Monday, February 24, 2014

One Kitchen, Many Hearts: Houston Edition

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Good Morning Y’all!

I. HAD. SO. MUCH. FUN. THIS. WEEKEND. Y’ALLLLLL.

You see, these 7 gorgeous ladies, otherwise known as One Kitchen, Many Hearts – yeah, I italicized that, they’re like a persona – flew in from all over!

Michigan, Washington, Los Angeles, Minnesota, and Arizona, every corner of our country represented as these ladies met up at Jeanne’s house. Jeanne, the ringleader. The creative cardinal. The crafty queen.

They had a whirlwind weekend of blogging fun planned, and invited me to hang out for a day! It was a great day spent in Brenham, TX.

Brenham, known as “the birthplace of Texas,” and seated right in the heart of Bluebonnet country, is chock full of cuh-YOOT antique shops, and plenty of pie to go around.

It also happens to be the home of this little tiny ice cream joint, THE BLUE BELL ICE CREAM FACTORY.
We will not speak of its existence, as we’ve missed the tours there twice.

Anyways, be sure to check out all the ladies’ posts this week, because they had a WILD RIDE getting here. I’ll just tell you it involves a power outage and a 14 passenger van. I’ll leave THAT to your imagination.

Jeanne, Inside NanaBread’s Head
Megan, Country Cleaver
Beka, Kvetchin’ Kitchen
Kirsten, Comfortably Domestic
Allison, Decadent Philistines Save the World
Mads, La Petite Pancake 
Kat, Tenaciously Yours

 

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First store, Antique Gypsy. I need to live in here. Like – STAT, yo. It’s like the inside of my head.

I tried describing that to my mother once. She responded “Oh, like a Trix box exploded in your head?”

Exactly Mom, exactly.

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Get you some chickens.

Everyone needs chickens. Quilted, or metal Beyonces, I need them all.

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Plenty of creepy mannequins to go around.

Allison mistakenly asks one the whereabouts of the pie shop.
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That’s right Ms. Calamity Jane. We’re all legends around here.

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See? Even Kat, bringin’ the fannypack back.

Actually, she needs it for her Colt .45.

Boom.

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Every visitor to the Great Lone Star state needs a 6′ Longhorn painting over their mantel. Or maybe it’s a Watusi. I can never be sure.

But really, it looks good. I want.

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Our favorite pearl of wisdom from the day was Kat’s quote:

“Live a life that would make your childhood self proud.”

My thoughts exactly, Kat. My thoughts exactly.

Thank you Beka, for making your (and my) childhood self proud by eating the plaster cake outside the bakery.

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And Kat lives true to her own wisdom.

“Have you seen my puppy?”

#creepyrentalproblems
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Check out these demure ladies trying on their vintage hats.

I wonder who else wore them.

Hmm, maybe I don’t wonder.

Nah, I don’t wonder.

Just them.

 

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Have you ever hung out with people THAT ARE JUST LIKE YOU?
People that understand the importance of squeezing in a bite of pie, even though you’re so full from Monte Cristo that you’ll pop?
People that ALSO trip over cowhide rugs?
People that ALSO have stringent rules over which ice cream scoop may or may not enter the dishwasher?

We’re soul sisters, y’all.

And the best part of this day? Pie. PIE Y’ALL! It represents my entire existence.

Part of a whole, and food to share.

We only ordered 17 pieces of pie, one chocolate chip cookie, and an ice cream cone.

Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

Get yourself to Must Be Heaven, now.

In fact, I’ve got a Sawdust Pie baking for you right now – only one whole year late, since I last ate here with Jeanne and Kirsten.

Like I said, I don’t always post late, but when I do, I make sure it’s six months or more late.

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And my booty?

To follow in my Mother and Aunt’s tradition, I found one old, overpriced Portuguese rooster kitchen towel to hang and celebrate my whopping twenty-five percent heritage.

One pretty rose hankie, because these DELIGHTFUL Elm and Ash allergies have my eyes watering more than kitchen full of onions will do.

One cute Hawaiian girl napkin, which I’ll use as a hankie, which *actually* came in a set of four, but somehow in the 24 years it’s been sitting in this ol’ junk shop the other three walked away. *Which* I also politely tried to explained to the sweet ladies running the store, to which they did not believe me, leading them upstairs to search the bins and bins and bins and bins of linens only to discover –

Yup. Only one Hawaiian girl napkin left.  SOLD, for a $1.32.

And one neat old cookbook, because apparently someone can *never* have too many cookbooks, even though said person begs people all the time to NOT buy them cookbooks, as they may, or may not live in a small apartment and can’t stand clutter.

 

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And one final stop. Buc-ee’s. The land of greatness. The hilarity is that while *I* was at a Buc-ee’s on my way home, the rest of the girls stopped at a Buc-ee’s on THEIR way home. WE WERE IN A BUC-EE’S AT THE SAME TIME, Y’ALL!

Does anyone see the serendipity in this moment?

Just me?

Well, find yourself a Buc-ee’s. And make it a good one. My Buc-ee’s in Bastrop has approximately 63 restroom stalls, one dedicated restroom attendant, 79 gas pumps, and 9,345,362 bags of trail mix, caramel corn, licorice, and wasabi peas.

It’s an experience. Trust me.

All about the Beaver Nuggets, baby.

 

~ Peace, Love, and Saluting your childhood self Y’all

 

 

 

 

Friday, February 21, 2014

My Oregon Trail

LONG POST ALERT.

Did I scare you?

Keep reading.

So I did this cool thing. I went to Oregon, specifically Portland. Like six months ago.

I don’t always post late, but when I do, I make sure it’s six months or longer.

But hellllooooo, good food, friends, and stories are always worth sharing, right?

RIGHT?

 

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First, Hopworks brewery. Proudly brewing beer as sustainably as possible since 2007. 
I believe I didn’t get a beer. It’s been so LONG ago, but if my memory serves me correct, I felt dehydrated from flying.

Whatev.

We ordered the Pint O’ Pretzels.
Hot, house-made beer pretzels with HUB Lager mustard and warm beer cheese sauce. 

Dude. These pretzels. DOOOOD.

Next stop, Multnomah Falls, on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge.
Holy twenty pound mackerel, y’all.

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Yeah, breathe.

It’s real. It’s the second tallest year-round falls in the US.

Six hundred twenty feet of breath-taking, spring water beauty.

In 1995, as a wedding party awaited their pictures on the footbridge, pictured above, a 400-ton boulder fell into the cascade pool.
WHAT? I know. Me too.
A seventy (yup 7-0) foot *splash* of water washed over the footbridge, injuring a few of the wedding party.

Enough nature? Onto the food.

 

Hungry yet?

Who wants donuts?

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This girl.

Voodoo Doughnuts is so cool, they’ve got one at the PDX airport.
Good NIGHT, they’ve got some wild flavors.
I can’t even tell you, just go look.

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Coffee.
All the cool kids in Portlandia drink Stumptown coffee.

Wait, Portland, AKA Stumptown.
The PDX has lots of nicknames, Stumptown being one.
The city grew so fast back in the day, people hopped around on tree stumps.
True story, says Wikipedia.

Everything on Wikipedia is true.

Wasn’t it Abraham Lincoln that said, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”?

I kid.

ANYways, it is some dope (that’s good) coffee. I brought a bag back for my French press.

Oh ya, and Portlandians like Austinites.

So if you go, ESPECIALLY if you wait in line at Stumptown with all the hipsters, well – first you need to grow a ‘stache, or have asymmetrical hair, but besides that – tell them you’re from Austin, or New Orleans.
Just don’t say, like, Springfield, or Odessa (love you, West TX!).

 

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More food! Here at Lardo – yes, that’s the real name – I had this ferocious pork belly gyro, with a side of kimchi.
My brain is lacking of anymore mouth watering food adjectives.

Just GO! You need to try all these places!

Lordy, have mercy, do I love me some pork belly!
Well, now I do. Very tender, slightly chewy, but a good salty taste to it.
And fresh flatbread? Tangy kicked-up kimchi?

Yes, please!

 

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Ice cream. Don’t you ever, EVER say NO to ice cream.

 

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ESPECIALLY Salt & Straw Ice Cream.

That’s right, I capitalized that, yo’.

I had the Stumptown Coffee and Almond Brittle w/ salted ganache flavors.

No worries if you cannot decide, they are super nice in a PNW (Pacific Northwest) kind of way; they’ll bring you 17 spoons of every flavor, if you ask.

Don’t ask how I know this.

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I attended my first dog show!

THIS is a big deal! Erin won at the dog show!

She won Winner’s Bitch, and a Major – gooooo Abby and Mama Erin!

I learned A LOT.
Like, don’t pet other people’s dogs.

 

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Whoa. Did we scare ya’?
We like to shop.
No we don’t.

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Pretty Portland buildings.

Always raining.

It’s cool.
No it’s not.

 

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BEST. BRUNCH. EVA’.

Irving St. Kitchen. Boom.

Fist Bump.

Can you feel the coolness seething from this trip?

Maybe that’s calories.

It’s all good.
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Such a good vibe here.

No, I don’t know that gentleman.

We decided to share a Dutch pancake with Mornay sauce and French Toast with Cherry Cranberry Compote.
I’m feeling full just remembering it.

Always bring a friend. Friends equal more ordering options.

They also had tons of refreshing and bubbly cocktails, as well as morning mocktails.
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Tiiimmmeee for my favvorrriiittee partttt!

Erin bought a Group-on for us at Kruger’s Farm on Sauvie Island.

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Complete with pumpkin patch, hay ride, roasted corn and a caramel apple.
Oh, and the corn maze.

Don’t trust US with a map. Just sayin’.

 

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Sigh.
Maybe I need a third house in the PNW.

That’s after I buy my second house on a New Orleans bayou.

Guess I should start with a first house.

Hmm. Hold, please.

 

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Final stop! Saraveza, a Bottle Shop and Pasty Tavern.

Midwest inspired. Who knew?

Y’all, get this girl to the Midwest, stat!
A pasty (pronounced PAH-stee) is like a Hot Pocket, but like 1,000 times better.

I think every Midwesterner reading this just cringed at that comparison.

Sorry, all we’ve got are kolaches here. No pastys!

Their Mac & Cheese was craaaazy good. Thick slices of crunchy bacon lie waiting atop.

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Heartwarming soup, pickled veggies, and a spot where a pasty once lay.

 

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And my girl.

There’s my soul sister, beautiful Erin. In fact, she’s doing a triathlon this summer!
She’s running to raise money for the The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and she has been and continues to be such an inspiration to me with her dedication, tenacity, and giving heart. If you feel so obliged, check out her fundraising page.

Get it, girl!

Backstory: we both happen to be from Northern California, however, we didn’t meet until my last semester of college at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ. I moved to Austin to work in the hotel industry. She later landed a hotel internship in Bastrop, TX. A few years pass, and we both changed careers, moving into education. Now she moved back to the PNW, and I moved to Bastrop. Soul sisters, that’s all I can say.

We’ll always share a special connection. I am so grateful for this trip to visit her new home, and could not have asked for a more gracious or hospitable hostess. Here’s to more travels in the future, friend! Cheers.

 

~Peace, Love, and Foodie Travels Y’all.

 

 

 

 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Ms. Brown’s Kuchen

 

 

Kuchen. Kuchen (pronounced KOO-gehn), means “cake” in German. This is a special, special treat in our family. If you noticed, it’s on a Christmas plate.

Yup, that’s how behind I am. Dumb, big ol’, mean school, life, job. Life has been busy! I stick my tongue out at you.

BUT, the good news is – it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day! Mardi Gras, whatev.

(Which, by the way, I have some gorgeous Mardi Gras cookies to share with you soon….)

Every culture seems to have a sweet like this. Down here in Texas, we’ve got kolaches ’round these parts(that’s Czech). Next door, my neighbor makes a meeeeaan buchta (also Czech, pronounced BOOT-ka) which I’m hoping someday she’ll show me how, but so far, she only makes them for a special few!

So this is a pastry of the German variety; it’s a yeast bread dough, with a custard and fruit filling. Waaaaay back before I was even a glimmer in my mother’s eye, my parents and grandparents were treated to these Kuchens every Christmas Eve. Out west in Sacramento, California, on a little Sitton Way, Mrs. Brown would make a kuchen or 3 special for my Grandpa every Christmas. Being the good-hearted man he was, of course he shared with the family.

Now Mrs. Brown made plenty of flavors: poppyseed, cottage cheese, prune, peach…. and then there was apricot. That was Grandpa’s favorite. Finally after a few years, a little birdie made her way to Mrs. Brown’s ear; she got the word, and 3 apricot kuchens it was from then on, every Christmas Eve.

Grandpa is since gone, and Grandma has gotten older now, so it’s my mom that tells me the tradition of her in-laws. My parents were newlyweds, at the young (REALLY young) age of 18, … Mom tells me the tradition.

They would first spend the evening supper with my great grandparents, then they’d come home late to open a few family presents at home. Mrs. Brown would stop by with her warm kuchens, and they’d all have a piece before bed.

This was before Saran wrap, mind you, so Mrs. Brown would lay a piece of wax paper over the top of the pastry baked in those little foil pans, so nothing would fall in. That wax paper would stick to the warm custard, and they’d peel it back as they all took in the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg on those freshly baked apricots. The bread was soft, and warm. A little sweet, and just enough chew to carry that warm custard ….

 

I’ll be honest, this recipe does take a little time. But it’s all about the memories, and this one will be sure to become tradition. …..

 

Cooking the custard is the hardest part. You’ll want it to coat the back of a spoon, like so.

And yes, don’t be lazy (like I usually am). Take the time to pass the custard through a sieve to get out any last minute lumps.

Then be sure to cover it with Saran wrap to avoid a skin forming on top.

Look at that gorgeous yeast dough.

Blood, sweat, and tears y’all. Well, maybe minus the blood. And tears. That’s no bueno.

 

Prepare the dough into the pans.

Line with peaches, or fruit of your choice.

Layer with custard. Oh my GOODNESS.

Grate some fresh nutmeg! (jarred is fine too)

Thar she be.

Dad was looking excited for his Kuchen.

Totally worth it. Any time of the year.

~Peace, Love, and Custard Y’all.

Print Print Save Save

Ms. Brown's Kuchen

Yield: five 9" custard pies

Ingredients:

Dough:
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, cold
1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons yeast
3 eggs beaten room temperature
1 cup warm milk, divided

Custard:
6 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups whipping cream, unwrapped
2 teaspoons vanilla
cinnamon
nutmeg

Fruit
3 large jars of peaches

Directions:

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm milk (120 degrees). Liquid should get foamy, add pinch of sugar, sit ten minutes. Add eggs and remaining milk to yeast mixture after ten minutes. Mix flour, salt, sugar, shortening as you would pie crust. Looks like small peas. Make well in flour, pour in yeast mixture, using a mixer, mix only until dough forms shiny ball, dough hook. Cover and let rise until doubled, 60-90 minutes. warm oven. draft free. WHile this is rising, make custard.

Mix all ingredients in mixer. Cook in double boiler or carefully over low heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. Pour through a strainer into a bowl. Lay saran wrap on surface of custard to avoid forming skin. Let sit until ready to assemble.

When dough has doubled, punch down, form into a ball, let rest for five minutes. Get 5 pie plates ready, spread Crisco on your hands, divide dough into 5 portions.

Pat dough into pie pans, spreading out along the bottom and up along the sides. Layer fruit in pie pan, sliced and arranged. Cover with custard, bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes; sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.