taste

What Not To Wear

Spring is here, or if you’re a Texan you can say spring never left.  If you’re like me you’re packing up your sweaters and suede boots and pulling out the spaghetti straps and open toe sandals.  But sometimes enjoying fashion can be tricky during work hours. Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.  Proverbs 11:22 (New International Version) 

In the Old Testament, pigs were unclean & untouchable animals, so the idea of putting something as extremely valuable and beautiful as a gold ring in a pig’s snout would be an incredible waste.  To show no discretion means to be without taste, tact & grace.  It seems a bit extreme, comparing an indiscreet woman to a pig, but it sure does put God’s perspective on the subject into place.

God has set some rather high standards for women.  We are to be noble of character, hard working, giving, crafty, wise and modest.  It’s a tall order, but in true God fashion the order has its purpose.  He’s put these expectations in place to keep us out of compromising situations.  If you think that dressing provocatively is not YOUR problem, think again.

The decisions you make each morning standing in your closet can have more of an impact than you know on someone’s marriage, friendship, employment status or their walk with God.

Whether you work in an office or as a cashier in a grocery store these  “What Not To Wear” basics still apply.

  • Keep your cleavage out of the workplace.  The only girls people should be seeing are the ones you birthed.
  • Perma-wedgies are not sexy.  Skinny jeans are great, but if stopping at the drug store on the way home for yeast infection medication is probable, then you probably shouldn’t wear them to begin with.
  • Your husband is the only one who needs to see your v-jay-jay.  So while super short skirts & shorts may have their place in fashion, knee length is more appropriate.
  • If you have to get a bikini wax to wear low rise anything – they are too low!  There is no need to show off your thong or booty crack.

Allow me to remind you that charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting.  God may have blessed you with curves and beauty but he created you to be so much more.  When you’re getting dressed in the morning, whom are you thinking about?  Your clothes do not define who you are, your character does; and dressing inappropriately is a direct reflection of your character.

Stoplight Prayer:  Father in heaven, thank you creating me and giving me this body to serve you.  Help my sisters and I to make wise decisions before we step out the door each morning so that we are not stumbling blocks in each other’s lives.

Still Hungry?  Proverbs 31 defines a woman of noble character and 1 Peter 3:3-4 reminds us that beauty is more than what is on the outside.

Homemade Tamales-South Texas Style

I've eaten tamales all my life but hadn't mastered the "art" of tamale making. In Spanish, a tamalera is a an expert and this year I decided if no one else called me a tamalera, I wanted to at least give myself the title. So my mom and I put together a plan to spend a weekend making the best tamales in the neighborhood. We drew on the experiences of friends and relatives and I'm ready to share a great recipe!! This recipe makes 9-10 dozen chicken tamales. If  you choose, you can substitute pork or beef.

Ingredients:

5 lbs masa ( You can purchase this at a grocery store that services Hispanics.)

2 lbs lard ( I've heard you can use shortening instead of lard but we used the real deal.)

2  chickens, uncooked

black pepper

ground cumin

1 full pod garlic

6 oz. chile ancho (These are dried and 6 oz.=about 6-7 pods)

1 pkg corn husks

 

Do Ahead- Step One

Boil and debone chickens ( I encourage you to season your chickens with your favorite seasoning as they boil). Mince finely with a butcher knife or place in a food processor and  add 1 t black pepper, 1 t cumin and 3-5 cloves garlic. (I'm way heavy handed with the garlic.) Set chicken aside. In fact, this step can be done days or a couple of weeks in advance. I got my chicken ready a week before, seasoned it, and then placed it in the freezer until the big day.

Do Ahead -Step Two

This part of the recipe can also be done in advance and then kept in the refrigerator.

First, place chilies in a saucepan and add enough water to cover them. Soak  for 20-30 minutes until they're soft and pliable. Remove chilies from water and reserve the water. Remove stems and seeds by opening them up and rinsing repeatedly to ensure that no seeds remain. Add 2-4 cloves of garlic, salt and 1 tsp of cumin to the water. Place chilies back in the water and cook on medium until they're cooked and completely soft. Cool then  blend to make a thick paste. (This paste is the foundation of my enchilada sauce which I'll be posting in the future. Keep your eyes peeled for it.)

 

The Night Before

You'll need one large package of corn husks and, in order to work with them, they need to be soft and pliable. They need to soak at least two hours, but we placed ours in a large pot, covered with water, and then weighted them down with something heavy overnight.

 

You're Ready to Start

On the day of tamale making, you'll first prep the masa. The ultimate goal is for cooked tamales to roll out of the husk. For this to happen, you need to make sure the masa isn't too dry. Add 1-11/2 lbs of lard to the masa. Knead it well so that the lard is evenly distributed. Then  add about 1 c of the chili paste, 1 heaping T. black pepper,1 heaping T. cumin and salt to taste. Yes, I said taste. When all is mixed well, pinch the masa and give it a little taste.

If you're able to purchase seasoned masa, you can do that and skip making the chili paste altogether.

As you prepare to assemble, a team approach is best, especially if you're a novice. We laid a vinyl tablecloth on the kitchen table then divided up the duties. Some of us spread the masa on the corn husk and others filled them with chicken and rolled them up. If you're a novice spreader, you'll make a mess, like me!

 

The actual spreading of the masa can be tricky.  Rather than write a lengthy description, I'm including a quick video of  the process.Click here for video.

Once you've got them all rolled up, it's time to cook!!

1. Create a bed of corn husks in the bottom of your cooking pot. Cover a metal measuring cup or a small coffee mug with foil and place it in the center to provide stability for stacking.

2. Stack tamales, open side up, somewhat vertically. They should look like a teepee inside the cooking pot. This is the time you add water to the bottom of the pot, about 1/2"-3/4 " deep.

3. Cover with  a foil tent to keep the moisture in.

4. Place a dishtowel over the foil as the final step before cooking. (To be honest, no one we asked could identify the purpose of the dishtowel but everyone said,"That's the way my mother did it!"

How long do they take to cook?

Turn the stove on high until you know the water's boiling. When it boils, turn the temperature to medium and let them steam for 45 min. to 1 hr. This worked well for us when we cooked 3-4 dozen at a time. (We weren't very successful when we cooked about six dozen. They seemed to take forever and the ones on the inside cooked while the ones on the outside didn't.)

After about 45 min., pull one out and give it a taste test. The masa should be firm and cooked thoroughly. Allow them to cool, then wrap in foil by the dozen,  label and freeze for your next family gathering or party.

 

See Our Finished Product

At the end of our weekend, I felt successful because I'd always looked at tamale making as a feat that was beyond my capabilities and I proved myself wrong. However, the best part of  the entire process was the time I spent with my mom. Hours of planning on the phone for three weeks, the entire day of spreading and rolling, and then serving freshly made tamales to family members that evening and waiting for their approval.

Many life lessons can be learned  when the pot is boiling and ideas can be exchanged over a cutting board. A kitchen is an easy place to leave your Fingerprint on someone's life, letting them know their value and what they mean to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empanadas: A Mexican Tradition

An empanada is basically a turnover. They are a classic item in the Hispanic culture and can be sweet or savory. Fillings range from fruit to meat and are a part of the holidays as well as a regular menu item in many Hispanic kitchens. Our granddaughter Ava is fortunate to have both German and Mexican heritage and we spent an afternoon keeping her connected with her 'latina side' by preparing empanadas to leave for Santa. The original recipe came from my Aunt Mercy's kitchen and I adapted it to decrease the fat content. I'm giving you both recipes so you can choose the one that best suites your taste.

Ingredients:

All Purpose flour

cream cheese

butter

cinnamon, sugar mix

your choice of fruit filling

Mercy's Marvelous Empanadas

(makes about 6 dz. mini-empanadas)

4c flour

8 oz. cream cheese

4 sticks butter or margarine

 

Yvonne's Less Fatty Empanadas

(makes about 3 dz mini-empanadas)

2c flour

1/2 c reduced fat cream cheese

1 stick butter

In a bowl, blend room-temperature cream cheese and butter together until well mixed. Next, add flour, about 1/2c  at a time until you've used all the flour. Refrigerate for 2 hours. ( This is imperative with the original recipe. It will be sticky and hard to work with if you don't refrigerate.)

Flour the rolling pin and roll the dough out like a pie crust. The stem of a wine glass made it easy for little hands

to help with the work.

 Spoon the filling ( about 1 t for a 4-5in. circle) in the center then fold over and use a fork to seal edges.( We used pineapple filling.) I recommend  you brush the bottom edge with a little water to help the dough stick and prevent bursting open when heated.

 Place in the oven @  350 ˚for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle

with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.

The kitchen is the heart of the home and a perfect place to get to know each other better or iron out differences. We can share family history, build memories and if we allow ourselves, in the midst of mouth-watering aromas, make ourselves vulnerable to one another, leaving a Fingerprint in each others lives.

Basil-Cilantro Pesto

It's quick! It's easy! It's healthy and more than anything, it's DELICIOUS! Pesto is a sauce that can be added to pasta, used as a topping on pizza  and today it's featured in Pesto Chicken Salad. Traditional pesto ingredients include basil, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. We're shaking it up a little and melding the sweet taste of basil with the fragrant mix of  parsley and citrus found in cilantro.

 

 

Ingredients:

1 c. fresh basil

1 c. cilantro (no stems)

1/3 c. walnuts

1 large clove garlic

1/3 c. Romano or Parmesan cheese (Romano is a little stronger)

1/4-1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

pinch of kosher salt

 

 

First of all, run the walnuts through your processor.

 

 

Next, add the basil, cilantro, minced garlic, cheese, salt, and drizzle a little oil in the processor. Pulse and add oil. Repeat until it takes the form of a thick paste.

 

 

Chop 2 c. of chicken (what you see above is the last of a rotisserie chicken) and add some chopped black olives and the pesto. Because I like texture, I added some minced celery as an afterthought. Blanched almonds would also work. They would add texture, taste and visually change the look of the salad.

 

 

 

This Chicken Pesto Salad is whipped up in about 15 min. and served on a toasted baguette or crackers.

 

 

Spring Shopping After Sunset

Che Bella  is Round Rock's newest upscale boutique and they're planning their first Girls Night Out!! On March 31, Che Bella will host a two hour shopping event complete with adult beverages, appetizers & door prizes.  Owner, Cyndy Flores says she wants to give customers,

Upscale Treasures without Upscale Prices

Cyndy's vision is to showcase local artisans and help them build their fan base. Her vendor's  wares include one of a kind handcrafted jewelery, beaded serving pieces, hair and clothing accessories, bags and children's clothing.

Cyndy's exquisite taste is visible in her refined home decor.

She's also got the perfect gift for any holiday. Her desire is to provide her clients with  a place they can find a one-of- kind, unique gift for their boss, neighbor or best friend.

For those whose taste is more on the whimsical side, there are accessories like hand-made scarves, woven bags, tutus in every color and a great line of Fair Trade women's tops. You can even contract a local artist to to create a wooden image of your favorite pup (like the one peeking through the window.)

The after hours shopping event is two hours only, 6:30p.m.-8:30 p.m., March 31st.

However, if you visit Che Bella before the 31st, you'll qualify for the VIP drawings on the big night. In any case, there will be plenty of laughter and food  in addition to the Surprise Sales, games and door prizes.

Grab your best girlfriend and get ready to give yourself a little time off.

(Click on Cyndy's photo to learn more about Che Bella)

Che Bella is located at16238 N RM 620, Suite E Austin, Texas  78717 (512) 671-4438

For practical purposes it is  the corner of Great Oaks and RM620 in the Boardwalk Shopping Center, Suite E.

http://www.chebellagiftsandmore.com/

Spring Fashion 2011

Aaahhhh!  The smell and feel of spring fashion, it's irresistible!  Just the thought of a great, summer dresses with the perfect shades or dipping my feet in the cool water of a pool or lake gets my heart thumping so hard I can hardly catch my breath.  Although I love the fall and am always ready for it by end of summer,  just the same when March 1st roles around I find myself drawn to the light linens and whites that make my perfect summer tan look and feel golden.

So what can I look forward to this Spring/Summer?  This is always the first thought after my heart beat finds it's way back to normal.  After searching the pages and stores for all the hot spring trends, I'v narrowed it down to some of my favorite finds.

So let's get started....first things first.....color!

This Spring's hottest colors are in

Cinnamon/Rust Citrus Colors White

Replace winter red with hot shades of cinnamon or rust.  Deck yourself in the spicy flavor anywhere from lips, dress or shoes, just not all at the same time.  Or, if your a little more bold, citrus colors scream summer fun.  Of course, Summer wouldn't be complete without the staple, fresh and crisp white.

For all color trends, be aware of your skin color and wear the best colors for you adjusting accordingly.  Some might be great in white, others in off -white.

Shape

Tunics are all the rage and a great new shape for summer.  Tunics show off those tan legs and can be worn as a dressy date night dress or a throw on and run comfy look to run errands or grab light salad with a girlfriend.

Era to take a cue from, the 70's

The 70's always seem to resurface, but this time around it's a little bit more romantic than hippie.  Take a cue from Vanessa Hudgens who channelled 70's fashion icon Bianca Jaggar but tweaked the look a bit by keeping the lines a little bit more simple.  Beautiful!

Maxi Dress

Still taking a cue from the 70's, the maxi dress has also taken on a more feminine look.  From long, flowy patterns to shear skirts the maxi dress also can go from casual to ba-bam!

Materials

This spring, shear and lace are finding their ways into dresses, shoes and accessories.  A little can go a long way and show off your feminine side all the while.  Make sure to at least invest in one staple lace piece that is versatile.

Wide leg, high waist Pants

We can't spring back into the 70's without bringing with us the wide leg, high waisted pants.  This is a great look for work and play but be careful to give them a 2011 twist so that you don't look like you rummaged the goodwill free rack.  Pleats or no pleats, these pants are a hit!

Shoes

There are a lot of new styles to choose from, pick your vice!

Low Heal Thick heal Flatforms

Still hot from 2010

Spilling over from 2010 are two of my favorites; Military and the 60's full skirt and they are here to stay for at least another season.  Pair a great military vest or jacket with a great pair of shorts or short skirt.  Here, you can see the perfect white dress has taken on the lace trend along with the full skirt of the 60's.  You can't go wrong!

It's time to indulge ladies!  Choose your favorite, check your budgets and remember to mix in your staples.  Spring is all about fun so....go have fun!

Happy Spring shopping!

Hungry for Hummus?

Chickpeas are the core ingredient to this healthy food, loaded with protein. Hummus is popular in the Middle East and is also commonly found in Mediterranean-style meals. However, it is now quite popular in the US, costs pennies to make and less than fifteen minutes of prep time. My recipe is a "mas o menos," which means more or less. Adjust the ingredients to your particular taste.

Ingredients

1 can of chickpeas/garbanzo, with liquid

juice of 1 fresh lemon

2 T. tahini*

2 cloves of roasted garlic**

1/8 c. olive oil

salt to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve with pita chips, raw veggies or use as a spread on a sandwich or wrap.

*Sesame seed paste can be purchased at any grocery store with a healthy food section.

**My daughter taught me to a quick-roast garlic, just place the cloves in a nonstick pan on medium heat and turn them until they're lightly browned on all sides.

Variations

Substitute any of the following for a twist:

roasted red bell pepper, roasted jalapeno, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives

Think Thrifty!

Over the weekend Kristian and I visited New Orleans. A family friend was getting married and Kristian's parents were joining us for the celebration. For weeks his mom and I planned what we would do with our Saturday morning together. We would go wedding shopping. I know what I want, she has good taste, it seems like a perfect plan. However, when Saturday came around I was tired, cranky, and it was not shaping up to be the Saturday morning Mrs. Yvonne and I envisioned. Although it doesn't sound like it, I have gone through the explantion of my moodiness to say that I am obsessed with my wedding. Even though I didn't feel like getting out of bed Saturday morning the vision I had for centerpieces was my driving force. I met up with the future in-laws, put a smile on, and the search began.Creating My Wedding The venue for the wedding is a lush, historic house. It has fountains and is full of greenery and flowers so I know that the decor I add should be minimal. I picture old hardback books as centerpieces, mixed with pillar candles on different stands. Of course, what better place to look for old books than a thrift store? Genius! Immediately following this genius idea however, was a small vision of me and the in-laws driving around in search of a thrift store. Then after coming up empty, searching for the second and third thrift store to rummage. Even though I grew up in New Orleans my sense of direction is horrible and I dread the thought of making anyone suffer through my aimless driving. Ok, scratch the old book idea. Pillar candles, totally do-able. I picture the dining tables having a romantic feel, personified through vintage items, carefully chosen and thoughfully placed. While this sounds nice I think finding my exact image will be a harder task than it seemed in my mind. Now let me interject to say, when planning your wedding, make it your wedding. While flowers are elegant and can set the mood, sometimes your personality needs to shine, and your wedding day is one of those times. But I digress. Our first stop in the search, Big Lots. I love a good discount and usually Big Lots is full of them, but as we wandered the two home decor aisles, nothing catches my eye. We left a little disappointed and needless to say my bad mood lingered. Little did I know, my luck was about to change. Kristian's dad and I notice the local craft store next door and suggest going in. Jackpot Entering is a little overwhelming. We pass through the Saints section, 9 foot Christmas trees, and the Silly Bandz rack, to find the aisle that catches my eye. An aisle full of fleur de lis decor! Most girls go ga ga over flowers but that feeling for me lies in finding all things fleur de lis. I can't believe it, exactly what I pictured is situated on this one aisle! Kristian's mom figures out the logistics while his dad pictures how it will look. We all fill the basket excitedly and head to check out. Now for the best part. All of the centerpieces come in under three hundred dollars! I think I can speak for the future in-laws who so graciously offered to foot the bill, when I say WHEW! Don't Believe the Myth Ladies, I speak from experience when saying too often we fall into the myth that our wedding has to look like everyone else's. While there are so many beautiful weddings photographed, attended, and shown on Martha Stewart's website, they may not necessarily be your wedding. Maybe you want a circus theme or a Haloween wedding. Whatever the case, I say go for it! Make it your own! Think outside the box! Garage sales, thrift stores, craft stores, all of these places offer unique items at good prices. They allow the option of customizing your wedding without breaking the bank. As I learned, the process doesn't need to be exhausting or overwhelming. All it takes sometimes is creativity and a little thrifty thinking.