Posts Categorized: Food

Weekend Recap and Tailgate Art

To ease into Monday, I thought I’d start out with a recap on a pretty uneventful weekend. Ed went to a family reunion on Saturday leaving me ALONE and free to clean the house to my freakishly high standards for the first time in months. Sounds like loads of fun, I know, but there’s almost nothing I love better than a clean house! Sad, but true. I have become my mother. I love the earth and the environment and all that stuff, but I also love the smell of a house that’s just been scoured with Comet, Windex (the original Windex, none of that new stuff), good, old-fashioned Vinegar, and Swiffer floor cleaner. (Love my Wet Jet!)  No “green” products at my house. Sorry. Those smells, to me, equal a clean house!

Sneak Peek - Be kind. It's not finished... and may never be!

Sneak Peek – Be kind. It’s not finished… and may never be!

After cleaning, I made ANOTHER trip to Michael’s for more painting supplies. It turns out mixing colors is more difficult than I anticipated. I ended up buying more paint, better brushes, and a Stay-Wet paint palette. I bought a little better quality than the supplies I started with, but I didn’t go overboard by buying the most expensive stuff available. However, it’s official. Commissioning Pablo Picasso, providing, of course he wasn’t dead, would have been less expensive than painting Rupert’s portrait myself. Live and learn. The painting is coming along, but as I mentioned on FB, painting may not be the best hobby for me. I get a little obsessive about certain things and, apparently, painting is one of them. Who knew!? I could jack around with this portrait til the cows come home… and then I’d probably decide to add some cows to the painting… Anyway, here’s a peek at where I am now. I’m going to mess around with the shading and the ears a little more, even though Ed says I should leave it like this. I’ve got so much money invested in paint and supplies, I feel obligated to keep painting. People are going to think a 5 year old lives in our house when they see all the rudimentary animal art hung proudly on our walls.

Tailgate Art

Tailgate Art

Sunday is usually a cooking day at Casa Golemon. On our way to Kroger for supplies, we saw this truck. Ed and I have long been fans of tailgate art. Luckily, we get to see lots of it in our neighborhood. I plan to do a longer post on the glory and wonder of tailgate art in the future, but I just couldn’t resist sharing this with you. As for the cooking… Ed made another batch of hot dog sauce and, with MUCH LESS cinnamon this time, it turned out really well! I baked sourdough bread. The recipe, handed down from my grandmother, says it turns out 3 loaves. I have never had much luck dividing my dough evenly enough for 3 even sized loaves and yesterday was no exception. Still, bread is bread no matter what it looks like.  There’s always next week to try again! There’s a longer post on sourdough starter and bread in the works. Stay tuned. It will be epic.

For the record, I do not get paid for mentioning specific products or businesses. If I like something, chances are I’ll write about it. I write about everything these days. All the opinions expressed in any post are my actual thoughts. Take them or leave them. I add links for your convenience, just in case you’re interested in checking whatever it is I’m discussing out for yourself. If the day ever does come when I’m lucky enough to sell out and plug products for actual money, you’ll know it!

Have a great week. Check back often and, as always, if you like what you’re reading, please share!

Shout Out to A Local Business – La Plaza Mexican Restaurant

I’ve got a pretty full day planned, but a girl’s gotta eat and a good old Tex-Mexican breakfast is one of my favorites! If you’ve never experienced the joy and restorative powers of a Tex-Mexican breakfast, you don’t know what you’re missing – eggs, peppers, onions, tomatoes, verde sauce, cheese, tortillas, oh my!

This morning, Ed and I decided to try out a little hole in wall place called La Plaza Mexican Restaurant. I’ll include the address at the end of this post. We’ve seen this business many, many times over the past year. It’s located at the end of a little strip center in our awesome neighborhood of Spring Branch and the parking lot is always packed. Every time we drive by, one or the other of us says, “We should try that place sometime.” Today was the day.

La Plaza is a small, diner-style restaurant. It’s a neighborhood place. Today, it was full of people who were obviously regulars laughing, talking across tables and with the servers. It was so packed at 11 on Sunday morning that Ed and I ended up sitting at the counter, which turned out to be a really cool experience. Ed and I hardly spoke; we were so fascinated watching the two cooks dice, slice, grill, chop and fry in almost perfect synchronization. We ended up getting a little show with our breakfast. The migas were the best I’ve had in a long, long time and Ed’s traditional breakfast was equally satisfying. The service was great; the prices were very reasonable; and the atmosphere was welcoming. We will definitely go back.

I’m all for supporting local businesses. When you find someplace you like and where you are treated like a valued customer, I think you should let people know. La Plaza is one of those places. So, if you’re in the neighborhood and in the mood for some simple, yummy, Mexican food cooked and served by good people, try La Plaza Mexican Restaurant. I would say, “Tell them Ed and Clare sent you,” but, since these people have no idea who we are, that’s probably not a good idea. Drop us a line if you do happen to check out La Plaza. We love feedback!

La Plaza Mexican Restaurant, 1803 Bingle, Houston, TX 77055

Not Quite James Coney Island, But Pretty Freaking Good

James Coney Island is a Houston landmark and the purveyors of some pretty damn fine hot dogs since 1923. Friends who no longer call Houston home look forward to a trip to James Coney Island, IMG_1258[1]JCI to those in the know, whenever they’re in town. It’s hard to say what, exactly, makes JCI’s hot dogs so good. It could be the soft, steamed buns, or the brand of wieners they use. For me, a large part of the yumminess is down to the squirt cheese they use to top off the cheese coneys and, most importantly, CHEESE FRIES. I’m gaining weight just writing this post! Ed will tell you that it’s the hot dog sauce that makes JCI different from any other fast food hot dog. JCI’s hot dog sauce is similar to chili, only not as thick. The blend of spices adds just the right amount of tang to JCI’s chili coney. Just to be clear, James Coney Island did not pay me to write this post. If, however, they stumble across our humble blog and would like to thank us for the shout out with a year’s supply of hot dogs (and cheese fries), BONUS!!!

On a whim, Ed decided to try his hand at hot dog sauce this weekend. He Googled Coney Island hot dog sauce and ended up with the recipe linked here. To make a long story short, we ended up with some mighty fine hot dog sauce. It wasn’t exactly James Coney Island, but it made for some tasty and delicious hot dogs none the less. A couple of notes about the recipe Ed used. First, he didn’t blend the meat and onions, so his sauce was a little thicker than JCI’s. Next time we will definitely blend the sauce or run it through the food processor for a more authentic texture. Also, this recipe calls for cinnamon. Ed got a tad carried away with that particular spice. It didn’t ruin the flavor at all. It was more like an overpowering background taste, not BAD, but it was a little too much. Next time, if we use cinnamon at all, it will be a dash. (He and I disagree on whether to use it next time. I think I understand what the cinnamon is supposed to do in the sauce, but Ed thinks it’s unnecessary.) We may have to make a research trip to JCI.

Ed has been buying Shiner Smokehouse sausages lately. They make a long, skinny sausage that we used for our dogs. We were also missing the processed, squirty cheese that I and the fat deposits on my hips love oh so much. Even though we weren’t going for authentic JCI, the dogs were much better than good.

Here’s a tidbit about Ed. He dreams big. REALLY BIG! Every time we take on a new project, he envisions us becoming THE WORLD’S GREATEST [INSERT CURRENT OBSESSION HERE.] In his mind we will, of course, open our own restaurant or business and become multi-millionaires. It’s one of the things that drive me crazy and one of the things I love most about him. He keeps me dreaming and I keep him grounded – or at least I try. So, you haven’t heard the last of Ed’s soon-to-be-famous-not-quite-James-Coney-Island-hot-dog-sauce. Stay tuned!

The Definitive Word on Hand Pies

Ok, so this is decidedly NOT the definitive word on hand pies. It isn’t even intended to be a hand pie how-to; although, if you have questions, feel free to email me at clare@begininthemiddle.com and I’ll be happy to hook you up with more detailed instructions.

As most of you probably know, Ed and I decided, for some inexplicable reason, that our first attempt at “something new” would be the baking of tasty hand pies. I can give no logical or reasonable explanation for the idea. It’s just what came to mind and we both liked the idea of having pie to show (and eat) for our efforts. After all, who doesn’t like the idea of pie?

IMG_1278[1]Ed and I both like to cook, so we do have some skills in the kitchen. Even so, neither one of us is the kind of cook who can grab random ingredients from the pantry and whip up a gourmet meal. While I have been known to bake the occasional pie, they are, at best, semi-homemade, with crust by the Pillsbury Dough Boy and canned pumpkin usually the main ingredient. Hand Pie Weekend 2013 was our first attempt at “real pies” with out and out crust and fillings made with fresh ingredients.

For the savory pies, Ed chose use a recipe for samosa-like pastries we found on the King Arthur Flour Company’s blog. It was an Indian inspired filling with a combination of potatoes, onion, garlic, curry, cumin, salt, pepper, peas, and just a little Sriracha sauce. The recipe was simple and easy to follow. More importantly, the final product smelled and tasted amazing! The only change Ed made was a little added dash of coriander. Ed went bold and exotic on his filling and I, I’m sorry to say, copped out. I went the safe (some might say boring) route, choosing to fill my pies with different combinations of sautéed onions, white cheddar and provolone cheeses, Boar’s Head Sweet Slice Ham, and Genoa salami. We used the pastry recipe we found on the same page as the samosa recipe for the crust on all of our savory pies. It was basic butter pie dough. The recipe and directions were beginner-proof. Our dough turned out perfectly.

IMG_1284[1]  Saturday was a long day of shopping and baking. In fact, it was such a long day that we decided to save the fruit pies for Sunday. Even though it was a lot of work, Ed and I had fun and our house smelled heavenly. I’m sad to report, however, that, while the savory pies were good, they were not great. I know I said in my last post that I didn’t expect perfect pies on our first attempt, except that, subconsciously, I think I did. Buried deeply inside of me is a perfectionist struggling to get out. Those pies weren’t the best we can do and I won’t be happy until we perfect the art of the savory hand pie. Ed feels the same. We agree that we need to find a recipe for a softer, lighter pastry. The pie dough worked and had a nice flavor, but it was just too dry. The savory pies also need to be large enough to accommodate more filling. When I bite into a ham, cheese and onion hand pie, I want melted cheese running down my chin. Sadly, that didn’t happen. The flavors were there, but the gooiness was missing, a problem we will have to rectify.

Undaunted, we woke up Sunday ready for day two – sweet pies! We used a recipe for tart dough that I found on Williams-Sonoma’s web site. This dough was lighter, sweeter and butterier than the basic pie dough we used for the savory flavors. Before you say it, I know butterier isn’t a word, but I like the way it sounds. It’s my blog. I reserve the right to make stuff up as I go along. Anyway, the tart dough was a good choice for the fruit pies. They wouldn’t have been as good using plain old pie dough. The recipe for the tart dough is very similar to the pie dough, but, for some reason, I found the tart dough easier to work with.  Of course, by the time we got around to making the sweet pies, I was a dough pro. Quick tip: dough (pie or tart) is very forgiving. Don’t be afraid of it. I, personally, think it’s easier to work with the dough without chilling it, as most recipes instruct you to do. Use flour to keep it from sticking as you roll it out. Making homemade crust is quick and easy. If you have 10 minutes, you can make a pie crust. So, the next time someone tells you they make their crust from scratch, don’t be too impressed. If I can do it, anyone can. I guarantee it! IMG_1269[1]

IMG_1260[1]For the fruit fillings, Ed and I went crazy at the Super H Mart. Ed doesn’t want me to tell you this because he thinks it’s a well-guarded secret, but if you’re unfamiliar with the H Mart, you don’t know what you’re missing. They have the best prices and the best produce in Houston. If you decide to check it out, I would avoid going on the weekend, if you can. For a “secret” grocery store, it sure does get crowded.

We bought cherries, apples, pears, peaches, strawberries, and lemon curd for our fruit fillings. It sounds like a lot of fruit, but we didn’t get a lot of any one thing. That’s the great thing about making hand pies. You don’t need a whole pound of cherries or strawberries. A large handful of berries will make enough filling for several hand pies. We made apple filling with one large Granny Smith apple and pear filling with one large pear. I think we used two peaches because they cook down quite a bit. When you’re making hand pies, everyone can have the kind of pie they like. PIE FOR EVERYONE!IMG_1285[1]

I didn’t follow a recipe for the fruit filling. I looked at recipes for a lot of different fruit pies before we started on Sunday and took bits and pieces from the ones I liked. We chopped our fruit up into small pieces and put each fruit into its own cereal sized bowl. I put a couple of tablespoons of sugar in each bowl, along with about a teaspoon of cornstarch. I added cinnamon and nutmeg to the apples, pears, and peaches. I added some lemon juice to the apples and pears. I added almond extract to the cherries – just a dash – and vanilla extract to the strawberries. I was feeling very Martha Stewart at this point, throwing in a dash of this and a pinch of that. You can afford to play with different taste combinations when you’re making hand pies because you’re not making a large amount of any one filling. Just keep tasting. You’ll know if you’re on the right track or not. If you don’t like it, toss it out and start again. Since you’re working on a small scale, you can afford to goof up.

I am proud to report that our sweet pies were FREAKING AWESOME!!!!! IMG_1293[1]They were sweet, juicy, buttery, hand-held yumminess! Even Oliver, our son and official guinea pig, was impressed. (He’s 20, so his approval is a kind of a big deal.) It was a nice reward for our work – a counter full of beautiful, golden, flaky, fruit pies. I don’t know how many Weight Watchers points our little pies are worth, but I’m pretty sure I blew last week and this week in one afternoon.IMG_1296[1]

All in all, Hand Pie Weekend 2013 was a success! Ed and I enjoyed spending time and working together. We planned, shopped, and baked all weekend. There was no arguing or even the occasional eye roll. It was all about the pies. As much as I hate the term “bonding experience,” that’s what Hand Pie Weekend was. We set a goal, saw it through to the end and, BONUS, ended up with a mess of delectable pies to show for it.

 

Welcome to the Middle of the Week

It’s Wednesday, only 3 days until HAND PIE SATURDAY! In case you missed the announcement on Facebook, Ed and I are going to attempt to make homemade hand pies. I’ve been thinking about hand pies a lot, not just for a few days, but for a while now. What could be better than a flaky, delicious morsel of a pie that you can hold in your hand!? I admit, it’s an odd thing to be fixated on. I can’t even tell you why I thought of hand pies in the first place, only that once I started, I couldn’t stop. Last week, a friend very kindly brought me some hand pies from a bakery in her hometown. They were really yummy, but I won’t be satisfied until I make some myself.

Neither Ed nor I have ever made hand pies – or any pie – from scratch, so this will be interesting. We are each going to pick a savory and sweet flavor. Currently, Ed is leaning toward a samosa-like filling for his savory pies, based on the suggestion of our friend, Lindsay. He’s thinking lemon for his sweet flavor. I think I may go simple on my savory, something like ham, cheese, and caramelized onions. I’m leaning toward strawberry-rhubarb for the sweet pies, at my cousin, Jenny’s, suggestion. I have a pastry recipe all ready to go. It’s supposedly fool-proof. We’ll see about that!

I don’t expect perfectly formed, golden crusted hand pies our first time out of the gate. Ed, on the other hand, dreams big. He’s already making plans for the shop we’ll open once we’ve mastered the art of the hand pie! Stay tuned. Results and pictures to follow!