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Going for a “run”

25 Oct

I mentioned in my last post that I spent a few days last month traveling to Lincoln, Nebraska to celebrate the life of my great grandma Madge.  Those circumstances, obviously, do not make for a great trip, but somehow I feel like Madge would have appreciated the fact that my mom, grandma, two aunts and I made the best of this trip.  Although I did put my waterproof mascara to the ultimate test, went through an entire box of Kleenex, and spent the whole weekend with a head full of snot, I can say that there were memories made on that trip that I will not soon forget: getting lost in the middle of Kansas because our whole car was focused on Words With Friends, discussing the deliciousness of corn nuts and rum (?!) with a gas station attendant in Northern Oklahoma, and many long conversations about who did and did not go to lake Wabaunzee to name a few.  One memory that Mom and I just couldn’t shake was arriving in Lincoln at 9:30 – when the Runza Restaurant closes at 9.

Obviously this was an extreme disappointment and we couldn’t conceivably remove the thought from our heads.  Luckily, this weekend offered plenty of time for some prime Runza making (I mean, we practically HAD to spend a long weekend with my parents, Ross was interviewing in Dallas anyway!).

If you lack Nebraskan relatives, you may be wondering what a Runza is – the answer is this: it’s a roll baked with meat inside.  As in, instant sandwich.  Here’s the recipe we used. They were absolutely delicious – so much so that I ate them for lunch on Sunday and wasn’t hungry until lunch today!

Of course, Runza wasn’t the only thing that came out of the trip – I also had plenty of car time to knit up this scarf:

I had some beautiful hand-painted Misti sock yarn, which was so soft and had such pretty colors!  I did a drop-stitch pattern (it’s in Vogue Stitchionary  vol. 1).

Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Volume One: Knit & Purl: The Ultimate Stitch Dictionary from the Editors of Vogue Knitting Magazine (Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Series)

(By the way, I love this resource – if you’re a beginnerish knitter and want to learn everything you can do with knit and purl, you definitely need it.)

I’ve done it before – it’s one of my favorite scarf patterns as you can go as wide or thin as you want, it’s reversible, and it knits up fairly quick.  I can’t wait to bind off and wear it!

 

Also, can’t forget to mention that when I came home, my magnificent students left these little gems on my desk:

In case you were wondering?  I have the BEST students in the world this year.  Even if today they pretended that they’d never heard of this “Declaration of Independence” they were supposed to read while I was gone….

 

The Runza Recipe!

Dough:

2 pkg. Active dry Yeast
2 cups warm milk
1/2-cup sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 eggs – beaten
1/2 cup shortening, margarine or butter
7 to 8 cups all-purpose flour

Put yeast and milk in a bowl.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Add sugar, salt, eggs and softened butter.
Mix. Gradually add flour while mixing.  Add flour until dough pulls together into a ball.  Knead for 4
or 5 minutes or until dough is smooth.  (This really works best with a free-standing mixer with a
dough hook)

Put in a greased bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise until double.

Punch down and let it rise again.

Remove dough from bowl and divide into thirds.  On a floured surface, roll one portion of the
dough to 1/4” thickness.  Cut into 5″or 6” squares.  (Reserve dough you cut off to reroll.)

Give each square an extra roll with the rolling pin before filling.

Filling:

2 lbs ground beef
1 head of cabbage – finely shredded
Lots of salt and pepper

Brown ground beef.  Add shredded cabbage and cook over medium heat until cabbage is
softened.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  It takes a lot!

Start this about halfway through the second rise of the dough.  Set aside until dough is ready.

Making Runzas:

Put a large mound of filling on the center of each dough square.  Pull opposite corners of the
dough together and pinch to hold.  Pull the opposite two corners together and use your fingers
to pinch all edges together to seal in filling.  Turn Runza over and put on a cookie sheet lined with
parchment paper (helps to keep any leakage from staining your cookie sheet)

Space Runzas about 1 inch apart. When cookie sheet is full put a towel over it and let it rise for
about 15 minutes.

Bake Runzas in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes – until they are a deep brown.

Remove from oven and rub butter on the top of each Runza.

 

 

 

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This old porch is just a steamin’ greasy plate of Enchiladas…

7 Sep

I love enchiladas.  Sometimes people say they love something, but their love is conditional.  They may say they love pasta, or cookies, or lasagna, or meatloaf, but only their mom’s, or from a specific restaurant, or a specific type, and certainly not every day.  My love for enchiladas is boundless – I could literally eat enchiladas every day of my life and I’ve never encountered a filled tortilla with cheese on top that I didn’t like.

With that in mind, I wanted to share a duo of ‘chilada excellence.  See, my whole life I’ve been eating my mom’s enchiladas, which are the ultimate in comfort food.  They are cheesy, delicious, and even better eaten as leftovers.  It was only when I moved away from home (at age 22…) that I realized they are also easy to make and hard to screw up.  Here’s how!

Mom’s Enchiladas

1 Can Golden mushroom soup

1 Can Cheddar cheese soup

1 can chicken broth

1 can Rotel

Dump the contents of the four cans into a saucepan over med-low heat (you just want everything to melt together), stir until smooth and hot.

1 bag corn tortillas

1 large brick of cheddar cheese (I like the Tillamook baby loaf), grated

1 box fresh mushrooms

1 can black olives

Chop the olives and mushrooms and microwave together until soft.  Heat the tortillas in the oven (I put them in stacks of 4 with a little olive oil between each for 5 minutes on like 250°.

Set up shop – it works easier with 2-3 people.  One person needs to dip each tortilla in the sauce and the other needs to stuff them with a bit of the olive/mushroom mixture and cheese, roll it up and put it seam-side down in a 9×13 pan.  This process gets quite messy – and sometimes your tortillas will split.  This totally doesn’t matter.  It can literally look like total crap and still be good.  When you finish, pour the rest of the sauce on top and top with a generous amount of cheese.  Bake at 350° for 25 minutes.

Delicious!  I like them with Spanish rice and my secret bean recipe (1 can black beans, 1 can rotel).

Bliss!

Now, I thought I had reached enchilada nirvana, so when Ross suggested we try a meatier version, I was way skeptical.  It’s not that I’m opposed to eating meat, I just tend to not really care for it.  Its was tough though, because that Pioneer Woman has never lead me astray…

So we tried them.  While I can’t say with any integrity that they are BETTER than the classics, I can say that they are equally delicious.  So much so that if you were to have a party, you ought to serve both.

As always, PW takes much better photos of her step-by-step than I do, so I’ll just hook you up with a link.  Note that this is one of the recipes in her cookbook, which I do love.

DELICIOUS ENCHILADAS!!

My only change was using grass-fed beef instead of store bought.  This is pretty easy to do when your parents purchase a cow and share a few of the 400 + pounds of delicious beef with you.  His name was Rusty, and I like to think he would have approved of these enchiladas.

I tried to take a picture, but by the time I remembered, and didn’t have cheese all over my fingers, this happened:

I think it kind of speaks for itself.

A cookie without sugar – is a cracker.

17 Jul

I’ve never fancied myself an excellent baker of cookies.  I can produce adequate, edible cookies, but I rarely bake them and nearly always prefer to bake pies and cupcakes.  When Ross requested chocolate chip cookies tonight, I figured I could make some generic cookies and be fine – after all, the man did only recently discover that one could MAKE dough and thus produce cookies with only pantry staples (have I mentioned he’s an aspiring surgeon??).

Unfortunately (at the time), I had bought fancy chocolate chips on a recommendation from America’s Test Kitchens weeks ago and neglected to remember that the only chocolate chip cookies that I’ve ever made have been from the recipe on the bag of tollhouse chocolate chips.  Admittedly I froze for a minute – but then remembered that I am a competent adult with a library of cookbooks and there was bound to be a recipe available to follow (FYI: In recipes I tend to use the word “follow” loosely.  This drives my aforementioned husband, the aspiring surgeon, biochemistry major, absolutely bonkers).  I had to look no further than the ATK baking book to find a simple enough recipe and thirty minutes later the cookies emerged.  Now, while Ross has always applauded my baking, special attention was paid to these cookies – we both agreed that they may have been the most delicious chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made!  Ross even stated that I could likely quit my day job and only make these cookies (he may or may not be biased).  Also, instead of making a paltry 24 as the recipe indicated, I came out with 41 cookies, which may be dangerous in the upcoming weekend.

Here’s the basic recipe (From America’s Test Kitchens Baking Book):

2 Cups and 2 Tbsp. Flour

1 Tsp. salt

1 Tsp. baking soda

1.5 sticks of butter (I used unsalted)

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp Vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325.  Sift flour, salt, and soda together.  Melt the butter and mix with both sugars until smooth (1-2 minutes).  Add both eggs and vanilla and beat until incorporated.  Add in flour mixture slowly.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Roll into balls and bake 15-20 minutes (15 was perfect for me).

I made a few alterations, beginning with the chocolate chips.  See, I’m not a huge chocolate eater, but I know what’s good, and the higher the percentage of cacao, the better.  When I spied these bad boys at the grocery store, I knew something had to be up!  Basically, ghirardelli makes chocolate chips that are 60% cacao, and they are bittersweet rather than semi-sweet, which means less sugar and a richer chocolate flavor.  Incidentally, it also means that we ate about half of the bag before even adding them to the dough.  They are a peculiar shape, but don’t let that turn you off – they are excellent!

Sorry for the fuzzy picture, but note the odd, oversized disc shape of these puppies – weird!

I also used dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar because I bought some awesome dark brown sugar at HEB that pretty much tastes like heaven and I even put it in things that don’t call for brown sugar, so, of course I put it in these cookies.  My only other major adjustment was adding 1/4 of ground flaxseed in place of the 2 T of flour.  I pretty much add flax to all baked goods – it adds no discernible taste and is far healthier than white flour.  Plus, then you can peddle your baked goods as healthy even when, after eating more than five, they most certainly are not.

The French are glad to die for love

14 Jul

Due to my extensive study of the French Revolution (thank you, Academic Decathlon), when I think of July 14th, I think of Bastille Day.  Although I could wax poetic about the Third Estate, the Tennis Court Oath, etc. I’d rather focus on my personal interpretation of La Fete Nationale.   Basically, when I think of the French I think of love and kisses (though my studies of the Revolution would prove that the French are indeed fighters, not lovers) and with that in mind, I will share with you some current loves in my life.  I’ve chosen seven – I tried to think of a number that went with the revolution, but I had more than 3 (for the Third Estate), less than 14, and way less than 221 (how many years it’s been – I think.  Me = not good at basic math), but seven seemed appropriate as it is the SEVENTH month of the year and I’m about to go to Las Vegas, which has a Paris hotel, and there 7s are lucky?  Admittedly, it’s a reach, but I really love these things and there happened to be seven of them.

#1:LUSHSugar Scrub

I’m a long-time Lushlover, much to the chagrin of the men in my family who visit and always must ask which of the “cheeses” in my shower is for your hair and which are not.  Unfortunately I can’t really shop online as most of their products melt on their way from whatever iceberg they are created on to the sauna in which I live, so I only visit Lush when I visit the Galleria, which isn’t often.  (As a sidenote: when I moved to Houston, I thought I’d practically be living at the Galleria.  As it turns out, having a gigantic mall five minutes from your home does not make online shopping any less appealing.)  Fortunately, Julia visited me for our annual summer shopping trip wherein we managed to hit up Lush, and we sure were glad we did!

After buying more product than I’ll ever need, I have totally fallen in love with their new SUGAR SCRUBS! Basically, you break off a good chunk, mix it with a little body wash (I like Yummy, Yummy) and go to town.  After using it my skin literally feels like I’m six months old.

#2: You’re Cut Off!

Know that since I watch classic television shows such as Toddlers & Tiaras, SOAPNet, and any show involving a Kardashian, my recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt.

That said, you really should watch You’re Cut Off!  Basically, girls living off of trust funds are suddenly cut off and forced to live in a house together and attend group therapy sessions.  They also must complete “challenges” such as grocery shopping, bed making, and outlet malling.  They are horrible people and watching them makes you feel like a better person.  It’s on VHI and I’m sure it has a prime-time spot, but I’m a teacher off for the summer, so I watch it on Mondays at like, 11a.m.

#3: Groupons

Look, I can save so much money I’m broke, but if you live in or near any major city, sign up for Groupons. Basically, local businesses offer up deep discounts to get new clients.  You buy a discounted gift card and use it (they hope you like your experience and return).  Most importantly, they don’t suck.  I bought $60 worth of the best pizza in Houston (Candelari’s) for $30, holla.  The e-mails are fine, but the iPhone app is truly where it’s at.

#4: Texas Martinis

This isn’t new, but seriously BEST. DRINK. EVER.  I had one tonight!  Get your bad self to Chuy’s and have one, STAT!

#5: Yoga Meltdown

Jillian Michaels: Yoga Meltdown [DVD]

I don’t really LOVE Jillian Michaels’ newest form of torture, but the 30-minute yoga meltdown is reminiscent of Steve Ross’ Inhale, which I no longer get because for some reason DirecTV does not provide me with the Oxygen channel.  It’s 2 levels, quite challenging, but not impossible.  She’s also not quite as annoying in this DVD, which I find appealing.  Overall, it’s not like, REAL yoga, but a good workout and there aren’t any of those darn burpees involved.

#6: The Man Who Ate The World by Jay Rayner

The Man Who Ate the World: In Search of the Perfect Dinner

Let’s face it – when it comes to Top Chef Masters Judges, he’s head and shoulders above Gael Greene and James Oseland.  As someone who has read nearly every offering of the “Food Writing” pittance at Barnes & Noble, I can say that this is one of the highlights.  Because he’s a food critic and not a chef, the writing is more objective (read: he likes to diss people fairly harshly).  It’s hilarious, thoughtful, and will make you quite hungry.

#7: Smashbox Lipgloss

Lip Enhancing Gloss

I hoard lipgloss, so finding a product I didn’t have at Sephora was a truly exhilarating experience!  Julia gave me a lovely sampler of these glosses for my birthday last year and I absolutely used every drop of each gloss (and there were 6 of them!).  The colors are lovely, it isn’t sticky, and the color lasts for a long time.  I daresay they are better than the Mac Lipglass (gasp!).  My favorite is Radiant: Radiant.

Enjoy, and happy bastille day!