Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Back By Popular Demand!

That is, of course, if you consider requests from two whole people "popular demand".

I first posted this way back in 2012, and it has deliciously stood the test of time.

I'm not sure if this will catch most of you in time (especially those of you who are the list-makers, planners, and the not-put-every-thing-off-to-the-last-minute-ers...)
Seriously, you guys are on your own. You've already bought all your groceries, made all your plans, and nothing I do can help you.

But! For my people! Those who will still make at least two trips to the grocery store before Thursday! The ones who will cuss and complain "why are all these people still at the store! why aren't they home cooking and being with their family!" as you wedge yourself into the last parking space within 2 miles of  The HEB.

This is for you.

My all-time favorite Thanksgiving dessert.

And also, conveniently, something that could successfully be made by a trained monkey.
With his hands tied behind his back.

You see a lot of recipes for something similar to this, but I guarantee that this is the best.

Make it! Take it!

And for all that is good and perfect in this world, Please Don't Forget The Blue Bell.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Crunch

I  (15 oz.) can pumpkin*
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 eggs
1 yellow cake mix
1 ½ c. chopped pecans
2 sticks butter (melted)

1.       In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, cinnamon, and eggs. Beat about one minute on med. high speed. Pour mixture into a buttered  9x13 in. baking dish.
2.       Sprinkle the dry cake mix evenly over the top of the pumpkin mixture. Do not stir!! Sprinkle the nuts over the dry cake mix, and then pour the melted butter evenly over the top.
3.       Bake at 350 degrees for about 45-50 minutes. Until golden brown on top.
4.       Serve warm with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla.

*Make sure that you are using canned pumpkin puree and not canned pumpkin pie filling (yuck)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dear Students

Well Hello!

We had a fabulous weekend, and hope you did too!

The weather is picture perfect here in Aggieland with the clearest blue skies and temperatures that are seasonably crisp and cool. I'm currently fighting an overwhelming urge to go to every restaurant in town that dares to have an outdoor patio and eat something outside in this awesomeness.

Because if not now, then WHEN?
You know I'm right.

It's so hard to believe it's just a few days until Thanksgiving, and many of you fortunate ones have probably already started your vacation or at least the preparations for it. You may know (or could guess) that some of my favorite TV watching comes courtesy of the Food Network, and I've already seen a couple of Thanksgiving Specials geared to helping us prepare the perfect feast for family and friends. I even heard one of the TV Chefs refer to Thanksgiving as the "Food Holiday".

And while I would enthusiastically agree that the food is an always much anticipated part of the celebration, I hope we don't forget the Thanks Giving part too.

It's easy to get wrapped up in the traveling and cooking and forget to let those you care about know how thankful you are for them. Like me, you may be missing someone this holiday, or find yourself wishing that the circumstances of your life were just plain different. Although it's rare that anyone would rate every season of their life perfect, I do believe that whatever our circumstances we should make every effort to look beyond what's not perfect and concentrate on each and every blessing.

Big or small.

I'm sharing a letter with you today that I sent to all my Aggie students. They've been a huge and wonderful part of my life for the last few months.

By reading this I hope you will be encouraged to take the time to consider some of the unexpected blessings of people in your own lives.
And remember, it only takes a minute to tell someone how grateful you are.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear Students:

It’s almost Thanksgiving, an especially appropriate time to show our gratitude for special people who impact our lives. I’d like to do that today, because for me, you are some of those  special people.

Just think.
Many of you were convinced you’d never make it this far. That seemingly far-fetched dream of going home, seeing your families, and eating your Mom’s cooking has sustained most of you through the last few challenging weeks.

Oh, and the chance to sleep. You all really, really want to sleep.

Dragging yourself out of bed each morning for formation and PT has become an autopilot thing. On certain days making it to class is a triumph!
Sometimes I see you and think: “Look at them! They’re walking! Their clothes are all on straight! Their eyes are open! It’s a great day!”
You are truly a wonder.

Most of you know by now that I’m an ISFP- one of the “PEOPLE WITH ALL the FEELINGS”. So please, all of you “thinkers” just bear with me on the next part.

There have been days when I want to put my hands on your collective faces and say:
(Please pardon the following sentimental movie reference…)

You is kind
You is smart
You is important
(And yes, sometimes You is late with your assignments…)  J

Here’s the thing: I am so thankful for you. For the opportunity to share this little chunk of life with you. To be a part of one of the scariest, most challenging and exciting times of many of your lives. To be able to look back at your official “freshman photograph” taken what seems like eons ago at your New Student Conference, and see how much you’ve changed.

First, your hair. It’s gone. Bless it. May it Rest in Peace.

Your faces are slimmer, more chiseled. Sometimes I do a double-take when I pull up your pre-Corps photo online. Is that really you? I can’t imagine how many miles you’ve run, push-ups you’ve done, sandbags you’ve carried, and obstacle courses you’ve conquered.

You continue to have your uniforms altered to fit your taller, thinner selves. Oh, as a middle-aged woman to have that very problem for myself…
(Clearly, if I was more of a “thinker” I would be out on those runs with you.)

Most of those old pictures show excitement (and maybe a little apprehension) but now I see more of what appears to reflect determination and drive in your eyes. And pride. You’ve endured and accomplished things you never thought possible. You’ve proven that you are capable. You are able to think beyond your circumstances.
Well done. Very well done.

I have delighted in being called Ma’am so many times that I occasionally have to remind myself that’s not actually my given name. Many times I get a “Ma’am Sandwich”, starting and ending your sentence with that word of respect.
Thank you, by the way, I can’t tell you how honored I feel.

We’ve laughed together and cried (OK, fine. Maybe it was just me who cried).  We’ve commiserated over un-shined shoes and brass, a pesky lack of time management skills (or should I just say lack of time…), sophomore woes, and the nasty “fish” trap of procrastination.

We’ve read a novel, written goals (I promise you that Great and Glorious day will come when you all have time to meet girls!) We’ve discussed leadership and values and what it looks like to own the decisions that you make in college.

More than anything I think we’ve all learned a lot about each other and ourselves, and for that I hope you feel the class was worth the effort.
What I know with all certainty is that regardless of your age and life experience, you are some of the brightest, most talented, and exceptional people I’ve ever known. You make coming to my office and classroom each day a joy.

I am forever grateful for my time with you, and am a better teacher/person as a result.

Happy, Happy Thanksgiving to you all- enjoy each and every minute.

My Best!

Mrs. D-T

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Heed the Call

There's just something about cooler weather that screams MUFFINS! Well maybe not that loud, but it at least says muffins!!!!

We had quite a storm around here yesterday morning, and with it came some much anticipated lower temperatures. In my mind cool weekend mornings just beg for slow beginnings, a quiet breakfast on the back porch, and hot muffins. And nothing says fall like tart cranberries with some bright orange citrus flavor thrown in for good measure.

These muffins are perfect for weekends, holidays, or any time you want something comforting and homemade. Share them with your family, or with next week's Thanksgiving guests. Make an extra batch, let them cool completely, then freeze for up to two weeks. Pull them out and reheat for a breakfast on the run or an afternoon snack.

See you all sooner than later.

   Cranberry Orange Muffins

8 T. (I stick) butter
1 cup sugar  
½ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
2 tsp. baking powder      
2 cups flour
½ c. (4 oz.) milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ½ c. fresh cranberries
Coarse sugar for sprinkling
2-3 T. finely grated orange peel

Preheat oven to 375.  Lightly spray 12 cup muffin pan with cooking spray.
In the bowl of an electric mixer cream together the butter, sugar, and salt until light in color. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Add the baking powder, then add the flour alternately with the milk, beating well after each addition.   With a wooden spoon stir in the vanilla, the cranberries and the orange peel.
Fill 12 muffin cups evenly with the batter and sprinkle coarse sugar over the top of each.
Bake for 25-29 minutes.
Let cool just a few minutes and then carefully run a knife around the sides of each muffin and turn the muffin sideways in the muffin pan.  This keeps steam from forming a tough crust and it keeps the muffins from sticking to the pan.

Monday, November 9, 2015

It's About Time

In the last few days I've had a few people (OK, three. Just three measly people) ask me for a soup recipe. I suppose it's the onset of a bit of cool weather. Finally.

"What's your favorite soup?" they inquire.

Well, it's this. Spinach Lemon Orzo Soup

There's just something about the tart citrus-y lemon mixed with the goodness of spinach and the comfort of pasta and chicken that makes this my absolute, hands down first choice.

Another plus? You can have this ready in about 20 minutes. 


So if you're in need of some comfort for your stomach or your heart, try this.

I promise you'll love it.

Spinach Lemon Orzo Soup
(By Lu at Mudpuddle)

2 T olive oil
1 whole large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 whole lemon, zested and juiced (I used a HUGE Meyer Lemon)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, packed
1-½ cup uncooked orzo pasta
8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 T water
1 T cornstarch
About 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (I use a deli chicken!)
¼ cups freshly grated Parmesan Cheese (or how much you like!)

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot or stock pot. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes until fragrant. Add the lemon zest, red pepper flakes and thyme and cook another 3 minutes until the onions are tender and translucent. Turn the heat to medium and add the spinach and orzo. Cook for 1 minute and then add the broth and lemon juice.
Bring to a light simmer and cook for 12-15 minutes until the orzo is barely tender. Whisk the water and cornstarch in a small bowl. With the soup at a light boil, whisk in the cornstarch mixture and stir rapidly. Allow the soup to thicken, about 3 minutes. Adjust the thickness with additional broth or water.
Stir in the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes more.
Serve immediately garnished with freshly grated Parmesan.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Bacon Bacon

Certain things bear repeating.

And this Brown Sugar Bacon is one of them.

A few weeks ago at our Tailgating Brunch one of the most popular dishes was the Brown Sugar Bacon. Everyone gobbled it up. I've made it before many times- even for a event with 100 people in attendance (don't let anyone tell you that Church Ladies can't eat some cured and sweetened pork products!) and every single time it's been a rousing success.

This takes the goodness of bacon to an entirely elevated level.

I know many of you are preparing to cook for family and friends as Thanksgiving approaches, and thought you might enjoy making this super simple and tasty dish to serve. You'll be the object of many people's thanks!

1) Prepare the pan: I use a cookie sheet that has been carefully lined with foil. On top of the foil I place a cookie/cake cooling rack.

2) Place as many strips of thick sliced bacon as you can on the rack. Try to make sure the strips are not touching. 

(Also, please try to take a better photo.)

3) Sprinkle the strips with coarsely ground black pepper.

4) Then generously sprinkle with brown sugar!

That's it! Three ingredients!

5) Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

6) Let cool, and then break each strip in half. (At least do this to the ones you don't immediately eat.)

You'll love it- guaranteed!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Ball of Fire

We had just the best time last weekend at our Brunch/Tailgate before what might have been the all-time hottest game on record at Kyle Field. It wasn't the temperature that was necessarily the problem, but the Sun. The most brutal, scorching sun ever positioned itself right over the newly renovated stadium and did it's dead level darndest to fry over 105,000 people.
The student section took the worst hit, of course, and the bowels of the stadium filled quickly with overheated (and somewhat depressed...) fans.
Six American dollars for a bottle of water? Why yes! I'll take 4 and please just pour the last two directly over my head.
So hot.

I suppose it would have been easier to look past the scorching heat if we had been winning, but we weren't. And we didn't. Bless.

We had the privilege of field passes, and before the game JT had to hold me back from doing a little field goal practice.

And please forget you saw me looking so frumpy and awful- did I mention the heat almost killed us?

I also had the chance to get a picture with my A&M Class of '79 classmate (and my boss...) General Joe Ramirez, Commandant of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets.


I repeat. Bad hair day.

But. Before the game the weather was awesome and at the brunch we enjoyed great, great friends and family along with some wonderful food.

I forgot to take any pictures of the actual event (as I do) and only have the pictures I took before of the front porch before the festivities

(mainly because I was so proud of myself for putting out the pumpkins and the mums).

I admitted a long time ago that I have a "decorating phobia."

Don't even get me started on the front porches/yards/walkways I saw decorated in the Highland Park area of Dallas a few weeks ago. Talk about elaborate.
My word.
I assure you none of their d├ęcor included rusted buckets from the barn.  I suppose they haven't heard yet that they're all the rage.

It feels good to be on the cutting edge, doesn't it?

I love my porch.

And here's the back where most people ended up eating all their delicious brunch food...

Hope all of you are doing great- I'll check back in soon.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Too Late, Too Soon

Wow. Call me a slacker and then call yourself correct.

The last month has been a tough one. I've had the plague of sorts. The consumption. Some malady that has just about killed me. A lingering, hacking, bronchial-busting cough has prompted more than one person to suggest I give up chain-smoking. (I might note here that I have never once in my entire life smoked.) But things are looking (if not sounding) a little better and I think I just might live.

Many of my students have also been ill with what is traditionally referred to as the Corps Crud, and their poor, tired, stricken faces make me want to give them chicken soup and insist that they take a nap.
But alas, that's a no-go.

I think the weather is a factor too- it's cool for a few hours (at least cooler than blue blazes) then back to hot so many times in a week that it makes my head spin.

Then there's been Aggie Football.

Whoop and Amen.

And the farm and cows and hay.

An ill-timed conference in Dallas in the midst of the Red River Rivalry (who plans these things?) topped off this past weekend.

And although the traffic was awful and the hotel was packed we did have a great time and managed to do some fun things and eat at a few great restaurants while we were there.

A particular favorite was Toulouse which is located on Knox Street just on the edge of the Highland Park area.

We scored a great table on the patio, and with lots of string lights for ambiance, really great seafood and pasta dishes, and an attentive waiter (Jeff), it was quite a memorable evening.

We so recommend!

We also absolutely loved Mama's Daughters Diner which is in the Design District not far at all from  Market Center.

As a matter of fact, we loved it 2 times in 2 days! It's home cooking at it's best. Order the "Meat and Three." Everything we had was scrumptious.
Don't get me started on the cornbread. Crunchy crust. Light, rich, and "just right sweet" on the inside. Or the peach cobbler (which was practically forced on us by our waitress!) To die for.

One of our happy trips to Mama's Daughters even began with a police escort...

We happened to turn down the wrong street (I am notoriously bad at reading a map/GPS/directions of any kind...) when looking for the restaurant and luckily happened upon two of Dallas' finest who not only offered directions but also a personal escort directly to the restaurant! We offered to buy their lunch, but unfortunately they had just eaten.

A delightful weekend all around.

We're gearing up to host an in-home Tailgate Brunch this Saturday before the Texas A&M -Alabama game, so I'll likely have pictures of food, friends and fun to share.

Hope all of you have,unlike me, successfully avoided the plague!

See you soon.