Tag Archives: The Complete Package

The Complete Package: MotoGP Austin

Track Shot - Friday Practice - MotoGP Austin

Confession: I don’t know jack about motorcycle racing.
But I know someone who does, and that someone is my beloved husband, The Complete Package. Earlier this month, TCP and I went to Austin so he could attend the MotorGP event. While he was at the racetrack, I played with the grandkids. And thus we reveal the key to a 32-year marriage – compromise.

Because TCP had a great time, I thought it would be fun to share a few photos from the races on the off chance some of you enjoy it as well. The following photos were taken by The Complete Package at the MotoGP Austin event:

Track Shot - Lap Board & Stands - MotoGP Austin

Track Shot - The Tower - MotoGP Austin

Austin 360 Concert Stage - MotoGP Austin

Corn Hole Corner - MotoGP Austin

Traffic Jam - MotoGP Austin

Qualifying Rounds2 - MotoGP Austin

Coming Out of the Corner - MotoGP Austin

Here’s what I do know:
1. The Complete Package is a Valentino Rossi fan.
2. Our grandkids love everything TCP loves because they love him.
3. Lilly Bug is now in love with Valentine Rossi (all the ladies are).
4. Jonah Bear thinks Marc Marquez rocks because he’s the fastest in the world.
5. This next shot is of their favorites – Rossi (blue/green) & Marquez (black/orange/white).

The Kid's Favorites - Rossi & Marquez - MotoGP Austin

Valentino Rossi makes the fans go wild. People are crazy for this Italian racer, and I get it. He’s a maniac on a racing bike, has enough personality and charm for 10 racers, and is a world champion many times over.

Rossi - Going Going Gone - MotoGP Austin

Rossi - Signature Move - MotoGP Austin

But then there’s the up-and-comer, Marc Marquez. This Spanish biker is young, aggressive, and taking the racing world by storm. He is also the current World Champion and the winner of the Austin MotoGP event. How fast is he? Well, his top speed at the Austin event was clocked at 341.6 km/h. That’s 212.3 miles per hour. {gulp!} I. Cannot. Fathom. I wonder what his mother thinks about it.

Mark Marquez - Victory Lap

Mark Marquez - Victory Lap2

Three days of fun & sun at the Circuit of the Americas track was just enough for TCP. He had a blast, saw all the qualifying rounds and races including the big finale, and has the sunburn to prove it. Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug both got racing shirts (hers is a Rossi; his is a Marquez), got to hit the new Luby’s near the house, and spent some time in the hotel hot tub and at the park with their mother & I. We also hit Sandy’s Frozen Custard, so basically a great time was had by all.

Jonah & Lilly on the Swings

Okay, I lied. I took that last shot of Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug. But just that one.
#TruthInAdvertising #GratuitousGrandkidShot #HashtagAttack #NotSorry

Note: The Complete Package wanted me to point out that some of these photos were taken early on Friday during qualifying rounds, which is why the stands might look empty or sparse. For Saturday’s events and Sunday’s final races the racetrack was packed with spectators, as those in attendance can attest.

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Papaya Cheesecake Bars

Papaya Cheesecake Bars - Cut Bars & Pan

The Polar Vortex killed our papaya tree. Poor little guy. We just planted him last summer, so we barely knew him. To make matters worse, we’re having trouble finding another papaya tree to replace him. Not that we’re interviewing or anything, but the nursery doesn’t have any. Which is a round-about way to say The Complete Package bought a fresh papaya last weekend that was bigger than my head so he could germinate the seeds in an attempt to grow papaya trees. That’s great, but it left us with a gallon of diced papaya. Thatza lotta papaya.

What does one do with a gallon of fresh papaya? Not much, apparently. I searched the internet for ideas, but recipe choices were mainly limited to smoothies. After two or three of those, I was done. Then I saw a recipe for papaya jam, and that really got me thinking. Surely I could so something with papaya jam, right? Enter Papaya Cheesecake Bars.

Papaya Cheesecake Bars - In the Pan

Sometimes I come up with an idea that actually works. Surprising, I know.

NanaBread’s Papaya Cheesecake Bars:
(makes two 8″ x 8″ square pans or one 13″ x 9″ rectangle)

For the papaya jam:
4 cups fresh papaya – peeled, seeded & diced
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar (optional, or add to taste)
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons cold water

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the fresh papaya, marmalade and orange juice. Simmer over medium-low heat until the papaya is soft and the mixture begins to thicken a little. Taste to determine if sugar needs to be added. If so, add up to 1/4 cup of sugar (to your taste) and cook until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the cornstarch slurry and continue to stir constantly until the mixture thickens. Place a strainer over a mixing bowl, and pour the papaya mixture into the strainer. Using a flexible silicone spatula, press the papaya mixture through, straining out any fruit fiber or lumps. Allow the strained mixture to cool completely. While it’s cooling, you can start your shortbread crust.

For the shortbread crust:
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill coconut meal
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill almond meal
6 tablespoons brown sugar
a pinch of salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold & cubed

Pre-heat your oven to 375F. In a food processor, combine all of the shortbread ingredients. Pulse until well combined and the texture of course sand. Line your baking pan(s) with parchment and add the shortbread mixture (it will be crumbly). Shake the pan to distribute the crumbs, then tap it flat on the counter a few times to help settle them in an even layer. Cover with a sheet of parchment and use a rolling-pin or heavy glass to roll the crumbs into a solid, compact layer. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges start to brown. While the crust is baking, mix up your cheesecake filling.

For the cheesecake layer:
1 package (8 ozs.) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

In a mixing bowl, combine the cheesecake ingredients. Whisk until the mixture is completely smooth. Pour over the baked shortbread crust, tapping the pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Pop it back into the oven for 10-12 minutes, or just until you can shake the pan gently and the cheesecake doesn’t jiggle. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely. Once cooled, top with papaya jam, spreading it into a smooth even layer. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Keep refrigerated.

Papaya Cheesecake Bars - Cut

Truth in Marketing Moment: I dusted mine with powdered sugar, but it really served no purpose other than adding texture to the photographs. The sugar dissolved almost immediately into the papaya jam and vanished. Feel free to skip that step unless you’re also photographing your papaya bars, in which case it’ll look pretty and everybody loves pretty desserts.

That papaya jam? It’s supremely tasty, so I’ll be canning more of that.

Remember when people used to ask “If you were a crayon, what color would you be?” I’m changing my answer. It used to be Cornflower Blue, but now it’s Papaya Orange. That color just screams SASSY.

Papaya Cheesecake Bars - Horizontal

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TCP Cooks: French Toast Waffles

Challah: A braided bread laden with eggs, symbolizing manna from heaven.

Challah: A braided bread laden with eggs, symbolizing manna from heaven.

If you love good bread, let me hear you challah!

Corny food puns are my secret love, as is warm eggy challah bread. But it’s what The Complete Package does with it that really makes my heart sing. Inspired by a sleep-over episode of Bobby Flay’s cooking show, he does the unthinkable and combines two breakfast favorites into one – French Toast & Waffles.

French Toast Waffles - Inside NanaBread's Head

To make this mouth-watering delicacy, you’ll need a fresh loaf of challah, the standard cast of French toast ingredients, and a piping hot waffle maker. A bowl of homemade whipped cream and some fresh fruit doesn’t hurt either.

TCP’s French Toast Waffles: (makes 8 slices)
1 loaf of fresh challah bread
4 large eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
powdered sugar, to dust with
fresh whipped cream & macerated fruit, to garnish

Pre-heat your waffle iron (set to medium heat, if yours is adjustable).

Slice the challah bread into 1″ thick slices; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until lemon-colored and frothy. Whisk in the brown sugar, beating until the sugar is mostly dissolved; add the cream, vanilla and salt and whisk until combined.

Dunk each slice of challah into the egg mixture, turning to coat well, and place it in the waffle maker. Gently press the lid closed and bake until golden brown. Our small waffle maker can bake one slice at a time and each takes about 4 minutes, but it’s 32 years old, so watch yours carefully for a perfect golden hue.

When done, remove to a warm plate, dust with powdered sugar then top with fresh fruit and whipped cream. Serve immediately.

French Toast Waffles - Close-Up

Leftovers, if there are any, can be frozen. Simply place the cooked & completely cooled waffles into a zip-style freezer bag, press out any excess air, seal tightly, then drop in the freezer. To warm, place them on a baking sheet and re-heat in the oven at 275F, or pop them in the microwave for 25-30 seconds, or drop them into your toaster (just be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn).

These are great with fresh peaches, strawberries, bananas or any favorite fruit. They’re also delicious with a smear of coconut curd and blackberry jam, or lemon curd and raspberry jam. There’s also the old-fashioned favorite – a pat of real butter and a drizzle of pure maple syrup. So many fabulous options, but that’s for you to discover. A word of caution: these are addictive.

Thinking of making your own Challah? Check out Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.

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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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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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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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