Saturday, December 19, 2009

Toffee Cookies w/chocolate and pecans

Today I'm finally going to bake these delicious looking cookies that I ran across on Steamy Kitchens Blog the other day. Also, I'm going to be baking my moms "famous" Lemon Bread, and my daughter is currently in the kitchen baking her own version of Oatmeal-Cinnamon cookies.

Toffee Cookies with Dark Chocolate Glaze

recipe from Salty Sweet by Christie Matheson

Makes 20 to 24 cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
¼ cup chopped toasted pecans
sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the egg yolks one at a time and mix well.

Combine the flour and salt in a small, bowl then add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture, mixing until well combined.

Shape the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about ¼ inch thick. Cut out circles with a 2-inch round cutter and place the cookies on the baking sheets.

Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Let cool completely on the baking sheets.

Bring water to a simmer in a double boiler, or set up a heat-proof bowl over a small sauce pan with water simmering in the bottom. Melt the chocolate over the simmering water. When the cookies are cool, spread them gently with a thin layer of melted chocolate. Before the chocolate dries, sprinkle lightly with the pecans and a few grains of fleur de sel. Let the chocolate set. The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Beef Fajitas w/Guacamole & Cilantro

By Dave Pepple's Request:

Shelley's Beef Fajitas with Guacamole & Cilantro (etc!)

(you should be warned that my measurements are never exact! I always add more or less based on taste, but this is a good guide to go by!:)

Beef Fajitas Marinade
1 pound flank steak, sliced into 3 inch strips (easier if the meat is partially frozen)***
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp oregano
salt & pepper
1-2 tbsp olive oil
*obviously, you can double or triple this recipe. This was enough for 3 people to have 2 "tacos")

Place all ingredients in a Gallon sized Zip Lock and marinate in refrigerator for up to 24 hours, but for at least a couple hours. The longer the better, in my opinion. Turn often while in the refrigerator. *** (my husband said that you should marinate the flank steak whole, then slice afterward to keep the juices in. I disagree with him, but maybe he has a point. However, you didn't ask him for HIS recipe, now did ya? :)

When the meat is ready, saute in olive oil until it gets a nice golden color. You might need to cook off all of the excess moisture; I ended up pouring alot of liquid out before I finally got the meat to brown. Another option is that you could pat the meat dry with a paper towel before putting in the saute pan, then it might brown a little quicker.

Fajita Veggies
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 sweet yellow pepper, thinly sliced
3 bell peppers of various colors (1 red, 1 yellow, 1 green, etc), thinly sliced into strips
salt & pepper

Heat olive oil in saute pan until it ripples. Add vegetables, salt and pepper. Stir and saute until veggies are soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Just leave then in the pan "full of love" until everything else is ready. :) They keep nicely and you can give them a quick re-heat.

2 ripe Hass avocados
juice of half of a lime (or a lemon)
1 tbsp red onion, diced fine
several dashes of ground cumin
a dash of cumin seed
a dash of garlic salt

In a small bowl, smash the avocado with a fork. Squeeze the lime juice in, toss the rest in, mix it up and let it "marry" in the fridge.

Sour Cream with toasted Cumin Seeds
1 cup sour cream (I use light)
2 tbsp cumin seeds

In a small non stick pan, toast the cumin seeds on med-high heat for about 5 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool. Toss in a small bowl with the sour cream and let "marry" in fridge.

Additional ingredients:
Flour tortillas ( I steam/toast mine over a gas burner on my range top)
Hot sauce, pico de gallo, or salsa

Now the fun part! Fill a flour tortilla with the fajita meat, onion/peppers, guacamole, sour cream, several sprigs of cilantro and a few dashes of hot sauce or salsa. Personally, I like to use Sriacha sauce, but its really hot. Or else I make my own pico de gallo, which is just diced tomato, red onion, jalepeno, cilantro, a little lime, salt & pepper.

And thank you for asking! :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Graceland and The Majestic Grille

We had set Sunday aside for Corey and I to do some sightseeing on our own. I tried to make plans to have lunch with my friend, Shelley Hargraves, from high school, but she couldn't wing it. We had a nice talk on the phone, though.

Corey and I wanted to see Graceland before leaving Memphis. We took a shuttle there and our driver was pretty informative. He dropped us off and we took another shuttle up to the residence. It was so different than I expected it to be. I thought it would be more lavish, but it was an older home, and looked pretty understated to me. I was kind of shocked, for some reason, at the 70's decor! It was amazing how well preserved it was! It was literally like walking into a time capsule of the 1970's! Elvis didn't live super lavishly at all. At least not from what I can see in his house. I mean, he liked the flamboyant outfits and stuff, but you can tell that he was a total family man. It was pretty emotional for me. I really am glad we had a chance to do this....even if we were still sore from the race and had a hard time getting up and down the steps.

After Graceland, we took a tour of Sun Studios downtown. It was full of history and the supposed birthplace of American rock and roll. Its where Elivs Presley and Johnny Cash signed on, as well as Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. I enjoyed the studio portion of the tour, but I was a little bit bored in the beginning. Overall, I'm glad we went. I was really hungry by this point and was ready for some dinner!

I don't have many nice things to say about The Majestic Grille in downtown Memphis. One thing I thought was cool was that it was in an old historic movie theater and there was an old film playing on the wall: The Holiday Inn with Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby. I thought it was cool until the music/song/dancing part started every 5 minutes and the volume went up 25 notches.

We were greeted and seated immediately, but it took forever for our waiter to greet us. We ordered a cocktail and waited at least 10 minutes before he finally came out...empty see if we were ready to order. We only knew that we wanted to start with the onion rings and horseradish sauce (terrible! Greasy, batter kept falling off, and it was just tasteless!). Our drinks finally came, we ordered, and we waited quite a while for our dinner to arrive. I had the New York Strip steak with mashed potatoes and a side of spinach. Corey had the same, except with the market vegetables. The food was good, but our steaks were really fatty and gristly. I was overall pretty disappointed in the Majestic. Our poor waiter was so slammed and the bad service was not his fault at all and we told him that we understood when he apologized. Its not that the place was packed, but they only had 2 waiters and they had ours going from the back of the restaurant to the front, etc. He was literally sweating when he first approached us. I overheard another party complain.

I wish we had gone to Circa by John Bragg instead. I loved the menu, but when we got there it was dead, and Corey had said he walked into the Majestic the night before and thought it looked good, so we tried that instead. Kristin, if you're reading, I was so convinced that we went to Circa, that I told all of you (on Facebook) that that is where we went. I was wrong. It was not Circa, it was The Majestic. Oops. Next time in Memphis, I will try Circa instead! :)

Corky's BBQ

Saturday morning Corey and I headed to the lobby to meet Angela and Bridget so that we could walk to the starting line of the race together. The girls and I headed to the back and Corey went up to corral number 4. He was all set to run the full and the girls and I were ready to walk/jog/wog the half. It was freeeeeezzzzzing!!! But we got started and somehow, 3 hours and 40 minutes later, we crossed the finish line. Angela was a trooper. She hadn't trained at all because she had an injury and had decided to drop out a while ago, but at the last minute she decided what the heck, she'd join us. Kristin was gonna be at mile 7, but her warm and cozy bed got the best of her...and I don't blame her one bit! I would have stayed in bed, too!!!! Anyway, the race was fun. I figured if I wanted to run ahead, I would, but I was having fun trying to motivate Angela and I had so much crap in my pocket that it made it harder to run anyway, so I just walked it with them. This was my 4th half marathon and definitely not my best time, but who cares? I was there to hang out with my blogging buddies. After the race, there was pizza, donuts, and cookies! And boy did I indulge!!!! Yum. Best post race food ever!

We went home and took a nap. I slept for 2.5 wonderful hours and then got ready for dinner. Kristin picked us up and we headed to Germantown to meet Angela, JD, Tatum, & Bridget for some BBQ at Corky's! We were excited. It was fun to catch up and talk about the race. We ordered nachos and the cheese and sausage platter to start. No complaints here! For dinner, I had the brisket and Corey had the rib & pulled pork combo. He had no complaints, either. We couldn't eat it all and took the rest home. We nibbled on it later on that night, but still ended up throwing a lot of it away because we had no fridge. :( We had a lot of fun Saturday night, said our final goodbyes, and then Kristin drove us home via the scenic route. Thank you Kristin for driving us home!!

Mesquite Chop House

I went to Memphis over the weekend to meet some fellow Extra Pound Bloggers. They had all met before several times, so I was the newbie. I've known Angela and Kristin for about 3 years and Bridget for a little over one year, I think. I immediately bonded with all three of them and was really looking forward to meeting them in person. So, we came up with a reason: the St. Judes Memphis Half Marathon.
My husband joined me on this trip so that he could run the full marathon. We arrived Friday afternoon and went straight to the expo, where we met Angela and Bridget! I was so nervous! I was worried that they wouldn't like me. They both seemed nervous, too. But we made our way through the expo and then headed over to meet Kristin for dinner. Corey went on his merry way because it was girls night.
The concierge at The Westin made a reservation for 4 at Mesquite Chop House for 6:00. We showed up at least 15 minutes early, but our table wasn't ready. We ordered a glass of wine (well, me and Kristin did anyway) and noticed that a few parties came in without reservations and were seated immediately. I was irked, so I asked the bartender/hostess what exactly we were waiting for...she said she was hooking us up with a better table in the downstairs library and with one of their stellar waiters. Whatever, sounded good at the time.
Well, we were seated and greeted, made our selections, placed our order. The salads took quite a while to arrive, but the entrees took even longer. The service was extremely slow and we were all pretty hungry. I think all of our steaks were cooked to order, but for some reason, Angela's steak didn't come out with ours and poor Kristin kept having to ask for a napkin and a new steak knife. I'm going to chalk this up to them seating us downstairs and the rest of his station being upstairs. I was a server many moons ago and when you have one party in a separate station, it is hard to keep on top of it. We were mildly annoyed, but once we got our food, I think I was just grateful for the chance to have a nice conversation and get to know these girls in person.
I thought the food was delicious, but the service could have been better.
Thanks to Kristin for the lovely Friendship Soup and for picking up the check! That was a really nice surprise!! I know we all appreciated it!