Perfect Soup Recipe for a Snowy Night

What a good, good day. I read for two hours without an interruption, not even to pee. I didn’t look at my email all day. (Okay, okay, but it was only twice.) I got most of the gifts wrapped that were hidden in various places around the house, and I even remembered, after some time, where all of them were hidden. I had some awesome Pandora holiday music flowing. (Turns out, I like hipster music. Who knew?) And all day long, a gentle, light snow was falling. Basically, I was in my own little perfect snow globe. One of the good ones. Not one of those plastic ones at Walmart.

And then I had to make dinner.

I’ve been in a dinner-cooking rut of late. Everything seems old and tired, like me after a long day at work. But alas, just like there is vodka for me, there is Pinterest for dinner. And Pinterest’s got it going on when it comes to cool new recipes.

So I made a new soup.

Soup and I? We have a long history. In the beginning, we both made mistakes. I didn’t always follow the rules, and that made things complicated. But as our relationship deepened, we grew together, not apart. And now? We are soulmates destined to be together forever.

Especially soup that has any amount of cream in it.

Here’s the recipe I tried out tonight. It was the perfect soup for a snowy evening in the mountains. But it would probably taste okay where you are, too. (I mean, it could. I guess. Give it a try and see. Love, your favorite mountain snob.)

The original recipe was from the Damn Delicious blog: http://damndelicious.net/2014/10/29/sausage-potato-spinach-soup/.

I made a few tweaks and the result was pretty dang good. The kiddo ate three bowls, and the hoodlum dogs were drooling. All good signs.


 

Sausage, Potato and Spinach Soup

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound mild ground Italian sausage

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon fresh basil, finely chopped (you could use dried if you wanted)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1 pound young red potatoes, diced

4 cups baby spinach

¾ cup heavy cream

1 ½ cup skim milk

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add Italian sausage and cook until quite browned. Make sure to crumble the sausage as it cooks. Stir in garlic, onion, oregano and basil. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions have become translucent. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in chicken broth. Add bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until fork-tender, about 12 minutes. (It took more like 20 minutes at high altitude, but who’s counting.) Stir frequently during the boil. Discard bay leaf. Stir in spinach until it wilts. Then stir in heavy cream and milk until heated through, about 2 minutes; test and season further with salt and pepper, to taste.

(And no, I didn’t take pictures. Even though I *am* on Instagram now. But I can’t even figure out how to put a border on my photos in the app, so …)

 

Which Novel Should You Read First? Take the Quiz

The infographic craze is, well, crazy. I think it’s safe to say that I’m about as tired of infographics as I am the #IceBucketChallenge.

And yet …

Let me know your result of this quiz, would ya? I’ll psychologically analyze you later.

infographic

Homemade Peach Ice Cream — Without an Ice-Cream Maker

20120717__0719_HOGAR_PEACHES

Palisade, Colorado, is home to some of the juiciest, sweetest and best-tasting peaches I’ve ever had. And people, I know peaches. My parents grow peaches in South Texas. I’m never around anymore during picking season, but I get to enjoy them in Mom’s homemade peach pies at the holidays. My grandmother used to make the best homemade peach ice cream. I love peaches so much that I’ve even been known to make peach jam, which is sort of out of character because there’s this whole fear of bacteria thing I have going on.

The point of all this (there is one, I promise) is that Palisade peaches are in season right now, and there was a legit rush going on at the farmer’s market on Saturday. Yuppies and grandmas alike were elbowing each other to get their hands on a box or two.

It got a little crazy. I tried to remain calm, but one lady literally pushed me at one point, and my kid wasn’t with me so hell yes I pushed back. I’m not proud of that moment, but we’re talking peaches here.

Actually, the point of this blog is not at all about peach-craving betches in their yoga capris and pointy visors. The point is that I came home with some gorgeous peaches and wanted to make ice cream in honor of my Mammaw. But I wanted a shortcut.

I found one, and it was seriously good! Maybe not AS good as Mammaw’s, but I didn’t have to use an ice cream maker, and I only needed two ingredients.

No-Churn Peach Ice Cream

Peel and slice 6 large, ripe peaches.

Put them in a bowl in the freezer. Freeze until they are firm.

Put frozen peaches and 1 cup of sweetened condensed milk in a blender or food processor. Mix well.

Put mixture back in freezer for 2 hours, then enjoy!

Seriously, try it. It’s wonderful. And so easy.

 

Why Of Course There’s a Recipe for Dr Pepper Ice Cream

A great Texas friend (thanks, Lorri) who shares my unfortunate crack-like addiction to Dr Pepper recently sent me a recipe for Dr Pepper ice cream.

Because, well, hell yes, I want some! What could be better than ice-cold Dr Pepper but ice-cold Dr Pepper surrounded by smooth, ice-cold cream?

I haven’t tried it yet, but wanted to share the recipe with others, so that the joy will be spread around the world. Or at least WordPress.

Here you go:

Dr Pepper Ice Cream
(Recipe is for a one-gallon ice cream freezer)  
   
     1 can sweetened condensed milk (Eagle Brand or similar)
     1 pint half and half
     3 regular cans Dr Pepper
     1 cup sugar
      4 eggs
      2 tsp vanilla extract
      1 T. flour
 
Vintage Dr Pepper ad from the 1960s, via Vintage Ad Browser

Vintage Dr Pepper ad from the 1960s, via Vintage Ad Browser

The Best Margarita Recipe, Taste-Tested and Texan-Approved

tequila Margarita on the rocksWhen you’re from Texas, three of the four main food groups are lime, tequila, and salt. (The fourth is straight-up enchiladas.) Suffice it to say that I’m no stranger to the sweet-tart heaven of a margarita done right. (The main character in my novel Blue Straggler isn’t, either.)

I’ve had margaritas made with sweet-and-sour mixes. I’ve had margaritas made with Lone Star beer. I’ve had blue margaritas and strawberry margaritas and cucumber margaritas and prickly pear margaritas. I’ve enjoyed frozen margaritas, swirled-with-sangria margaritas and on-the-rocks margaritas.

And they are not all, as they say, created equal.

In honor of the two-year anniversary of the publication of Blue Straggler by 30 Day Books, I’m sharing what I consider to be the best, simple margarita recipe on the planet.

Let me know if you agree!

The Blue Straggler Margarita

Run a juicy lime wedge over the rim of a cocktail glass and dip the rim of the glass in coarse sea salt.

In a bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon light agave nectar with 1 tablespoon filtered water and 1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice.

Pour the nectar mixture, along with 1/3 cup 100-percent blue agave tequila, into a shaker. (Do not settle for cheap college-days tequila. You’re a grown up!)

Add ice and shake.

Pour liquid only over fresh ice in your salt-rimmed glass. Add a final squirt of lime on top and drop the wedge into the drink.

Sip while listening to the Marty Robbins’ song, El Paso, or Down on the Rio Grande by Johnny Rodriguez.

Good Enchiladas Are a Powerful Thing

There’s a scene in my novel, Blue Straggler, that involves Tex-Mex food, which every Texan knows that, when done right, most specifically enchiladas, can be a gift straight from heaven. Here’s an excerpt from that scene:

I convince myself to get out tonight. What I would prefer to do is curl up on the couch with a box of Godiva chocolates and Casablanca. But I promised Rudy I’d join him, so I throw on a pair of jeans and leave the house. The draw of enchiladas is a powerful thing.

The restaurant is packed. Dusty piñatas hang from the ceiling’s cedar beams, and paper-mache flowers in green and pink are gathered in Mexican pottery around the restaurant. Every table—wooden and scarred and square—holds a black, cast-iron pot of salsa and an orange plastic pitcher of beer.

Making my way through the crowd, I dodge waitresses balancing platters of sizzling beef. I can just make out Rudy’s red head in the back corner bobbing around like a fishing cork, watching for me. Next to him, his blonde-haired guest is flushed from what looks to be several pitchers down.

Wolfgang—I swear that’s his name—shouts “nice to meet you.” Mariachi music blares from speakers near the kitchen, competing with the low-octave hum of the Friday night crowd.

At this point, I don’t know if I would call Wolfgang engaging, but I decide he could be quasi-appealing, especially next to the glow of the orange pitcher.

“You look like someone I should know,” he says, and I try to block out that he’s using a Worst Pick-Up Line from a list circulating on the Internet.

“You’re from Colorado?” I ask, not all that interested. Probably because burritos are being served at the next table.

Wolfgang leans toward me, his thick brows drawing closer together as he speaks. “I’m just in town for a few days.”

I try to draw my brows together like him. But as usual, I’m reasonably sure I’ve contorted my face into some kind of scowl. Rudy laughs; he knows exactly what I’m trying to do.

“Why the scowl?” Wolfgang asks.

“I’m thirsty,” I say.

“Drink up.” He pours me the first of what I expect will be many.

“A toast to new partnerships,” Rudy holds his cup above the table. Wolfgang touches his cup to Rudy’s and looks for mine. I’m pouring myself another.

In honor of Bailey and Rudy, I’m sharing my own enchilada recipe, which I’ve been told is pretty darn good. So good, in fact, that they have an ego all their own.

Look, I’m just saying people ask me to make these. A lot.

Warning: This is not an exact science. It’s more like an art …

Kathy’s World-Famous Enchiladas

Brown 2 lbs. ground sirloin in 2 Tablespoons of oil with two medium chopped red onions, 1 green pepper (chopped), 1 red pepper (also chopped), 3 cloves of garlic (you guessed it  – chopped), ½ cup salsa (I use Pace medium chunky), a dash of Tabasco, a shit ton of cumin powder (probably 6 – 7 Tablespoons), 1 large jalapeno (chopped – add more if you’re a badass), and 1 can black beans (drained). Bonus points if your black beans have some Mexican spices in them.

Add 7-8 Tablespoons of GOOD chili powder. (Do not, I repeat, do not use Walmart Great Ffing Value chili powder.) Add 7-8 Tablespoons of water to get it all saucy and such. Do not add too much water or you will ruin EVERYTHING. No pressure.

Simmer about 30 minutes uncovered. Drink some good beer while waiting … or sip some tequila if you’re feeling like a real rebel.

Coat a white corn tortilla in the meat sauce then put in a scoop of meat sauce and some grated cheese (I suggest pepper jack, medium cheddar, or Colby jack or a combination). Then roll that sucker like dice (not really), and place in a long casserole dish. Repeat until you’ve filled up that dish with rolled tortillas full of meat and cheese goodness. You’ll be placing the filled and rolled tortillas side by side. Put a bit of meat sauce on top of them as you are adding tortillas to the dish, to keep them from coming unrolled. (There’s a marijuana joke in there somewhere, I’m sure.)

Top with remaining meat sauce and lots of grated cheese. Don’t be stingy with the cheese. This is not the time to count your Weight Watchers points.

Bake at 375 degrees until things are all bubbling and cheese is melted.

Behold, heaven on earth. Accept your applause.

Memories Like Soup

Tip: Do not search for soup images while you are hungry.

Tip: Do not search for soup images while you are hungry.

Isn’t it interesting the memories that your brain’s cerebrum chooses to hold on tight to well into adulthood?

I mean, sure, there are the obvious high points, like the night of your high school graduation. (I still remember what I wore under my black gown, do you?) There are the low points, like the first time you experienced the loss of a childhood cherished pet. (Oh Champ, I still mourn you. Such a good, good dog.)

But there are also those weird little memories that, in the big scheme of life, tend to seemingly have no meaning. Yet, they emerge when you least expect it and become symbolic somehow.

I had one of those memories pop up this weekend.

My son wasn’t feeling great, and we were snuggling together on the couch, reading, in the early evening, having just eaten supper, most of which he didn’t touch. And then for whatever reason, I began to remember being really sick on a rare cool and rainy fall Sunday in South Texas when I was maybe 9 or 10. I remembered being curled up on the living room couch, coughing, with my Snoopy pillow against my cheek, while my dad watched the Houston Oilers in his recliner and snacked on peanuts.

But mostly, I remembered my mom in the kitchen (not unusual, as she spends most of her waking moments there still to this day), making my favorite creamy potato soup. We’re talking smooth, rich, perfectly homemade potato soup. Soup that’ll smooth the rough edges off your soul with just a cupful. No lie.

I swear, I could smell it simmering. I could hear the spoon against the stainless-steel side of the soup pan as she stirred it. I don’t remember actually eating the soup that Sunday, and I don’t recall any of the conversations that might have gone on around me. But I do vividly remember Mom making that soup … for me.

So, here in Colorado, I handed the Stinkbug over to his dad, who was also watching football on TV, in a recliner. And I quickly drove the 20 miles to the grocery store for ingredients. Then I came home, and at 8 p.m. on a Sunday night, I began to make my son’s favorite homemade chicken noodle soup.

I could say that I did it because I want a Mom of the Year award. (Do they give those out? Because that’d be cool.) Or I could say I did it because I knew he’d likely be even sicker tomorrow, and the soup would comfort him. (Prediction verified, darnit.)

But somewhere inside, I know the real reason I made that soup. It’s because some day, I’d love for him to be holding his own sniffling kiddo on a cool fall Sunday (maybe they’ll be watching football)  – and I hope, in that moment, he’ll think of me and smile.

—————————————————————–

PS: Thanks, Mama, for making that soup that day. Just in case I didn’t tell you because I was a snot-nosed, smart-ass preteen. Which is unlikely, right? But just in case.

You Must Try This Recipe: Shrimp Tacos With Corn-Avocado Salsa

Photo credit: Iain Bagwell, from http://www.cookinglight.com/food/quick-healthy/quick-easy-mexican-recipes-00400000054866/page26.html

Photo credit: Iain Bagwell, from cookinglight.com

This evening, my husband, son and I made the most awesome, fresh-tasting summer meal. And let me say right now that, being a South Texas girl with a Mama who cooks better than most professional chefs, I rarely rave about a taco recipe because who could ever improve on hers?

Well, this one comes close. We adapted from a Cooking Light recipe and made it our own. (The magazine called this “Mexican food,” by the way, and it’s not. It’s more California Meets Texas food.) Regardless, I highly recommend. And the greatest part is that it had plenty of smaller jobs that our son could handle. He was very proud of his lime-sour cream sauce.

Try it while the summer corn is still in season!

Shrimp Tacos With Corn-Avocado Salsa

3 ears of fresh sweet corn, cut off the cob

2 tsp. olive oil, divided

1 cup chopped green onions

1 cup chopped cilantro

Juice of 1 lime, divided

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. coarse ground black pepper, divided

Dash of cumin, chili powder and garlic powder

1 large avocado, diced

1 lb. frozen shrimp (tails off) – defrosted

4 oz. sour cream (light)

White corn tortillas

1/2 cup canola oil

——————————————————————–

Mix corn with 1 tsp. of olive oil, spread in a roasting pan. Broil on high about 8 minutes until corn is lightly browned. Let corn cool.

Combine corn, avocado, cilantro, green onions, salt, 1/4 tsp. of black pepper, and juice of half a lime. Mix carefully so it doesn’t turn to mush!

Combine 2 tsp. of lime juice with sour cream to make the lime-sour cream sauce. Mix thoroughly. Kiddo says for about 15 minutes. “That’s how I got it perfect,” he says. Mom says 30 seconds at most. 🙂

Toss shrimp into sauté pan with remaining olive oil and add spices and the remaining juice in the lime. If the shrimp is making a ton of liquid as it cooks, pour off a good deal of the liquid as you cook. Cook the shrimp, stirring/tossing, for about 6 minutes or so – or until done.

Meanwhile, fry the corn tortillas in the canola oil until they are just beginning to get crunchy – you want them soft enough to bend easily still.

Top each warm tortilla with the corn-avocado mixture and a drizzle of the lime-sour cream sauce.

Enjoy with a light ale or ice-cold Dr Pepper, of course.

MMMMMMMMM.

 

 

Texas Women Bloggers

A Texas Christmas (Early) and Other Thoughts

We flew home for a quick holiday visit to South Texas this past weekend. As always, it was great to see my family, wear sandals and shorts in December, and enjoy my mom’s awesome cooking.

Mom made 12 pies at last count, and I think I ate 10 of them. We’re talking pecan, peach, lemon icebox, lemon black-bottom … mmmmm. We had her famous chili and beans for our “Christmas” lunch, along with homemade tamales. She also made all of her traditional cookies, and Dad barbecued my favorite sausage for me. It was all delicious, and I’m pretty sure I gained 10 pounds in three days, as evidenced by my jeans getting tighter and tighter each day. Ask me if I care!

The best quote from my son since we’ve been back was: “It sure is hard to come back here after eating at Grams’ house.” Which did not go over well, as he said it while eating a dinner my husband had cooked.

During the Texas Christmas gathering, we also enjoyed another rousing singing competition we call “Harris Idol.” My favorite moment was when the whole kid gang (minus my nephew who preferred to go deer hunting instead) sang Feliz Navidad as a finale, with all their hearts, even the parts they mumbled. It was priceless.

I don’t care who you are. This is funny.

There was the usual craziness in Texas, too, of course: We played our traditional Christmas Lights Game and some Unnamed People cheated badly. There was a strange Santa Claus toilet seat cover involved, dating back to the 1960s. My parents’ dog hid behind the couch a lot. I encouraged my kid to write “Wash Me” on my sister’s dirty prized Cadillac, which in hindsight might’ve been a mistake. We opened presents one at a time (to make the fun last longer) and there was disagreement as usual over whose turn it was. My son got a youth-size power drill. (And I’m totally on board with it. After all, he asked Santa for wood.) The usual country music CDs and knives and handheld spotlights were given and received. There were a few disagreements here and there, some harsh words may or may not have been spoken at one point. I was enjoying Hazelnut Martinis, so I’m not the best judge.

My son wants his own goats.

My son, by the way, loves Texas even more than I do. He cried for a long time at the airport — so much so that I truly think some people assumed I was abducting him. The only way I could get him to stop was to talk about all the things he’d do once he moved to Texas, which he plans to do as soon as he graduates from high school (as long as I come with him). He says he will attend Texas A&M (good boy), build his own log cabin on my family’s land, dig three water wells so he won’t run out of water, and drill one oil well so he won’t run out of money. He wants 10 dogs, three goats, three milk cows, five beef cows, one rooster, some chickens for eggs, and a pig. Also he will have three horses, and I get to ride one of them. The other two are his. And he plans on having several tractors because they are always breaking down. He’s got it all planned out — has even sketched out how he will design his log cabin. When I was his age, I’m pretty sure all I cared about was my Lite Brite and Raggedy Ann doll.

On a much sadder note, Newtown happened while we were home, too. Like so many people, there were entire moments when I couldn’t breathe when I heard the news. Could. Not. Breathe. But I couldn’t let myself get too vocal about all that I was feeling while I was home — I didn’t want to ruin Christmas with my family, a lot of whom are supporters of the NRA and who believe guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

Just typing that old cliché upsets me, actually. To me, that’s like saying (and I’m stealing this from a Twitter feed) chickens don’t lay eggs. People with chickens lay eggs.

But here’s the thing. We as a nation have to do something. Something is terribly wrong in our society. The easy availability of assault weapons — weapons designed and manufactured to kill — is part of the problem. I believe that with every ounce of my being. It’s not the only thing wrong, but it’s a large piece of the puzzle.

So I say this: Please, please, let’s have some rational discussions about assault weapons. Let’s demand a plan of action from our leaders.

Please.

For the sake of every little soul who was killed, for every parent who waited at that firehouse for their baby … who never came, for the children and adults who lived through the massacre and now have to go on with those images and emotions forever embedded in their brains and hearts, for our own children.

And to all those who say it won’t help to ban assault weapons, I say this: Maybe it will. It’s a start. And what if it COULD help? What if it could save one child’s life? It’s worth a try. Slippery slopes, be damned. Can you look a parent in the eye whose child was shot 11 times and say you are worried about losing your right to own a hobby gun?

That’s all I want for Christmas. For us, as a nation, to act on this.

In the meantime, I wish all of you, no matter where you stand on gun control issues, a warm holiday with your families. Tell everyone you love that you think they are pretty great. Make sure that every friend and family member knows that if they are ever feeling so completely hopeless that they want to take their life or others’ lives, that you are there and you will help them. Tell them that killing is never the answer. And to every family who lost someone to a mass shooting this year, I pray for your hearts to heal. And I’m not even the praying kind.

Sending love and peace to all.

 

What I’m Thankful for Right Now, in This Moment

New and old friends and family who support my writing. A six-year-old who can already cook up a mean batch of fried catfish. Sonic ice and Dr Pepper. A husband who buys me Sonic ice because he knows it makes me happy. Two furry babies who make me smile, no matter how very bad they can be. My publisher, 30 Day Books (Laura Pepper Wu and Brandon Wu) — it’s so darn awesome to know that there are good, kind people all over the world, and that I have these folks on my side. Jeremy Kron for his wonderful work on my novels’ cover and interior design. My new job with Truven Health Analytics. I’m loving the work so much. Knowing that I’ll get to see my family and taste my mama’s cooking in just a couple of weeks. My Kindle Fire. Brilliant writing by people who inspire me. The herd of deer hanging out on our road this evening. The Rocky Mountains. Fresh mountain air. Memory foam. This laptop. Friends I know will be there for me if I need them. Texas Hill Country pecans, found at a Target in Colorado, believe it or not. Cool cotton pillowcases. Good wine. Stand-up comedians. A mother- and father-in-law who adore my son and treat us all with overwhelming generosity. The good health of myself, my family and my friends. The music of Lyle Lovett. Sara Lee pies because I don’t have time to make my own. Readers out there in the universe who are reading my novels and taking the time to let me know that my words touched them somehow. Every single person who has written a review of either of my novels. My eyesight. A soft, warm blanket on a chilly night. Stars. Avocados. Dark chocolate. Ariat boots. Vacuum cleaners. Wild Orange essential oil. A massage therapist as a spouse. And the sound of my angel-son saying, “I love you, mama,” as he drifts off to sleep.

What are you thankful for right now, in this moment? (Don’t think about it deeply, just spit out what comes to mind. It’s nice sometimes to just Let. It. Out.) PS: Vacuum is a weird word, isn’t it?