Friday, February 24, 2012

Broccoli and Cheese Soup: Pioneer Woman


I was needing some comfort last night ... and I had just recently watched an episode of the Pioneer Woman's cooking show on Food Network - and she made Broc Cheese Soup. YUM. One of my fav's. Conrad says his mom uses Velveeta and to be fair, I've never had it. Her soup, that is ... but it just seemed too much like queso to me and you know, processed food = bad. I wanted to use as fresh as I could. Plus there are hundreds of recipes for this- this is just one and it's the one I had and the ingredients were on hand. So I went with PW's recipe and YUM. I did add some Tabasco once I had my bowl poured, but that is just a preference for me. I am so partial to hot stuff!

In a large stock pot drop a 1/2 stick of butter and a half of a diced onion in --- and just make sure you go until the onions are translucent- about 3 minutes. When that is done, you need to slowly start adding flour to the mixture, until it's all balled up and combined. It's sort of like making the first part of a beshemel sauce - just cook out that flour taste - about a minute. Don't really BROWN the flour mixture, just get it to where it looks sort of like cookie dough.

At this point, add in 4 cups of WHOLE milk and 2 cups of half and half. Stir to combine. I used a whisk so I could really get my floury stuff all combined. At this point, just add in a tap of nutmeg. Seriously ... not even a 1/4 teaspoon. Just enough to where you can see it floating on the milky mixture. I have it on medium heat at this point- don't scald the milk! Add salt and pepper to taste. Remembering the cheese is salty!

Then I cut the heads of big bunches of broccoli and threw them in there whole - and then cut up small pieces of the stalk. Not a lot - but I don't like to waste, so I added in some of them. Put a lid on the pot, and turn down to low. Go 25-30 minutes.

While that was going on I grated up a block and a half of cheese. I used a full block of Sharp Cheddar and then some Medium Cheddar. When 30 minutes has passed, you pull the lid off, add your cheese and stir it in. It melts RIGHT away and you can see you have broccoli cheese soup! I really would NOT use the cheese in bags, all pre-shredded. It just doesn't melt the same.

You can leave a small handful of cheese out to just garnish if you want and add hot sauce if you want.

I left my broccoli heads whole. The Pioneer Woman uses an emersion blender to make it all smooth. I think that's fine too, but I wanted my soup to be really chunky and bulky last night. It's really just an illusion to trick Conrad. If he saw all that silky smooth soup he would be like WHAT? Is that supposed to fill me up??? But the big heads of broc floating around totally fooled him - and he ate it with no problem. Veggie haters CAN be fooled!


Friday, February 17, 2012

Angry Birds

Well ... as we start to approach March, nothing like doing all my Christmas posts!
JEEZ was I just "off" for awhile, or what?

Blanca received an Angry Birds toy from her SC grandparents. She loved it --- I was actually unpacking our Christmas packages box when she saw it laying in the box, jumped in and took it. How she always knows what toys are hers, I will NEVER know ... but she saw it, claimed it and played with it.

I thought she was SO cute.

Even took a video:


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rustic Star

Conrad got me some new dinnerware for Christmas - western dinnerware and I LOVE it. It's called Rustic Star and he got it from RND Rustics, my new favorite store. After Christmas, I went back and got the chargers. 4 for $ 22 - steal and deal! Conrad was so happy ... I thought it was a bit odd that a man was dancing around the kitchen because of a great deal on chargers - seeing as how he didn't know what chargers WERE in November- but it turns out the lady at the store told him I NEEDED them and it was a MUST HAVE and he should buy them for me. My table would not be complete and would be SAD without them ... he was really upset about that! Only at that time it was about $80 for 4. RIDICULOUS! Here are my dishes, with chargers!

I went ahead and decided to unpack the plates. I was going to wait until we were in the new house, but it could be a year or even MORE at this point - and I wanted to enjoy them now. I was thinking in the new house, I would have so much more room. I could have 3 different plate sets if I wanted! (Our everyday plates are still Mikasa French Countryside C's grandma bought him) So I took the Christmas table and turned it into the western table. Really most people don't leave dishes out unless they are staging their houses, but what the hay - I can do what I want!

Christmas Table:

and then fully set western, Rustic Star table:

I love it!  ... and maybe someday soon I'll even relax enough to let us eat off them. Won't THAT be a treat??? I was going to wait for the new house ... but, it doesn't make much sense. I bet my grandma's chili will taste goooooooooood in those bowls! YEE-HAW.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Happy (?) New Year

I have found this year, so far, to be pretty exhausting. Thus, little to no blog updates.

It's not a BAD year so far ... (I mean hello 2011 - that was BAD) it's just ... super tiring. I'm so glad we already went on one trip this year- to Lake Charles- and we had a blast ... because I'm not sure yet when they next one will be. When I set up this Explore Houston thing- I was thinking at least one "trip" a month - and truly I was thinking a day trip an hour away would count. There's tons of stuff around here - Galveston, First Monday in Winnie, Beaumont, Alvin, Lake Conroe, Livingston .... but thinking about going to one of those places in the next 3 weeks is really exhausting! I'm not sure it will happen!

But I'm still committed to it - just not sure it will get done in February. I have another restaurant review or two ... there's a new "fancy" grocery store I discovered .... there's lots of things to discover right here, I'm just disappointed that I'm so dad gum tired already 5 weeks into the New Year! I also don't want to drag Conrad out and about, if he's exhausted too and he is .... but I suppose I could always climb in the car and go by myself if he's not interested in visiting the Dollhouse Conservatory of New Orleans (not a real place) ---- and I can only imagine he would NOT be excited about going! :)

I don't think it's a health issue or anything - it's just I had two weeks of really hard, rough weeks at work. When you have that going on, you can barely drag yourself to the couch and just sit there until bed time. It was hard and for me, emotional ... and I didn't feel like doing squat when I got home. I barely even grocery shopped or cooked. I think we lived on pizza for at least one week. Weekends were my time to just get back to normal and by the time I did, it was Monday again ... and another rough week.

Conrad's parents are supposed to be coming in early March - so we have some decluttering and organizing to do anyway. Both guest rooms have been storage rooms since Christmas- we have that to look forward to. I heard someone or read something one time that said the state of your house reflects the state your mind/emotions. So perhaps if I declutter and get things cleaned up at home - things will realign themselves in my brain. Right now, if you looked at my house, it would reflect a crazy, lazy brain.  

Everyone has these periods of non-creativity and exhaustion and non-productivity!

Here is to making February a little less tiring than January was!


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Exploring Houston: Cypress Station Grill - Cypress, TX

Well, Explore Houston 2012 has begun! I looked on some Houston foodie blogs and they mentioned this place had the "Best Comfort Food of 2010" ... I'm a little late to the party - but I looked it up and it's still open, had decent reviews and was only 20 minutes or so from the house. Explore Houston begins --- and begins pretty close to home!

Conrad and I agreed to try it out for Sunday lunch and all the reviews I read said the food was really good - even outstanding in some instances. They said the service was terrible and the place was run by "young kids" - and since Cy-Fair High School is literally across the street, it made sense to me!

We arrived and it's a very unassuming place - right next to the railroad tracks - I guess, thus lending the name "Cypress STATION Grill". Clever.

They have a HUGE parking lot which always wins my vote! They also have a pretty decent outdoor area - for outdoor eating, concerts, etc - had it been evening, no doubt the fireplace would have been lit. It's very nice. I liked it! We are thinking of building a very similiar fireplace outside, when our new house is built.

The interior was nice and they had various railroad company logos all over: Union Pacific, Amtrak, BNSF, etc ... clever. Menus were fair (sort of boring looking) ...  but they have a HUGE selection. Tons of apps --- salads, tons of burgers, pastas, and comfort food. It took forever for us to decide, but in reading the reviews everyone recommended the chicken fried chicken. Said it was NOT TO MISS. The prices were fair - burgers about $8 although they did offer a bison burger for $15. The pastas were around $12 - the apps were $4-5.

So we finally decided and ordered the queso to start. DEFINITELY the star of the show. The chips were warm and crispy - and the queso was WHITE QUESO. LOVE LOVE LOVE and it's so rare! This queso came with taco meat, guacamole and pico de gallo on the side in little cups. So we added that, of course, and it was delicious. Still missing something though- so we asked for jalapenos to add. They came and it was PERFECT. It didn't have much zip without them, and Conrad and I are pretty zippy people. I recommend this queso - I mean I would DRIVE there just to get it. It's pretty, huh?

Conrad got a burger. I asked him was it akin to Chili's ... or a more homestyle burger like this place in Tomball - Mel's --- and he said more like Mel's. So I thought this was good. Homemade type burgers always win my vote. I went with the chicken fried chicken. It was HUGE - and the gravy was really nice. I went with green beans which were a good solid B - they had the bacon and onions like I like but were a tad too crunchy .... and the broccoli and cheese was off the CHAIN. It had the white cheese like the queso. I could have licked the bowl. The CFC was a bit of a disappointment. It was seasoned well - and was pounded out to a nice thin/but not too thin, thickness - and the batter stuck to the chicken. BUT it wasn't near crispy enough. I like it be like --- when you go to Long John Silver's and get the crispys ---  I like to have a few really crispy, battery pieces on it and this one didn't have it. You can tell by the picture the batter just isn't brown enough. It should be dark, in my opinion, KFC dark, you know?

We give this place a good B+. The service was great - we didn't have a problem in the world and the place WAS filled with kids that worked there. Our drinks were filled a million times, the food came fast - it was fine. The queso is worth the trip --- and I'll go back for that, if nothing else. They DID charge me $.79 for the jalepenos which I think is CRAP and I left them a note to say so. I buy giant jars of them for $1.19 --- that is a RIP OFF. It came to us in this tiny little cup (see the honey mustard cup next to Conrad's french fries? It was a cup like that, SMALL) - probably 15 altogether, I mean REALLY? I don't like being nickeled and dimed to death - it was already a $30 check for goodness sakes. That was a turn off, or I would have probably said A- on this place.

Explore Houston will be continuing! I won't always be talking about restaurants - I want to see other things too and I have an idea of what those places are, but I'm hoping there will be tons of resturants reviews too. Finding new places is probably one of my favorite things!