Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Zip Lining in New York (Texas that is!)

A couple of weeks ago, as a "you're done with school for the summer" present to C, we went zip-lining.  We had each bought a "Living Social" deal for two hours of zip-lining, and since it was a couple hours outside of Dallas I thought it would be a great little weekend getaway.  The zip lining was located in New York, Texas; but there weren't many hotel accommodations there, so we ended up staying in Ben Wheeler.  It's around a half hour north of New York, and a quaint but beautiful small town.  I was thinking it was going to be a great weekend about an hour outside of Dallas when we exited the free-way to continue driving on a very small road with nothing around but trees.  It was a great drive!
We pulled up to the bed and breakfast just as the sun was going down.  We stayed at the Cross Timber Ranch Bed and Breakfast (information at the end of the post.)  It was a gorgeous old house, with a ton of land and an awesome pool in the back.  The people who ran it were very nice and welcoming, and cooked a mean breakfast the next morning.  We went out to eat and then hung out in the hot tub the rest of the night!
The next morning after breakfast I finally had some sunlight to take pictures of the place.  One of the guys that owns the place also landscapes, and there were many interesting flowers around the house. 
The best backyard ever!!!  This pictures looks fake, but trust me, it's real.  They had a huge pool with a hot tub as well, very relaxing.  I'd like to say again how friendly the owners were, C and I both had such a great time, and would recommend this place to everyone and anyone! Next was the drive to New York to get our zip on :)
Be prepared for some off roading to get to this place.  It was literally in the middle of no where, dirt road entry and all.  Once we got to the top we were able to sit and enjoy the view, which was so amazing!
We are ready to go!  Had to take a picture at the top to show everyone how cool we looked in our helmets.
Zip ling through the trees.  I won't lie, I was a little nervous the first couple of times.  The staff was very friendly and helpful, and VERY safe.  Once I went the first time though I was addicted, it's so fun and exciting.
Me coming on down!
C was a pro!
As you can tell from the pictures we had a lot of fun.  Neither of us had ever gone zip lining before and we both really enjoyed ourselves and hope to be able to go again! 
If you'd like more information on the Cross Timber Ranch Bed and Breakfast please click here.
For more zip lining information click here, to see New York Texas Zip Lining Adventures' website.
Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend.  Now it's back to the grind, at least it's a short week :)  See you tomorrow!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fresh Tomato Sauce

As I said in this post a couple days ago, I had a lot of fresh tomatoes and wasn't sure what to do with them.  I knew I wouldn't eat that many salads by the time they had gone bad, so I used the wonderful world of twitter to see if anyone had any great ideas.  Traci (find her on twitter @heytrace) had a great recipe for fresh tomato sauce. Not a lot of ingredients, and wouldn't take long to make, so I thought it was perfect.  We both agree once you taste this sauce it will be very difficult to go back to canned store bought tomato sauce.
I had five tomatoes, but one took a fall on the way into my apartment, so I only used four, but that was plenty.  It turned out to be around three cups, and I had around 4-5 servings. 
Now, to all you stress-cases out there that are looking for an avenue to get some relief, this recipe will help.  Put your wine/beer down and smash up tomatoes with your hands, it's fun, messy, and sort of liberating.
Little messy, like I said, but totally worth it.  This was a really FUN recipe to make, because you get to get down and dirty!  I cut the tomatoes into four pieces and then squished them with my hands into a large pan that was coated with EVOO on the stove.
Then I added around three cloves of garlic minced to the sauce.
Plus a couple teaspoons of oregano, and some salt - to your taste.
Then simply let the sauce simmer for around 30 minutes. 
Ahh perfection!  I made whole wheat pasta to go with the sauce and added a little Parmesan on top, and it was so tasty!  It's light but full of flavor, and tastes so fresh.  I felt awesome after eating this.  Full, but not "ick" full.  Because it's a healthy dinner you feel great after eating it. 
I hope everyone enjoys their long weekend!  Talk to you next week :)

Fresh Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Traci @heytrace
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
~4 tomatoes, squashed up around 3 cups
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons salt

Squash up the tomatoes with your hands.
In a large pan on the stove heat the EVOO, then add the tomatoes.
Add the garlic, oregano and salt and stir to combine well.
Simmer for around 30 minutes.
Serve hot over pasta, and enjoy!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Caramel Corn & A Birthday

This caramel corn is a staple in my family's household treats.  My Mom makes huge batches of it, usually around Christmas and throughout the summer, then has to hide it so we don't eat it all in one sitting.  My Dad is known to hunt it out and leave nothing left for when my Mom goes to find it and bring it to a BBQ or whatnot.  It's so good, and so addicting!  I was going to post my tomato sauce that I made with the fresh tomatoes I talked about yesterday, but thought I'd post this caramel corn first in case you needed any extra ideas for a Memorial Day event! 
My Mom uses a popcorn maker, and pops the kernels herself.  I just bought regular bagged popcorn and popped it in the microwave.  I also cut the recipe in half, and ended up using two full bags; approximately 3 1/2 quarts or 14 cups.  If you're making the whole recipe make sure you have around four bags of popcorn.
Begin by boiling 1 cup of butter over medium-low heat on the stove.
Add brown sugar and lite corn syrup to the pot.  Cook for around five minutes, then remove from heat.
Add the salt and the baking soda, and stir well.
Once the salt and baking soda is mixed in well it should appear lighter like above.
Pour the hot-ish mixture over the popcorn and stir well to make sure all kernels are coated.  I sprayed two 9x13 inch pans with non-stick and put the popcorn in that to bake.  Bake at 250 degrees for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. 
Once out of the oven, let cool for a few minutes.  Then break up the corn into chunks.  I really enjoy this recipe because it's light, the caramel doesn't overpower the popcorn, and it tastes delicious!  This stores really well in plastic baggies, or in a Tupperware container.  If you need a little something extra to bring to a party, this is the perfect addition!

Today is my boyfriend C's 27th birthday - and I would like to wish him a very
Hope you have a great day, and I'm glad I'm here to celebrate with you  :)

Caramel Corn
Adapted from: mi madre, thank you!
7 quarts popped popcorn
1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup Karo lite corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Pop popcorn and set aside.
Boil 1 cup of butter until melted.
Add brown sugar and corn syrup for around 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
Add salt and baking soda, and stir well.
Pour mixture over popcorn and mix well.
Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. 
Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes, then break into chunks.
*If you'd like to add nuts, add them before the corn cooks for the last 15 minutes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Road Side Farmer's Market

C and I took an adventure a couple weekends ago, and went zip lining in Athens, Texas.  It's around 2 1/2 hours east of downtown Dallas, and very country.  I loved it, reminded me of being back home in the UP.  I'll share the zip lining pictures I have soon, but one of the best parts of the trip was on the way home when we stopped at a fresh fruit and veggie stand on the side of the road.  They had a good variety for just being outside some one's house, so we dug in!
I didn't buy one of the watermelons, so I can't tell you if they were good or not (however, the peaches were amazing.)  I thought they looked really beautiful though, and the sign saying please put your money in the honor box made me smile.  Love the small town trust :)
Basket of peppers, and some kind of squash.  Although not really sure what kind of squash.  Anyone know?
The fresh tomatoes were so great!  I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do with them, but got an idea from a fellow twitter friend to make fresh tomato sauce, and the tomatoes were perfect for it.  I'll post about that tomorrow! 
I'm always excited to find fresh veggies and fruit, I think it tastes so much better than normal store bought.  There are a couple Farmer's Markets around the Dallas area that I hope to be hitting up soon, anyone has any suggestions let me know!
Happy Wednesday, see you back here tomorrow :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kathleen's Sky Diner Review

I have been dying to try Kathleen's Sky Diner on Lovers Lane since I first drove by it many months ago.  In case you didn't know, the best movie theatre in Dallas is located just a couple blocks down in Lovers called Inwood Theatre.  It's an old  theatre that's been re-done, but still kept it's charm.  The best thing is what they call the "screening room," which is a theatre with a huge screen, and most importantly - Love Sac couches to sit on.  If you've never sat in one you're missing out, you can check out their website here but it doesn't do them justice, it's like sitting on the most comfortable bed to watch a movie.  Kathleen's Sky Diner and Inwood Theatre are a great dinner and a movie night, which is exactly what we did!
We started with the spicy shrimp.  It was amazing, and not something I expected to see on the menu.  The portions were very large too, we couldn't eat the whole appetizer and our meals, so we took some leftovers.
We each ordered a pasta dish, and C was very excited that you got your own cheese and spicy peppers to add as you like.  He likes to add a lot (understatement) to his meal, so when the waiter/waitress does it, he always says it's never as much as he would like.  Points for letting us add at our leisure!
They have a special ravioli every day, C ordered the mushroom stuffed ravioli.  You could tell they were hand made because they were all shaped a little different, which is a good sign!  The sauce was a buttery light sauce, and it had a lot of fresh veggies in it.  Beautiful dish, and very tasty.
I ordered the pasta bolognese, not nearly as light as C's meal, oops.  It was so good!!!  The pasta again, seemed homemade.  It was very tender and the sauce was amazing.  Different than a regular bolognese as it was more cheesy, but it was very filling and tasted great.  I could only eat around half of it, mainly because I was saving room for dessert.
If you like cheesecake and red velvet cake, this is your dessert.  I think it was a good compromise as C really likes cheesecake and I really like red velvet cake.  It was very creamy and the frosting was great.
Overall, I thought the sky diner was awesome.  It was a little pricey, but I can't really complain about that because everything I ordered I really enjoyed.  For some reason their website isn't working right now, so I'll link you to their yelp reviews by clicking here.

Rating: 4

Monday, May 23, 2011

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies?

A couple weeks ago I performed a very scientific experiment: are chocolate chip cookies better if you let the dough rest for a few days?  Due to my scientific roots (yeah right) I knew I had to have a control group.  The recipe told me to make the dough and let it sit covered in the fridge for 36 hours.  I made the dough, and made one batch of cookies right away for the control.  Then let the rest of the dough sit in the fridge for 36 hours, then baked the rest.  Yes, having dough sitting in your fridge is difficult, but I'm happy to say I didn't munch on it!  Please read on for the dramatic conclusion...
Sift flours, (recipe calls for cake and bread flour, I just used regular flour) baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.
Using a mixer cream butter and sugars together until very light, around five minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Stir in vanilla.
Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. 
Drop chocolate pieces and stir to combine. 
For the control group I made a batch of six cookies right after finishing the dough.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and scoop golf ball sized pieces of dough and put on the baking sheet.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, around 18 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.  For the dough that you want to let sit, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 24-36 hours.  I let rest for 36 hours, and then followed the same directions I typed above.
This is the control cookie.  It was pretty good, I mean it IS a chocolate chip cookie after all, most taste pretty good!  It was soft, and the sea salt gave it a little extra flavor on top.  It made me very excited to try the "rested" cookies.
And THIS is the best chocolate chip cookie ever.  I do agree that letting the dough rest makes your cookies better,  I can't exactly explain why, but it works.  I would say these were softer than the control group, the edges were a little crunchy and it was perfect.  I felt like I could taste the vanilla flavor more in the cookie too.  Lesson learned!  I will be seeing if this applies to all cookies as I go forward, I'll report back :) 
Happy Monday everyone!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from: Jacques Torres
2 cups minus two tablespoons cake flour
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks (at least 60% cacao content)
sea salt

Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl; set aside.
Using a mixer cream butter and sugars together until very light.
Add in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Stir in the vanilla.
Reduce speed to low and add the dry ingredients until just combined.
Drop chocolate pieces into the mixture and combine.
Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24-36 hours. 
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Scoop golf ball sized pieces of dough onto the baking sheet.
Sprinkle with sea salt.
Bake for around 18 minutes, until golden brown, but still soft.
Transfer to a wire rack until cooled completely.
Eat warm and be happy!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bloggers Bake for Hope

When I started food blogging around five months ago, I knew I was going to have an issue with too much food, mainly desserts.  I should not be eating all of this by myself, and the people I work with, although they love my baking, 2-3 baked items a week is a little much.  The search began for what I could do with the baked goods once I made and took pictures of them.  I stumbled on Blogger Bake for Hope, and thought it was perfect.  I was helping raise money for breast cancer research, and I could bake with limits because I knew I couldn't eat anything.  I advertised a lot about the sale on my blog, and many of you bid on items and I really appreciate your support.  The fundraiser raised $3,000!  It was the first time ever doing this, and the goal was $2,000 so we exceeded our expectations.  As of today, all of my items have been delivered to the people who bid and won them, I thought I would share some pictures of what they received.
I'll begin with the best chocolate brownies.  I got this recipe from King Arthur Flour, and loved it.  They're very rich, and a little crunchy on top.  This is the batter right before going into the oven. 
I sprinkled a little powdered sugar on top, cut them into small pieces and they were ready to be enjoyed!  If you would like the recipe and instructions for the brownies, check out my post here.
The bakers' responsibility is to make the baked goods and them mail them out to the people who won.  These are the brownies all packaged and ready to be mailed out. 
Next were banana muffins with a splash of chocolate chips.  The recipe makes either banana bread, or around six banana muffins.
These were a little rough for me not to sneak a taste.  They're so yummy!  Perfect for breakfast or for dessert.  If you'd like the recipe and instructions for these click here.
All bundled up and ready to go!  My parents bought these, hopefully they enjoy them.
Last, but certainly not least, Nutella cookies.  These are such easy cookies to make, and the added Nutella gives them a hazelnut flavor that is to die for!
Came out perfect!  Soft and chocolaty with a hint of hazelnut.  If you'd like to check out the recipe for Nutella cookies click here.
Cookies all ready to go, but I was a little sad to see them leave!
Overall the event turned out great.  I will be participating again next year, and will probably add a couple more items.  Hopefully you all will participate again next year too!  Thank you for your support again, and for those who won my baked goodies, I hope you enjoy every bite.

Happy Friday everyone, hope you have a great weekend.  See you back here on Monday :)