Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ringing in the New Year....as Parents...

If you have a little one or multiple little ones, chances are that you rang in the new year with those sweet cherub within a 20 foot radius. Like we did. I mean, who can find babysitters on this night? No one. And then there is that part of you as a mom that wants to be with your family to be together as you ring in a new year. So the best compromise??? Ring in the new year with best friends and their baby.  Head over to their house, let them play all over the place...


 This may just be the cutest picture of the night! 



set up the pack in play, bathe those babies and put them to bed so the parents can feel a bit foot lose for the rest of the night. Which is exactly what we did....thank you Mary Rachel and David!  We had plenty of food and drinks and more friends join us. Mary Rachel made amazing party foods and I added in my aunt's famous Powdered Sugar Pecan Balls. There are addicting and have been a love of mine since the first time I ever tasted one. A few glasses of wine, martinis and champagne later along with the dance station on Pandora on t.v. made for our own fun party.



Who even needs a kid free and fancy fun night out? However, some of us ended the night strong at 2AM and some not feeling so well....the fun was too much...like my husband.
And so our nice little family brunch that I had planned for  New Years Day was moved to 8:00pm New Years Night to let some time pass before someone could even think about food;) I made Easy Bruschetta, Nut Crusted French Toast, Spiced Apples, Mushroom Hash and with Poached Eggs (my first time to poach ANYTHING!) Although a late brunch, it was still an amazing New Years NIGHT brunch and someone even took her very first steps...

video
a perfect way to ring in the new year.
Pecan Powdered Sugar Balls
(passed down by my Aunt Gay, Momou's oldest daughter)

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
ground pecans
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 370. Blend butter, sugars and add flour and salt gradually. Add vanilla and mix well. Stir in pecans. Chill 1 hour. Roll into balls. Bake on cookie sheet for 18 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar while hot!
So incredibly easy and addicting!
Feta Bruschetta
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup frozen chopped onion, thawed
1 (10oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup finely chopped roasted red peppers
1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1/4 cup tsp salt
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1 package water crackers
Garnish: crumbled feta cheese

In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until tender. Add spinach, peppers, italian seasoning, and salt; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until all liquid has evaporated. Stir in pine nuts. Spoon about 1 tablespoon spinach mixture onto each cracker. Garnish with crumbled feta. 
Mushroom Hash with Poached Eggs
2 potatoes, cooked and diced
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup)
12 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced then
2 tsp salt
2 tsp rosemary leaves
freshly ground pepper
1/3 cups heavy cream
1 tbsp white vinegar
4 large eggs

Toss diced potatoes with 1 tbsp melted butter. In a large skillet, melt remaining butter over medium heat, add onion and cook 5 minutes. Add pepper, mushrooms and seasonings. Cook until the onions are soft and golden. Add potatoes and heavy cream and heat until cream is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Set aside and keep warm. 
Fill a large, wide saucepan with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat so water is barely simmering. Add vinegar. Break one egg at a time into a small dish, then slide it into the pan by dipping the dish into the water. Cook until yolks are just set, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove eggs and drain on paper towel. Congratulations...you just poached an egg!
Top each plate of hash with a poached egg.
Nut Crusted Fresh Toast with Vanilla Maple Syrup
6 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 3/4 coarsely ground whole almonds
3/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1 loaf thick white bread (about 9 slices)
1 stick butter, plus additional for topping

Preheat oven to 200. Place a baking sheet in oven to warm. In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Whisk until blended; set aside Combine brown sugar, nuts and bread crumbs.
Dup a slice of bread in egg mixture and allow excess to drip off. Lay bread on nut mixture, then flip to coat both sides. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt about 1 tbsp. butter without allowing it to brown. Cook french toast until golden on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to let nuts brown. Place on baking sheet in oven and continue with remaining slices. Continue with the rest of the bread slices, adding more butter as needed. 


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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Holly Jolly Christmas and Armadillo Eggs!

Over Christmas, we loaded up practically everything we own including tons of presents and headed to Louisiana for Christmas. Our car was packed to the fullest and poor Garcia barely had a spot to ride in but we made it and had everything we needed for our week long jaunt!

First stop was Basile! The Mayeux family celebrated together...




and the babies all woke up in their matching jammies together on Christmas Eve morning.
Us sisters played all day, acted silly the entire time (including making a few of our very own home music videos to Timber by Pitbull) and the men just looked at us like were were nuts and the kids played happily! We went to Christmas mass...decked out to the nines, took a thousand family pictures in the front yard!





Of course there was food and we enjoyed yummy appetizers after church to celebrate before we went on to the in-laws. My contribution was Armadillo Eggs...only fitting with our new Texas culture. So I chose this recipe because my man loves anything jalapenos stuffed with cheese. It is kind of his love language. Well, what I wasn't expecting was the HEAT in the jalepenos that I happened to pick out. I am not even going to lie. My fingers flipping burned for DAYS! But everyone seemed to like them:)

Off to the in-laws we went and we got to wake up on Christmas morning at the Welch house. We headed to Glenmora for Christmas lunch and it was delicious and a wonderful time with our family.


Collins fell in love with Paw Paw's dessert and even entertained us with her dancing skills to "Single Ladies" by Beyonce. She is kind of a natural:) My contribution for lunch was Spinach and Feta Crostini...yummy, delicious, Christmas joy!

We spent the next few days seeing friends and family including our new Louisiana natives Kelly and James,
 making more yummy dishes like Barbecue Chicken Salad in Tortilla Cups (AMAZING!) and then Jason and I ended back in the town of our Alma Mater of Natchitoches, Louisiana at the Christmas Lights for our belated anniversary trip.  It felt so good to be back and did I mention it was just the two of us? 
The grandparents shared custody of our CC and Jason and I were like wild college kids again. Well, not quite but we sure felt wild without having a napping schedule to work around:) Our dear friends, Jessica and Blaine happened to be in Natchitoches too so they joined us for dinner...it was the Fab 4, back in Natchitoches eating at Mama's Oyster House like zero time had passed! 
I may or may not have taken FOUR bubble baths in the huge tub at our B&B while indulging in my latest book..all in the same day...just because I could. It was a busy and blessed week! So much to be thankful for and I am deciding to forget the bad part of having Collins get so sick that we almost went back to Houston mid-week ready to forget about our deposit at the Bed and Breakfast. But we didn't and prayers were answered for our baby to improve enough that we could get away and celebrate our belated anniversary...7 years and going strong! 
Armadillo Eggs
15 fresh medium jalapeno chilis
4 oz. monterey jack cheese, slivered
8 oz. breakfast sausage
8 oz monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups biscuit mix
2 envelopes shake and bake mix
2 eggs, beaten

Cut the jalapeno chilies lengthwise into halves. Discard the seeds and veins. Soak in cold water in a bowl for a milder flavor if desired. Stuff each jalapeno chili half with the cheese slivers and press the halves together.
Combine the sausage, shredded cheese and biscuit mix in a bowl.
The dough will be stiff so knead with hands to mix. Pat the dough into 1/4 inch thick rounds large enough to enclose the jalapeno chilis. Shape 1 round around each jalapeno chili and roll between hands into the shape of an egg. 
Roll each jalapeno chili in shake and bake, dip in beaten eggs, and coat again with shake and bake. Arrange on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until light brown, turning several times. Cut each crosswise into 5 slices. Serve with salsa. 


Spinach and Feta Crostini
 1 (10oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
2 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise and sour cream
1 garlic clove, minced
pepper to taste
1 loaf French bread, cut into slices

Combine the first 8 ingredients in a bowl. Spread on 1 side of each bread slice. Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Barbeque Chicken Salad in Cups

3 cups chopped cooked chicken
3/4 cups drained black beans
3/4 cups drained whole kernel yellow corn with red and green bell peppers
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup barbeque sauce
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup light sour cream
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Bowl shaped tortilla chips (Can use baked!)
Fresh cilantro

In a medium bowl, combine chicken, black beans, corn and onion. 
In a separate bowl, combine bbq sauce, mayo, sour cream, salt and pepper; stir to mix well. Combine chicken mixture and bbq sauce mixture, stirring to mix well. Cover and refrigerate.
To serve , spoon chicken salad into tortilla chips, and garnish with fresh cilantro, as desired. 


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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Faux Snow Days and Comfort Food

Recently Houston experienced something that I like to call a little "Snow Faux Day". And we didn't have just one, we actually had two. Seriously. Two of these days. And let me tell you how how much snow came down...zilch. Nothing. Maybe a few flakes but that is it.  However, schools were closed all over the Houston area. So I did what any girl and momma would do...I stayed in my little robe and pajamas, indulged in many cups of coffee in my favorite mug...
and wasted the day away with my baby girl. We had zero plans and it was too cold to do much outdoors. However, we did venture out for a few minutes on the wagon and tried out pigtails for the first time!
 

Having a one year old indoors all day was a bit rough with her attention span of 5 minutes. We did everything we could and played with every toy possible at least three times.

So I knew we had to get some plans quickly because we couldn't stay home all night. So I called Mary Rachel, who is also a teacher with a faux snow day and we got some plans together quickly. Dinner with the babies and game night once they were in bed ASAP. I made it to the store for a few ingredients and and whipped up an delicious appetizer (Compliments of Southern Living many moon ago) and a yummy dessert. Mary Rachel made her delicious chili and we had ourselves a little faux snow day party.

And somebody LOVED Mattthew's big and comfy chair:)

Pecan Crusted Artichoke and Cheese Spread
1/4 cup butter, divided
 1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 8oz. package cream cheese, cup up
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 8oz. package shredded four cheese blend
2/3 cup chopped pecans 
1/2 cup herbs seasoned stuffing mix

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet; add onion and garlic, and saute until tender. Add spinach, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, 3 minutes.
Add artichoke hearts and next 4 ingredients, stirring until cheese melts. Spoon into a greased 2 quart baking dish.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, stir gently.
Combine remaining 1 tablespoon butter, pecans and stuffing mix, tossing until blended. Sprinkle over top, and bake 15 more minutes.
Serve warm with pita chips

 White Chocolate Cookie Bars
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350. In 13x9 inch baking pan, melt butter in pan. 
Sprinkle crumbs evenly over butter, pour condensed  milk evenly over crumbs. Top with remaining ingredients, press down firmly with spoon. 
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cut into bars. 


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Sunday, March 16, 2014

My Favorite Christmas Tradition!

This year I continued on my favorite Christmas tradition but this time finally in Houston: my 5th Annual Ornament Exchange! It is just one of my favorite parties to host and makes me all giddy inside when planning;)
When I was in college, my dear friend and roommate, Lacey,  invited me to her sister's annual ornament exchange. I had no idea what it was but I was told to bring a wrapped ornament and show up ready to eat, drink and be merry. So I did and that started my love of ornament exchanges. There was Christmas music in the background, yummy party foods to snack on and girls chatting and laughing....my favorite kind of party. When it was time for the exchange part I learned that we play "dirty santa" and open each others ornaments or you could steal from someone else if you love their ornament enough.

 So I went to her sister's ornament exchange every year until I moved away from Louisiana and decided it was only right to bring the tradition to Nashville when I moved. So I did and had so much fun every year doing it and had my own annual ornament exchange for 4 years while there. I have very special memories with my dear friends from these parties will living there that I will always cherish.

When I moved to Houston, I so desperately wanted to have one for our first Christmas there but a certain precious angel arrived 3 weeks early and there was no time for an ornament exchange!!  But this year, I finally was able to bring my favorite tradition to Houston. I invited some of my sweetest friends from school, church and other walks of life and my little heart was content. I think my favorite part of this tradition is unpacking ornaments each year before putting them on the tree and remembering the ornament exchanges that I been to and hosted. If you asked me, I could tell you about each ornament...








Did I mention that this party was strategically planned on the night that us teachers got out of school for Christmas break? It was the perfect way to celebrate and ring in the holiday season!
As far as the menu...that was one of my favorite parts. I made Pesto Lasagna Roll Ups, Puppy Chow, Peanut Butter Haystacks as well as two dip recipes that were sweetly given to me by two very dear friends. Kelley gave me her Creamy Sausage Dip recipe and Mary Rachel gave me her Cheesy Corn Dip. And oh sweetness...these dips are so easy and so delicious. And my sweet Gabe even brought a few amazing dishes so we had plenty of food! Everyone brought their favorite drink to share. I made Poinsettias with champagne, cranberry juice and cranberries. It was a hit!


Peanut Butter Haystacks
These little gems remind me of Christmas growing up. My mom loved making these and for our first married Christmas I wanted to make them, too. They are a hit and so incredibly easy.

1 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup peanut butter 
1/2 cup salted peanuts
2 cups chow mein noodles 

Melt butterscotch  chips and peanut butter in a microwavable bowl, stirring ever so often.
Stir in peanuts and noodles gently into melted peanut butter mixture.
Drop dough by forkfuls onto waxed paper. Cool until set. 

*You can also add chocolate chips and omit the peanut butter. Delicious, too! 
Creamy Sausage Dip 
Seriously one of these easiest dips you could ever make and way too addicting. 
Many thanks to Kelley!!

2 8oz. packages cream cheese, softened. 
1 can rotel 
1 lb. breakfast sausage, browned

Mix and melt together over medium heat on stove. Serve immediately in dish.
Serve with fritos or tortilla chips!

Cheesy Corn Dip
I fell in love with this dip at Mary Rachel's house and wanted this recipe! It too is addicting. Don't say I didn't warn you .The best part is you can make ahead! This is a perfect recipe to take outside on a picnic or outdoor party because you serve it cold. Thank you so much, Mary Rachel! 

1 jar chunky salsa
3 cups mexican cheese
1 Tablespoon of mayo
1 can mexicorn drained
chili powder to taste

Mix together and chill. Serve with fritos and corn chips.


Pesto Lasagna Roll Ups
This is definitely a great dish to make ahead and even freeze for busy nights!
8 oz. uncooked dried lasagna noodles
4 cups pasta sauce
1 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup pesto
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions, drain.

Meanwhile, spread 2 cups of pasta sauce onto bottom of 13x9 inch baking dish.

Combine ricotta, pesto and egg in a small bowl and mix well. Place cooked lasagna noodles onto waxed paper.

Spread 3 tablespoons pesto mixture along each lasagna noodle. Top each with about 2 tablespoons
mushrooms and 2 tablespoons mozzarella cheese. Carefully roll up.

Place over pasta sauce, seam side down. Pour remaining sauce over lasagna roll ups; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake 20 minutes. Uncover; continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and light golden brown.




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