Archives for the month of: November, 2015

This holiday season, I’m really in the giving mood!  I just came to the conclusion that I’m at that age where I’m pretty much included, by default, in the group of family members that has to bring a dish to my auntie and grandmother’s house.  I accepted that task with open arms.

Once again, tip-toed on over to Pinterest and once again, she didn’t let me down.  I look at Pinterest so much, on a daily basis, the iPhone app is the best thing ever.  I always say, “I’mma make that one day!”  Welp, I was true to my word.  Sweets seem to be what I’m attracted to, what catches my little eye; like, sugary sweet, make your teeth hurt, diabetes in a bowl, sweets.  This recipe, for Pecan Pie Bark, came from Wishes and Dishes, sounds so whimsical huh?!  Simple, yummy, sugary, goodness.  When you eat it, it tastes JUST LIKE Pecan Pie, smells like it too.  It reminds me of like leftover crust from the pie, that’s still coated with a corner or two of the pecan pie filling.  Basically, damn good.

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this is it. this is all you need. 

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While your oven is preheating to 325 degrees, start arranging your graham crackers on your cookie sheet.  Just so clean up would be easier for me, I rubbed my sheet with butter.  It helped, trust me.

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the recipe called for 12 sheets, which is two packages, but I have a big family to treat…so I had way more than that

Now, yes the graham crackers, I’m sure, were supposed to be flat, but yeah, mine just weren’t doing that for me.  I tried to make them as flat as I could, breaking them up, positioning them differently, what you see above, that’s about as good as it got.  No biggie really.

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two sticks of butter (ya gotta love it), white sugar, pecan halves

In a deep, non stick pot, I cooked the butter, sugar and pecan halves for about five minutes.  Stirring constantly.  The recipe said three minutes, it honestly didn’t make a difference, I promise.  I wanted to make sure everything was meshed well together, that’s all.  Call me a rebel.

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Once the butter and sugar were melted down, with the pecans, into that hot greatness you see above, I carefully and evenly (you saw my graham crackers, so the mixture didn’t exactly go over evenly, but it was good enough…an “A” for effort) over the graham crackers.  As soon as that was done, I popped the cookie sheet into the oven and baked for eight minutes or so.

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it was so pretty and bubbly in the oven…and that aroma that escaped, Heavenly

Go ahead and pull it out of the oven, after that good ol’ eight minutes, let it sit and cool.  That’s pretty much it kiddos.  Side Note:  I thought that after letting it cool for a significantly long time, like hours, it was going to harden and solidify like bark, but mine didn’t do that.  I tried using a hammer to break it up, way too much pressure.  So, when I lifted the “bark” off the sheet, it started breaking and I split some pieces with my spatula, that was much better.  I don’t know what happened, but it was more like a broken up cookie consistency.  The taste was amazing, don’t get me wrong AT ALL, but bark-like, it was not, as far as texture.  Regardless though, my family loved it and in the words of my auntie as she grabbed piece after piece, “Oh this is dangerous SMH!”

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“but it’s not Christmas, it’s Thanksgiving…” blah, blah, blah, blah, Yes I know, I know, but when I saw this recipe on Pinterest, it had to be made, A-SAP.  I think the thing that caught my eye is the glaze on this mix, it shined so brightly.  I got the recipe from Simple Fare, Fairly Simple.  That’s what this sweet concoction was, fairly simple and too easy.  It was fun making it too, and when I say fun, I mean, eating and snacking on it as I made it.  So anyways, you wanna know the recipe?  Well, here ya go, I got pictures and everything!

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rice chex cereal, Golden Grahams, shredded coconut, slivered almonds

As far as my ingredients, I wasn’t fancy with it. I mean it’s all gonna taste good coated generously with high calorie sweetness.  I got the generic  brand of the rice cereal, didn’t get actual Chex, I DID get real Golden Grahams.  I bought a 14 oz. bag of SWEETENED coconut, I couldn’t find a 7 oz. bag, so I just used half of it.

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Mix all of that up.  Mix Well.

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THREE sticks butter, TWO cups sugar, TWO cups corn syrup…don’t make no sense SMH

Side Note:  Now, this recipe called for a candy thermometer *blank stare* Keep in mind, I made this crack the night before Thanksgiving and Walmart was the ONLY stop I was making, I didn’t have nobody’s time to be going all around the metroplex looking for this gadget.  When I tell y’all I spent a GOOD hour looking for this candy thermometer, I tell you no lie.  My feet were burning, I was still in my work heels, I was TIIIIIED (tired) and I was ready to go. Home.  After finally asking someone who looked like they actually wanted to exemplify great customer service, I found it, not 30 ft. from where I looked, over and over, driving myself crazy.

Now, in a saucepan, you’re going to cook the butter, sugar and corn syrup to the “soft ball” stage of 234 degrees.  I think I let my mixture heat to about 225, I got a little impatient and I was ready to mix everything up anyways.  Forgive me.

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Mix it up, Mix it up, Mix it up…MIX IT!

The smell coming from that bowl, my mouth watered instantly.  I honestly could’ve eaten it just like that.  With my big metal spoon and all.  Packing on holiday pounds. SMH.  So after mixing really well, making sure every piece of everything was coated, scoop that all onto two large cookie sheets.  I didn’t have any parchment paper, I didn’t want to dirty up the dishes, less to wash, so I lined the cookie sheets with foil

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you’ll want to lick the bowl, I promise…do what makes you happy

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Once it’s spread out on the cookie sheets, you’re pretty much done.  I let mine sit overnight, covered it.  To keep it from clumping too much, break it up and move it around a bit.  It’s a very sticky treat, but that’s what makes it so good! I understand why it’s called Crack, I could not stop eating it.  It’s DE-LISH.  I’m so serious too.  Just wait until you make it, you’ll completely understand.  This is a warning!

In case I haven’t mentioned it, I love brunch.  Breakfast and lunch.  The best of both Worlds.  You can do savory or sweet and definitely not feel weird about it, like, “Should I order this?”  Go all out.  Do it big!

I attended a birthday brunch at this restaurant called Taverna.  It’s located in the heart of Dallas, minutes from Downtown.  It’s kinda blended in with the other restaurants along that sidewalk, but you can’t miss it, as long as you know how to read, and you see the sign, Taverna.  They also have a valet booth that’s always there, very convenient, especially after you’ve circled the block a good two to three times.

This may sound corny, but when you walk in, the sound of the hustle and bustle of people and the staff, it gives you a comfortable feeling, like everyone is friends, like it’s one big restaurant and everyone is just enjoying themselves, having a good time, almost like everybody knows everybody.  That’s clearly not the case though, but you get the point.  They have outside seating, in this neat, aged stone hallway, like it leads to a secret room, open to the sky, shaded, cool, very different.

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The best thing about our Italian experience, our table was right in front of the open kitchen.  Everything that was prepared was fresh, hot and delicious.  Let me tell you about the way we started out Sunday brunch:  the Antipasto Emiliano.  A huge platter for a huge table.  Talk about of a beautiful presentation, and I hate that I didn’t get a picture.  A plate full of prosciutto, mortadella (Italian cold cut, one of my favorites), salame, mixed olives, which paired perfectly with everything, artichokes, which were crazy tender, parmesan chunks, bruschetta, bread was the perfect consistency, not too crunchy and hard on the outside, but perfectly toasted, yet soft center, tomatoes seasoned simply, and fresh mozzarella.  Did you envision that?  Did I paint a perfect picture? I hope so!

My Chop Salad was fresh and bright, savory, lots of texture, which is the best, love salads with a lot going on.  I added a couple of pieces of the mortadella to my salad, great idea.  Talk about bacon galore, crumbled up, all in and throughout.  Huge chunks of blue cheese and I’m a sucker for a vinaigrette, this was herb, it was light, yet full of flavor.  I was torn between ordering the salad and the Polenta & Eggs Al Forno, so on my next visit, breakfast it is.  No questions asked.

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I can say that I truly enjoyed myself at Taverna.  We had a great waiter, he kept the $2.00 bellinis and mimosas coming, glasses always filled to the rim, the birthday girl got a birthday tiramisu, that she shared with the table, and that was delish.  The location, perfect to eat and walk, bar hop, enjoy the day, wait a couple of hours, eat some more.  Oh, and by the way, if you happen to be in the Austin area, the location on W. 2nd St. has Happy Hour all night on Mondays and Sunday-Friday, 4pm-7pm.  Road trip anyone?!

 

 

 

You know when you were young and your parents used to always go to certain places that only grown ups went to for dinner?  It was like they would shun you away from he door if you brought your kids?  Well that’s how I used to feel about Houston’s when I was young.  It just seemed so exclusive, so “adult.”  Now of course they let kids in, but when your parents did bring you, you almost felt like you shouldn’t have been there.  Now that I’m grown, I know why, I see why.  Houston’s has that vibe, it has that feel.  You walk in, the light is very dim, the bar is packed, the waiters are clothed in all white, very professional and sharp, the menu is very classy.  I mean, Houston’s is a classic.  It’s been around for, I feel like, forever.  Whether the occasion is to just unwind, at the bar, by yourself, after a long day, or if it’s you and your girlfriends or date night, Houston’s is the best for all of that.

So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty, the reason why you’re here…how you can really get the Houston’s experience.  Their appetizers.  It’s the introduction to nothing but delectableness.  First, their Chicago-Style Spinach & Artichoke Dip.  I wanna say, it’s gotta be, or it goes unsaid, as being one of their signature items, most popular.  It’s something about this dip, that they do differently than everyone else.  It’s creamy, rich, the right amount of ingredients, not too much of this and not too much of that.  It’s served in a ramekin, topped with parmesan cheese and what really makes it, served with salsa, sour cream and warm tortilla chips.  That combination of the cool sour cream, with the hot dip and the zesty salsa.  Definitely right when I say, “often imitated, but never duplicated”, *cough* Cheddar’s!  I don’t see how people don’t finish this, ALL.

Now, to what I’ve fallen in love with, the MAIN attraction.  You’ve waited long enough…I’m so EXCITED!  I could definitely eat it now.  Like RIGHT NOW!  Scroll down, slooooowly…*tear forms in my left eye*

salmon

Is it not gorgeous?!  Let me introduce you to Houston’s House-Smoked Salmon.  This is probably one of the best pieces of salmon I’ve ever had.  Perfect.  It’s a thick, flaky, moist, tender, so simple piece of salmon, yet it makes such a huge impression!  When I do go to Houston’s, I honestly could get this every time, I do get it every time, I smile and I’m happy.  The delectable dish is served with the Chef’s dressing, the ingredients aren’t disclosed, but I’m guessing dill is incorporated in there, has a pickled taste as well.  Buttered, triangle toasts accompany the fish, but I don’t even need that.  It’s all superb together, goes perfectly, but that salmon, it’s a star on it’s own.  The flavor is phenomenal, I kid you not.  I thank my friend Gary for introducing me, because it was love at first bite.  Every bite after that, just gets better and better.  Salmon, oh Salmon.  You light up my life.

Any foodie, culinary expert, food blogger, chef should know that name in the title…whether it be a little or a lot, you should at least know the name, cause he is. SOMEBODY!  Stephan Pyles is that dude.  A well known chef and cookbook author, born in the great state of Texas, which there’s no surprise that he’s an expert, founding father of Southwestern cuisine, according to Wikipedia, which I do believe that fact is correct.

The New York Times called Pyles “an absolute genius in the kitchen.” The Dallas Morning News further stated, “If anyone can lead this town to its next level of culinary evolution, it’s Stephan Pyles.”

All of that above, those are the reasons why I had to visit his restaurant, located in Downtown Dallas, Stampede 66.  My parents raved about it over and over, I trust their taste buds lol…They led me in the right direction.  You walk into this place and you feel the comfort, the casual vibe, the down home, Texas feel.  The décor says it all as well.  Lots of wood everywhere, the huge bar has a modern saloon look, you got bullhorns hanging from the ceilings, accents of the country, farm life.

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Our table wasn’t ready quite yet when we arrived, so we didn’t mid sitting at the bar to wait.  Of course, ordering a drink was the next step.  Let me say, they served me one of the BEST margaritas I’ve EVER had!  No lie.  The Prickly Pear Margarita, which is what I keep calling it, but really, it’s their Modern Star Canyon Margarita.  The Margarita Cart, came to me, bar side, and started the show.  The server used the secret ingredient, liquid nitrogen and mixed it with Don Julio Blanco tequila, prickly pear fruit, Patron Citron, lime and candied jalapeno.  What was created was this beautiful, vibrant magenta, frozen cocktail, more like a pre-dinner dessert drink.  To finish it off, it was topped with sweet, whipped cream and spicy, candied jalapenos.  I loved that they served it with what I call, a spraw.  A utensil with a spook at the end, but the handle is straw that you can sip through as well.  Really cool, the whole presentation REALLY entertaining!

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When it comes to their food, it’s a twist to down home, country Southern cooking.  My parents kept telling me about this bread that they ordered when they went, Shiner Bock Beer Bread.  Listen. To. This.  It’s fresh, hot bread, served in a Shiner Bock Beer can.  I think it was pre-sliced for us, served with soft, creamy butter.  Every bite I took, I closed my eyes.  It was SO GOOD!  I wanted to order another one for the table, but that would’ve been too greedy.  I mean look at it, crusty, flaky, thick on the outside…soft, slightly sweet, thick, moist and hot on the inside. Believe you, me…order that bread when you go, it’s A-MA-ZING!

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