Friday, June 27, 2014

On Packing, Post-Paris, and Grandparents

I leave for Paris on Sunday and my suitcase is empty. In fact, it's still under my bed, and it is probably lonely since I haven't used it in a while. I feel a little unprepared at this point, yet eager to get on that plane again, to see the City of Light again.

My parents and I are going to Carmel pretty much the second I get home at the end of July, and I just registered for a Travel Writing Conference in San Francisco for the week after our stay in Carmel! I've never been to San Francisco, so I'm excited to see it and get some great advice and tips for my writing during the four-day conference. And let's be honest, I'll use any excuse to stay in the cool, 65-degree weather of Northern California while West Texas temps hover around 100 in the middle of August.

This week, I've been preparing for the approaching whirlwind in my life by doing what I do best, eating and visiting my grandparents in Marble Falls. My grandmother took me to all the thrift shops within a 10-mile radius, and she used my visit as reason enough to try out some Pinterest dessert recipes. I didn't complain. Between meals of burgers, creme brulee, grilled cheese and thai food, I enjoyed my time with them, as I always do, and am glad I got to see them before I leave. Here are a few pics from my trip down to Hill Country.

Wine ice cream on the back porch? Don't mind if I do.

Creme brulee for breakfast? Don't mind if I do.

Checking out wine on a Wednesday morning? Don't mind if I do. Granny didn't mind either.

Also, three dogs. Who apparently don't like the camera.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Meals: Home Cooked Meals

What is it about home cooking that is so comforting? Is it because our moms made us meals when we were young, or because it reminds us of being kids? Whatever the reason, a "home cooked meal" implies feelings of warmth and family.

Since I'm leaving for Paris on Sunday and my brother moves to Austin the very next day, my mom is making a slew of meals this week that she used to make a lot when we were little. One night this week, she'll be making Chicken Tetrazzini, one of my favorite meals of all time. It never fails to remind me of school nights before I went to boarding school, taking a break from homework or watching TV to come to the table and talk about the day. I can literally already taste it.

Chicken Tetrazzini

1 qt. water
2 teaspoons salt
1 can creamed mushroom soup
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
dash of pepper
4-5 pounds of chicken
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
1 cup grated cheese
4 cups cooked rice
1 tablespoon parsley
4 strips of bacon
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning

Heat water in saucepan. Add salt and chicken, cover and simmer 3-4 hours. Take meat from bone and cut into chunks. Heat broth from chicken with soup. Blend flour, garlic and pepper with broth. Heat, stirring until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir cheese, rice, chicken and parsley in another bowl. Put alternate layers of rice mixture and sauce in buttered casserole dish. Top with bacon and bread crumbs. Bake 30 minutes at 450 degrees.

And I don't have a picture of my mom's chicken tet, so here's a gif of Ronaldo to make your Monday better. Happy World Cup.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Father's Day and The Grill

I hope everyone had a relaxing weekend, and all the fathers out there were celebrated and loved on. I played in a golf tournament with my dad on Saturday, and we spent Sunday lounging by the pool and drinking margaritas: exactly how I like it. My brother wanted to cook out for dinner, so mom and I followed his directions Sunday afternoon and put the steaks in the marinade while he drove back from San Antonio.

Marinade for four large steaks:
2 cups BBQ sauce (your favorite!)
1 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 cups Italian dressing

In the meantime, I watched a few hours of the golf, swam in the pool, and then dad let me try out his faux polo pony. I haven't been on a horse in years, so it was a little awkward.

Especially in a dress...

My brother got home and the cooking began. I'm trying to make this coincide with Monday Meals, but the truth is, I don't know much about grilling out. I've watched a lot, but I can't really tell you much about the process. I guess just...cut into the steaks to know when they're done, and grill the onions until they are soft and see-through. And buy some pre-made garlic bread from United. That's the best money you'll ever spend on food. Ever.

So much focus.

We've hardly ever marinaded and I think a lack of forethought is to blame. But these steaks were so tender and flavorful that I hope I remember to marinade every time from now on. We ate outside as the day slid into night, and the twilight hours were balmy and calm. We drank a great bottle of red and passed out cards and presents to the man of the hour. Dad's are the best, and especially mine.

Those glasses.

I hope you were able to spend some time with the father figures in your life yesterday, or at the very least, showed them how much you love them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Two Movies You Will Probably Love, and One You May Not.

There are two movies that I saw recently that were fantastic and fun. The Fault in Our Stars was not one of them...I don't think that's going to be a very fun one. Anyway:

The first was the new Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. True to form, it is a dark comedy about a lobby boy in a hotel. He becomes the sidekick of the concierge, Monsieur Gustave, and they find themselves in some trouble when a former lover of the concierge dies. Ralph Fiennes plays Gustave, and he is brilliant. It's the usual cast of characters for an Anderson film, and everyone is wonderful. Great writing, engrossing scenes, and entertaining every step of the way.


Last week, I saw "Chef" with my mother and brother. I thought popcorn was going to get me through, since it's a movie entirely about food, but my stomach still growled. My mouth is watering just thinking about it now. Check it out:

It's funny and heart-warming at times, and a great film to go to on a Sunday night (like the trailer says, eat before you go!). It also shows the impact that social media can have on a business, and the success that it brings if it's done correctly and well. It becomes a father-son story as the movie progresses, but there's still lots and lots of food in it, and now I want to take food trips to Miami, New Orleans, and Austin.


The one that you may not love is the new Coen Brother movie, Inside Llewyn Davis. It's about a struggling folk singer and guitar player trying to make it big in Greenwich Village in the 1960s. I say you might not love it because it is kind of sad. You want to root for this guy, who actually is kind of a dick, but you feel like he has a good heart. And he's so seriously talented but just can't catch a break. It stars Oscar Isaac (whom I had never heard of but am a little bit in love with now), Carey Mulligan, John Goodman and Justin Timberlake. The song in the preview was reason enough for me to start it on Apple TV Sunday night, and I proceeded to download the song immediately after and listen to it 19 times in a row.

I'd definitely recommend seeing it, although I don't feel I need to see it again. But I do need to listen to that song one more time..

Have you seen any good movies lately?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Monday Meals: Mom's Spaghetti

Some dishes take you back to your childhood. I remember watching my mom cook spaghetti in the kitchen, wondering how she knew what to do and when to do it. I first tried this recipe in DC, after I asked my mom to send it to me, and it was a disaster. I've learned a lot since that night in my four-foot by three-foot kitchen, and always like making this since it was the first dish I kind of conquered. It was the perfect lazy Sunday afternoon activity yesterday, and I'm looking forward to eating on it all week.

You'll need:
1 pound of ground beef
1 box of spaghetti
1 jar of marinara sauce
1/4th of an onion, chopped
minced garlic
crushed red peppers (optional)
olive oil

Bring water to a boil and add pasta. Stir occasionally for 10 to 12 minutes or until cooked.

Add olive oil, minced garlic and crushed red peppers (for some spice!) to a skillet over medium to high heat. When the garlic and peppers start to sizzle, add the onions. Stir until the onions are translucent. Add the ground beef to brown. Reduce heat and add the pasta sauce.

Strain the noodles and then add the meet sauce to the spaghetti. Serve and devour!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Moral of the Story: The Grocery Store

I love the grocery store. LOVE it. You push your little cart along, you don't have to carry your massive purse, and you peruse all the food and think about things that you could cook. It's like an extended quiet time, a little vacation where you are alone with your thoughts and food. And what could be better?

Most people prepare for their trip to the grocery. They've done their meal planning for the week and know all the ingredients they need to get. I applaud them, but I am not one of those people. Besides the few things that I put on a list that I absolutely need, I mostly just wander around and grab things off shelves. Here are a few things I've learned in my years of grocery shopping:

1. Always get the smaller cart, if you have the option -- especially if you shop for one. I used to get the big one thinking that my shopping list was so huge that I would probably need another one before I headed for the check out line. But that is never the case. And I hate the handheld baskets because they get heavy after the fourth jar of pasta sauce.

2. Get produce first -- Most grocery stores seem to be set up so that you hit this section first anyway, but I find it easier to maintain the facade that you're going to be healthy and good if you see your cart fill up with fruits and veggies first. But then I hit the chip aisle and it's usually downhill from there... so I've really learned nothing here, have I? Well, good intentions and all that, I guess.

3. Networking -- I see literally the world at United on a random Tuesday night. And it'll be the one time in the week that I have no makeup on and probably just worked out and am sweaty and panting like a bulldog. It's okay, though, I always say hi and try to chit chat a bit. You never know what being nice to someone will do for them, or you!

4. Try to avoid the bakery section, but never skip the gourmet cheese section -- I get trapped amongst the thumbprint cookies and oversized chocolate cupcakes. So I avert my gaze to the little thing that holds the brie, gouda, swiss, blue and asiago cheeses and choose to believe that it is healthier for me than the cookies.

5. Always take a sample -- I mean, obviously. #samsclub

6. Don't be too good for grocery store wine -- the grocery store that I go to sells a Meiomi pinot noir that I love, and the liquor stores around here don't. Shocking, but it's true.

I'd love to know, do you have any routines or rules for the grocery store?

Monday, June 2, 2014

This weekend.

Sitting at a table at Monk's Coffee Shop in downtown Abilene, I take another sip of my just refilled coffee mug. I know I have to go to work in about an hour, but I feel inspired this Monday morning. Not only did I begin writing about my Kilimanjaro adventure last week, but I had a wonderful weekend of family, friends and golf. 

First wonderful thing: my brother did his solo flight on Friday. So proud of him! 

2nd wonderful thing: I discovered a new yummy recipe. This is also serving as this week's edition of Monday Meals: Mexican lettuce wraps. I got the idea from (where else?) Pinterest, but decided to add taco seasoning to the ground turkey, so it tasted like real tacos, only with romaine lettuce instead of taco shells. I also had no shredded cheese or onions, but I would have added those and I'm sure it would have been even better.

3rd wonderful thing: My cousin's engagement party on Saturday night was gorgeous. The food was delicious, the wine was divine, and I loved getting to dress up, wear heels, sit outside in the warm evening air and see family and friends. 

No one had this fear Saturday night...

4th wonderful thing: We had a blowout party with even more friends to say goodbye to the house I've been living in since October. It was fun to have a party in a house without any furniture. I don't think I've done that since college... Did I mention I'm moving back into my parents' house? I'm feeling okay about it, since I'll be gone the month of July and going...only God knows where after that.

5th wonderful thing: Playing golf with my family on Sunday morning. It was early, the course was empty, the sun wasn't scorching yet, and I played okay for someone who only plays once every few weeks.

My favorite part of playing golf? Being outside and catching glimpses of duckies.

Bonus wonderful thing: A mere 29 days until I'm off to Paris!!