Thursday, May 27, 2010

26 days to closing!

Lots can happen in 3 1/2 days -

A few things to notice here: 1. See that pile? That's one of several piles of sod for my lawn! Soon I will have grass! 2. See the tree on the left? That is the first of 2 or 3 I will get in the front yard. 3. See that light to the right of the door? A "coach light" is the official term, and that was an upgrade! They really can nickel and dime you for these "extras" that seem like they should be included... but whatevah!

See my FENCE?? That's right, stay off my property! One of the perks of being on the lake is that I get a pretty wrought iron fence. The downside is that it doesn't offer much privacy. Ah, and another shot of that tree!
Here's the master bedroom - notice the light fixture that is emitting light! We have electricity!
This is the living room in the foreground and the breakfast room in the far off area. The tile is done, but the carpet is not in yet.
Master bath! Double vanity - yay!! I don't share well.
Guest bath
Shower/tub and toilet in the guest bath - sadly there is no handle (or lid) on the toilet so I'm guessing it's not workable yet ;)
This backsplash was a very inexpensive minor upgrade from the large tile squares - my friend Sarah who recently built a Perry home gave me this hint, and she has great taste! I'm so happy with how the granite, cabinets, and tile look together. My microwave and stove will go in the slots here.
A better view of the kitchen! Can't wait to get in there!

Love, B

sorry, no recipe updates... but my recent eating adventures nonetheless

I've hardly been cooking! I haven't had it together enough to identify recipes, make it to the store with a list, and find a time to actually cook. Plus my apartment is currently so overwhelmed with stuff - all the contents of the office I moved out of in November, house stuff, wedding stuff, now boxes... its a mess. I did make turkey burgers Sunday night that were nothing to sneeze at, but also really nothing to brag about.

Monday night - I had my usual Vietnamese Chicken Salad Rolls from Pei Wei. They are so yummy! I regularly pick them up after step class to take with me to Girls' Bible Study on Monday nights. Pei Wei (pronounced "pay way" although R pronounces it "pee wee" to be difficult) is really good, but no one loves it as much as Richard. He would eat there every day if I didn't need a little more variety.

Tuesday night - I had yummy (ground) turkey enchiladas at Audra's (boyfriend's) house for Book Club. She gives credit to "The Pioneer Woman". I should post here a bit more about book club. My good friend Eva had been talking for a while about starting a book club with some girls she knows. I like to read, and I like Eva so I was agreeable. We started meeting last June and it has been so much fun! Gives me a reason to read at least one book every month - which I enjoy so much, but for whatever reason find lots of reasons not to - and enjoy the company of ladies I wouldn't know otherwise. Plus there is usually wine involved! This month we read a book called The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. The storyline was very compelling, plus there were no chapter breaks, so I read through the 256 pages in less than 2 days. The basic premise of the story is about an odd teenage girl who gets committed to a psychiatric hospital for 61 years. If you're a reader, pick it up... and better yet, join our book club! Next month we're reading Firefly Lane by Kristen Hannah... sounds like a winner to me! Will let you know how it goes...

Wednesday night - Richard and I took our engagement pictures! Due to the "golden hours of photography" we met the photographer, Melissa, at 6:15 in the Heights. We took a bunch of pictures, hopefully some came out that I will be happy with! Mr. Photogenic loves having his picture taken and had a lot of fun. After a couple hours of playing model, we were STARVING! We debated where to go and finally decided to try Genghis Grill at Bunker Hill and I-10, this Mongolian stirfry place. Sounded interesting. Big fat mistake. We got there, and first of all, being hungry makes me CRANKY, and it was really loud. But we were there, and hungry so weren't going to leave. The hostess eventually sat us at a table and told us our waitress would be there to explain how it worked since we had never been there. Eventually the waitress showed up and took our drink orders and then scooted off without giving us any explanation for the little silver bowls we were sitting there staring at. We continued to sit there, assuming she'd be back with our drinks and tell us the procedure. We sat there for what felt like 30 minutes, but was probably more like 10, no sign of the waitress in sight, just watching 4 idiotic 18 year olds who worked there being obnoxious and noisy at the hostess table, probably 30 feet from where we were sitting. Finally the waitress reappeared - bussing a table a few feet away. She made eye contact with us and the realization that she had forgotten our drinks came over her. I managed to ask her before she ran away again what we needed to do to get food. She very sweetly, to her credit, walked us over to the line and told us how to pick out what we wanted and what to do. We did this and when we got to the point where we dropped off our food to be cooked, the guy asked me "what kind do you want?" I was like "Huh?" He said "It's on the wall" and pointed to a list - you get to choose white rice, fried rice, brown rice, noodles, tortillas, or something else. I took it to be rude and defensively said "I didn't know! I was just asking!" for which R reprimanded me, saying he wasn't being rude and its never smart to piss off the person responsible for cooking your food. Truth. So we went back to sit down. Still no drinks. A couple minutes later, she came down and handed R his beer. (What's up with servers showing so much favoritism when you BUY a drink versus when you order water?) I was practically in tears that she didn't bring my water. She did come back, a few more minutes later, with my water and I couldn't even look her in the eye, I was so irritated and at the same time embarassed for being so mad about the horrible service. Thankfully, it didn't take long for our food to come out and I ignored any ideas of food contamination and it was actually good. However, not worth the price (9.99 for a bowl) in my opinion. Especially for the lousy service. Sometimes being in a customer service driven industry makes me more sensitive to the people doing the work and sometimes it just makes me extra mad because I have the expectation that people should try to make the customer happy!

Tonight - I had dinner with my work buddy Cristina at Cyclone Anaya's... it was a margarita kind of day, and Cyclone Anaya's does not disappoint in this respect. My chicken soft tacos were decent, too. They were served more like enchiladas, which was a little weird, but still tasty. They are horrible, however, with large groups of people! Seems like as soon as they realize they're going to get their obligatory 18% gratuity for a group over 6, they don't care at all if you have your food or drinks. Plus, they won't split checks at all, so imagine the chaos of 18 people after multiple drinks trying to figure out the tab. Why are people so cheap about this? I have never had a problem remembering how many drinks I've had and giving the proper amount of money, but other people who make more than me with multiple college degrees are at times quick to forget... grr! So it's no longer a happy hour spot for the VW crew, but it served well for our party of 2!

Yeah, so this is a random post about my eating habits... maybe its just a confession because I feel guilty for eating out so much this week. Or maybe I'm just obsessed with food... considering my profession and love of the Food Network. I do always think what people eat is interesting, but not as much as my friend C who is very quick to quiz you on what you, your mom, dad, and brother had at a meal... and then can recall it weeks later! Great party trick ;)

Love, B

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Guess who has a closing date!

That would be me!! My fearless saleswoman Santosh called me yesterday to let me know my house would be ready for the walk through on June 18th! That's a Friday, so we scheduled to close on Tuesday June 22nd. The end is in sight! We went after work to check out the progress over the last few days.
Driveway and sidewalk! According to Santosh, it was poured yesterday 5/18
Front entrance - tile waiting for grout. Still need baseboards, too.
Kitchen... should be getting the granite any day now!
The breakfast nook - The tile is done, I think, because it was apparently wet - maybe they had washed it off??

Can you tell that I'm excited? Hope your week has been equally exciting!

Love, B

Monday, May 17, 2010

Weekend Adventure and House/Wedding Update!

Just to prove that we do not live up to our team name "High Maintenance" I will share these awful pictures!

About a month ago, friends from work invited R and I to join their marathon relay team. At first all I heard was "marathon" and I thought "NO WAY!" Sadly, after completing 26.2 miles only 4 months ago, I have not maintained that level of fitness and 3 miles may or may not be tough to complete at times, especially in this lovely hot, humid weather. Then I heard the "relay" part and that the team consists of 6 people - which averages each leg of the relay to be only about 4.4 miles. Much more manageable. So we decided to start training... then we got engaged and wedding planning took over my life, so I didn't do quite as much as I would have liked.
Nonetheless, we headed to Corpus Christi on Friday for their 35th annual Beach to Bay Relay Marathon which is held on Armed Forces Day each year. The rest of the group planned to leave at 1pm, but I had to work so we were going to try to leave at 3... of course I ended up being stuck with work until about 4pm. Once I got home, I hadn't packed, hadn't eaten lunch... so we didn't end up leaving until about 4:45pm. I was not looking forward to Friday afternoon traffic on southbound 59, but that ended up being minor compared to the deluge that we encountered. Who knew a 60% chance of thunderstorms meant a tropical storm class rain was on the way?!?! Richard, ever mindful of my safety, decided to stop at the Target in Rosenberg to kill a little time and buy some supplies (read: junk food) in hopes that the rain would let up. It seemed a little better, so we got back on the road. Didn't take long to realize that R was putting his precious cargo in danger, so he suggested stopping at my parents' for a bit since it was only a couple exits south. Mom and Dad happily hosted us for about 45 minutes before we set out again for our destination. The rain was better, but pretty steady for the majority of the rest of the trip.
We arrived about 10:45 that night, exhausted, but assuming that was the end of the rain. Everyone got up the next morning and it was overcast but no rain. R and I were legs 5 and 6 respectively so we didn't have to be at our start points until after the others. We left around 8am and it was super windy. Leg #1 was already completed and our teammate had a good time, so we were looking forward to getting to our parts. Again, still didn't realize what was coming. Started raining on our drive but kept hoping it would get better. He dropped me off to stand with the other several hundred people waiting for the shuttle to our start. So I stood there for oh, 15 minutes in the POURING DOWN rain, which I thought was bad... until we got picked up and dropped off to wait for over an hour in the POURING DOWN rain, no shelter, for my teammate to pass off the baton to me. We had all brought our phones so we could communicate with each other so I stood with the other fools running my leg and texted Richard, hunched over trying to keep my phone dry and warm myself up, keep some rain off (impossible). I was trying to come up with an escape plan while simultaneously praying that someone would cancel the run since it was lightning all around us. Had 5 other people not been depending on me to do my part, I would have hightailed it out of there. A little girl behind me was crying, begging her mom not to make her do it. I felt like crying, too!
Anyway, the rain finally let up right before Lisa handed off to me. It misted/rained lightly for my entire 4 miles, but I kept a good, consistent pace with the promise of shelter and seeing R ahead of me! We finally met up with the team and I realized it could have been worse - I didn't have to run in the intense wind or when it was pouring (would have busted my butt) like some of the others. All in all, it was a success (our team's time was much better than I expected!) and we definitely made some memories. And I learned that I CAN be tough when it comes down to it :)
Now we have to find our next event to train for!

In other news, the house is progressing very nicely!! Still hoping to close mid-late June - only about a month away!

The kitchen! This was Friday, before it was stained.
Mid-staining Sunday afternoon... also, there is paint on the walls and trim around the doors!
Up close view of the stone I almost didn't get to have! (Sunday)
This was Friday - the brick is done!
The stone and brick are done! Pretty much all the exterior to the house was done before the horrible weather hit Friday evening/Saturday morning. I am thankful that God withheld the rain until my house was prepared to take it! I'm sure the rest of the homeowners in the area aren't quite as happy about it.

Finally, for wedding news, we have set a date - November 6th! As of today, we have 5 months and 20 days to go - not that we're counting! The ceremony will be at Calvary Baptist in Rosenberg and the reception is going to be at the Golf Club at Cinco Ranch. We went to a Marriage Prep seminar at Second Baptist with good friends Debi and Jeff last weekend to hopefully help us start off on a good foot. I have signed a contract with a photographer so now the biggies left on my list are bridesmaid dresses/groomsmen tuxes/suits, flowers, cakes, and deejay. If you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments!

Love, B

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fish Tacos a la HEB and Cilantro Lime Rice with homeade tortilla chips and guac

Most people hate grocery shopping, but I actually look forward to going to the wonderful HEB Market at Bunker Hill, off of I-10. Since early on, R has accompanied me to the grocery store, which makes it all the more fun. My #1 favorite part of grocery shopping is SAMPLES, which this store is fabulous about. The sushi station passes out samples, the cheese shop, the bakery, the wine section, the "Central Market on the Run" deli... but the best one is the Cooking Connection station where they whip up easy, quick meals and let you taste and take the recipe card. The caveat here is that it generally involves their gourmet salad dressings and/or seasonings so it can be a bit pricey but it's worth it... and sometimes those "pricey" (5.99-8.99) items can be used on more than one meal.

Any-hoo, after our excursion to Corpus Christi this weekend, we stopped off at HEB on the way back to my apartment so I wouldn't have to make another trip out. I didn't have a list prepared, but crossed my fingers that the Cooking Connection would be preparing something tasty that I could do at home for dinner. I was in luck!

Fish tacos are one of my favorite things to order (ever since I was introduced to them at La Bodega, back when I was a college kid at good ol' Texas A&M - whoop!) at Tex Mex places, but I had never attempted to make them at home. Plus, R has turned up his nose at the mention of this delicious dish until he actually tasted them today. He had been wanting a good seafood dinner when we were in Corpus but ended up eating steak at the only "real" meal we had while we were there, so it was an even better choice for tonight.

Richard's guacamole and baked tortilla chips (learned this trick from my good friend Eva)

For the guac, he mashed up two avocadoes, threw in 1 chopped roma tomato, and added a little salt and mixed together... yum! Love those monounsaturated (heart healthy) fats!

For the tortilla chips... I hate to buy the standard chips because I'll eat them as long as the bag is in my pantry, plus they're high in saturated fat and calories. My fellow nutrition fiend, Eva, gave me this great hint for making baked chips: Preheat the oven to 400-425. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray. Cut CORN tortillas (depending on how many you want, probably 2 tortillas per person) into quarters and spread out on the tray. Coat lightly with the non-stick spray and then lightly salt the tortillas. Put them in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Voila! 10-13 calories per chip (depending on the tortilla, look at the package for calorie count per tortilla, then divide by 4) and very little fat as opposed to an average of 20+ calories and 1 gm fat PER CHIP of the standard kind... seems small but it adds up, because who eats only 4 chips? Not me. (Probably Eva!)

Cilantro Lime Rice - so yummy at Mission Burrito and Escalante's, I had to try to recreate it!

Google is a great tool :) I figured this must be pretty simple to make, so I just used to recipe I found on Rockin' Robin's Note that the recipe calls for basmati rice, and although you can substitute regular rice, the basmati is really yummy.

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup basmati rice (you can use regular white rice, just follow the directions on the package)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (I didn't have this so I used water. The recipe was already on the salty side, so I imagine it would have been even more so had I used the broth)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
zest from one lime
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. salt (I think you could get away with 1/2 tsp)

Add the oil to a sauce pan and heat on low. Add the garlic and rice to the oil and saute for 2 minutes on medium heat stirring frequently.
Add the chicken broth (OR WATER), salt, lime juice and bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low for 15 minutes or according to rice package directions.
When the rice is done, add lime zest and chopped cilantro and stir to mix in. Serve immediately.
If you are using regular long grain rice, follow the cooking directions on the box regarding the amount of liquid to use and the cooking time.

Now the star item: Seasoned pan-fried tilapia
Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium high heat (didn't specify amt, I used about 1 Tbsp). Season 4 fresh filets (I used 3 filets, about 1.1#) on any fish (tilapia is relatively inexpensive and very good in this) with a rub (recommended Adams Southwest Ancho rub, they sell this at HEB and I have also used it on steak and chicken - I imagine any steak rub would work, maybe even Tony Cachere's). Add seasoned fish to hot pan and cook 3-4 minutes per side.

Delicious cole slaw made with Red Jalapeno Dressing

Mix together 1 jar of creamy salad dressing (recommended Chef Dean Herring Red Jalapeno Dressing 12 oz - I used this but probably only 7 oz of it) and 1/2 cup of sour cream. Then add pico de gallo (HEB conveniently pre-packages this, but you could make your own, probably about a cup). Mix in 1 bag of cole slaw.

To put the tacos together, heat tortillas (I prefer corn and they are lower in calories and carbs) in a dry skillet and fill with fish and then cole slaw. Serve with rice and chips/guac as desired!
There was alot of cole slaw left over and probably 1/3 of the fish - I had two tacos, R had 4 (he was stuffed!) if that helps you to gauge the quantity it makes!
Love, B

Monday, May 3, 2010

Salsa Verde Enchiladas ( Housekeeping)

So... I am marrying a Mexican - who requested enchiladas. The extent of this white girl's Mexican food cooking skills is making tacos - browning meat with a package of taco seasoning and heating up tortillas :) Oh, I can also combine velveeta and rotel to make queso and heat up a can of beans. To make it worse, R's mom and aunt are great cooks, so of course my enchiladas would never compare. Anyway, I scoured the internet to find a recipe that sounded a) good b) reasonably healthy and c) easy/not messy and this is what I found. We were very pleased with the results. (Note: I only made half of this recipe since I didn't know how it would go and was lazy... but wish I had gone ahead and made the whole thing and freezed the 2nd dish - or shared - as suggested)

Step 1: Make stupid faces - the food tastes better in the end
Heating the tortillas in the salsa verde sauce (note: instead of frying in oil!) - the 10 second rule is important because otherwise your tortilla falls apart

Filling the heated tortillas with the meat mixture

As you can see, there's not a whole lot of leftover sauce to pour on top. I was worried it would be dry, but it wasn't. After this, you add the cheese.

Finished product!

Serves: 8

Yields: 2 casseroles
Total Time: 1 hr 10 min
Prep Time: 50 min
Cook Time: 20 min
Oven Temp: 350
2 rotisserie chickens
2 jar(s) (16- to 17.6-ounce) mild salsa verde
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup(s) fresh lime juice
1/2 cup(s) (loosely packed) fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
16 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 container(s) (8-ounce) reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 cup(s) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 package(s) (8-ounce) reduced-fat (2%) shredded Mexican cheese blend
Remove meat from chickens and coarsely shred; place in medium bowl (you will need 5 1/2 cups; reserve any extra for use another day). Discard skin and bones. Stir 1/2 cup salsa verde into chicken to evenly coat.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 13" by 9" glass or ceramic baking dishes; set aside. In 12-inch skillet, heat remaining salsa verde, green onions, and lime juice to boiling on medium-high. Boil 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 2 tablespoons cilantro; keep warm over very low heat.
With tongs, place 1 tortilla in salsa verde mixture; heat 10 seconds. Place tortilla on waxed paper; top with about 1/3 cup shredded-chicken mixture. Roll up tortilla and place, seam side down, in prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and chicken mixture, arranging 8 tortillas in each dish.
Stir sour cream and broth into remaining salsa verde mixture in skillet; spoon over filled tortillas. Cover one baking dish with foil and bake 15 minutes. Remove foil; sprinkle with 1 cup cheese and 1 tablespoon cilantro. Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese melts. Meanwhile, sprinkle remaining cheese and cilantro over second casserole and prepare for freezing (see Thawing and Reheating Tips).
Tips & Techniques
To reheat after thawing:
Conventional oven: Heat, loosely covered, at 350 degrees F 45 minutes; uncover and heat 10 to 15 minutes longer.
Microwave oven: Not recommended; baking dish will not fit.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I have shingles on the roof!

Kitchen 5/1/10

Breakfast on the back porch 5/1/10

Shingles 4/28/10

Our little casa has come a long way in the last 3 weeks when there was barely a frame, not even a concrete slab yet. I have walls, windows, a roof, bathtubs - it's crazy! Brick and stone is piled up in the front yard right now and the dry walls are piled inside the house so I see major things happening in the next week or so. The house that's being built across the street from us is about 10 days ahead of ours and is looking very much like a liveable dwelling! The stone and brick are done and look beautiful and the walls are up, along with cabinets in progress. (Yes, we have been walking around in the other homes that are being built. Promise not to do it once there are locks on the doors!) My dad called me Thursday evening - he was over at the house and chatting with our soon to be neighbors. The husband is an Aggie, so I think Dad is going to let me go ahead with the move!

We're hoping to be able to close at the end of June. God has been good in keeping the rain away during the critical early building stages so hopefully the rest will continue to go as scheduled. We'll keep ya posted on the progress!

Love, B

Strawberry Pie (Cooking Light?) for Kathryn

Yumm! I love this pie and almost hate to share the recipe because you will see how easy it is :) My family loves it, including the kids (my cousin requests it at all holidays - doesn't understand that strawberries just aren't in season at Thanksgiving or Christmas). Plus, this is one you don't have to feel too bad about because there is real FRUIT in it and relatively low in calories. If you are anti-artificial sweeteners, just use regular jello and sugar - there are just a few more calories.


2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 T cornstarch
1 ½ cups cold water
1 pkg. (.3 oz) sugar free strawberry gelatin
3 T sugar (I use Splenda)
1 reduced fat graham cracker crust (8 in) -- (I use Nilla Wafer crusts when I can find them because they don't have trans fats, which is a rant for another day!)
2 cups light Cool Whip

In saucepan, combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in gelatin and sugar until dissolved. Stir in sliced strawberries. Pour into crust. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. Garnish each serving with Cool Whip. Yield: 8 servings One serving (1 piece with ¼ cup light Cool Whip = 197 calories) Exchanges: 1 starch, 1 fruit, 1 fat.

Chicken Spaghetti (Elkins HS cookbook 2000) for Gabby

This is not one of my healthiest recipes, but it is a feels-good-in-my-belly favorite. It makes alot and can be frozen, so it is what I often take for pot luck, new baby, funeral, etc. I assure you that Velveeta and cream soups are not the staples of my diet but every once in a while they can really make things taste good! I do opt for the 2% Velveeta (or HEB/Kroger brand) and the reduced fat/sodium canned soups and use whole grain pasta (you can NOT tell in this, so you might as well sneak the whole grains in!) to make me feel a BIT more virtuous :)

1 med. onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 c. celery, chopped
1 can Rotel tomatoes
salt/pepper to taste
1 pkg uncooked spaghetti (12-16 oz)
2 cans creamed soup (chicken, celery or mushroom)
1 pound Velveeta, cubed (half of a big/standard block)
4 large chicken breasts, cooked and chopped (reserve chicken broth)
1 can mushrooms, chopped

Saute onion, bell pepper and celery in butter (or olive oil). Add soup, tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and chicken in a large pot. Simmer for 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in the leftover chicken broth. Combine spaghetti and sauce. Pour into a 9x13" pan. Bake for 20 minutes at 300 degrees.