Food

Weekend Scene

Ok Fall Allergies, you win!  We made the absolute most of the insanely beautiful weather this weekend, but now I’m paying the price.  I’m surrounded by a cloud of used tissues and my nose looks like Rudolph’s.  I love fall, but fall in Texas makes me really work for it.  Clearly that didn’t stop us from eating the most amazing food and taking a nice ride through the city.

And now onto the week.  Hey October, I’m glad you’re here.

Oct Weekend 2014

Houston Staycation: Where We Ate

While hanging around our hometown we visited old places and new.  We seriously blew our food-budget for the month, but it was worth it!  Cafe Brasil is an old neighborhood stand-by… especially this time of year when we can sit in the back courtyard and enjoy this perfect spring weather.  Local (on Upper Kirby) was new for us and has a great vibe — fun atmosphere and the best part — within walking distance!  After our zoo date — we decided to stick around the museum district and try some Southern Fare at Lucille’s.  According to their website, Lucille’s is “progressive southern cooking refined by history”… and I think they’re right!  Yum!

We also tried Canopy and Beavers and couldn’t stay away from our beloved Paulie’s and Little Bigs.  (Did I also mentioned that I gained 10 pounds?!)

Houston Breakfast

Houston Lunch

Houston Dinner

the perfect party appetizer

These are my favorite appetizers for two reasons — they taste delicious and the presentation factor.  I haven’t taken these to a party yet where someone did literally say “Wow” and inevitably someone wants the recipe.  I would say they are the easiest to make since there is absolutely no cooking involved, but that’s not necessarily true.  It’s only if you have a second pair of hands to hold “the package” while tying them together that this rings true.  Doing them by yourself can prove to be a bit challenging if your chives are short and/or stiff.  After making these little guys for 10 years now, I have found that the key to success here is a long, flexible chive.  We were fortunate enough this last time to use some straight from our landlord’s garden (soft, strong, and flexible indeed).

Ingredients: The largest salami you can have sliced, Boursin Cheese (yum!), cherry tomatoes, & some sort of a chive/flexible green onion-esque thing-y.

Direction: Layer first three items then pick up sides and tie with a chive.  Simple as that.

And a note — I always tell our fellow party-goers that you eat it like sushi; that is, you pop the whole thing in your mouth at one time!

Boursin Poppers Ingredients

Boursin Poppers Ingredients

weekend scene

The weekend started Thursday night with a visit to the Asia Society.  They had an open-house-market-fair type thing.  It was pretty spectacular watching a tiny lady on the floor weave the most beautiful textiles.  On Friday, I worked around the house and actually baked something.  It’s been 900 years since I’ve done that — and it was delicious.  Then we went back to my aunt’s house to help with the move.  She has to be out in just under two weeks so this is the final push!  B got a call to go into work on Saturday, so our moving party got cut short.  While he clicked away on a nearly 9,000 sq ft home, I caught up on some reading (and a little writing).  And Sunday was actually restful for me and B whittled away at a few furniture projects he has going.

It looks like it’s another full week ahead and we’ll actually have chilly temps to accompany our second full week in November.

Nov Weekend

weekend scene

Yeowzer — it was a FULL weekend!  I headed back to my parents on Friday.  I was doing a photo shoot for some long-time family friends and getting my hair cut and colored.  I decided to take advantage of the extra hands and expertise whilst in town.  My mom makes THE BEST gumbo and since I have never made it myself (shocking, I know)  I wanted a lesson — and to use her massive pot.  (And I wanted to stock up on easy dinners!)  Who knew gumbo was such a labor of love?  My mom still keeps saying… no, it’s really not that much work.  Good grief.  We have very difference definitions of what “not that much” work is.   But our efforts were fruitful and not only did I go home with a double batch but my sister (who came to ‘supervise’) also went home with a few bowls too.

Well, all of that was just Friday.  Saturday morning rolled around and since the weather is nice and I’m not longer commuting 90 miles on the highway, I thought I would take off the hard top of my jeep.  (Crazy right; it’s like the seasons are reversed.)  But seeing as how it’s been since 2009 since I’ve had the hard top off, it’s wasn’t exactly muscle memory.  But three hours later, my dad and I had the hard top safely secured and covered for the winter and all parts of the soft-top in place — ready to be folded up on the next pretty day.

After that bit of unexpected physical exercise, I met my sister at a favorite antique shop and I think I found a new (antique) armoire.  I need to measure it and make sure that I LOVE it before it comes home with me.  I took a picture and I’m glad I did because she and I both liked it more the second day.  But I guess if it’s meant to be, it’ll still be there when I can go back to get it.

Upon arriving back home, the hubs and I had to get ready for a dinner party and we made our favorite appetizers.  (I’ll share those later this week.)  We stayed much later than anticipated which made it a little tough to roll out of bed for our church-filled extravaganza of a day.  And then after we endured a rainstorm that should have been named, we headed to Houston’s Antique Urban Market.  There were lots of interesting things to see, but it was a bit like trying on clothes when you’re feeling fat.  It just wasn’t happening.  We inquired about a small end table, but after a much too-high price I felt like  —  *meh* — whatevs.

And finally we collapsed into our respective couches around 5pm yesterday.  I began editing photos and the hubs — well, I’m not quite sure what he was working on.  But we ate some gumbo and then watched The Walking Dead.  The perfect way to end such a full weekend!

Gumbo

the secret to fresh cilantro

Even though the calendar pages have changed and we’ve entered a new season, my (near) daily guacamole habit has not waned (nor will it any time soon).  I think the key to good guacamole is fresh cilantro, but just how in the world are you supposed to keep it fresh longer than 48 hours?

Well a few weeks ago, the darling Fauxmartha put up a Friday Tip that has changed my fresh-herb killing life.  The secret to keeping all herbs to last — treating them like flowers.  When you get them home cut the ends and put in a vessel with a bit of water.  And here’s the big secret — keep a plastic sack over the entire vase while in the fridge.  Every few days change the water and trim the bottom and prune the “bouquet.”  It’s so simple!  I have just been using the little flimsy plastic bag that I put the cilantro in at the store.  What a difference!

As you can see in the photo below, my cilantro is beyond thriving after a week (I actually think that first photo is more like a week and a half). And then in the second photo, well, it’s for sure older than 2 weeks.  And although it’s not near as fresh and looking a little sad because maybe I didn’t change the water and prune like a should… there is still a lot of really fresh, usable cilantro to choose from.

You’re welcome.  Now go make some guacamole!

SECRET TO FRESH CILANTRO

a sublime escape: the dominican republic (part 3)

[Part 1] [Part 2]

Secretly slipped away among the swaying palms on the beach is the simply sublime Samana spa.  It’s not near the beach, it’s on the beach.  And a couples massage was the perfect way to relax after a hard day of snorkeling and lounging under a cabana.

Sublime Samana Spa 3

Sublime Samana Spa | The Dominican Republic

Samana Samana Spa | The Dominican Republic

As if that wasn’t enough pampering, we enjoyed a “romantic dinner for two” on the beach.  I was so surprised that it didn’t feel cheesy, but indeed romantic.  When Brad talks about that night, he often recounts how perfectly satisfied all five senses were.  The weather was perfect: warm with a slight breeze; everything smelled delicious, but not overpowering; clearly our eyes were treated to twinkle lights, moonlight shadows, and a feast for a king; our taste-buds enjoyed the most delicious and fresh four-course meal; and our soundtrack the lulling ocean waves.  It really was quite unbelievable.

Our private champagne-clad cabana felt genuine and special and I had to let my cynical self go and enjoy every minute of it…which didn’t take long.  After sitting and sipping our champagne, we started with oysters and then onto beef carpaccio.  We each chose fish for our main course and a locally caught selection cooked up nicely.  And for dessert we had fresh fruit with the best Dominican chocolate fondue.  I thought we would have to roll our way back into our room.

Samana Beach Dinner | The Dominican Republic

Samana Beach Dinner | The Dominican Republic

Samana Beach Dinner  | The Dominican Republic