Thursday, November 24, 2011

Feeding Friendship: Chocolate Bread Pudding

Alright! It's time for another exciting round of Feeding Friendship! The secret ingredient is:
No, I didn't drop the egg carton. These are fresh eggs from our chickens. They peck them so some of the eggs are a bit worse for the wear, but they'll work (unless you want to hard boil them, then you have to use the less-pecked ones...).

I chose to make Chocolate Bread Pudding as my Feeding Friendship recipe. I learned to make this at a cooking class at Central Market back in February. After the first bite, I turned to Mike and told him I was leaving him for the instructor (for his culinary abilities more than anything). It was honestly the best thing I've ever eaten.

Here's how I made it:


Bread Pudding
1  loaf Challah bread (recipe says French bread), day old, roughly torn up
1.5  cups semisweet chocolate chips
6  eggs, beaten
1  quart half and half
1  Tbsp vanilla extract
1.5  cups sugar
6  Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1  tsp ground cinnamon
1  tsp salt
4  Tbsp unsalted butter
4  Tbsp brown sugar

3/4  cups sugar
3  oz evaporated milk
2  Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2  egg, beaten (odd, sorry, but the original recipe makes too much sauce...)
1/2  tsp vanilla
1/8  cup Kahlua

To prepare bread pudding:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2) Butter a 9x13 baking dish and fill it with torn bread and disperse the chocolate chips amongst the bread pieces.

3) In a large bowl combine the eggs, half and half, and vanilla.
"Farm" fresh eggs, ready to be beaten!
4) In another bowl, combine sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt.
I think cocoa is so beautiful!
5) Gradually stir the liquid into the dry mixture until well-blended (I use a hand mixer...)

6) Pour over the bread in the baking dish. Bake for 1 hour.

7) Remove from oven, dot top with butter and sprinkle with brown sugar. Put back into oven for 5-10 min, until butter is melted and brown sugar is saturated. Let cool before serving.

To prepare the sauce:

1) In a medium saucepan, before placing over heat, stir together the sugar evaporated milk, butter and eggs. Stir to blend thoroughly.

2) Place pan over medium-low heat and add vanilla and Kahlua.

3) Chill sauce.

4) Serve bread pudding warm with cold sauce and top with a dollop of whipped cream and grated chocolate, if you like.
I enjoyed mine with a glass of milk!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Am Thankful

A lot of people have been posting on Facebook one thing they are thankful for each day in November leading up to Thanksgiving. I didn't get on board at the beginning of the month, but not for lack of gratefulness. There are very few days that go by that I don't acknowledge internally how thankful I am for something, so I'd like to put it in writing and, after all, "'Tis the season." There are roughly a million things I'm thankful for, but let's narrow it down to the top 29, seeing as I just turned 29!
  1. Mike.
    He makes me laugh. He works so hard for us. He's very kind. He's my favorite!
  2. My family.
    You always hear horror stories about this time of year and dealing with difficult family members. My family really is awesome, both Mike's side and mine. I think our wedding best showcased this! :) Thanks for not screwing up the holidays every year, guys!
  3. My friends.
    I have some awesome friends, here in South Texas and all over the country, even the world! You're the average of the 5 people you're around the most and you guys make me awesome! Thanks!
  4. My job.
    The other day I wrote the phrase "Tornado Debris Signature" just as some less fortunate employee might refer to "TPS reports." I'm lucky to have a job in this economy, especially in my chosen field and especially in my circumstances. I'm grateful to WDTB for letting me work from San Antonio!
  5. Our home.
    We have a great little home in a nice neighborhood that's close to all kinds of restaurants, stores and other activities. Mike did a lot of research before we moved down here and it paid off big time!
  6. My health.
    So many people have to face challenging health problems every day. I haven't so much as broken a bone. I try to stack the deck by eating healthy and exercising, but I know that there's a chance I may be diagnosed with an unavoidable illness. Until then, I'm grateful for what I have!
  7. Financial stability.
    With the economy as it is, many people have to make tough decisions about how to spend their money these days. The holidays can be especially hard on those who've lost their jobs or are underemployed. I'm thankful that we can afford all that we need to live comfortably. 
  8. I'm an American.
    With all the talk about the planet reaching a population of 7 billion people, I can't help but think about how lucky I was to be born in America to a nice, well-educated couple who could afford to give me all I needed and then some. What are the odds? Probably not good. There's a lot of frustration in America, today, but at least we can express it freely without worrying about persecution. This happens in many other countries, too, but there are still so many where this is not the reality. We are so lucky.
  9. My education.
    My parents started me out right with a great education at a great school. I then continued down that path at OU with a bachelor's and a masters. I'm very thankful that I got both degrees "out of the way" before marriage and kids. I will now have more doors open to me and also have the freedom to focus on raising a family when I'm ready!
  10. My kitchen.
    Mike spent countless hours redoing our kitchen. It's beautiful and I love cooking in it. It really does make a difference having the appliances and equipment I need to make healthy meals for us. It also helps that there's an extra mouth to feed!
  11. My car.
    The Runner turned eleven this year. Eleven! She runs like a champ, too. She just had her 150,000 mile maintenance and the mechanic and service associate were both impressed at what great condition she's in! She gets me where I need to go and looks cute doing it! My kind of car!
  12. Modern day appliances.
    Many times when I throw in a load of laundry or toss a detergent capsule in the dishwasher I think of how these appliances allow me to live my life the way I'd like. Can you imagine if we had to wash our clothes and linens by hand? That would take all weekend!!
  13. San Antonio.
    There is always something going on here. When we have friends and family visit, there's always a cool restaurant or attraction to which we can take them. There are plenty of races/triathlons/duathlons/etc. in the area, too. The weather isn't bad either. ;)
  14. The cat and the chickens.
    Our animals provide a seemingly endless source of entertainment around our house. Whether its hearing the cat chase her toy mousey down the hall on the hardwood floor or going out into the backyard to be greeted by a bunch of noisy chickens, they'll bring a smile to your face. I've heard that people who own pets are less stressed than those who don't. I can certainly see why!
  15. Travel.
    I was able to travel to so many fun places this year: Las Vegas, New Orleans, New York, Lake Tahoe, and Virginia Beach/DC. I was also able to visit friends and family in Wichita and Norman a couple times. 
  16. Technology.
    Today's technology (cell phones, web cams, online social networks, e-mail, etc.) have made it very easy to keep in touch with friends and family. I can e-mail pictures to my family immediately after taking them. I can keep track of old friends through Facebook. Of course, it also helps me keep my friends and family updated through this blog!
  17. Fitness opportunities.
    By this I mean races, fitness classes, a gym membership, roads and sidewalks to run and bike on, and the like. Being in the Austin/San Antonio area, there is no shortage of races (running, biking, multisport, etc.) Since moving down here I've completed 3 triathlons, 2 duathlons, many running races, and the list goes on. There's always something going on in the area every weekend and with a gym less than 5 min away and a nice neighborhood, green belts, and an ever extending Riverwalk there's plenty of places to train! 
  18. Good grocery stores.
    This one seems silly, but it really isn't. When I lived in Norman, the grocery store options were pretty sad: Wal-mart, Target, Homeland. :( When I left there was talk of a Whole Foods in North OKC, but I'm not sure if that's happened yet. Even the Norman Farmer's Market had stuff shipped in from California. Here in San Antonio we're very close to Central Market and several nice HEB's. Food shopping is a lot more fun down here!
  19. Good restaurants.
    Since moving to San Antonio, I've use and the Yelp app to discover great new places to eat here in town and when we're on the road. Mike and I prefer to eat a local restaurants as opposed to national chains. San Antonio has a lot of great local places, especially near us! 
  20. Weather.
    The weather in South Texas is awesome (well, it is this time of year), but I'll be honest, it can be a bit boring. What I've always liked about severe and winter weather is that it shows us that we're not invincible. It's almost like another frontier to be tamed. We don't need to control it, but we still haven't quite figured out how to keep ourselves completely safe from it. Maybe we will one day, but until then weather (and perhaps climate) is nature's way of keeping humans in check.
  21. Our military.
    I'm a very lucky Air Force wife. Mike works long hours (a 12-hour day is very normal for him) and I know it can be stressful for him, but he does come home every night. Many of our service members are frequently deployed and many to very rough locations. Many military families live apart for various reasons. I'm thankful for all our service members and their supportive families! 
  22. Animal welfare organizations.
    I'm definitely an animal lover. So much so that I literally can't stand to see an animal in pain. So while I'd like to volunteer at a shelter or go rescue abused animals, I just couldn't do it. That's why I'm thankful for the many organizations that stand up for animals' rights. Sometimes I wish I could save all the kitties out on the streets and in shelters, but knowing that I saved one and gave her a good home makes me feel a little better.
  23. Road trip to Wichita.
    I've driven up and down Interstate 35 countless times, mostly by myself. Norman to Wichita. Wichita to Kansas City. Norman to Kansas City. Norman to Dallas. Norman to San Antonio. San Antonio to Norman. San Antonio to Austin. The list goes on... This Thanksgiving, I get to do it with Mike, Geoff, Ellie and my Aunt Rhonda. We're going to be saving thousands in airfare by piling in Rhonda's van for a 10-hour trip from San Antonio to Wichita. Armed with snacks, trivial pursuit cards, iPhones, an iPad and laptops, it's sure to be a fun time!
  24. Recycling.
    Mike and I only leave our trash out to be picked up every 2-3 weeks because San Antonio has such a great recycling program. We can throw paper, cardboard, plastic, steel, and aluminum all in one big bin! I hate making a lot of trash and we try to limit waste as much as we can, but it's hard to avoid it entirely!
  25. Laughter.
    I laugh at a lot of stuff and I generally prefer comedies to drama. It warms my heart when I make people laugh. Anyone who knows Mike knows I married the right guy. :)
  26. Cooking.
    I'm glad I enjoy cooking. I think it might be a control thing. I'd rather have whole, healthy meals than something fast or fancy. 
  27. Warm, comfy clothes in winter.
    There are fewer opportunities to dress warmly in San Antonio, and for that I'm appreciative. I've never been a fan of wearing 5+ layers of clothing. However, I do enjoy relaxing on a cold evening in a nice pair of sweat pants, a sweat shirt and some comfy, warm socks and then burying myself under a blanket and watching TV or reading. That's what winter was made for!
  28. New media channels.
    This summer Mike and I noticed we weren't watching enough television to justify our high cable bill. We decided that a HuluPlus membership in addition to our Netflix membership would be plenty. The only thing we'd really miss is live sports and we usually went to watch parties for those, anyway. We've saved almost $100 per month and we invested in an antenna that gets all the major networks in perfectly clear HD, so we can still sometimes get OU and LSU football games. Also, in the mornings, instead of watching local news and Good Morning America, I listen to NPR on my phone. It's so nice not to hear the latest on Dancing with the Stars or what Charlie Sheen or Tiger Woods is up to. 
  29. My creativity.
    I've never considered myself an artist and I can't draw to save my life, but it turns out all those years I spent playing in Microsoft Paint meant something after all. I've been able to find some creative outlets with scrapbooking and, to some extent, this blog. I've even been able to make a niche for myself at work. Often times people will create content for our training and hand it over to me to "make it pretty." Which I really love doing! :) 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Warrior Dash and Natural Bridge Caverns Duathlon

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, this weekend seemed like as good as any to burn thousands of calories. First up was the Central Texas Warrior Dash near Austin on Saturday morning. It's a 3.01-mile run with obstacles strewn along the course. Things like climbing over old cars; traipsing through waist-high, muddy water; climbing 20-ft walls on a cargo net; and crawling through mud pits under barbed wire. Mike and I were pleasantly surprised at how challenging it was! We were in the 2nd of 10 or 15 waves that day so we were done early. We were awfully dirty afterwards.
Both of our shirts were white....
There was a big water truck where we could "rinse off"
Texas shower...
We brought old towels and a clean change of clothes to get us back to feeling normal. At the race, they have a location where you can drop off your muddy tennis shoes and a non-profit organization cleans and recycles them to produce affordable footwear for less fortunate people around the world. It felt good to help them out and not worry about transporting about a pound of mud back home with me via my shoes.
Donating my nasty running shoes for a good cause!
The best part was, when it was over, we got to hang out and eat turkey legs and drink beer while we listened to music, talked and danced with our friends. It's like a race with an outdoor music festival afterwards!
These hats are given to every race participant!
Kristin, Onae and I KILLED IT! WOO!
On Sunday morning was the Natural Bridge Caverns Duathlon. There were several different levels of duathlons available. Naturally, I picked the hardest and thought "Oh yeah, that shouldn't be too bad..." Obviously I didn't think that one through. The "T-Rex" consisted of a 5-mile run followed by a 26(!)-mile bike and a 2-mile run! The closer the race got, the more I realized it was going to be harder than I originally thought.

The cool thing about this race is that it starts in the cave! I got a bit claustrophobic in the cave at first, but I was talking to the woman ahead of me to take my mind off of it. The hardest part of the first run was getting out of the cave. There were some very steep parts on the path out! Also, at the turn around there was a very steep hill. I hate hills!! (Remember, I'm from Kansas!)

The bike was ok. There was a terrible hill at the turn around (again!) and during part of the last half I was pretty sure I wasn't on the route anymore. We were very spread out and we were on country roads so there wasn't always confirmation you were going the right way! When I finally got back to the caverns to start the last run, I was very angry at hills and wind. Mike was done when I started the run and came to cheer me on, but I waved him off. I'm not real social when I'm extremely worn out. I was cheering on the other runners (walkers) on the last 2 miles to help me stay motivated. When I reached the finish I was smiling big! I did it!

I immediately started shoving food in my mouth. I had eaten a granola bar on the bike, but that was it besides breakfast! Mike and I ate sausages and frito pies while they held the awards ceremony (they actually pushed the ceremony back to let more people, like me!, finish the race). They announced Mike's age group: He got 2nd place! My age group was next. I got 1st!!! Out of one! :) I was the only one in my group, but you know what? I'm still proud! That just means I was the only girl my age who was brave enough to attempt the T-REX! WOO!
I'm so glad I placed, because these are the coolest "medals" ever!!
We did it!
Next up is a "Turkey Trot" 5K on Thanksgiving morning. We're going to see if we can't get some of the family out there with us for a preemptive strike on the caloric intake!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Three Holtzes, One Weekend!

This past weekend, Mike's dad, Tom, came to visit us. He flew in Thursday evening and left Monday morning. Mike had Friday off for Veteran's Day, so we had a nice three-day weekend to host him!

Mike spent Thursday evening showing the house off to his dad. Tom is building a house of his own on his land in Arkansas, and when I say "building a house of his own" I mean he is actually building it - you know, with his own two hands... So he was very interested to see what Mike had done to with our home.

On Friday we left the house about 9am to go to San Marcos. We started the day with a brief stop at the outlet malls. I now know that a weekday at 10am is the best time to visit the outlet mall, not Saturday at 2pm! :) After checking out Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn, we went over to the River Pub and Grill for lunch. If you're going up to the San Marcos area, I highly recommend you stop here for a meal, especially if the weather is nice. The patio looks over the river and there are kayakers, swimmers, turtles, ducks and fish to observe while you eat! Perfect!

After lunch we went to what I would consider the main event, the Texas State Aquarena. You might recall that my mom, my aunt and I went there a few weeks ago (as well as the River Pub and Grill!).
Ready to board the glass-bottom boat!
That evening we went up to the Tower of Americas for a view of the city at night.
Tower of Americas at sunset. 
When we got to the top and went outside, it was VERY windy and a bit chilly, but still very pretty!
Enjoying the view.
After that, we went to Josephine Street  for a reasonably-priced steak dinner!
On Saturday, we took Tom to the Pearl Farmer's Market. After getting some breakfast from some of the vendors, we went on the Pearl Brewery tour! Our guide was very informative and we learned some interesting things about the Brewery we didn't know, despite having frequented the Farmer's Market there for over a year!
We ate lunch at Rosario's, a favorite of Mike's and mine. We had hoped to visit the Alamo and Riverwalk after lunch, but preparation for the Rock 'n Roll Marathon was well underway and it was just too crowded. On the way home, we decided to go to the Witte Museum and explore their new "Shipwrecked" exhibit.
Tom experiences "hurricane force" winds. 
Mike gives it a try, face first.
You know I won!!
That evening Mike grilled brats for dinner and we watched an awesome game between Texas A&M and K-State as well as the Oregon-Stanford game. After dinner, we took Mike's dad to get gelato with Ellie and Geoff.

Sunday was much more relaxed. We did some reading and watched some more TV. For lunch we went to The Cove and sat outside. We watched Snatch that afternoon and then for dinner I cooked basil pesto pizzas and bread pudding.

Tom left early Monday morning. We enjoyed his visit and hope that he can make it down again sometime or visit us wherever we go next!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Feeding Friendship: Tofu Stir-Fry

This edition of Feeding Friendship features ginger! 

I have cooked with ginger root in the past so my first thought was, "Great! What have I cooked with ginger root?" and I could think of nothing! I'm sure it was in some Asian-inspired dish, though. So I decided to incorporate it into my own stir-fry concoction that I make periodically. 

Here's how to do it:

2     tbs low-sodium soy sauce
1.5  tbs Sriracha (rooster sauce!) - You can adjust for how spicy you want. This makes it "medium."
1     tbs fish sauce
1     tbs brown sugar
1     tbs peeled and roughly chopped ginger root
1     package tofu (I believe it's a pound), sliced to your preferred dimensions
1     tbs canola oil
3     cloves of garlic
1     leek, thinly sliced
3     carrots, chopped
1     can baby corn (in salt water, NOT marinated)
1     small can water chestnuts
1     small can bamboo shoots
cooking spray
1     cup chopped green onions (green bits, optional)
sesame seeds (optional)
chopped chashews (optional)


(If you'd like rice or noodles with this, you may want to plan accordingly before getting started. I almost always serve this with rice.)

Combine the soy sauce through the ginger root and mix well. 
Add tofu and coat completely. You can do this a few hours before or simply let it marinade while you're prepping the other items. Tofu takes on the flavor pretty easily.

Heat canola oil in a large pan with high sides. 

After the tofu has marinated for a while, coat another pan with cooking spray and add the tofu, reserve the marinade. Saute until tofu is browned to a degree you find satisfying.

While tofu is cooking, add leeks, garlic and carrots to the pan with canola oil. Saute for about 3-5 minutes. Add corn, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots.

Add tofu when it is ready. At this point, also add the marinade. I recommend removing the ginger before pouring the marinade in. However, you can cook the ginger with the other veggies and tofu, too. To be honest I left mine in completely, but ended up picking it out later. It's too strong to eat.

Once everything is cooked to your satisfaction, remove from heat, add green onions/sesame seeds/cashews and serve over rice or noodles!
Using the "beginner" (spring-loaded) chopsticks my mom gave us!
The best part of this recipe is you can add/subtract whatever veggies you'd like! I don't always use bamboo shoots and water chestnust, but they seemed authentic. Sometimes I throw baby spinach or snap peas in there. If you've got some veggies you need to use up, here's your chance! 

Bonus: I made these "Starbucks" Pumpkin Spice Scones and they're, at the very least, one of the top 3 things I've ever made. Seriously. I was SO proud of myself. They have ginger powder in them, so they fit with this Feeding Friendship. They would have even fit with the pumpkin round! If you have holiday company coming to visit, make these for the. Do it. They'll think you're Martha Frickin' Stewart! They're not hard, I promise! 
Really, how can you say no?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy Holtz-oween!

Happy Halloween!

We had an awesome Halloween weekend! A cold front came through Thursday evening and cooled the temperatures down appropriately, so it really did feel like Halloween. Friday night Ellie, Mike and I ran an 8K (~5 miles) at a nearby park, the Dia de los Muertos run! 

Since we were running in the dark, we had to have a head lamp or flashlight. It wasn't scary, but we definitely had to think a little bit harder than when running during the day. For me, that took my mind off running and the 5 miles went by very fast! Afterwards, Ellie, Geoff, Mike and I had some delicious Vietnamese food!

Saturday was spent carving pumpkins. Rhonda, Geoff and Ellie came over and we all carved pumpkins on our new screened in patio! It was perfect pumpkin carving weather!
Geoff, Ellie and Rhonda prepping the pumpkins!
Mike used his new pumpkin dremel tool:
Finished products:
Rhonda's "Two Face"
My cat design. Simple, yet festive.
That night, Mike and I went to the General's house for a Halloween party. The food was really good and the decorations were probably the best I've seen without it being a legitimate haunted house theme. I mean, the ribs were served out of a skeleton! I went as a crazy cat lady and Mike went as Captain America!
I also had a mug that said "All lives should have 9 cats!"
That shield is duct taped to a liter beer mug! Muli-purpose!

Here's Mike's and my pumpkins at night:
LSU will be playing Alabama this Saturday. VERY big game!

What has now become a tradition at our house! Eye of the Tiger fleur de lis!

Again, simple, yet festive!
We had a lot of kids trick-or-treating and ran out of candy around 7:45! I really thought we had enough this time! Oh well, it's always fun to see the kiddos in their fun costumes. One kid said "This was the best house, too" to his dad as he was walking away and another said "You guys have awesome pumpkins!" so I'll put it down as a success!