Tag Archives: Cooking

Paella and Sangria

Chip and I first had paella while on our honeymoon. As I mentioned in this other post, we took a cruise through the Mediterranean that left from Barcelona. After spending the afternoon exploring Barcelona, we made our way back to where we were staying in Las Ramblas. We found a small cafe just blocks away from our hotel, ordered ourselves some sangria, paella and pizza (the pizza was Chip’s order… he was a little skeptical about foreign food at first). It didn’t take long for Chip to realize my dinner choice of paella was better and we soon split the rest of that dish and left the pizza aside. Now whenever we think about our day in Spain, it almost always brings up the memory of having paella and sangria outside, enjoying the view with a bit of jetlag.

Enjoying dinner in Las Ramblas

Enjoying dinner in Las Ramblas

We tried to make paella for ourselves once last summer… it wasn’t that great. We should have known the taste would be a little off when the recipe called for the dish to be baked, instead of cooked over the stove like traditional paella. The consistency was too watery and the flavor just wasn’t there. So we decided we would have to search for another recipe in the future.

Fast forward to this past week: we knew we were going to purchase Les Mis as soon as it was available on DVD on Friday, so we thought a nice dinner at home would be a fun way to end the week. Chip suggested trying to make paella again, which of course, would have to be accompanied with sangria. A tasty meal and a musical? That’s pretty much all the convincing I need!

We did some searching on Pinterest and found what looked like a promising recipe. You guys, it was delicious. We will definitely be making this again! It was also a great chance to use our Le Creuset dutch oven for the first time, which we absolutely loved. It cooked the food so evenly and was surprisingly easy to clean afterwards, which is always a nice bonus. As for the sangria, after playing with a bunch of different recipes, I think we finally discovered the perfect traditional sangria recipe. Chip took one sip and said it tasted just as good as the sangria at La Fogata, so I think we have a winner.

Ready for dinner and sangria

Ready for dinner and sangria

Making dinner with our new Le Creuset dutch oven

Making dinner with our new Le Creuset dutch oven

Yum.

Yum.

Dinner time

Dinner time

Below is the recipe for the paella with our modifications. If you’d like to see the original recipe we were working from, click here.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • Minced garlic, 4 cloves
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into long thin strips
  • 2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 dried chilli’s, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups paella/Spanish rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth (hot)
  • 1 cup water (hot)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Sausage – we used HEB’s jalapeno sausage
  • 1/2 pound shrimp

Directions:

  • Heat the olive oil in a container (large enough to hold everything) and saute the onions until soft and fragrant.
  • Add the garlic and continue sauteing for a few more minutes.
  • Add the zucchini and bell pepper. Cook on medium heat until the veggies are slightly cooked, stirring in between.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and continue stirring.
  • Add the paprika, turmeric, cumin powder, crushed dried chilli’s, and red pepper flakes. Combine well, making sure the veggies are all coated well.
  • Add the paella/Spanish rice and mix well, about 3 to 4 minutes, until the rice begins to slightly crackle.
  • Add the hot chicken broth and hot water. Stir, then close the lid and cook on medium to high flame until the rice is cooked through (this took about 10 minutes for us on medium heat). If it starts burning or sticking to the pot, pour some more water. Its okay if the mix is lightly mushy and loose, that’s how the consistency should be.
  • While the rice is cooking, in a separate pan cook the sausage for 5 to 6 minutes, or until soft. Add the shrimp and cook on high for another several minutes.
  • Add the frozen peas to the rice mixture about three minutes before taking the pot off of the flame.
  • Add the meat and stir well just before serving.

Sunday with my parents

Sunday was my parents’ last full day in San Antonio. They came by our house in the morning and then the four of us drove to Edison High School where our church Redeemer Presbyterian currently meets. My parents have been to Redeemer only once before, so it was great having them come with us and getting to introduce them to our different church friends, especially the women I’ve been getting to know in my great Bible study. After church, we went and had lunch at the Corner Bakery and then came home to split up for part of the afternoon. We left the guys to do some home improvement projects while my mom and I went to get some plants for the front porch and ingredients for a homecooked dinner.

As I’ve mentioned before, Chip and I don’t have a whole lot of home-project experience, but thankfully we are surrounded by people who know a lot more than we do. My dad has taught us a few things, like how to properly sand down our doors so they close better, so we were a bit eager when he said he would show us (i.e., Chip) how to fix some of the cracks we were getting in our living room wall since we clearly had no idea how to address this. My dad bought some basic essentials for this project at Lowe’s earlier in the morning, so they had what they needed to get started. Turns out the crack they decided to go after first was a little more complicated than originally anticipated, so a second trip to Lowe’s was required. More on that later.

While the men were working at home, my mom and I also went to Lowe’s to get some plants for the cute pots we had bought at Home Goods on Friday. Unfortunately, Lowe’s didn’t have a whole lot of flowers in yet, so we decided to check out Arbolitos. One thing I appreciate a lot about Arbolitos is that they focus on plants that are going to do well in San Antonio. I love going to Lowe’s, but there’s really no reason why they should be selling hydrangeas here. They just aren’t met for the San Antonio summers (and yet for some reason I’ve still tried them out twice and failed). We talked to one of the employees at Arbolitos and he helped us pick out several different flowers that were low-maintenance (as in I shouldn’t be able to kill them) and do well in pots. Perfect. We loaded up the car with these plants and some potting soil and then went to our next stop: Trader Joe’s.

My parents do a lot of their grocery shopping at the Trader Joe’s back home, so I was pretty excited that we finally got one in San Antonio this past year. Random side note: Chip is the biggest fan of Trader Joe’s. It’s sometimes dangerous to take him there because he will take forever walking around the store and will always find random items to add to our cart and consequently our grocery bill. Thankfully, my mom and I were going by ourselves and with a list for dinner and did a pretty good job sticking to it. We had chosen a pasta dish from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Foolproof cookbook followed by a dessert from Pippa’ Middelton’s Celebrate book (we had plans to watch the season finale of Downton Abbey that night, so we felt it was only appropriate to accompany it with a British dessert).

Apparently our wall is pink underneath. Gross.

Apparently our wall is pink underneath. Gross.

We came back home to find the guys hard at work and in the process of cutting several holes in the wall to help fix the crack. Definitely wasn’t expecting that. I don’t know all the details, mainly because I felt it would be better to just walk away and work on the flowers with my mom, but apparently some parts of the wall needed a little extra reinforcement so the guys would be putting small pieces of 1×2’s into the newly cut holes and then putting tons and tons of nails to secure everything. Re-reading that last sentence doesn’t make much sense to me, but it all worked and there is no longer no evidence of the crack (except for the fact that the strip now needs to be painted the same color as the rest of the wall) so I’m going to assume the process was successful. And Chip definitely learned well since he has since then been working on the three other cracks in our living room. Thanks for the lessons, dad!

Dad passing on some of his wisdom

Dad passing on some of his wisdom

No idea what step this is

No idea what step this is

My mom and I enjoyed working on the pots and placing them on our front patio. We chose three different kinds of plants in different heights and color. We also got some geraniums to put in the hanging baskets we have in the front, so hopefully these plants will actually survive. I’ve managed to (accidentally) kill the last two plants we’ve tried in these baskets, but hey, third time’s the charm, right? Let’s hope so!

Making the front patio pretty

Making the front patio pretty

Close up on the flowers

Close up on the flowers

After working on these different plants, we started cooking. First, we wanted to get our dessert in the oven and ready. We chose to do an apple and blackberry crumble from dear Pippa’s book (recipe posted below). The recipe itself is pretty simple, but be prepared for a bit of prep work, mainly peeling, coring and dicing over 1.5 pounds of apples. Once dessert was in the oven, we started working on dinner, a pasta from Ina Garten (recipe also posted below). Coincidentally, the boys were ready to wrap up their work on the first crack just as dinner was finished cooking. I have a feeling they stopped working as soon as they could smell it cooking! Anyway, dinner was awesome. If you’re looking for a new pasta to try out, definitely give this one a shot. Partnered with some fresh Parmesan cheese, warm bread and a bottle of Grape Creek wine, we had a great dinner.

Dinner time

Dinner time

We later watched the season 3 finale of Downton Abbey while enjoying our apple and blackberry bake with a little bit of vanilla ice cream. One thing on the cobbler: I think next time I’m going to try it out with gala apples instead of granny smith to make the dish a little less tart. But otherwise, it was really great.

Thanks, Pippa

Thanks, Pippa

Once we got through the shocker of the Downton Abbey episode, we said goodbye to my parents since they would be flying out early Monday morning. We kept busy all weekend, but when we see my parents only a handful of times a year, we always have lots that we want to do together. I am so thankful for the time we got to spend with them and look forward to seeing them again sometime (hopefully) soon!

Wrigley enjoying attention from my mom

Wrigley enjoying attention from my mom

Wrigley makes a great pillow

Wrigley makes a great pillow

Ina Garten’s “Straw and hay with Gorgonzola”

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, cut crosswise in 1/2-inch-thick matchsticks
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 large)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 ounces Italian Gorgonzola dolce, crumbled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 to 10 ounces tagliatelle or fettucine
  • 2 cups forzen peas, defrosted (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Paremsan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 cup julienned fresh basil leaves

Directions:

  • Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon of salt, and bring to a boil.
  • Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the prosciutto and cook for 5 minutes, separating the slices with tongs, until crisp. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Prosciutto, anyone?

Prosciutto, anyone?

  • Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and the onion to the saute pan and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the cream, Gorgonzola, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper and bring the sauces to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until thickened. Turn off the heat.
  • When the sauce is almost done, add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta, allowing some of the water to remain (note: we chose not to do this part but just drained the pasta normally). Pour the pasta into the pan with the sauce. Add the peas, Parmesan, basil and prosciutto and toss well. If the pasta seems dry (our didn’t), add some of the reserved pasta water. Taste for seasonings and serve hot with extra Parmesan.

 

Pippa Middleton’s Apple and Blackberry Crumble:

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 pounds of peeled, cored and roughly chopped Granny Smith apples
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar (we used regular sugar)
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 8 ounces blackberries
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped almonds
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease a 2-quart ovenproof dish or 8 individual ramekins.
  • Melt 1 stick of unsalted butter in a large nonstick pan. Add roughly chopped Granny Smith apples with superfine sugar, apple juice and lemon zest and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the apples are softened.

  • Add blackberries and toss together, adding more sugar if necessary, then transfer the mixture to the prepared dish.

  • Sift flour into a large bowl and add 5 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter cut into cubes. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Stir in light brough sugar, oats, almonds and cinnamon.
  • Spoon the topping over the filling, sprinkle a little more light brown sugar over the top and bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

February visit

We just wrapped up a great weekend with my parents and my heart is so very full. I am so grateful that we’re getting to see them more outside of just regular holiday trips! These more frequent visits definitely make the 800-plus miles between us a bit more manageable. My parents flew in this past Thursday afternoon so we met them after work for a Valentine’s double date. After brainstorming some of our favorite restaurants for dinner throughout the last week, we decided we would go to Paloma Blanca; while my mom had been there once before with us during a wedding planning trip a couple years ago, my dad hadn’t experienced their tasty food yet. Fun story about Paloma Blanca: Chip and I actually had our very first date on Valentine’s Day 2007 and he had intended for us to go to Paloma Blanca together. He went to the restaurant the week before to talk to the seating hostess and see if he should make reservations for the two of us. She told him not to worry, we shouldn’t have a problem at all getting a table that night. Fast forward a few days later to our first date. We walk into the restaurant and it really couldn’t be any more full. We squeeze our way towards the seating hostess and ask for a table for two… she tells us the wait is three hours. Needless to say we didn’t get to eat dinner there that night, but instead eventually made our way over to a great dinner at Paesano’s. With this story in the back of our minds, we made it a point to not only make reservations for this past Thursday, but to also call and confirm, just in case. Thankfully there were no snags in the evening and we enjoyed a great dinner together.

Friday morning, my parents came over to the house for breakfast before we split up for the day. The guys would be going golfing while my mom and I would get some shopping done. If you’re seeing a pattern in our time spent with my family, it usually involves golfing and shopping at some point! My dad and Chip were joined by our friends Matt and Curtis and had a great time at La Cantera’s Palmer Course.

The Palmer Course

Great day for golfing!

Dad enjoying the golf course

Dad enjoying the golf course

While the boys were away, my mom and I were significantly productive with our time. We started out at Home Goods (where we got some awesome garden pots on sale!), browsed Kirklands, enjoyed a President’s Day sale at World Market, and then made our way over to La Cantera. We were enjoying some easy and relaxing shopping at Anthropologie, Williams-Sonoma and Nordstrom, but the day was made during our time at J.Crew. When we first started shopping on Friday, I was hoping to find a dress for our friends Riley and Becca’s wedding this coming May, but we weren’t having much luck. So we went into J.Crew with few expectations, but that’s when we met Tucker, one of the store’s stylists. Let me tell you, Tucker knows J.Crew’s inventory perfectly. He put together such great outfits and any little suggestion he made polished everything up. Thanks to his help, we not only found a dress for our friends’ wedding, but also for my brother’s college graduation, my cousin’s daughter’s baptism and any other events that come up for us in the next few months! I feel like our experience at J.Crew with Tucker is what people on What Not to Wear feel when they shop with Stacy and Clinton. I loved it.

We all decided to have some fish tacos at home for dinner, so after leaving La Cantera in the best of spirits, my mom and I stopped by HEB to get all the necessary ingredients. I’m a big fan of a mango salsa we’ve made a couple of times now, so check out the recipe at the bottom of this post if you’re interested. After dinner, my parents hung out with us for a bit while we played Spades (thanks, Matt, for teaching us how to play!). Like any other game we play with my family, my dad tried pushing the different rules to the limits and kept us all laughing (and shaking our heads) throughout the game.

Fish taco time

Fish taco time

Saturday was a very full day in Fredericksburg, so stay tuned for more on our day there!

Mango Salsa Recipe: (modified from Simply Recipes)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 3 tbsp diced red cabbage
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Christmas in Arizona, Part 2

One thing I love about Christmas Eve with my family is that the structure of the day really hasn’t changed much over the years. I love that we have so many little traditions that we’ve been able to keep. The day got started with another big breakfast at home (we’re big breakfast people) and then the guys went off for their second round of golf of the week. My brother first started playing golf while in high school, so ever since then it’s become a tradition that the guys go off and play a round in the morning and come home later in the afternoon; I’m not sure how they got away with originally suggesting this as a tradition but it has the benefit of keeping them out of our way in the kitchen!

Thanks to Southern Living's cookbook for our dessert recipes!

Thanks to Southern Living’s cookbook for our dessert recipes!

I had brought two dessert recipes with me that I wanted us to try out for Christmas Eve – a chocolate chunk cheesecake and a banana foster cake. One of my biggest problems in the kitchen is that I don’t read a recipe from start to finish; I usually just read about halfway or three-quarters of the way through and assume I can do the rest… so while we were finishing breakfast I finished reading the cheesecake recipe and saw that one of the last steps was to let the cheesecake sit for eight hours… which meant we had to start baking now. Oops. Luckily the first half of the recipe was relatively easy, so we had the cheesecake in the oven pretty quickly. While it baked, my mom and I went and took the dogs for a good, long walk so they would have a little less energy while we would be busy in the kitchen. We got back just in time to take the cheesecake out of the oven and let it chill for the necessary amount of time.

Cheesecake fresh out of the oven

Cheesecake fresh out of the oven

Next up was the banana foster cake. The recipe for this one was relatively simple and we had the three layers ready to go in no time. What turned out to be a roadblock for us was the icing… After using up all of the icing we made, we weren’t satisfied with how the three layers were hidden, so we decided to make another half of a batch. That extra bit of icing made a big difference, but I’m pretty sure my mom and I could both use a lesson in cake decorating! We chose to garnish the cake with a bit of powdered cinnamon and cinnamon sticks. We then put it up on display high out of reach from Wrigley to make sure it wouldn’t be ruined or eaten before the meal.

Glaze on the three layers

Glaze on the three layers

Icing and sliced bananas between the layers

Icing and sliced bananas between the layers

In need of more icing

In need of more icing

The finished cake

The finished cake

The desserts took up a bit more time than we had anticipated and we were surprised it was already 2:00 in the afternoon and we still had to shower and get ready as well as cook our actual dinner meal. Luckily all of the items my mom had planned for dinner were pretty quick, so we got everything ready in pans on the stove top and as soon as the guys got home from golfing, we got everything cooked within an hour.

Thankful for a fun day in the kitchen with my mom

Thankful for a fun day in the kitchen with my mom

Chip, Alex and my dad out on the golf course

Chip, Alex and my dad out on the golf course

Dinner was delicious. Along with our ham, we had some homemade mashed potatoes with homemade gravy, a side of green beans, a side of carrots and a salad. I’m so glad several of these recipes were from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Foolproof cookbook so I can make them now, too!

Christmas Eve table

Christmas Eve table

Chip's contribution to the meal: taking the ham out of the oven

Chip’s contribution to the meal: taking the ham out of the oven

Dad's contribution to the meal: carrying the ham to the dining room

Dad’s contribution to the meal: carrying the ham to the dining room

 

Glazed carrots, homemade gravy and homemade mashed potatoes

Glazed carrots, homemade gravy and homemade mashed potatoes

Green beans and cranberries

Green beans and cranberries

With the meal we prepared

With the meal we prepared

My grandparents joined us for dessert later in the evening, which was so good. I’m definitely going to have to find an excuse to make these again. Big thanks to Chip for being the brave one to cut the desserts, he did a great job!

Dessert time

Dessert time

Perfect slice

Perfect slice

Doubling up on dessert

Doubling up on dessert

Two thumbs up

Two thumbs up

We spent some time all hanging out before going to midnight mass over at St. Pius. My family has been going to midnight mass for as long as I can remember. While I struggled to get through it when I was a kid and jealous that it was okay for Alex to sleep his way through mass but, as the older sibling, I had to stay awake, it’s now a tradition I love and enjoy. It just feels special getting there an hour early (need to make sure we get a good seat and don’t end up outside!) and sing Christmas carols as a congregation and then welcome in Christmas Day with the priest’s homily reminding us of the significance of Christ’s birth. The service was over around 1:00, so I was more than ready for bed by the time we got home!

Christmas morning

Christmas morning

I may be 25 years old, but I still get really excited about Christmas morning. I saw something on Pinterest this week that I think sums up Christmas morning well: “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day.” We definitely made a mess opening our gifts, especially with Wrigley around who loves to tear up paper.

Wrigley looking for his gifts

Wrigley looking for his gifts

Penny on Christmas morning

Penny on Christmas morning

My parents with the gift I made for them

My parents with the gift I made for them

I saw this jCrew vest on Pinterest months ago and it was sold out everywhere in San Antonio... thanks, Chip, for tracking it down in Indiana and getting it for me!

I saw this jCrew vest on Pinterest months ago and it was sold out everywhere in San Antonio… thanks, Chip, for tracking it down in Indiana and getting it for me!

Toasty toes in my new slippers

Toasty toes in my new slippers

My dad gets a shout out for some fun gifts he got us this year… first, one very important thing to know about my mom is that she is a mamma bear to her core; don’t ever threaten her cubbies. Now, when I was in high school, I had my heart set on going to Notre Dame. I did a summer program there, loved the campus, applied early action, etc. So when I was first wait listed and then later rejected, my devastation was nothing compared to my mother’s grudge. We joke about it now (I’m pretty happy with how my life has turned out since going to Trinity!), but my mom still will not mention Notre Dame by name and will simply refer to them as “the other school.” Since Notre Dame will be playing Alabama in the BCS game in January, my dad got us all Roll Tide shirts which we all sported for the rest of the day. Nicely done, dad. You know your wife so well! ;)

Mom with her Roll Tide shirt

Mom with her Roll Tide shirt

Chip and Alex ready to support Alabama

Chip and Alex ready to support Alabama

Thanks, dad!

Thanks, dad!

Dad also got us some official Duck Dynasty duck calls... yes, we harassed Wrigley with them.

Dad also got us some official Duck Dynasty duck calls… yes, we harassed Wrigley with them.

My dad is usually the one in charge of our big breakfast on Christmas morning, but Chip and I offered to help out this year. Chip took care of the bacon, sausage and eggs while I made some homemade blueberry pancakes. In case you haven’t noticed, food was definitely a big component of this trip home! After breakfast, we were able to skype with my cousin Denisse and her family in New York. It was so fun to see them and how excited her daughter Isabella was about Christmas!

We spent a good part of the afternoon in the backyard playing some badminton. We had played earlier in the weekend and after my parents beat the team of Chip, Alex and myself, we decided a rematch was in order (we’re just a smidge competitive). Sadly, the parents won again; I’m convinced it’s harder to play when you have three people on a team instead of two! The guys stayed outside and played some more while my mom and I went back into the kitchen to reheat some of Christmas Eve’s leftovers and add in some new dishes. As if we hadn’t had enough dessert yet, I also had a coffee cake from Pippa Middleton’s Celebrate book that I was determined to try out. While it didn’t turn out as pretty as the picture, it sure did taste good.

My parents on a badminton break

My parents on a badminton break

Alex and Chip playing some badminton

Alex and Chip playing some badminton

It was really intense badminton

It was really intense badminton

We spent the rest of the afternoon packing everything back up for our drive to San Antonio the next day, but we saved some time in the evening for a family game of Scrabble, which will be featured in its own separate post.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!!

Trying to get a family photo on Christmas Eve... we bribe the dogs with food.

Trying to get a family photo on Christmas Eve… we bribe the dogs with food.

The Lopez Family

The Lopez Family

Trying to get Wrigley situated

Trying to get Wrigley situated

The Nance Family, Christmas 2012

The Nance Family, Christmas 2012

The Nances

The Nances

Fun and Chaos in the Nance Household

This last weekend was… interesting… it was the strangest mix of fun moments and times of chaos! Alright, “chaos” might be a bit of a stretch, but wait to hear about all of the events first before you judge…

Fun: Friday afternoon, two of my co-workers Priscilla and Annaliz came over for some girl time. Since we’re now in December and I’m obsessed with Christmas, this meant baking and decorating holiday cookies, watching Elf and having a champagne drink called The Poinsettia. Priscilla stayed for dinner for some homemade pizza and then an evening at Trinity for the annual Christmas Concert. All in all, a great day!

Cookbooks for the afternoon

Cookbooks for the afternoon

Christmas sugar cookies

Christmas sugar cookies

Ready to decorate some sugar cookies

Ready to decorate some sugar cookies

Trinity Christmas Concert

Trinity Christmas Concert

Priscilla and I enjoying the concert

Priscilla and I enjoying the concert

The best seats we've ever had for the Christmas concert

The best seats we’ve ever had for the Christmas concert

One of my favorite parts to the concert - the audience sing alongs

One of my favorite parts to the concert – the audience sing alongs

Fun: Chip and I started Saturday off with some time at the gym. It wasn’t completely fun the whole time (I was pretty worn out by the end!), but we enjoy going to the gym together whenever we can to encourage each other. For our breakfast afterwards, I thought it would be fun to make some homemade blueberry pancakes together for the first time (my cookbook Healthy in a Hurry had a really good recipe I had been wanting to try out). Chip decided to add to our breakfast with some eggs and bacon. Our own brunch feast!

Chaos: We have a smoke detector right outside our kitchen. Yes, it goes off occasionally. No, we’ve never actually had a fire or seriously burnt anything, but it will go off every now and then. We’ve learned that if one of us fans it quickly with a kitchen towel, it will stop its screeching within a few seconds. Now one thing to know about Chip is that he has (strangely) sensitive ears, resulting in an apparently rather unbearable situation for him whenever the smoke detector goes off. So when it went off not once, not twice, but multiple times in a span of 5 minutes Saturday morning, he lost his cool. I love my husband dearly, but I couldn’t help but laugh at how funny I thought he was being over the smoke detectors (he thought his behavior was mostly justified). All I can say is, Chip deserves an Oscar nomination for how dramatic he was being and Wrigley would receive the supporting role nomination. Our smoke detectors were going off and Chip was saying things like “Those detectors clearly don’t work, there’s no smoke, I’ll save our lives when I see smoke,” “Breakfast is ruined, I don’t even want to eat now” and one of my favorites “This isn’t a kitchen, it’s a room of destruction.” Now while Chip was waiting for his Academy Award, the high-pitched noise was also too much for Wrigley too bear, although that’s a bit more understandable since I’m sure that sound was piercing his giant bat-like ears. Wrigley has developed a habit of doing things he knows are bad whenever he’s unhappy and being scared is a great example of a time he’s unhappy. So when I went to open the backdoor to see if that would help our smoke detector calm down, Wrigley ran out with one of our shoes, shaking it around in frustration in the backyard and running around like a fool. Thanks, Wrigs. To make matters worse, the smoke detectors across the house by our bedroom also started to go off, so we had to tag time fanning the different detectors to shut them up. We then turned on every fan in the house and shut off all of the stovetop burners as well as the toaster oven that was cooking the bacon and waited for whatever small smoke signals to clear off. I then slowly and carefully finished cooking breakfast which Chip sat in the living room with Wrigley, complaining over the finicky smoke detectors. Thankfully both Chip and Wrigley were much happier without the loud beeping and some blueberry pancakes and bacon in their stomachs.

Fun: Saturday was the Tamale Festival at the Pearl Brewery. We had never been before, but had heard great things about all of the food. We also thought it would be fun to take Wrigley along with us for the afternoon (such a spoiled pup getting some pancakes, bacon and tamales in one day!). It didn’t take us long to try out several different kinds of tamales as well as a tres leches cupcake and a bean and cheese cup. We were feeling pretty full and needed a break in the eating before returning to more of the booths. I saw a patch of grass and thought it would be fun for us to just hang out there with Wrigley for a little bit and that’s when chaos struck again…

Chaos: Immediately after sitting down next to Wrigley, he starts sniffing around and being the little alpha-male that he is, he lifts his leg to mark his territory on the grass… a bit too close to me! I won’t go into any further details here, but needless to say, I wanted to go home afterward.

Mariachis at the tamale festival

Mariachis at the tamale festival

One word: yum

One word: yum

Lots of people at the tamale festival

Lots of people at the tamale festival

Wrigley really liked the tamales

Wrigley really liked the tamales

Fun: We spent the rest of Saturday afternoon running some errands (including buying a super cute dress for the Redeemer Christmas party on Sunday!) and came home to finish up our homemade pizza for dinner. While having dinner, we spent who knows how much time watching episodes of Duck Dynasty. We really can’t get enough of this show! My personal favorite Robertson is Jase, although Si does keep things entertaining.

Chaos: While getting ready for church Sunday morning, I just about had a panic attack… I found my first gray hair. I am not exaggerating when I say I came storming into the kitchen where Chip was making breakfast and asked him if he saw a gray hair. After pulling it from my head, he tried hiding it from me but I eventually got the proof. I shouldn’t be too surprised, my dad’s side of the family gets gray hair pretty early, but I didn’t think it would be this early! If you ask me, 25 is too young for that. I then spent the rest of the morning utilizing one of my other Lopez genes – being completely dramatic (I started planning my early retirement… this is clearly the end! :)).

Fun: Sunday evening was the Redeemer Christmas party! We joined some of the other Young Professionals at the church for some appetizers and wine before making our way for the dinner and dancing at the Westin Riverwalk. We had been to the Redeemer Christmas party twice before, but as guests of the Pomeroys and Behams, so this was our first time as official members of the church… woo! We had a great time and can’t wait to go again next year!

Ready for the Christmas party!

Ready for the Christmas party!

At the Westin Riverwalk

At the Westin Riverwalk

Place setting for dinner

Place setting for dinner

And that was the end of our weekend… Fun: 5. Chaos: 3. Fun wins.

Homemade Pesto

Overall, our garden has done… alright. Within the last few months, some of the plants have definitely done better than others! One that has been growing like crazy is our three basil plants. Yes, three. When we first planted our garden, we really had no idea how big each individual plant would get. Had we known more, we would have planted just one basil plant (and one rosemary, one squash, etc.). Anyway, with our basil plants growing pretty heartily, I started to look for homemade pesto recipes online. I figured this would be one of the best ways to use as much basil as possible at once. So after some searching, I found this recipe on Pinterest (I did substitute the walnuts with pine nuts).

Thriving pesto

Making pesto was much easier than I had anticipated, so I’m sure we’ll be having more of it! We used some of it tonight in our pasta and had some of our remaining garden tomatoes on our baked chicken (recipe from Healthy in a Hurry – a great cookbook!). Now I’m off to watching more of the women’s gymnastics Olympic team finals!

PS – If anyone in San Antonio wants a basil plant, we would happily part with one of ours. Really, bring a planting pot by and it’s yours!

Ta-da! Homemade pesto!

Garden tomatoes

Dinner!

Gelateria di Nance

I really think Chip and I are meant to live the Italian lifestyle… while on our honeymoon, we became pizza connoisseurs, had wine with lunch like true Italians and on multiple days had gelato more than once. We absolutely loved it! So in honor of our short time in Italy, we’ve had several homemade pizza nights here at home and also made our own gelato last summer. I’ve been waiting all spring for it to be officially warm enough to bring our ice cream maker out again. Luckily, this day finally came yesterday. Our church was having their annual ice cream social and was the perfect way to inaugurate the homemade gelato season.

Ciao bella!

While Chip took his CFA exam this past Saturday, I spent some time trying to pick out a good recipe (I think I had the better end of the deal!). I used a recipe from a book we got as a wedding gift called The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto. With a name like that, you know the recipes are going to be good! After going through some of last year’s favorite recipes (which include stracciatella and chocolate nutella), I decided to make a strawberry gelato for the first time. After I got our ice cream maker bucket in the freezer, I got to work on the base for the gelato (recipe posted below for whomever wants to make this!). Once I got the base chilling in the refrigerator, it was time to start working on the strawberries. This recipe calls for cooking a pound of sliced strawberries on the stove and then having that mixture chill, too.

Lots of strawberries!

I had both of these mixtures chill overnight and finished the gelato Sunday morning before church. The first step on Sunday involved blending 3/4 of the strawberry mixture with half of the gelato base.

Blending the strawberries into the gelato base

Once this was all nice and mixed together, I whisked it into the remaining amount of the gelato base…

Almost gelato time!

Making gelato!

This mixture then goes straight into the ice cream maker. We have a pretty simple model from Cuisinart but it gets the job done really well :) We let the ice cream maker run for 20 minutes and then added the remaining strawberries for an additional five minutes. After that, we put the gelato into a tupperware bowl and had it freeze all day before taking it with us to the ice cream social in the afternoon. We’re going to consider this recipe a success since we came home with an empty tupperware dish! Maybe our future pizzeria will have a gelateria on the side… :)

Homemade strawberry gelato!

Redeemer Ice Cream Social… please note the wonderful Haley Beham in the background :)

Plain Gelato Base recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Directions:

  • In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally so a skin doesn’t form, until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges and the mixture reaches a temperature of 170F.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Gradually whisk in the sugar until it is well incorporated and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Temper the egg yolks by very slowly pouring in the hot milk mixture while whisking continuously. Return the custard to the saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and it reaches a temperature of 185F. Do not bring to a boil.
  • Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl and let cool to room temperature, stirring every 5 minutes or so. To cool the custard quickly, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water and placing the bowl with the custard in it; stir the custard until cooled. Once completely cooled, cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Strawberry Gelato recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Plain base gelato
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions:

  • Make the plain base and chill as directed.
  • Place the strawberries in a medium saucepan. Sprinkle with the sugar, then add the melon juice; toss until the sugar is dissolved and the strawberries are well coated. Let sit for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Place the pan of strawberries over medium-low heat and cook until the strawberries soften completely and the syrup just starts to thicken, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a container, cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours (the strawberries can be prepared a day ahead).
  • Reserve a quarter of the strawberries and syrup. Place the remaining strawberries in a blender or food processor, add half of the base and blend until fully incorporated. Whisk into the remaining base.
  • Pour the mixture into the container of an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the reserved strawberries 5 minutes before the churning is completed. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.
  • Enjoy!!