Saturday, October 24

Mexican Hot Chocolate

I unveiled this new (to me) drink at today's book club, and it was a huge hit. We met at my house, and since it's October and our book was originally written in Spanish, I decided to go with a Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead) theme. It's a Central American/Mexican tradition that, unlike Halloween, isn't all about the creepy and the gouls and the ghosts. It's about celebrating the lives of your loved ones who have passed away.

There are several traditional foods that are served on Dia del los Muertos, and I'll be posting the ones I made in the next few days. The first one I'm posting is because of popular demand. Seriously, everyone who was here today wanted the recipe, so ... Sonia, Melanie, Elli, Lisa, and Esther, this is for y'all!!

Mexican Hot Chocolate

2 c boiling water
1 chile pepper, stem and seeds removed (or 1 t cayenne pepper)
4 c milk
1 c cream*
1 vanilla bean, split**
1-2 cinnamon sticks, halved
8 oz bittersweet chocolate***
2 T sugar
whipped cream****

In a small saucepan, add chile or pepper to water and reduce to a quick simmer. Reduce to 1 cup of liquid and strain and discard the solids, reserving the liquid.

Over low heat in a larger saucepan, combine the milk and cream, vanilla bean, and cinnamon sticks, stirring frequently for 20 minutes. DO NOT BOIL!! Add the chocolate and cinnamon, stirring with a whisk until the chocolate has completely melted. Remove the cinnamon and vanilla and turn off the heat. Add the chile-infused water little by little, according to taste.

Serve immediately (this drink separates and settles very quickly) with whipped cream on top. Enjoy!

*I use 5 cups of 2% milk. I mean, seriously, it's already a pretty rich drink without the cream.
**If you cheat like me and use a high-quality liquid vanilla (mine comes in a wine bottle-sized bottle from Mexico), don't add it until you stir in the chile water. Vanilla becomes bitter if you leave it in the heat for too long.
***I found a dark chocolate that was in between semi-sweet and bitter sweet. I think it had 64% cocoa? Anyway, it tasted great, and I didn't have to add any of the sugar. And let's talk chocolate for a minute. If you buy a cheapo chocolate, your drink will taste like it has a cheapo chocolate in it. For a recipe like this, splurge, and buy the good stuff. You'll thank me, I promise.
****Don't make me come over there and slap you because you decided to use nasty-ass faux horrid whipped cream from a can, or even worse, Cool Whip. I will come after you and show you the error of your ways. You don't want that. Make the real stuff.


Thursday, October 22

conversations with John

Random conversation that took place yesterday morning when I got off the phone with a friend of mine ...

Brea: Hey, when my fabulous and beautiful friend Liz gets a high-paying job in New York, can I go visit her and her husband Alex if she buys me a plane ticket? In like a year?

John: Hey, how come I'm never invited on these imaginary and/or hypothetical trips? Maybe I'd like to get a break from the kids and everything, too. Did you ever think of that?

B: No, actually. I didn't. You've never said one kind thing about New York, and you always make that scoffing noise when I bring up most places I'd one day like to visit.

J: Well, I'd at least like to be considered in your plans.

B: I do consider you when making imaginary plans. Someone has to stay with the kids.

J: You just thought to yourself that you consider me the babysitter, didn't you?

B: NO! I did not use the word babysitter in my head.

J: You're lying. But I don't care. And since when is Liz considering a job in New York?

B: Well, I don't think she actually is. It's been a bunch of talk so far. Then she calls me, and we make imaginary plans. Hey! Did I mention that she and another friend and I are going to Italy to celebrate our 35th birthdays? In like 2017?

J: Again I'm not invited?

B: On the Italy trip? Definitely not. It's a girls weekend.

J: How long of a girls weekend?

B: Um ... a two-week long one?

J: And I'm staying with the kids?

B: Uh huh. But tell you what. If Liz gets a high-paying job in New York and decide to spring for plane tickets for you and me, and I can get our moms to watch the kids, would you want to come with me to visit Liz and Alex?

J: I don't know. I don't think I could just let someone else buy me a plane ticket.


B: It's cool, it's imaginary plans anyway. But your ass still isn't coming to Italy in 8 years, so deal with that now.

Tuesday, October 20

Monday Meal Plan

(Yeah, I know it's Tuesday. So sue me.)

Tuesday: John is off. Yay! Leftovers for lunch, and stir-fry for supper.

Wednesday: John opens. Chicken sandwiches for lunch, pot roast for supper.

Thursday: John is off. Roast beef sandwiches for lunch, spaghetti for supper.

Friday: John closes, and we'll be doing massive getting-ready for book club on Saturday. Pizza for lunch, leftovers for supper, plus fun stuff from the market.

Saturday: John closes. Dia de los Muertos meal for lunch book club, and enchiladas with rice for supper.

Sunday: John closes. Leftovers for lunch, and sandwiches for supper.

Kind of boring week until Saturday. I'm ok with that. :) What are you eating this week? Got a good recipe to share with me? I'm always on the look out for new things!

Friday, October 16

my sad story

about my mouth. Remember I thought I was working on a sinus infection? Notsomuch. I had a tooth that had gone over to the Dark Side, and very long story short, I had one of my wisdom teeth pulled on Wednesday. Starting Sunday evening, I was pretty much curled up on the couch/in bed with pain. It sucked.

By the way ... having a tooth pulled? While you're pregnant and don't have access to the really fun pain meds?

Not cool.

At least they revised the whole you can only take Tylenol when we're done decision.

Probably because I looked like I was going to stab someone if they stuck with that for too long.

So that's where I've been. I've got some food musings coming tomorrow, and John is starting a three day weekend (over a real weekend. What the hell?) tomorrow. Hopefully, we'll get out to Cameron and buy some new chicks. We'll see.

And my garden started coming up today. Lots of teeny-tiny little fuzzy green things. Woohoo!

Tuesday, October 13

The Simple Woman's Daybook

Outside my window... it's foggy and muggy, and I still can't get over how GREEN everything is right now.

I am thinking... that I have limited garden space, and how I can best use it.

I am thankful for... an amazing husband who comes home from working an 11-hour-day and immediately sends me to bed because of my tooth, and takes care of everything for the rest of the evening. Seriously, that man is awesome.

I am wearing... my favorite Petrol jeans and a dirty t-shirt (I've been tilling, and I'm taking a break before I head back out with the kids to start planting).

I am remembering... life before children as I watch them finish their school for the day. (It wasn't that great, for the record!)

I am going... to finish my winter garden before lunch, and run up to the Book Basket this afternoon to order World War Z. And maybe get a (decaf, of course) Pumpkin Spice Latte.

I am reading... Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Again. You need to read this, people!

I am hoping... to not be a whining baby for the rest of the week, because the dentist can't see me until Monday, and I can't really take any medicine other than the occasional Tylenol.

I am creating... a person. In my belly.

On my mind... I wish I lived closer to Sarah (or she lived closer to me), I am blessed with awesome friends and family, and God is so very, very good to me.

From the learning rooms... today, it's gardening! What is a winter vegetable here in Texas? Why do we try to grow lots of our own food? Why do we plant more than we can eat? (Because it's not worth having things if you can't share them!)

Noticing that... the more simple I make my life, the happier I tend to be.

Pondering these words..."Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." Faith isn't always easy as an adult. Sometimes, I do wish I could be more like my kids.

From the kitchen... leftover potato soup from yesterday, making bread this afternoon, and smoothies for our morning snack.

Around the house... finishing the laundry, unpacking the bags from last week (I haven't had the energy to get to them yet!), and trying to make some sense of the upstairs.

One of my favorite things... feeling content. Right now, I'm there. :)

Monday, October 12

Potato Soup

Potato Soup
by Brea Stewart

This very basic potato soup is a favorite around our house, because you can dress it up in so many ways, and it's CHEAP!! It's simple to make, and if you're just making it for 2, then halve the recipe and enjoy leftovers for lunch the next day.

1 large baked Russet potato
2 large raw Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small white or yellow onion, cubed
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup cream (or half and half, or whole milk)
1 T fresh thyme (or 3/4 t dried thyme)
salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor or blender, pulse raw potato chunks until finely minced. Repeat with the onion. Add both to the chicken broth, with 1t each salt and pepper and the thyme, in a large stockpot. Cook just below a simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours, stirring frequently. Slowly stir in cream, and add chunks of baked potato (leave the skin on for a more rustic taste). Test the taste and add salt or pepper as needed. Cook for 10 more minutes, ladle into deep bowls, and garnish as desired and serve immediately.

*cheddar cheese, fresh bacon bits, sour cream, chives, diced broccoli, diced peppers, shredded chicken, or anything else that sounds good!

**For an interesting twist, puree 1 cup roasted red peppers with 3 T roasted garlic and add about halfway through the cooking process. Mmmmmm ...

***Amazing and hearty on a cold day. Goes great with a side of salad and/or some toasted french bread.

some random ramblings

I just finished my book club book for this month, Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It was amazing; I loved it and thought it was a perfect October book. Written in 2002 (maybe?) and translated into English in the last few years, it's set in Barcelona in the 1950's. A ten-year-old named Daniel discovers a book by the author Julian Carax. When he sets out to find other works by the author, he discovers that someone is destroying every copy of Julian Carax's work to be found. Daniel decides to learn more about the author's life, and the story he learns is very sad and at times very dangerous. Seriously, you can get it on amazon for under $3.00. What have you got to lose?

The kids and I just spent almost a week in Katy with my family. It was a ton of fun, and I got to take the kids to the Rice Harvest Festival. I haven't been in at least ten years, and I loved going back! Ran into several people I know, and got to hang out with some old friends afterward at my mom's house. I'll be posting pics on Facebook later today.

I think I have a sinus infection. I've spent about 1/4 of my time the last new days praying for death.

John and I have become completely and irrevocably obsessed with Dexter. It's amazing. And fortunately, blood doesn't bother me, so I can tell John what happened after a particularly gruesome scene.

I'm making my awesome potato soup today. It's wonderful. Even the crazy people I know who are flirting with the idea of being vegetarians like Sarah, can make this. You just can't add bacon. I'll post the recipe later when I dig it out of whatever hole in which it's chosen to hide.

I believe life is not worth living without bacon.

Just ordered a new recipe card organizer to try and start wrangling the chaos that is My Kitchen. I can't wait for it to get here!!

I had to have the radiator replaced on my POS truck while we were in Katy. Long story. At one point, I ran out of bad words and had to start making up new ones. Not kidding. So I now have $482 fewer dollars ... but a truck that runs. Tell me again why I like the damn thing so much?

We got to hear the baby's heartbeat last week. It was awesome. I've gained 4 pounds in 16 weeks, and all looks well so far. Woohoo!!


Thursday, October 1

it's a very sad birthday

But a happy one, too. My sweet little brother, the youngest one, the baby of the family, turns eighteen today.

And also, he's not little anymore. He's, like, 8' 13" or something. (Not really, but he's crazy tall.) He's towered over all 5' 2" of me for years. He drives a car now. Sometimes, he talks about girls (EEEEEEEEWWWWWWWW!!). Is a senior in high school. Went to Europe last summer. Tells me about books he's read.

None of these things are supposed to happen, because he's my little baby brother. So, to sum it up, I'm not ok with him turning eighteen today. He's a freakin' grown-up.

How is he celebrating? He and a bunch of friends are skipping school ... and going to MFAH, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Which is, admittedly, a pretty cool thing to do. I kinda used to do it all the time when I was in school ... but that's a whole 'nother post.

Back to my brother. I love him to death. We're really, really close. Last night on the way home from book club, he made me laugh so hard that I couldn't breathe and had tears streaming down my face.

So happy birthday to my ginormous little brother. And no, this does NOT mean that I'm acknowledging that he could take me down. I will continue to tell him on a regular basis to watch his back, lest I decided to come and kick his ass just to take him down a notch or seven.

Cause that's what good big sisters do, right?