Monday's ride was by far the best as the weather was beautiful, wildlife was plentiful and I knew that we had a great dinner to consume in the evening. Here are the highlights:
The good: three American Kestral sightings (which are common in Texas during migration/winter season) and numerous plus very close Black Vulture and Red-Tailed Hawk perchings/soarings.
The bad: a vulture playing chicken with a giant truck (he survived though!)
The ugly: Eau de Pepe le Pew. No one likes road kill, except my favorite vulture friends.
All this was great and everything but it is in face December. That means that it's not summer. Right. At the end of our rides, my toes were smarting a bit. You know that game Oregon Trail? When you leave too early in the year it can be a little chilly at times. Sometimes it says something terrifying like "Fransisco/Gertrude/Henrietta/Bernard/what's his face has developed hypothermia. Would you like to move on or wait for conditions to improve?" Well, we pushed on and by goodness, it took me 15 minutes to regain the feeling in my toes...After a super hot shower and some perfect hot chocolate, I was warm once again.
To acquire this special hot chocolate recipe, I started volunteering in a small yet unforgettable coffee house in Madison, Wisconsin back in 2006. The sole purpose I wanted to work here was this drink. But I came away with so much more: one of my best friends (Layne, that's you), my favorite ring that I wear every day, the experience of new food experiences that I never thought to eat before and the absolute joy of being everything from a barista, waitress, cashier, prep cook, sous chef, dishwasher and just about everything in between. I was only here for four months, January to April, as the place shut down due to financial reasons. Some days, the kitchen temperature reached 95 degrees F. At this point, my favorite part of the morning was opening time, when I took the sign out to the sidewalk in just a tank top. People sure do stare at you when there's three feet of snow on the ground and you are wearing your "damn it's hot in the kitchen" clothes.
But back to the present...Remember that amazing dinner I mentioned up there, after our great ride? Our family came together to make a spread for my dad's birthday consisting of a cheese/summer sausage and cracker appetizer plate, Chicken Kiev, mashed potatoes, salad and more. But there had to be dessert so I made my family's favorite dessert: a raspberry tart. See post from 9/20/2014 for that recipe and fun pictures below from the creating process. My sister made him caramels as a gift so see the recipe below for that if you want your taste-buds rocked...
Tonight is New Years and to celebrate, I'm babysitting. It's fantastic. My nephew went down around 6pm and then it was time to make dinner! I really love making dinner...Tonight's choice was turkey burgers. To recreate this healthy and tasty dish, I would put ground turkey in a bowl and add about a half cup of latin-style quinoa (with corn, red peppers, cilantro and something spicy, from Whole Foods-esque store called Central Market), mix it together and make patties. Then I would cook them in a non-stick pan with olive oil, garlic salt and pepper. Tonight, once they were finished, they were placed upon a toasted English muffin with cheese (pepper jack and cheddar) with lettuce and avocado. I can't wait to make these again. Prosecco plus orange juice, Love Actually a scared-y dog named Jack who is plastered by my side and a 78 pound lap dog equals was the perfect ending to 2014. Happy New Years all!
Great Aunt Jane's caramel recipe
2 cups sugar
1 and 3/4 light Karo syrup
2 cups cream or half and half
1 cup butter
2 tablespoons vanilla
Sea salt to top off
Cook sugar, butter, Karo syrup, and one cup of cream in a deep and heavy pan on the stovetop. Stir a lot.
When it boils, slowly add the second half of the cream. Stir a lot. Put a candy thermometer in and wait until it reads 245 degrees F. Take it off the heat and add the vanilla. Stir and the pour into a well-greased (butter!) parchment paper covered cookie sheet-type pan. Sprinkle with sea salt or mini chocolate chips (I just made up that chocolate part).
Cool. Cut. Wrap and/or eat it all. Make sure storage container is air-tight to make sure they stay fresh, aka, not hard as rocks. These little babies will stay good for a couple weeks unless they are devoured beforehand.
Note: it's easiest if the cutting knife has some sort of non-stick quality. Maybe it's warm or butter covered...