Sausage Foil Packets. The rest? Viewers come to me through not only through Pinterest, but keyword searches on all the internet search engines, so apparently many of the recipes I’ve posted people are looking to make. I guess it gives a certain comfort knowing my recipes have most likely been not only yummy, but useful!

Drumroll please….

anotherfoodieblogger’s Top 10 Recipes

1. Pepperoni Pasta Salad  – 3,107 views

Pepperoni Pasta Salad

Pepperoni Pasta Salad

2. Hash Brown Egg Muffins – 1,130 views

Rows of Hash Brown Muffins

Rows of Hash Brown Muffins

3. Coke Ribs in a Crock Pot – 1,002 views

Coke Ribs in a Crock Pot

Coke Ribs in a Crock Pot

4. Grilled Sausage and Vegetables in Foil Packet  – 863 views

Sausage and Veggies Ready for Foil Packet

Sausage and Veggies Ready for Foil Packet

5. Fried Cinnamon Apple Chimichangas – 586 views

Fried Cinnamon Apple Chimichanga

Fried Cinnamon Apple Chimichanga

6. Garlicky Parmesan Chicken Tenders – 501 views

Garlicky Parmesan Chicken Tenders

Garlicky Parmesan Chicken Tenders

7. Baked Ham and Swiss Cheese Sliders ~ A Party Hit! – 473 views

Baked Ham and Swiss Sliders

Baked Ham and Swiss Sliders

8 Italian Wedding Soup for Rainy Day Blues –  345 views

Italian Wedding Meatballs

Italian Wedding Meatballs

9. Fajita Bar Party! – 337 views

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

10. Hash Brown, Sausage, and Egg Casserole  – 317 views

Hash Brown, Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Casserole

Hash Brown, Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Casserole

I hope you have time to enjoy a little stroll down memory lane for a few of these keepers.

Oh, and my lead-in photo? That’s a picture of a blooming pink azalea bush in our “back” yard at camp. At least I think it’s an azalea bush. Oh, and our boat that photobombed my shot.  It was drizzling and I wanted to snap a quick shot of the bush while it was in bloom, and had no idea the boat was so prominent in it! 🙂

Starbucks Old Fashioned Coffee Cake

13 Mar
Starbucks Old Fashioned Coffee Cake

Starbucks Old Fashioned Coffee Cake ~ Coffee Anyone???

“MOM!!! I just found the best recipe book in the entire world!”

“Well then, I think I want that too! Where do I buy it?”

Turns out it was a Pinterest link to all the Starbucks recipes in electronic book form, so I didn’t have to buy it, but there was no option to print it! I know that sounds odd, but even using the web browser print feature didn’t work properly.  So I captured a screenshot of one of the recipes she wanted to make and printed it. I’ve typed it out below so that you can copy and paste it to a word editor if you want to print it, or just print this page from your browser. It’s been on my bucket list to get some kind of widget for print-friendly recipes, but alas I have not gotten around to that research. And by the way, the website where I got this from is not the original author. I tried to get to the original source of it, and ended up on all kinds of pfishy and scary pages so I am leaving the link to it off of here in the interest of security.

Since I am not the baker in the family (as I’ve told you too many times, right?) we followed this recipe exactly. I am pretty sure you can’t fudge on baking ingredients without something in the process failing. OK, maybe adding more nuts or a different type would work, or subbing raisins or something, but the rest of it is in the  “no-touchy-changey” zone for me.

I let my daughter make the majority of this, but I did have to supervise and step in periodically. She’s actually coming along quite well with her mixing and measuring techniques. This coffee cake came out just delicious, and having a piece warm out of the oven was divine! It’s not overly sweet, and the house just filled with this lovely aromatic cinnamon and fresh baked bread smell, which lingered for hours and hours afterwards. I am glad we made this. We’ll have a yummy breakfast or afternoon snack for several days now!

Starbucks Old Fashioned Coffee Cake

Starbucks Old Fashioned Coffee Cake

Starbucks Old Fashioned Coffee Cake
Copied from somewhere on the WWW

For the Struesel:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

For the Cake:
Butter and flour for pan
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. First, butter and flour the inside of a Bundt pan or 8-inch square pan, or something of that size. We used a Bundt pan, which is the round baking pan thingy with a hole in the middle. In a medium bowl, combine the Struesel ingredients. To make the 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs, all you need to do is take a full sleeve of them and crush them in a baggie with a pestle or your fist. It would have been nice to know that, as we kept crushing them up three at a time and adding them to a measuring cup, and lo and behold! Oh well. Lesson learned. An entire sleeve of graham crackers is exactly one and a half cups. And that cardamom ingredient? I almost fell on the floor with the price. It costs over $48 a pound for it!?!?! Thank goodness for bulk aisle bins. I pretty much got exactly what we needed (actually about 1/4 teaspoon too much) and it cost me 46 cents. It didn’t break my bank for that much. However, if you don’t have a bulk aisle to purchase this from, do NOT buy a spendy container of it in the spice aisle. Just leave it out, OK? Just sayin’…

Moving on, take a much larger bowl, and mix the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Chop up the softened butter into smaller cubes and add to the bowl with the eggs, vanilla extract, and milk. According to the recipe, you should “beat vigorously until smooth and quite thick,” for about one minute. Well we didn’t use an electric mixer because it didn’t say to do that, so we used a fork and took turns until we deemed it vigorously beaten and quite thick, which took longer than one minute. Maybe three or so.  Spread half of the batter in the bottom of your pan, then sprinkle half the Struesel mixture evenly over that. Layer the rest of the batter and Struesel again. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool for a minimum of 20 minutes, then remove from pan and serve. Coffee would be an excellent choice with this. My daughter is really trying to turn me into a baker!

Fried Cinnamon Apple Chimichangas

27 Feb
Fried Cinnamon Apple Chimichanga

Fried Cinnamon Apple Chimichanga

My teenage daughter asked if she could make these about a week ago. She showed it to me online, and I said that was fine, so we went and bought the ingredients. She’s discovered Pinterest, and while most of her browsing is on nail and fashion boards, she does browse the foodie boards here and again and glommed onto this recipe and pinned it. As we started making it for our Sunday dinner dessert, she said, “Mom? Can you put these on your blog?” Wow, I didn’t think she even read it or had one iota of interest in this site of mine. Now I’ve probably completely embarrassed her by saying all that, but oh well. So here you have these incredibly delicious, incredibly oil-splattering messy but oh so good dessert (or breakfast — hey they have apples!) Chimichangas. They really were not that hard to make and the process took probably an hour total if you don’t include the cooling time of the filling. It’s just that when you have an inexperienced cook/fryer who needs assisted a lot, making them does take a while longer. If you know how to roll up a burrito and fry food, then you’re good to go. Just a note, the original recipe said this will make 8 to 10 Chimichangas using small flour tortillas. We ended up with 17 of them! Either our apples were really big or our tortillas were really small, or maybe both. I’m going to try to freeze some or take some to work for my office mates, if my daughter and husband don’t polish them all off soon.

Fried Apple Chimichangas
Adapted from Juanita’s Cocina, recipe here: Apple Cinnamon Dessert Chimichangas

For the filling:
1 1/2 to 2 cups water
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 apples, any kind, cored and chopped bite-sized (We used 2 Fuji and 2 Granny Smiths)

Apple Filling

Apple Filling

In a large skillet or saucepan, mix the all the filling ingredients except the apples and bring to a boil. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes until the mixture becomes really thick. Add the chopped apples, cover, and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the apples are tender. The original recipe called for 10 minutes or so, but ours took closer to 20 minutes. I’m sure that was due to our high altitude. We also had to add an extra half cup of water to the mixture partway through to compensate for the longer cooking time. Once the apples are tender, set the mixture aside until cool. At this point dinner was ready so we let it sit through dinner and that clean up, which was about a half hour.

For the Chimichangas:
8-17 small flour tortillas (sorry for the wide range! Just get a 20-c0unt or more package)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Oil for frying

First assemble your Chimichangas by spooning  some filling in the top third half of the tortilla. I’m laughing now because that’s how I taught my daughter to do it, and the original instructions say the bottom half. I wonder if it’s easier the other way? I don’t know, that was just how I instinctively did it. Anyways, flip in the sides of the tortilla partway over the filling then start rolling top-down, making sure the sides stay tucked in. This part was one of our issues, as daughter had a hard time keeping the sides tucked in as she rolled. I do think a majority of our splatter mess was due to the filling leaking out.

Platter of Fried Apple Cinnamon Chimichangas

Platter of Fried Apple Cinnamon Chimichangas

Once they are all assembled, now add the rest of the sugar and cinnamon to a wide bowl or plate and mix up, then set aside. Next, add about a quarter inch of oil for frying in a large heavy bottomed or deep cast iron skillet. We used plain vegetable oil. Heat it until medium-hot. (I don’t use a temperature gauge, I use the old-fashioned trick of sticking the tip of a wooden chopstick to the bottom of the pan. If it sizzles and bubbles right off the bat from the bottom, then it’s ready.)  Using tongs, lower two to four Chimichangas into the hot oil one at a time. My daughter could only handle frying two each batch as the splatters freaked her out, so that took us a bit longer too. We did use a splatter screen! Let them fry for maybe 30 seconds per side (really!) then move them off to drain on a paper towel once golden brown. Some were done more than less than others but don’t fret, it’s all good. Don’t let them sit too long or the sugar coating won’t stick! Roll each one around in the cinnmamon sugar mix while still moist, then put on another plate while you fry and coat the rest. Once done, feel free to sprinkle more cinnamon sugar over the top, and do eat them while warm! I will have to experiment on the best way to warm them up. Toaster oven? Microwave? Not sure yet as of this writing. I hope you have a chance to enjoy this dessert, as I don’t post many at all here. I’m a savory kind of gal, but one of these really hit the spot after dinner! And if you think flour tortillas would not be crispy or too floury tasting for this, well you have another think coming. I was amazed!

Hash Browns, Spinach, and Froached Egg Stack

24 Feb
Hash Browns Spinach and Froached Egg Stack Cut

Hash Browns, Spinach, and Froached Egg Stack – Eat it NOW!

I announced “WOW! THAT WAS GOOD” really loud to absolutely nobody after I ate this. OK, my dog heard me and came running. I was winging it on my own last night as my husband and daughter went to go night skiing after a major snowstorm dump, and I had free reign to cook up whatever the heck I wanted for dinner. I wanted to put ERMAHGERD in the title, but knew that would only make my daughter’s eyes roll and many wonder what the heck that meant. OK so the other thing you might not know is a “froached” egg. This is something my mom always made for us growing up, which is a cross between a fried and poached egg. You start out by frying it in a little oil or butter, and once the whites are set on the bottom, you add water to the frying pan, then quickly cover it,  for one minute. This way you have the lovely taste of a fried egg, but not the hassle of having to flip it over. The egg whites are done through but the yolk is still nice and runny!

A Fried Egg

Exhibit A: A Fried Egg

A Froached Egg

Exhibit B: A Froached Egg

I had a small amount of fresh spinach left in the fridge, and was craving eggs. That sounded a bit too light for dinner with just those two items, but remembered seeing a post on Pinterest that had an egg stacked with spinach on a hash brown patty, here. That one had feta cheese on it, which gee, I didn’t have any. However, since I like to do my spinach up spicy and lemony, I knew I wouldn’t need that. That recipe also used fresh grated potatoes, and I waffled back and forth on doing that for say, two seconds. I used shredded hash browns from the freezer. I’m sure you could make this for a family, but I’d have to have some helpers if I needed to make more than one at a time!

Hash Browns Patty

Hash Browns Patty

Hash Browns, Spinach, and Froached Egg Stack

1 cup frozen shredded hash browns
1/2 tablespoon butter, or substitute
Paprika, ground black pepper, and salt to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil
Spray olive oil
A large handful of fresh spinach
Squeeze of lemon juice
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Spray olive oil, again
One egg
More ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup water

Start off by adding the frozen hash browns to a glass measuring cup to the one cup line (give or take). Add the butter on top then microwave for one minute.  Add the paprika, pepper, and salt  to taste and mix up good. Yes, I used salt today. This was MY dinner. 🙂 Next, add the teaspoon of olive oil to a medium-hot skillet and plop the hash browns onto it and smoosh it down with a spatula and make it pretty and round, or so. Cook it until nice and crisp on the bottom until it holds its shape.  Once it is crisp enough on the bottom to flip,  spray some olive oil on the top of it, then flip it over with a wide spatula. Cook until crispy on that side, then remove to a plate and tent with a piece of foil to keep warm.

Wilted Spinach with Lemon and Crushed Red Pepper

Wilted Spinach with Lemon and Crushed Red Pepper

Now spritz the pan with more olive oil and throw in a really large handful of fresh spinach. Squeeze some lemon juice over it (I just eyeballed, maybe a half of teaspoon? I didn’t have a fresh lemon and used the lemon ball thingy) and then cook it until wilted. OH! At the last minute add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. Gosh this is a great combination, as I’ve mentioned before.  Once the spinach is all wilted and yummy looking, spoon it on top of your hash browns patty and re-tent with the foil. Do not worry about the food being too cold. This comes together real quick, and the egg you are about to cook will help heat it all back up. Finally, spray a bit more olive oil into the pan, and gently crack an egg into it and grind a whole bunch of black pepper over it. Now comes the froaching part. Let that egg cook until the white is is solid all the way through and the edges of the whites start to sizzle. Now pour the 1/4 cup of water all around the edges of the egg, then immediately put a tight-fitting lid on the skillet. Let it “steam” for one minute exactly. Do not peek. Do not pass go. At the one minute mark, lift up the lid and you should see a fine example of a “froached” egg. Now take a slotted spatula and lift the egg out of the pan to drain a bit, then place on the hash browns and spinach stack. Grab your utensils and cut into the egg and watch mesmerized as the yellow runny yolk spreads its goodness down the stack. EAT IT NOW! I want one of these every day.

Hash Browns Spinach and Froached Egg Stack

Hash Browns, Spinach, and Froached Egg Stack

Spicy Black Beans and Rice with Fried Egg and Bacon

9 Feb
Spicy Black Beans and Rice with Fried Egg and Bacon

Spicy Black Beans and Rice with Fried Egg and Bacon

Finally, I am getting around to posting a dish my husband made over three weeks ago! Sad, but true — I kept pre-empting his cooking with mine. Well, he was gone for two weeks of that time and figured he wouldn’t notice anyways. So this interesting and spicy gooey dish came about from a cookbook he gave me for Christmas called Make it Tonight: 150 Quick and Delicious Weeknight Recipes by Fine Cooking.  The book is filled with eye-catching photos and simple one page recipes that can be made in a shortish span of time for a weeknight dinner. I’ve read the book through several times, and have bookmarked many recipes to try in the future. Although a majority of the recipes look tasty and easy, the Fine Cooking part should have tipped me off that there are a LOT of ingredients in there I just don’t have or keep stocked in the fridge or pantry on a regular basis (if at all, ever). Take this dish, for example. It calls for Salsa Lizano, “found in nearly every Costa Rican home, restaurant, and roadside food stand.” Seeing as we live approximately 4,219 miles from Costa Rica, we were hard-pressed to find this sauce. So we did the next best thing. We tried to make it ourselves. If I’d actually read the recipe closer I would have noticed to substitute Worcestershire sauce for it, but I went off on a tangent had husband add the ingredients that are in Salsa Lizano individually. From the sidebar: “Salsa Lizano is a smooth, light brown, vegetable-based sauce with a touch of sweetness and a hearty punch of spice, including cumin, mustard, and turmeric.”  To me, that read: “Mix together soy sauce, a pinch of sugar, cumin, mustard, and ginger.” Hey, it turned out fabulous!

I now present to you this highly-adapted recipe from Fine Cooking. And my husband really did make this himself! I was the ingredient finder for him, as he didn’t know where to find most of the stuff in our jam-packed spice cabinet. And the bacon part is completely optional. This actually came from the Meatless Mains section of the book, but hubby loves his bacon! So do I.

Spicy Black Bean Sauce for Rice

Spicy Black Bean Sauce for Rice

Spicy Black Beans and Rice with Fried Egg and Bacon

6 strips of bacon
3/4 cup long-grain rice
1 tablespoon reserved bacon grease
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground dried ginger
1 small tomato, chopped
1/4 cup canned tomato sauce (freeze the rest)
1 cup homemade or low sodium chicken broth
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 or 2 eggs per person
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Fry up the bacon to make the house smell divine. Cook an extra strip or two for munching on while you make the rest of the dish. While the bacon is cooking, prepare rice according to package directions. Once your bacon is done, reserve 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease and add to a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for a minute more. Now add the sugar, cumin, soy sauce, mustard, ginger, and chopped tomatoes, and mix well. Next pour in the tomato sauce and chicken broth, then add the black beans and ground pepper to taste. Bring up to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes or until the liquid reduces to the level of the beans, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat or to the lowest possible setting, and cover to keep warm. In another skillet, cook the eggs to your liking sprinkled with black pepper. We like ours over-easy, with the whites cooked through but the yolk runny in the middle. Add the rice/bean mixture to a bowl or plate, and top with an egg or two. Garnish with crumbled bacon and cilantro. Wow, this was really good!

Hash Brown, Sausage, and Egg Casserole ~ Starting a New Christmas Tradition

25 Dec
Hash Brown, Sausage, and Egg Casserole

Hash Brown, Sausage, and Egg Casserole

Merry Christmas to all my family and friends! I have decided to start a new Christmas tradition in our household this year. We’ve always done a “fend for yourself” for Christmas breakfast/brunch, but this year I decided it would be nice to wake up and bake a hassle-free breakfast casserole. This make-ahead casserole is a cinch to make, and you refrigerate it over night before popping it in the oven just before you unwrap your presents. Well, that was the plan anyways. I forgot to put it in the oven (hey it’s my first year to do this!) so we ate a bit later than planned. My daughter went back for a second serving, so I guess it’s safe to say this is a tradition I can continue.

There are hundreds of recipes online for this, most of them stating they go way back from their grandmother or handed down from a dear friend. But they are all pretty much the same, with variations here and there on the meat and/or vegetables. And they all feed about 10 to 12, so I scaled this one way back.

Another one of our traditions is to watch Polar Express on Christmas Eve, after attending a Christmas Eve party that my friend here in town hosts every year. Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition?

Hash Brown, Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Casserole

Hash Brown, Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Casserole

Hash Brown, Sausage, and Egg Casserole

8 ounces frozen hash browns
2 tablespoons butter or substitute, melted
Ground black pepper
Mrs. Dash Table Blend, or salt
10 ounces breakfast sausage
1 cup diced onion
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 400. In a large bowl, thaw the hash browns (I used the microwave) then stir in the melted butter. Season with lots of ground black pepper and lots of Mrs. Dash, or salt to taste if you use that. In a 2 quart casserole dish, press the hash browns into the bottom in an even layer.  Bake for about 20 minutes until starting to brown. Meanwhile, break up the sausage into little chunks and add to a medium-hot skillet, stirring and breaking up. When the sausage starts to release some of the grease, add the onions. Cook the sausage and onions until the sausage is no longer pink, about 10 to 15 minutes, then drain the grease and set aside.  The hash browns should be about ready to come out of the oven now. Take them out and let them cool a bit. Crack the six eggs into the same large bowl, then whisk together well with the milk. I added a bunch more pepper and Mrs. Dash too.  Spread the crumbled sausage and onion mixture over evenly over the top of the hash browns, then slowly pour the eggs over the entire dish. Last, top with shredded cheddar cheese. Cover tightly with foil, then refrigerate overnight. About an hour before you are ready to eat, cook the covered casserole in a 350-degree preheated oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, then cook another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest about five minutes. Serve plain, or with sour cream, hot sauce, Tabasco, whatever you like with your eggs! Easy and delicious.

Hash Brown Egg Muffins

5 Dec
Hash Brown Egg Muffins

Hash Brown Egg Muffins

I’m not going to pretend this is an original recipe or method, as I’ve seen a gazillion versions of it on Pinterest with cute names such as Hash Brown Nests and Eggs in a Basket. Trying to find the original recipe on Pinterest is like trying to find the author of a viral internet meme, but to the best of my knowledge the first variation of this recipe was developed by Johnsonville (of the sausage fame) and is posted on their company’s website. They actually call them Amazing Muffin Cups. Well I didn’t use sausage in mine among other ingredients and scaled it down to feed three, and there’s certainly nothing amazing about mine, but I think it’s safe to say my version is definitely different. I got to use my brand new muffin pan for these, and you can see by the photo I’ve already made a mess of it. I’m a pretty messy cook. I wonder why I don’t own an apron? Anyways, the prep on this was a bit tedious, and it took a long time for the hash browns to get crispy for the first go-round in the oven, but the family gobbled them up. I think if I were too make these again, I would make a double batch so we’d have an easy breakfast the next day.

Hash Brown Egg Muffins

1 tablespoon butter or substitute
2 cups frozen shredded hash browns, thawed
1 large green onion, chopped
1 teaspoon butter or substitute
3 large eggs
Splash of milk
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons real bacon bits
Shredded cheese, any kind

Rows of Hash Brown Muffins

Rows of Hash Brown Muffins

Melt the one tablespoon of butter in the microwave, then mix it into the thawed hash browns. Using the same small bowl, add the teaspoon of butter and green onion, cover and microwave for one minute. Now the “fun” part. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Meanwhile, spray a muffin pan with oil. Using your hands, smash about a third cup of hash browns against the sides and bottoms of each cup in the pan. It takes awhile, but you’ll eventually get it done and the oven should be preheated by the time you finish. Put the pan in the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes. Mine took closer to 30 but my oven takes longer. Meanwhile, in yet another bowl (or clean out the one that had the hash browns in it) whisk the eggs and the splash of milk. Stir in the green onions, black pepper to taste, and the bacon bits. When the hash browns look nice and crispy, take them out of the oven. Using a measuring cup, pour the egg mixture into each cup until evenly filled. My last muffin came out a little short, but it was close enough. Now top them all with shredded cheese. Reduce the heat of the oven to 375, and cook for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the egg muffin comes out clean. Remove from oven, then carefully pop each one out with a knife and serve. This made six muffins so we all got two.

Introducing the Huevodilla

20 Oct
Huevodilla

Huevodilla

Every once in awhile I discover a new recipe that truly inspires me. When I came across this delight from The Pioneer Woman, I thought, “Now why didn’t I think of that before?” And the next thought that popped into my mind was “Cheese!” The corn tortillas just screamed out for cheese to me. So with a little adaptation, I turned a really good idea into a fantastic, filling, crazy-good plate of awesomeness. Can you tell I am just a little excited to share this with you? Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) called her version “Heuvo in the Hole.” I coined the term Huevodilla for mine, which if I’m not mistaken probably translates to “little egg” in Spanish, but it’s my way of combining Huevo and Quesadilla.

Unlike Ree, I do not own a biscuit cutter to cut the holes in the center of the tortillas. Instead I used a small jelly jar to use as a guide to cut the holes with a paring knife. Not quite as pretty, but it did the job. I only had white corn tortillas instead of yellow too, but I’m sure that did not make much difference in the taste.  My only regret with this recipe is I didn’t have any cilantro on hand, but the addition of avocado rounded out this gem.

Stacking the Tortillas and Cheese

Stacking the Tortillas and Cheese

Huevodilla

3 small corn tortillas
Spray oil
Shredded cheese, any kind
Black pepper, to taste
1 egg
Sliced avocado
Salsa
Sour cream
Cilantro (if you have it!)

Cut a circle  out of the center of the each tortilla.  Spray each of the tortillas lightly with oil. Heat a griddle or skillet to medium heat and spray with a little more oil. (You may use butter here instead if you want.) Place one tortilla on the griddle. Carefully spread the shredded cheese on top of the tortilla. Place the next tortilla on top of that and add the cheese. Finally, add the third tortilla to the top. By this time, the bottom cheese should have started to melt enough to stick to the tortilla, so press down a bit with a spatula to stick it all together. Crack the egg into the middle of the tortillas, then grind some black pepper over the egg. Let the egg cook until the white has set enough to flip over. Spray just a tad more oil to the top of the egg, then carefully flip the concoction over. Continue cooking until the egg is done to your liking. Slide onto a plate, and serve with avocado, salsa, sour cream, and cilantro. Dig in!

Here is a link  Ree’s recipe if you want to take a gander at the original: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2012/07/huevo-in-the-hole/

Huevodilla Up Close and Personal

Huevodilla Up Close and Personal

Broccoli, Spinach, Bacon, Cheese, and Onion Quiche

4 Mar
Broccoli, Spinach, Bacon, Onion, and Cheese Quiche

Everything but the kitchen sink...

…subtitled “Everything but the Kitchen Sink.” Well my diet these days in recovery mode has not been very conducive to cooking anything worth blogging about, however last week before the surgery, my husband and I teamed together to make a quiche with just about everything in the fridge that needed using up. Just like a frittata or omelet, a quiche can be made with pretty much anything you enjoy with eggs. So just use the recipe as a guide, and experiment! (And yes, we used real bacon in it this time, as we had some leftover from when I made a BLT the day before.)

Broccoli, Spinach, Bacon, Cheese, and Onion Quiche
1 pie crust, store-bought or homemade
5 eggs
Splash of milk
Black Pepper
Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb
About 3/4 cup broccoli florets, chopped
Spray olive oil
4 strips of cooked bacon, chopped
Handful of fresh spinach, chopped
1/8 cup onion, chopped
Handful of shredded cheese, any kind

One of the tricks to not end up with a mushy pie crust on the bottom is to put the pie crust in the oven while it’s preheating. So set your oven on 350 degrees, put the pie crust in, and when the oven beeps that it is preheated, take the crust out. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a medium-large bowl, pour in a splash of milk, then whisk until well combined. Stir in the seasonings, and set aside. Put the broccoli florets into a small glass bowl and add about a quarter cup of water. Cover tightly with plastic wrap then cook in the microwave for five minutes. Let it sit and steam while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Spray a small frying pan with olive oil, then add the onion and bacon and sauté for four or five minutes. When the onion starts to look translucent, add the chopped spinach and stir-fry until wilted. Scrape the contents onto a paper plate. Now drain the broccoli (watch out, that bowl will be HOT!) then add to the other ingredients on the paper plate and let them cool for a few minutes. Line the bottom of the pie crust with half of the mixture, add a thin layer of shredded cheese, then pour half the eggs on top of that. Place the rest of the vegetables/bacon next and another layer of cheese, and then the last of the eggs. Carefully place into the preheated oven, and cook for 35 to 45 minutes until eggs are set and top is lightly browned. To keep the pie crust edges from burning, we also cover the crust edges with foil. This is great for brunch, or a light dinner with a green salad.

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