Tag Archives: The Complete Package

OKMHHOU: The Great Reunion

OKMHHOU - Group Snap

I love this photo! What’s most notable is not the colorful donkey piñata (whom we named Kevin), but that all seven of our OKMH (One Kitchen Many Hearts) crew are in the same place at the same time for the first time ever. That’s right. We all gathered here in Houston so that we could gaze upon each other’s faces live & in person for the first time ever. Granted, some of us have met over the past 3 1/2 years since we met via The Pioneer Woman‘s website, but never have we all been in the same place at once. Until now. But let’s start at the very beginning. In a galaxy far, far away…. no, wait. That’s another saga.

Once upon a time, about 3 1/2 years ago, several of us started reading The Pioneer Woman‘s website. And during that time, we began to reply to one another’s comments, or comment on the recipes each of us would upload to the Tasty Kitchen page. Over time, we began to write our own blogs and continued to comment and subscribe to each other’s blogs. That gradually morphed into closer friendships via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Eventually, we all joined Group Me (an instant messaging app) where we began to share even more personal aspects of our lives. Things we wouldn’t share on the Internet for everyone to see. Personal things. Things you share with your closest girlfriends. And eventually, we became more like sisters.

Before the girls arrived, I made two keepsake crafts for them – handmade monogrammed pillowcases and toast-themed coasters (aka Toasters). Pinterest – it’s where the magic begins.

OKMHHOU - Pillowcases

OKMHHOU - Toast Coasters

Kirsten of Comfortably Domestic was the first to arrive. This was actually her second visit; she came last May for a long weekend. We joke that we are Sisters From Other Misters. She came in from Michigan around noon. When she left that morning, her journey involved black ice on the highway and a night spent with family in another city to ensure she could get a plane out. Once here, it was sunny and 70F and we were dining on burgers on the patio at Good Company Taqueria. The Polar Vortex can bite it.

OKMHHOU - Kirsten @ Lunch

After lunch, we drove home to prep a Mexican fiesta banquet for the others because nothing says “Thanks for flying all day” like a fiesta and a pitcher of Mexican Martinis. This is where things got dicey. The remaining five of our group (Madelyn from La Petite Pancake, Megan from Country Cleaver, Beka from Kvetchin’ Kitchen, Allison from Decadent Philistines and Kat from Tenaciously Yours) were subjected to all kinds of drama. First, three of them were delayed in Denver due to high winds. It all worked out, though barely in Allison’s case, and they all 3 boarded the same plane from Denver to Houston. Kat came from the tundra of Minnesota where the roads were treacherous, but the airport was up and running. Let it be noted that Minnesota knows how to winter. Ice and 8′ of snow? They barely flinch. Madelyn, from the LA area, flew straight in. No sweat. Californians make everything look easy.

But wait – there’s more! After being blown away that they had scheduled all their flights to arrive within 30 minutes of each other, they gathered at baggage claim and made their way to the car rental shuttle. Our group had made a reservation for a 7-passenger Dodge Caravan minivan for the weekend. As soon as Madelyn stepped up to the counter to get the car, the entire building lost power. I’ll let the others explain what occurred since they were there in person, but let’s just say the rental company failed us. There was no car rented and the cab called by the rental company charged them $115 to drive them one-way to my house that night (which they were told would be reimbursed but still haven’t been). If ever a group of ladies deserved a pitcher of margaritas, this was it.

The next morning, Madelyn & Kat spent at least 2 hours on the phone with Customer Care only to be shifted from number to number, each time getting yet another disinterested service rep. After two hours, the bottom line was no rental van, a strong probability they would be forced to eat the cab fare, and no car to use for our planned day trip to Brenham. Finally, we resolved it by canceling the reservation from hell and calling another rental company near my home. It cost twice as much and ended up being a 10 passenger panel van, but hey… it was wheels and they were great to deal with. Thank you Walter at Avis! Of course, we took Kevin the Piñata Donkey with us everywhere.

OKMHHOU - Party Van Collage

For our first full day together, we were off to the Hill Country and Brenham, Texas where we met up with Katie from The Hill Country Cook. We had so much fun! We hit a few antique shops and bought a few blog props, then hit Must Be Heaven for lunch. It’s a family owned sandwich shop that also has an old-fashioned ice cream counter and a case full of pies. What is not to love about that? I chose the daily special consisting of a slice of quiche (I chose the bacon, cheese & mushroom) and a bowl of soup (broccoli cheese).

OKMHHOU - Lunch at Must Be Heaven

Then we dove into the pie case. Together, we tried the Dutch apple pie, the cherry, a lemon meringue and a slice of chess pie. Madelyn opted for an ice cream cone and although I don’t remember what it was called (something something Mexican cheesecake maybe?) I’ll never forget her face while she was eating it. When asked if it was vanilla, Mads said something like “It looks like vanilla, but it tastes like heaven in my mouth.” Ringing endorsement indeed. A cookie made it in there, too, but my focus was on the pie. I love pie.

OKMHHOU - Desserts at Must Be Heaven

After lunch, we had no choice but to walk it off with more shopping. Here in Texas, we love our state. Not just “Oh, it’s great here” but in a more rabid “Our state is the best. Long live the Republic!” way. As such, we hang lone stars and things shaped like Texas in the same way others hang family photos. Case in point – this wall hanging made from vintage Texas license plates. Because the only thing better than Texas stuff is Texas stuff layered on more Texas stuff.

OKMHHOU - License Plate State

It wasn’t all antiques and rusty metal, though. There were hats, vintage clothing, baubles & beads, sandals & flip-flops and crocheted vests galore. Also food blog props, vintage literature and a handful of Christmas ornaments were involved. We stayed so busy shop-hopping that when we finally slowed down enough for a few of the ladies to try on clothes, the rest of us hit the sofas and took advantage of a Twitter & Instagram break. As we like to say, “Snaps or it didn’t happen!”

OKMHHOU - Twitter Break

When we eventually noticed that the shops were closing and the streets were rolling up, we said a sad farewell to our buddy Katie. So happy she joined us! Top Row: Kirsten, Allison, Me & Beka. Bottom Row: Megan, Kat, Katie & Mads.

OKMHHOU - Group in Brenham

We waved goodbye and crawled back into the panel van to head home. On the way, we impulse stopped at Buc-ee’s – the greatest convenience store on earth. Why? 1) ladies’ restrooms with 30+ stalls featuring full wood doors, complete privacy, individual hand sanitizer dispensers and a full-time cleaning crew. 2) clothing department with beaver emblazoned t-shirts, cammo everything and beer koozies to match. 3) full-size BBQ grills, Lodge cast iron cookware and a cooking/cookbook area. 4) an entire aisle devoted to jerky. 5) Beaver Nuggets – both caramel corn & the nugget equivalent of Flaming Hot Cheetos. They’re seriously addictive. What’s truly hilarious is while we were in Buc-ee’s near Hempstead, Katie was simultaneously hitting Buc-ee’s on Highway 71.

One kitchen, many hearts. Many kitchens, one mind. It’s spooky, really.

OKMHHOU - Buc-ee's Stop

Back at the ranch, we feasted on TCP’s brisket, sausage, beans, slaw, and all the sauces & relish tray items you can imagine. If it could be pickled, it was probably there. We also cracked open the Shiner and assorted beers on ice. When we were filled to the brim and crying for mercy, The Complete Package broke out the homemade peach cobbler and Blue Bell vanilla ice cream. Lord, I love that man.

Sunday, we slept late and were treated to French toast waffles. The recipe isn’t on the blog yet, but it’s coming soon. After snarfing up waffles and enough bacon to make your eyes roll back in your head, we hit the road for Alvin, Texas. On the way, we stopped at Rustic Metal Works where we checked out the cute lawn art, wall hangings and assorted hardware. And since there was a taco truck right next door, we decided to stop for a snack that included one 5-piece taco plate with salsas, one lingua taco (tongue) and a chicharrón (pork rind) taco. Following the Blogger’s Rule, first we photographed and then we dug in.

OKMHHOU - Taco Truck Snacks

After passing the wet-wipes and blowing out a flip-flop, we made a quick pit stop at Walmart for replacement footwear and to take in the local color (read: topless woman in a pickup truck). From there, we hit the antique mall to shop for more blog props and household items we couldn’t live without. I found this vintage locker basket and fell in love. For $20, I couldn’t resist and now it’s on my sewing table holding fabric and ribbons. Love it!

OKMHHOU - Locker Basket for Fabric

Since Kirsten’s visit last May, we have cooed over the miniature donkeys near my house more times than I can count, so of course we had to take the others to visit. Luckily, when we arrived they were in the meadow close to the road and we even got an up-close encounter with two of them. They are beyond adorable. Keep in mind when you view the photos – these donkeys are full-grown adults. The baby we saw last May was the size of a cocker spaniel. That’s right, people – the babies are practically pocket donkeys and I adore them.

OKMHHOU - Field of Miniature Donkeys

OKMHHOU - Miniature Donkeys Coming to Visit

OKMHHOU - Allison & Beka Pet the Donkeys

Mads & Megan - Petting Donkeys

OKMHHOU - Donkey Close-Up

OKMHHOU - Megan & the Donkeys

Two out of two tiny donkeys agree: ear scratches are the best.

Monday was another late start. Over many coffees and a few chai teas, we pulled together the breakfast we’d dreamed of while planning our weekend – The Biscuit Bar. We made a big tray of buttermilk biscuits, a pan of sausage gravy, and pulled all the jams & jellies out of the fridge. Oh, and there was more bacon. Of course.

After breakfast, we broke out the packing supplies and the flat-rate boxes, and packed up everything that couldn’t or wouldn’t fit in suitcases. It was frantic. And hilarious. And Mads & I both scored a bag of Beaver Nuggets that wouldn’t pack. Hooray for Bonus Nugs!

OKMHHOU - Packing Suitcase Overruns

The only thing left was a return trip to Rustic Metal Works to rescue a flying pig. You see, Beka fell in love but talked herself out of it. Then we were distracted by street tacos, and it was decided that if she still woke up the next morning thinking of her new spirit animal, we would go back for him. Arriving to find the place locked up (closed Mondays) was like listening to air slowly released from a balloon. Luckily, if it fits it ships, so I agreed to go back later in the week and rescue a pig. Meet Al Porccino.

OKMHHOU - Al Porccino Comes Home

He’s adorable. And speaking of Beka, she had my name for our last OKMH box exchange. Check out my package. (Stop giggling.)

OKMHHOU - OKMH Box Items

That’s an assortment of hot sauces from her recent trip to Mexico, a bag of Australian Jungle Jellies, assorted bars of chocolates (not sharing), a bottle of Mexican vanilla, and a squirrel ornament from our day in Brenham. Perfect.

And so, after four days of endless chatter, late nights, very little sleep, way too much food and a few bottles of wine, beer and bubbles, our first live & in person One Kitchen Many Hearts weekend came to a close. It was fun. It was heartfelt. And it was way too short. Anyone who says friendships formed on the internet aren’t real are doing it wrong. These ladies are my friends, and I couldn’t love them more. We may be different shapes, ages and personalities, but that’s what makes us work as a group. We fill each others gaps. We support each other, both on our blogs and in our personal lives. It may have started with random comments on a website, but it has grown into so much more. I treasure these ladies, and it was really hard to watch that huge panel van drive away. If you don’t believe me, just ask Kevin.

OKMHHOU - Goodbye is Never Easy

I seriously can’t wait to do it again next year! I’ll bring Kevin.

OKMHHOU - The End

To see what the other ladies posted from our weekend, visit:
Megan at Country Cleaver
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic
Beka at Kvetchin’ Kitchen
Allison at Decadent Philistines Save the World
Mads at La Petite Pancake
Kat at Tenaciously Yours

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Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Things I Love, Travel Tales

OKMH – The December Issue

OKMH Collage 2013

Ah, the holidays. A time for family, friends, gifts, and food followed by more gifts and even more food. Am I right? This month, our One Kitchen Many Hearts band of merry elves kissed 2013 goodbye and bid 2014 a hearty hello with our last round of gift boxes for the year. My December box was from Beka of Kvetchin’ Kitchen fame. Here’s a look at the bounty she sent.

OKMH Dec2013 - All The Goodies

So many fabulous things stuffed in one box! Let’s start with The Cuteness.

Chippy Collage

Oh how I love a cute squirrel or chipmunk. Close friends & family know that I often joke about buying a squirrel ranch to retire to in our old age. I can picture The Complete Package and I sitting on the porch in our rockers, sipping on a bourbon, watching the ‘herd’ come in for the evening. Laugh if you want, but it’s a great way to use up the seven pounds of pecans & assorted nuts in my freezer. And every girl should have a dream.

Next up: The Sparkles

Nail Polish Collage - Dec2013

Mani/pedis (or what we like to call Paws & Mitts) are an OKMH staple. This month, Beka clearly outdid herself by sending a 14-pack of Elf Polish. Get it? Elf. Christmas. I see what she did there. Even more impressive than her holiday humor is the variety of colors & sparkles included in the set. My favorite is the color/sparkle combos like the metallic silver and the chunky silver & black glitter. Or the pastels paired with the white snowflake glitter. Want gold? We got it! Partial to pinks? They’re in there, along with a passionate purple/blue shade, a groovy green and a few not-so-naughty nudes. I love it all!

And now: The Edibles

Food & Bev Collage

Just take a second to soak this in. That’s apple pie cream liqueur, coconut jam (aka coconut curd), and a bottle of Dr Pepper jelly beans. First of all, that coconut jam is off the charts amazing. I sampled it with a spoon and was this close to eating the entire jar. So creamy, so dreamy, so…. coconutty. I want to pair it with chocolate. Or smear it on a roasted banana. But what I don’t want to do is share. Speaking of sharing, the grandkids (Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug) were here when the box arrived and immediately volunteered to sample the jelly beans. They got 4 thumbs up, Beka. Way up. I have yet to try the apple pie liqueur, but that won’t last long. It’s supposed to be close to freezing in Houston tonight, and The Complete Package & I don’t do ‘cold’ well. I’m thinking hot toddies of apple pie cream liqueur mixed with my homemade Apple Pie Moonshine may be in order, or perhaps a spiked vanilla latte.

And that’s where the next part of Beka’s box comes in: The Drinkables

Coffee Cocoa Collage - Dec2013

Know what pairs well with Apple Pie Cream Liqueur? I’m guessing caramel macchiato or vanilla bean coffees and/or vanilla rose cocoa mix. Thanks, Beka! Just in time for our cold snap. I feel toastier already.

Nothing warms the heart like friends & family, and Beka’s last gift brings that point home. I’ll call our last reveal: The Collectibles

Frame & Card Collage

Adorable frame, Beka! And I know just which picture to put in it. It hasn’t been taken yet, but I have plans. Big plans. February plans. Did you notice? It’s a recordable frame. There’s a nifty recorder built into the back of the frame so you can record any message. Or song. That’s What Friends Are For, You Have A Friend In Me, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Feelings… so many earworms, so little time. Let me know if any of those sticks with you all day. You’re welcome.

Now if you want to see what I sent to Allison, CLICK HERE!
From there, you can see the fun unfold with:

Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic
Megan @ Country Cleaver
Kat @ Tenaciously Yours
Mads @ La Petite Pancake
Beka @ Kvetchin’ Kitchen

Wishing you all health, wealth and a Happy New Year! -jeanne

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Traveling TX: Lost Maples State Park

Do you ever dream of getting away from it all? Job, cell phone, e-mail, other people… all of it? The Complete Package and I found a place that does that for us. It’s called St. Clare’s Cabin near Leakey, Texas. If you’ve been a reader for a while, you’ll remember we went there last Christmas. This rustic, fabulous cabin is everything we look for in a getaway – quaint, quiet & remote.

LeakeyTX - Porch at St Clare's Cabin

The cabin is in the middle of nowhere in the Texas Hill Country – 4 miles from Vanderpool, 11 miles from Leakey. Still don’t know where that is? Well, that’s the point. It’s waaaaay out there, in the mountains northwest of San Antonio. So far out I had to drive to Bandera to get a cell signal. For real. And I loved it.

Last year, we went just before Christmas. This year, we decided to go right after Thanksgiving and I’m so glad we did. There was still some fall color to ‘ooh & aah’ over. To make the most of it, we visited Lost Maples State Park to try to catch the maples at their finest. We were almost too late, but there was still some beauty to behold. Here’s a sampling of our afternoon hiking Lost Maples.

Lost Maples - Lone Maple with Cliffs

Lost Maples - Pond at Trailhead

Lost Maples - Orange Maple

Lost Maples - Creek withTexas Rock

Did you notice that big rock in the middle of the creek? It immediately caught my eye. Why? Because it looks like the state of Texas, if the entire eastern side of the state crumbled and fell off. Err… sorry, Houston!

Lost Maples - Texas Rock

I’m taking that as a sign that we should move to the Hill Country. {wink} Another cool feature found near the water is the limestone rock that has literally been picked up by the cypress tree roots and incorporated into the trees.

Lost Maples - Cypress Stump with Rocks

The trails through Lost Maples are lovely. Some are steep and challenging; some are more level and lazy. Whichever you choose, the most important thing is to get out of the car and enjoy the trails. Pack a picnic lunch and find a quiet spot by the river. Take a nap under a maple or hike the loop & enjoy the foliage.

Lost Maples - Steps on Maple Loop

It’s so beautiful under the canopy of maples, you can’t help but relax.

To learn more about Lost Maples State Park, visit Texas Parks & Wildlife.

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Filed under Family Stuff, Travel Tales

Luscious Leftovers: Lettuce Wraps

We meal plan in this house. Each Sunday evening, I sit with a notepad and plan out our week. Lately, my game plan involves picking a few main dish meats that can be re-used as leftovers in a variety of ways. With just two of us, it makes it easier to buy, easier to stretch, and easier to save money as well.

For example, The Complete Package recently smoked a rack of pork ribs. That night, we had a traditional barbecue feast of ribs with beans and macaroni salad. The next night we one of my favorite simple go-to meals – Asian lettuce wraps. When I say this one is easy, I’m not even kidding. Not one little bit.

Lettuce Wraps - Inside NanaBread's Head

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • leftover smoked pork (ribs, pulled pork, chops, etc.), warmed up
  • a small pan of steamed white rice (we love basmati)
  • scallions, cut into 2″ strips lengthwise
  • butterhead or Boston lettuce, rinsed & patted dry
  • your favorite Asian hoisin or sweet chili sauce

Lettuce Wrap - Inside NanaBread's Head

To serve, simply lay out a leaf or two of lettuce. Add a spoonful of steamed rice, some smoked pork, a few scallions and a drizzle of your favorite hoisin or chili sauce (or both). Roll it up and stuff it in your pie hole. BAM! So good, and ready in mere minutes. This meal confirms my favorite motto: Keep it Simple.

Lettuce Wraps Collage - Inside NanaBread's Head

What is your go-to dinner in a hurry meal? I’d love for you to share it! -jeanne

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Filed under Food & Recipes

What we ate this summer.

Boy, did we eat well this summer! We may have consumed more than our fair share of fresh veggies in a wide variety of simple yet flavorful dishes. What is summer for, after all, if not the consumption of goodies from the farmers market and excuse to work on your tan? Here’s a peek at what we ate this summer.

Chicken Stir-Fry - My Bowl

It started with this chicken stir-fry over rice. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, but The Complete Package and I love rice. Like L-O-V-E it. You could put a bowl of plain rice in front of us and we’d be happy, but smothering it with this zesty stir-fry made us really happy campers. The recipe came from the Weber’s New Real Grilling Cookbook. Seen it yet? Well, you should. Holy smokes (yes, that’s a grill joke) – it’s exceptional.

When I brought this book home from the BlogHer Food Conference in Austin (Thank you, Dole!), we immediately decided to jump in and try as many recipes as we could as quickly as possible. Here’s another winner from the book.

Weber  - Avocado, Red Onion & Sun-Dried Tomato Quesadillas

This beauty is an avocado, red onion and sun-dried tomato quesadilla. It’s ooey, gooey, crispy and crunchy. It was meat-free, but it still had it all, and in an easy to eat portable package, too. So much flavor!

This next one came from an internet search TCP did for smoked chicken. Now that he has officially conquered brisket and ribs (his are to die for), he decided to tackle smoked chicken. The recipe he found was for a ‘competition grade’ chicken, and while I don’t think he’ll be competing anywhere, this bird deserves a blue ribbon. Isn’t it gorgeous? Smokey, juicy poultry in motion.

A Smoked Chicken

Next was our pizza phase – where we attempted to live out our “More Is More” motto to the fullest. This one was grilled chicken with a smokey BBQ sauce, red onion, sliced jalapenos and a blend of cheddar and monterrey jack cheese.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Think that one was loaded? You ain’t seen nothing yet. THIS baby was loaded. I call it “All The Veggies” pizza, and it was an exercise in excess. Instead of a tomato sauce, I smeared a whole wheat dough with basil pesto, then layered on oodles of veggies – artichoke hearts, mushrooms, orange & yellow bell peppers, roasted piquillo peppers, fresh spinach, kalamata olives, and red onions – then topped it with ricotta, toasted pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil. We could hardly pick it up, but the flavors were over-the-top fabulous.

DeLallo Veggie Pizza

Speaking of flavor, this simple dish from the Weber’s grilling book blew our minds. It is deceptive in that it doesn’t look like much, but practically explodes in your mouth. Yummy is an understatement. It starts with eggplant grilled over charcoal, which is then topped with a sun-dried tomato, shallot & garlic relish dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette. Wow. Just wow.

Grilled Eggplant with Sun-Dried Tomato Topping

Next up was a Cuban Sandwich made with leftover smoked pork tenderloin (also from the Weber book), but the star of this show was the tostones we made on the side. Ever had tostones? It’s hard to describe them, but if you ever have an opportunity to try them (or even make them), take it. They’re like thick chips made from plantains. Now, if you think plantains are just fat bananas, you are mistaken. They’re actually starchy like a potato, and unless you let them over-ripen, they are not sweet. Think of them as a potato substitute.

Cuban Sandwiches from Grilling Book - July10, 2013

To make tostones, peel and slice plantains and fry them in a little canola oil until they just start to crisp a little. Remove them from the oil, drain on paper towels, and flatten them with a metal spatula. Then, and I know this sounds strange, throw them BACK into the oil until they are a golden, crispy brown. Sprinkled with kosher salt & served with your favorite salsa, I promise you will never reach for corn chips again.

All this talk of chips and pizza is making me thirsty, which brings me to my last treat of the summer. The fine folks at Double Decker were kind enough to ask if I’d like to try their wine. I don’t think I could have said “Heck yes!” any faster. To my surprise, they sent two full-size bottles – Pinot Grigio (white) and their Red Blend. The red was opened first. We drank half the bottle with a nice steak dinner and used the last half the bottle for Blackberry Sangria. Mmm…. I can still smell and taste it just looking at this photo. My friend Beka pointed out that it appears the ice is giving a fist-bump. Wildly appropriate; it rocked!

Double Decker Blackberry Sangria - Inside NanaBread's Head

Blackberry Sangria is my new ‘must have’ for summer. To make, muddle one pint of fresh blackberries with 1/3 cup of sugar and add to a bottle of Double Decker Red Blend. Cap it and put in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours so the berries & wine can fall in love. Then strain and serve over ice with a few fresh berries for garnish. So good, and so refreshing. This would also work with red plums or raspberries. The pinot grigio is superb and crisp on its own, but also makes a great summer sangria with the addition of peaches, apples, orange slices and a handful of white grapes. If you lika de’ bubbles, top it with a splash of champagne, club soda or lemon-lime soda. Then sit back and reflect on a summer worthy of the record books.

Did you try anything this summer that knocked your socks off? Do tell!

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Filed under Food & Recipes, Miscellaneous Thoughts, Things I Love

Horchata at Home

Horchata - long grain rice

Rice. My family loves it. In fact, it we might even prefer it to potatoes. Sounds crazy, but we find ourselves craving rice more than french fries. This weekend, The Complete Package whipped up one of our favorite summer refreshers.

Horchata - Inside NanaBread's Head

Horchata: a refreshing Mexican drink made with rice & cinnamon.

So simple, delicate, and fragrant – a good horchata is a revelation. And it’s easy to make. It only takes a few ingredients, most of which you probably already have in your fridge or pantry. Horchata is best when allowed to sit and bloom overnight, so plan to start this a day in advance for best results.

Horchata - Ingredient Collage

TCP’s Horchata (updated 2/26/2014):
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 3″ Mexican cinnamon stick (canela)
4 cups whole milk (not skim or reduced fat)
1 can (12 ozs) evaporated milk
1 can (14 ozs) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine the rice and boiling water in your blender; blend on medium to medium-high until the rice begins to break up into small pieces (about a minute or so). Add the 3″ cinnamon stick. Cover the blender jar and allow it to sit on the counter at room temperature overnight (or up to 48 hours).

Strain the rice water to remove the kibbles & bits and discard the rice. Rinse out the container to remove any debris and pour the strained rice water back into the blender pitcher. Add the milks (all 3), vanilla, and ground cinnamon. Blend on medium speed for one minute. Pour into a serving pitcher and refrigerate. Stir just before serving to blend all the ingredients, as the fine rice pulp tends to settle to the bottom.

Horchata - CloseUp

Notes:
1. Mexican cinnamon & vanilla really are different that the version you’ll find in most markets. If you can find it in your area, please use it. The delicate, floral aroma is heavenly and takes this recipe to a whole new level.
2. This recipe can be doubled for a crowd.
3. This recipe is adapted from Lola’s Horchata at AllRecipes.com.
4. Horchata is perfect on a hot day or paired with spicy foods.
5. Horchata will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
6 Horchata makes excellent coffee creamer.

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Filed under Family Stuff, Food & Recipes

My Favorite Season: Fall

Maine - Somesville Bridge

Oh, fall… I miss you so much. I miss experiencing all four seasons and the benefits of each like leaves turning, snow falling or bulbs blooming. But mostly I miss sweaters and drinking hot cocoa at high school football games. I long for those days when you can step outside and see your breath. In the suburbs south of Houston, we have only two seasons – Summer & More Summer. Our change of season comes down to this: in February, we stop mowing for 3-4 weeks.

The Complete Package and I both love Fall. So much so, we usually travel north each year just to celebrate autumn. Since we’ll be remodeling our master bathroom instead of traveling this year, I’m celebrating the advent of fall with a few photos from our trip to Acadia National Park in Maine back in 2008. It was glorious. So welcome, Fall. Please come see us. We miss you something fierce.

Foliage in Acadia Natl Park

Acadia Maine - Sun Through Fall Foliage

Acadia Maine Leaves in Water

Acadia - Path to Jordan Pond

Somesville Main Tree in Fall

Ever thought of visiting Acadia National Park? Learn more HERE. Some of our other fall favorites – Glacier National Park, Calgary & Banff, Yellowstone & The Tetons, and the Oregon coast. Do you have a favorite place to visit in the fall? Please share! You may just inspire our next fall vacation or someone else’s.

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Filed under Things I Love, Travel Tales

I don’t know how this happened.

Remember my post from 2 weeks ago? The one with the pineapple update? The update where I said we probably had at least 4-6 weeks until harvest? Well, we went to Austin last weekend to visit the kids and came home to this:

Pineapple Harvest 6

I don’t know how this happened. They went from firm, mostly green and this:

Pineapple Close-Up - Aug2013

to completely, thoroughly golden-yellow ripe in 4 days. FOUR DAYS!

Side by Side Comparison - 4 days

I can only attribute it to:
A.) four days of intense Houston heat, followed by
B.) a good solid day of rain during drought conditions, and
C.) my lack of experience growing pineapples (even with 15+ plants)

We had no choice but to harvest them before they got too ripe, which was disappointing because we really had hoped the kids would be here to participate. Instead, The Complete Package & I cut them down. No kids; no celebration.

Pineapple Harvest 1

Pineapple Harvest 2

Here’s a peek behind the curtain at how we’ve accumulated so many pineapple plants over the past few years. Each plant, while it’s fruiting, puts off several shoots (ratoons) that can be removed and replanted to form new plants. Each of our four fruiting plants put off at least 2 to 3 ratoons.

Pineapple Harvest 3

Pineapple Harvest 4

I’m no math whiz, but if each pineapple plant produces 3 ratoons PLUS a pineapple fruit, that means you now potentially have FOUR (4) additional future pineapple plants, because you can replant the ratoons and replant the top off the pineapple fruit. We started six years ago with the top of a pineapple plant we’d bought at the grocery store. We now have over 15 plants because we keep re-potting the ratoons & pineapple tops. I joke about our mini-plantation, but it’s actually kind of true. They’re taking over our back porch. Two years ago, we harvested one lonely but gorgeous pineapple. This year, we got this:

Pineapple Harvest 5

Which brings me to our new little gadget I just have to show off. My friend Kirsten of Comfortably Domestic (my sister from another mister) and her four boys were so excited about our pending pineapple harvest, they sent us the new OXO ratcheting pineapple corer & slicer. Oh, baby!

Pineapple Harvest 2013- Ready to Cut

To use it, lop the top off your pineapple, leaving about 3/4″ so you can replant it later and become a semi-obsessed mini-plantation pineapple farmer like me.

Pineapple Harvest 2013- Lop off the top

We set the pineapples into a mixing bowl to capture any juice so I could make marmalade (always thinking ahead), then TCP set about coring those golden puppies. The OXO pineapple corer tore right through each pineapple in seconds.
It was amazing to watch and surprisingly fun to use.

Pineapple Harvest 2013- OXO Pineapple Corer & Slicer

Did I mention it ratchets? You don’t have to turn the bowl or move the pineapple or anything! Just twist the handle on top and it ratchets after each cut until it reaches the bottom. Once done, you simply pull the rings right out of the shell. That’s right – I said rings!

Pineapple Harvest 2013- Rings on the Slicer

It cuts the entire pineapple into perfectly even rings. Shut up! I know!

Pineapple Harvest 2013- Perfectly Sliced Rings

We set aside one tub of rings for Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug, since they both said they’d like to recreate our pineapple upside-down cake from the 2011 harvest, and poured most of the pineapple and juice into the Dutch oven to make my first ever batch of pineapple upside-down marmalade (pineapple, brown sugar & maraschino cherries). With that, there was only one last task to conquer.

Remember that post I mentioned in the first paragraph? The one where I said we probably had a few weeks until harvest? Well, I may have mentioned in that post that I’d also like to make fruity cocktails with this batch of pineapples. And since the OXO corer/slicer did such a nice job of creating the perfect vessel, there was just one last thing to do.

Pineapple Harvest 2013- Pina Colada Fixings

You should know me well enough by now to know that I never turn down a fruity ‘pinkies up’ frou-frou girly cocktail. So here’s to you, and here’s to friends who send friends kitchen gadgets, and here’s to the great pineapple harvest of 2013.

Pineapple Harvest - Pina Colada

Oh, and just in case you’d like to join me:

Pineapple Harvest 2013  - Pina Colada Recipe

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Random Thoughts Thursday

It’s early Thursday morning and I desperately need coffee. So while I’m making a cup, feel free to browse a few random things that came up this week.

1. Bake Sale for Beka (aka Cookies for Crohn’s)
My friend Megan from Country Cleaver is hosting this amazing on-line bake sale benefitting the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America for the second year running. I’m participating again by baking four dozen of these Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies dipped in dark Guittard chocolate. Holy yum!

Cherry & Almond Shortbreads - Inside NanaBread's Head

Made with flour & almond meal, dried Michigan cherries, toasted almonds & real butter these shortbread cookies stand on their own without any chocolate. But what fun is that? Seriously, when things can be dipped in dark chocolate, they absolutely should be. If these beauties have captivated you, you can bid on them! If you win, I’ll ship 4 dozen directly to your home, dipped in whichever type of chocolate you prefer – white, milk or dark. Winner’s choice.

To bid or browse the other selections generously donated by a plethora of fabulous food bloggers go to Megan’s website THIS SATURDAY, JUNE 22, 2013. That’s right, folks… this is a one day on-line auction benefiting the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and celebrating Beka’s first half-marathon for the cure. For the record, on a scale of 1 to 10, Beka is a 15 kind of amazing. So mark your calendar and drop in on the Bake Sale for Beka to watch the bidding shenanigans. And if you end up with the winning bid on my cookies, I might just throw in a jar of homemade jelly. It’s been known to happen.

2. The Complete Package went to the Republic of Texas motorcycle rally in Austin and all we got were photos & disco light sabers.
Okay, that’s true but not entirely true. TCP (my beloved) DID attend the ROT Rally in Austin where his girlfriend (if I may brag a bit) took first place in the Metric Customs category. Yes, I refer to his motorcycle as his girlfriend. Here’s a snap in case you’re curious about her. Meh; she’s okay I guess. :)

TCP's Honda Fury

Each year, on Friday evening, participants in the motorcycle rally ride from the Austin fairgrounds into downtown in a bike parade that stretches more than 10 miles. MILES, people. And each year, My Baby and I take the grandkids downtown to watch the parade so they can see their Papi ride in. They get the biggest kick out of seeing him in the parade. It’s his rock star moment.

After he gets downtown and parks, we all walk Congress looking at the motorcycles and snapping photos. Here are a few from last Friday night. This first one is of Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug with ‘The Cat Lady’. She’s really popular.

ROT Rally 2013 - Jonah & Lilly with Cat Lady

ROT Rally 2013 - Strolling on Congress

ROT Rally 2013 - State Capitol

3. I took the kids back to Springdale Farm.
Remember last week when I mentioned I had the privilege of visiting Springdale Farm for the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance dinner as part of the BlogHer Food conference? It was a wonderful, magical night under the stars and trees.

Springdale Farm - US Farmers & Ranchers Dinner

I enjoyed it so much I vowed to bring My Baby and the kids for a visit, and last Saturday we did just that. Despite the heat, the kids had a great time and enjoyed walking the farm, spotting fresh vegetables, and picking out some to take home. In case I haven’t been clear in past posts, I L-O-V-E a good farmer’s market or farm stand and Springdale Farm is now one of my favorites. If you’re in Austin, please visit and support a local farmer. Food doesn’t get any fresher.

Lilly & The Chickens - Springdale Farm

Jonah & Lilly - walking the herb garden at Springdale Farm

Farm Stand at Springdale

Ever wondered what an artichoke looks like when it’s left to bloom? Well now you know. You’re not going to see that in a grocery store, folks!

Artichoke Blooms - Springdale Farm

We also attempted to take Jonah & Lilly on a mural hop around Austin. More on that later, but here’s a glimpse of what we did before we died of heat stroke.

Lilly & Jonah at Austin Mural

4. Nothing rocks summer like the glitter polish.
It started with pale pink glitter polish over raspberry red and it has now morphed into pale teal glitter over a dark teal base. For a girl who doesn’t usually paint her nails, I’m totally digging the disco glitter. Hello summer!

The Megan - Teal Sparkle Nails

5. Don’t forget this weekend’s Bake Sale for Beka on-line auction!
I mean it, people. Buy my cookies and I’ll make it worth your time & money. We’re talking FOUR DOZEN HANDMADE FROM SCRATCH COOKIES and homemade jam or jelly. If I could ship a puppy, I would. I’m not above bribery. Whatever it takes. Just bid. It’s for a good cause and there are cookbooks & cookies to be had. LOTS of cookies. For a preview, CLICK HERE.

BakeSale4Beka

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Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Family Stuff, Food & Recipes, Miscellaneous Thoughts, Things I Love

TCP Cooks: Tiramisu Ice Cream Sundae

Coffee Ice Cream - Tiramisu Sundae - Inside NanaBread's Head

I know my husband, The Complete Package, loves me. How?

1. Because we’ve been married 30+ years.
2. Because he tells me all the time.
3. Because he makes me coffee ice cream.

Or in this case, coffee & mascarpone ice cream. It’s true… he really went there. Using his favorite recipe for Ben & Jerry’s Sweet Cream Base, he added espresso and mascarpone cheese to create the perfect tiramisu ice cream blend. And it was good. Really good. Like Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz good. Have you ever tried that one? It’s only available in scoop shops, not grocery stores, which is a shame. But also probably a blessing, because if it could be bought on a routine basis by the half-pint, there’d be long lines at stores and hand-to-hand combat if they ever ran low. But that’s just me. {wink} Here is TCP’s version.

TCP’s Tiramisu Ice Cream:
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 container (8 ozs.) mascarpone cheese
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup brewed coffee + 1 Tbsp. espresso powder, chilled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Lady Finger cookies, chocolate syrup & Kahlua (optional) for garnish

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar a little at a time; continue to whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the mascarpone cheese & beat until smooth and creamy; add the cream, milk, coffee and vanilla extract; whisk until blended.

Pour the ice cream mixture into an electric ice cream maker and process according to the machine’s instructions. If you don’t have an electric ice cream maker, just put the ice cream into a bowl with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the freezer. Take it out and stir it every 15 minutes or so until it gets too firm to stir. Return to the freezer until it is firmly set.

When it’s ready, grab a bowl or plate and place 3-4 lady finger cookies in the center. If you’re bad like me, give them a light drizzle of Kahlua. Then top them with a big scoop of coffee ice cream and drizzle liberally with Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate syrup. Finally, crumble up another lady finger or two and sprinkle them over the top because “More is more!” is TCP’s favorite motto, followed closely by “We Can DO This!” But that’s a traumatic series of family travel stories for another post. Somewhere, My Baby just shivered.

Tiramisu Sundae - Inside NanaBread's Head

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