Monday, January 26, 2015

Coconut Shrimp


This might have been our first unsuccessful meal of the year... Not necessarily because it wasn't cooked correctly or because the flavors were off. I just think that this recipe was a little too sweet for us. It's been years since we were regulars at any chain restaurant or fast food place. We just prefer to eat real food with much less sugar and salt than seems to be typical at these kinds of places. So when I found this recipe, I should have known better right away. It was written as a replica of The Outback Steakhouse's coconut shrimp appetizer. The amount of white sugar it called for in the batter should have been the next red flag. I'm sure I could have found a different option if I wanted to try to cook coconut shrimp, but I didn't... This was strike one.


Strike two was leaving them in the fryer too long. It dried out the shrimp more than I wanted. It made the batter and coconut flakes a great crunchy texture on the outside, but the meat inside was not quite the perfect texture.



And last but not least, I tried to couple the shrimp with a simple parmesean risotto. And when I say simple, I mean I took a short cut by buying risotto in a box. Strike three really took me out. I'll admit that I'm a little afraid of doing risotto the proper way, but I shouldn't have been this lazy about it.

So anyway, the hubs made it about three quarters of the way through the meal before it became too much. I'd ran around like a crazy lady all day doing chores, errands and furniture refinishing, so I didn't let the taste stand in the way of my hunger. But I did end up having to cut the sweetness with some relish tartar sauce, which I'm guessing would be blasphemy on a good coconut shrimp.

I'm sure there will be many more unsuccessful meals to come, and I knew this would be the case when I started this adventure. But I was hoping that the bad results would be due to difficult techniques or foreign ingredients. I definitely learned to stick with some more healthy options and to do some better research next time. This week, I need to find something that will not only be new to cook, but will also fit into a Superbowl meal... I'm open to suggestions!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Thai Soup Night


So I don't usually do this... finish whatever I'm doing/eating/making and then immediately take pictures and fire up the blog. But dinner tonight prompted this kind of reaction. It was one of our "experimental" dinner nights - cooking something we've never attempted before, and we made Thai Chicken and Shrimp Soup.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I felt like Bill Murray in "What About Bob," eating every bite audibly, making "MMmmmm" noises with every spoonful. I've liked Thai food whenever I've had it before, but tonight's meal was really so great because I made it right on our stove! And not only did I like it SO much, but I had another success with the hubby's plate ending up clean, too.




***P.S. I did forget to write anything about last week's dinner success. We made chicken and chorizo paella, and it was delicious as well. We thought it could have maybe used a little more spice, so I think we'll be making it again with a little more experimentation in the cooking. I just love that we're eating meals every week that are so outside of our norm, learning how to use new ingredients, new cooking tools, and widening our palette. This has already been such a great New Year's Resolution, and I hope we don't miss a single weekend this year!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Home Office: Days 5 and 6


This weekend, I was able to complete a couple more days of work on the office. After doing a lot of research on why my stencil was not looking good, I found that the textured walls in our home require you to use painter' caulk to get a clean line on any kind of decorative painting... This just did not seem feasible with a stencil. I suppose it could have been done, but I unfortunately do not have endless amounts of time to just be placing, caulking and carefully painting a stencil like that. It would have taken me probably a whole day just to do one row.

So instead, the hubs suggested that I do some striping instead. I liked the idea, as it at least allowed me to use my secondary paint color that I really liked. Here is the end result:




Once the walls were done, I needed to start focusing back on the furniture. The desk is finally all sanded down. Stripping and sanding was a bear, so I am so glad to have that part done. The next step for the desk was supposed to then be to stain it, and I tried the grey stain on a discreet area in the back. It lightens up the color a lot, but it still has a very brown under-tone. I'm not sure if I'm going to continue on with the stain, or if I'll be shifting over to paint. I need to make that decision by next weekend I think.




And last but not least, the shelves are finally all blue. I re-assembled them, but the damn finish of the original furniture was difficult to cover properly. (I later learned that I needed a special primer to start with). So I ended up with a lot of scratches and chipped paint...  I spent a portion of the afternoon doing touch-up on these areas, and once everything is dry, I'll do a satin clear protective coat on top. After reading up on the proper way to do this, I'm hoping that will be a good solution for me.




My goal is to finish the room by the end of the month now. I really thought I could knock it all out when I was at home over the New Year holiday, but everything has turned out to be more difficult than I thought. This has all been a very big learning "opportunity."  haha   Hopefully I'll have some more finished photos for you guys next weekend.



Keep Austin Weird?


We fired up the laptop this morning to live stream the National Cyclocross Championships into our living room. Lots of excitement has been buzzing around these races this year, especially concerning one of the young up-and-comers that the hubby races with every summer. Unfortunately, we found that today's races were all cancelled because the Austin Parks Department decided that their chosen park location was in jeopardy of being damaged. Today was the day when the professional cyclocross racers would have had their chance to go out and win the stars and stripes, an honor to wear for the next calendar year of racing.

For those of you who don't know about cyclocross, it is a muddy event. The racers go out in the snow, ice, rain, mud, dirt and cold weather throughout the winter to participate in these races. It is essentially the whole point... For Austin to have put in a bid to host this race, knowing what it's all about and now cancel the race because of excess mud is ridiculous. And news coming through right now says that they're just moving the race to tomorrow! How many people will actually be able to stay another day (missing another day of work, booking another day of hotel, rental car, paying for another day of food)? This is not really an acceptable solution, but it sounds like Austin is backpedaling after all of the social media uproar. And they should feel certain that they will NEVER host another event like this ever again. No organization will ever want to go back there after this. Good thinking Austin Parks Department - way to screw yourselves for all future events.

After hearing about them canceling their entire New Year's Eve celebration due to cold weather, and now this embarassment, I have a feeling that whomever was just elected to the head of the Austin Parks Department has no idea what Austin is supposed to be all about. Isn't Austin supposed to be that pocket of "weird" Texans? Whenever we lived in Texas, it was such a relief to travel down to Austin from Dallas. It was relief from all of the big hair and fake boobs and road raged republicans who reside all over that state. I guess that's all over now?

Austin, welcome to the state of Texas. You may no longer be any different...

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2015 New Year Resolution


This year, I am challenging myself to cook a new dish and learn something new in the kitchen every week. I received a new "Cooking for Two" cookbook for Christmas this year, and I have a slew of amazing recipes in the cupboard. It is time that I put all of these tools to good use in my amazing new kitchen...

Every Saturday, the plan will be to pick a new recipe to challenge us (or at least me) in the kitchen. Tonight, I cooked scallops for the first time ever! They turned out pretty good, but I'm sure a pro would be able to tell me what I did wrong. The test in our house though is just to make sure that the hubs will eat it. If his plate is clean at the end of the meal, then I did ok. And we had success tonight! Not sure that it's his new favorite or anything like that, but I was happy.

I also wanted to post our annual New Year's Eve photo. Before we head out for our steak dinner on December 31st, the hubby sets up the tripod with his camera and we pose for a few to mark a new year. So here it is:


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Welcome to 2015!!


We spent our New Year's Eve as we traditionally do... We found a new steak house in the area and headed downtown to have a fantastic steak dinner. We put on some fancier clothes than we're used to, and I actually put some make-up on my face.  haha  It's an occasion that we look forward to every year and it's always been a fun night.

This year we went to the Elway's Steakhouse Downtown Denver. In all honesty, I was skeptical because we seem to have had a hard time finding a fantastic steak in Colorado so far. But I was so pleasantly surprised last night. The steak was perfect and all of the food was off the charts. It is a restaurant that I will be recommending for future nice dinners for sure.

We ate a delicious Crab Cocktail, a small plate of Bison Carpaccio and then of course the Filets. I had mine Oscar "Elway's Style," and it was easily one of the best steaks I've ever had! On the side, we went for the Duck Confit Fried Rice and we could not get enough of that either.





After dinner, we took home our complimentary New Year's hat and noise makers to enjoy the evening inside and away from the crazy drivers. We had a lovely evening back at home waiting for the ball to drop and then went directly to bed.

This morning starts a new year of training and enjoying our new home. We're both sitting here, prepping to get in a work out first thing this morning. But our reward today will at least be some holiday French Toast for lunch. For dinner, I will be cooking up some good luck with a pork roast and some sauerkraut. (It's grown on me). I have a long list of items to keep sanding, painting and finishing for my office as well... "They" always say that how you spend your New Year's Day is how you'll spend your year. So working on the house, cooking up some great food and doing a hard training session at the gym sound just about right.