A Crowd Pleaser

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Whether you are expecting a crowd to watch the Super Bowl or enjoying it with family or a friend or two, a yummy Mexican cheesecake is an appetizer that’s sure to please everyone. If you don’t have all the ingredients on hand, there’s still time to make a quick trip to the grocery.  Here’s what you’ll need.

Mexican Cheesecake

1 c. crushed tortilla chips

3 T. butter, melted

2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened

1 package taco seasoning mix

2 eggs

2 c. shredded Mexican cheeses

1/2 c. thick and chunky salsa

1 c. sour cream

green onions, ripe olives, tomatoes chopped

Stir together crushed tortilla chips and melted butter.  Press onto bottom of 9″ springform pan.  Bake at 325 for about 10 minutes.  Cool slightly.

Beat cream cheese and taco seasoning at medium speed until well mixed.  Add eggs and continue beating until smooth.  Stir in shredded cheese and salsa.  Spoon mixture over cooled crust, spreading to smooth.

Bake at 325 for 30-35 minutes until edges are set.  The middle may be a bit soft.  Top with sour cream and cool completely.  Cover and refrigerate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI like to make the cheesecake a day ahead and leave it in the refrigerator until time to serve.  Just before serving, all you have to do is remove it from the pan to an attractive platter and garnish with  green onions, olives and tomatoes.  Serve with tortilla chips, sit back and wait for the raves.

I’m on my way to the grocery right now.  See you there!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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Foodie Friday

Football and More

img_8592All the talk about and around Houston these days involves the Super Bowl to be played here Sunday.

img_8595Downtown Super Bowl Center is alive with activity and thousands gather to participate in the goings on and, perhaps, spot a celebrity or two.

img_8594From what I see and hear there is something for everyone be it art or live performances.

Office View HoustonAs exciting as all this is, there’s more to this big city than Super Bowl activities, and, hopefully, visitors will have opportunity to take some of it in.

Houston is a city of bayous designed for drainage, but they are also becoming sources for outdoor activity.  Buffalo Bayou is the largest, and it has recently undergone significant change.

These days folks can hike and bike,  kayak 

bbayou-4-e1462310177369or take a scenic boat ride on the bayou.

img_1652-version-2For sure, visitors will find lots of good eats in Houston as it is one of the country’s best foodie cities with cuisines for every palate.  One could eat here for a very long time without having to go to the same restaurant twice.

img_7776sA don’t miss is TexMex.  It doesn’t get any better than at any one of the many Mexican restaurants here.

MFAHFor quieter moments, a visit to one of Houston’s outstanding museums is a delight

img_1205-1as is a stroll through a nearby park.

As I think about it, there’s much that Houston has to offer, but with the emphasis on football some visitors  may not get an opportunity to experience it.  Come Sunday, if I open the windows it just might be possible to hear the noise of the crowd cheering for a favorite team.  For a few thousand dollars I could be there, too, but I’ll be watching on TV with plenty of chips and queso handy.   

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

How Many Is Too Many?

bedroomWhen he turns back the bed, the hubby’s question is always the same.  “Is it necessary to have all these ****** pillows?”  

bedroom“Some of these suckers weigh enough to qualify as weights,” he goes on.

img_8553I smile to myself pretending not to hear and envision the bed looking like this

img_8554or this.

Now those looks don’t work for me, but maybe the rest of you should chime in on how many pillows is too many.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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Metamorphosis Monday

Nobody Does It Better

new-york-36Do you have a shop that appeals to you because of the creative way it is displayed?  For me, the hands down favorite is Anthropologie where a visit tickles my senses.

new-york-34And that’s not true just for the Houston store but for any I’ve visited.

img_2111-1No matter the season the shop windows are a delight.

img_2113Inside there is more with every display alive with color and texture.

Cookbooks are grouped with complementary items making it almost impossible to walk away without the book and a little something else.  Talk about impulse buying!

img_2096At every turn there is temptation

img_2105to say nothing about whimsey.

img_2107I’m crazy for birdhouses but have never thought to use them in quite this way.

img_1585Even the lighting used in certain areas creates a mood, and I can imagine myself curled up here with Pride and Prejudice.

img_2939When I wander through Anthropologie, I find myself wondering about the creative folks who come up with such eye catching and original ideas.  I sure hope they are having as much fun designing as I do looking.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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Friday Favorites

Next: Cannoli

fullsizerenderStarting at Sicily’s Catania airport, I was in cannoli heaven!  I’m not sure why, but it is one of my favorite sweets and not a common menu offering in the States.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat really set cannoli in Sicily apart was having it made with fresh, creamy ricotta inserted into just made shells.

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After watching a demonstration of the whole process in Ragusa, I determined that cannoli was doable and would definitely be the dessert for the anticipated Sicilian gourmet gathering.

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The first step was ordering these little tubes around which the cannoli dough is wrapped for frying.  They allow the shells to hold their shape and to slide off easily once they are done.

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Making the shells requires a bit of elbow grease, a pasta maker or rolling pin and a lot of patience.  Might I add that’s it more fun with two as there is opportunity for lots of chuckles.  All done, there is quite a sense of accomplishment!

img_8232-1Most cannoli has a ricotta based filling that may have such as pistachios, candied fruit or chocolate chips as an added ingredient.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThinking that everyone would like it, I opted for a filling with chocolate chips and a subtle taste of orange.  If there is a best hint for making cannoli, it is to use a pastry tube to fill the shells otherwise it’s a messy process.

OK, there you have it, a perfect ending to a Sicilian dinner.  What made it especially fun was the arancini and the cannoli were firsts for some of the diners, and you know how hard it is to introduce new tastes to gourmands.

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Dishing It & Digging It

First the Arancini

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith the table set, it was time to get busy in the kitchen preparing the Sicilian dinner.

Without question, one of my favorite foods in Sicily was arancini which I swore not to make noting that it was rather labor intensive.  No way though could I pass on it knowing that it possibly would be a new taste treat, so I bit the bullet and got started.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArancini is basically a risotto ball so the first step is making your favorite risotto being sure not to let it get too soft and mushy.  Al dente is the buzz word.  When it has cooled enough to handle, roll the risotto into golf ball sized shapes with a small mozzarella ball in the middle.  Dip the balls in beaten egg whites and roll them in a mixture of equal parts flour and bread crumbs seasoned with salt, pepper and chopped basil.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce your balls are prepared,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfry then in olive or canola oil over medium high heat until browned on all sides.  A deep fryer would likely be a little more efficient than a skillet.  I must tell you this part can be a little tricky as the balls tend to fall apart if they are handled too much so do use care when moving them around.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARemove the balls from the oil and drain them well on paper towels.  Making the arancini is more time consuming than difficult I learned, but the good thing is it can be made a day ahead and reheated in the oven or warming drawer.  That takes a lot of the pain out of preparing the rest of the meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt serving time, put a heaping portion of  meat sauce in a bowl and top with 2-3 arancini.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and coarsely chopped basil or Italian parsley. Then sit back and enjoy the moans of pleasure that will come from your table.  That makes the effort all worthwhile!

While you may have a favorite meat sauce, I can’t resist sharing Chef Michael’s recipe for Sicilian meat sauce with its flavorful blend of ingredients.

1/4 c. olive oil

1/2 c.  each finely chopped onion, carrot and celery

1 lb. ground pork or Italian sausage

1/2 c. red wine

6 oz. tomato paste

28 oz. can of diced tomatoes

3 c. beef broth

1 T. fennel seeds, toasted and ground fine

2 cloves minced garlic

1 bay leaf

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the onions, carrots and celery.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the pork or sausage, stir until broken up and cook until browned.

Pour in the wine and cook until it has nearly evaporated.

Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add diced tomatoes, beef broth, seasonings and bay leaf and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours.

Remove the bay leaf and season to taste.

As you might guess, this sauce is great with most any pasta.  Double the recipe, freeze the extra and you have sauce ready for another time.  Not a bad idea!

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