Prickly and Sticky in San Antonio

Day 1 in San Antonio is 99 degrees F with approximately 1,000% humidity…..suffice it to say it’s HOT! Of course, to hear the locals tell it, 99 degrees is a cold-front compared to last week’s temps of 105.  But any way you slice it, and the humidity is so thick you CAN slice it, it’s HOT!  I mention this because (1) it’s a fact and (2) I am NOT a hot weather girl…..not by any stretch of the imagination.  And to top it off, I have a pretty bad cold….the kind with chest congestion, a runny nose and a headache from all the stuffiness.  BUT, I am still having  a good time!

I’ve been medicating regularly with Alka Seltzer cold medicine, staying hydrated and getting rest.  We arrived at our hotel after 11:00 San Antonio time last night and pretty much did a quick unpack and then hit the hay (for some reason that sounds better when you say that in Texas).  I didn’t set an alarm and woke up – a little dazed and confused – at 9:30 this morning.  I drank some Green Machine juice while I got ready and then headed for the River Walk.

What a great way to meander and see the sights.  And as a bonus, Jeff met me for lunch.  I didn’t expect to see him until after his training, but the timing and location worked in our favor.  We went to a place he remembered from his last trip to San Antonio in 1999 – boudros Texas Bistro. Wow!

Jeff steered me toward boudros’ signature drink, the Prickly Pear Margarita, and he was not wrong. Of course, when it comes to eating and drinking, he rarely is! Through the years, Jeff has also talked about boudros’ guacamole, which is made table-side – so we ordered that too. HOLY GuacaMOLE! It was wonderful – a great balance of silky avocado, smoky fire roasted tomatoes, crisp Bermuda onions, fiery hot peppers and tangy citrus juice. The only change I would make would be to add a little of the zest of the lime and the orange. But you know me, I can’t leave well-enough alone.

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We also shared the Texas Tapas appetizer. It was a nice mix of flavors – grilled pork tenderloin, smoked duck leg, sausage w/BBQ sauce, corn pudding and marinated veggies. As you would expect with tapas, there were small bites of each item – enough for both of us to taste.

Our waiter, a polite young gentleman, was quite attentive but not in that overly fussy way. He mixed our wonderful guacamole, made suggestions from the menu, and asked if I NEEDED another margarita. Let me tell you, I would have loved another margarita or 10, but I didn’t think more tequila would mix all that well with the cold medicine, so I refrained. (I know, no guts – no glory!) But, there will be a chance for more margaritas between now and Friday.

After lunch we strolled along the River Walk until Jeff had to get back to class, then I explored La Villita – Historic Arts Village, which was one of San Antonio’s first neighborhoods. It’s a little touristy, but there are a few gems among the faux stones! I especially enjoyed shopping in Angelita – great jewelry and natural fiber clothing. It was quite unusual. And I loved the jewelry in Equinox – A Jewelry Metal Gallery. There were so many wonderful one-of-a-kind pieces (hint, hint honey) that I could have bought for myself and/or that would make excellent gifts. My favorites were the mantra rings.

After La Villita I strolled more of the River Walk and took some photos. Eventually, however, a combination of the heat, my cold, and the cold medicine and margarita wearing off got the best of me. I headed back to the hotel. On my way up to the room, I got an iced coffee to keep me awake while I write this post. Next on my agenda is a nap before Jeff gets back from training.

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Tonight we are going to explore Market Square and hopefully find some amazing Mexican food. Tomorrow, who knows….there are several things on my list of things I could do – we’ll see where the wind (God, please let there be some wind – at least a breeze) takes me!

For now, I’m going to close the blinds and catch some z’s. Had I brought my book along when I left the hotel this morning, there is an excellent chance I’d still be drinking prickly pear margaritas at boudros! Ah well, maybe tomorrow!

Eat, Drink & Be Joyful!

I’ve been very lucky over the last year to be able to share my thoughts about cooking, eating and entertaining via this blog. I’ve gone on a few rants, disclosed some personal things about myself and given you a TASTE of what it’s like to live in my world.

So it’s only fitting that I spent the last few days eating, drinking and being joyful. And the best part is I have the pictures to prove it!

On Saturday I had the rare opportunity to go on a date with my husband! Although we have no children, we don’t schedule time to be alone together as often as we should. In fact, my friend Alicia and I have discussed that when you’re married with no kids it may be more important to be intentional about spending time alone with your spouse. You see, us MNK’s (married-no-kids) often take for granted that we’ll have time TOMORROW to be alone with our spouses….but then all the other obligations get in the way. I’m sure if you have kids, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Yeah? Well try adding kids to the mix!” And I’m sure that is a difficulty….but most of the people I know who have kids make family time a priority. What’s hard to remember is that the spouses in MNK relationships ARE one another’s family.

But anyway – that was a diversion I wasn’t planning to take! My point was to express my gratitude to spend nearly a full day alone with Jeff with the sole intention of being together!

Eat Divider

I worked at the Kitchen Shoppe in the morning, but Jeff picked me up promptly at noon 12:30. (I <3 U, Honey).  Our first stop was lunch – and it was a good thing because we were both famished by the time we reached the restaurant.  We decided on Momma Spriggs in Carlisle – (1) because it is close to the KS, but also because (2) I’ve been wanting to give it another try ever since I went there with two of my co-workers for lunch.

When I went with my co-workers there was a dessert in the case that was calling my name, but that I didn’t try.  It was called Chocolate Joe Cheesecake.  Unfortunately, when Jeff and I went on Saturday, they didn’t have THAT dessert.  Fortunately (for everything except my thighs), they had others!

While we were perusing the menu, I told Jeff about the Hot Roast Beef Sandwich that one of my co-workers ordered on our previous visit.  It intrigued him enough to order it – and by the looks of his plate shortly after it was put in front of him, I’d say it was an excellent choice!

Hot Roast Beef Sandwich

No More Hot Roast Beef Sandwich

I ordered the Johnny Appleseed Burger and French fries.  The Johnny Appleseed is described as a burger with “cheddar cheese, bacon, sautéed apples and red onion served on grilled wheatberry bread.”  What is not in the description is that the burger is delicious. I ordered mine medium rare and it was cooked to juicy perfection and was adorned with wonderful flavors from all the toppings.

Johnny Appleseed Burger

Because I knew we wanted to try dessert, I only ate half my burger.  I wish I had had as much restraint with the fries, but they were so good I couldn’t stop!

While Jeff and I pondered our dessert choices, I recapped a conversation I had with my LHA buddies (thanks for a nice dinner David, Kim & Andrew) the other night about sharing food.  I really wasn’t trying to discourage our sharing a dessert, but it worked out that way.  Jeff ordered the Peanut Butter Pie with Chocolate Ganache and I ordered the Oreo Explosion Cheesecake.

Now I have written before about how disappointing it can be to go to a restaurant and see desserts that you think are going to be great only to order them and find that they are ordinary.  I can assure you that that was not the case at Momma Spriggs.  The desserts were FANTASTIC!  Jeff’s pie was so rich I am surprised he was able to eat it all – but he took one for the team.

Peanut Butter Pie

After just one bite of my cheesecake I knew I’d be taking some of it home.  I was soooo good, but there was no way I was going to be able to finish it and still walk out the door.  So, with a little assistance from Jeff, I ate half the piece of cheesecake.  We split the rest for dessert the next evening.

Oreo Explosion Cheesecake

After we finished our lunch, I decided to snap a few pictures inside Momma Spriggs to give you an idea of what to expect when you go, which I would highly recommend.

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Momma Spriggs has a bit of a diner feel to it, but the décor is much nicer than diner décor.  The colors are relaxing and welcoming and there is a decorated feel. A word about the service.  On my first visit, my co-workers and I waited (what was IMHO) too long to be acknowledged and seated, but on Saturday we were greeted immediately and shown to our table by a nice young man.  Interestingly, during the first visit, the table service was better than on Saturday – but that is not to say Saturday’s service was bad.  I have my fingers crossed that on my next visit I will have good service all the way around!!!!

Drink Divider

After we left Momma Spriggs, Jeff and I headed out to explore Southern Cumberland County and Adams County by car.  Our objective for the day was simply to meander and take some pictures.  And that we certainly did.  It was relaxing to drive and talk and see the beautiful autumn leaves.  And what a nice surprise it was to stumble across Reid’s Orchard & Winery, which we did quite by accident.  After choosing a direction at a crossroads, Jeff decided to turn around and find the vineyard for which we had seen a sign.

I am glad he did because we had a lovely experience at Reid’s talking with Samantha and with Clair, sampling some good wines (which surprised me for PA wines because I admit I have had a somewhat old bias about PA wines all being sweet fruit wines) and hard ciders, and exploring the beautiful property.  We learned a bit about the orchard itself, talked with Samantha about the hard cider making process, had our questions answered about the label art on the wine bottles,  discussed food and wine pairing, and were even able to sample a fruit we had never tried before – arctic kiwi – and a surprisingly delicious blueberry wine that was not at all the sweet fruit wine I expected.

Roaming the property was my favorite part of the Reid’s experience.  It was relaxing to stroll through the rows of grape vines and apple trees.  The smells were interesting – highlighted by fresh autumn air mixed with sweet, fermenting fruit.

I hope the pictures below pique your curiosity!  I would highly recommend visiting Reid’s in the fall; but I’ll also tell you that Clair shared with us that in warmer months Reid’s offers live music on the weekends.  Sometimes there is catered food available, but you can always bring a picnic basket filled with your own goodies.  And wines are available by the bottle and by the glass.  The seating area is lovely with picturesque views.  I can guarantee Jeff and I – and perhaps some friends – will be checking out Reid’s on a weekend when the weather warms!

The majority of the photos below were taken at Reid’s Orchard & Winery, but some are from surrounding farms and orchards and restaurants.  Enjoy!

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Be Joyful Divider

That brings me to today.  As some of you know, I’ve been trying to listen to God’s prompting to “Wait!  Just Wait!”  Some days this is easier than others – especially for someone as “D” as me.  As driven, task-oriented, and impatient.  But I’ve found a lot of joy in the waiting – especially this morning.

I got to work a few minutes before 8:00, which was the time we set to start prepping for classes this morning.  When I pulled into the parking lot at the Kitchen Shoppe, there were NO cars in the parking lot.  I cannot tell you how unusual this is.

But when I looked toward the Le Tort Spring, which runs behind the shop, I knew the empty parking lot was a gift from God and a wonderful reminder of the beauty that can be found in waiting!  I had a peaceful few minutes to walk along the spring and take some pictures.  I wish everyone could begin their day like that!  It was a time to relax, breathe, center and focus.  And to take in the wonder of God!

For those of you who wonder, THIS is why I try to always have my camera with me!

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So as I reflect on the last year of blogging, on the events of the last few days and even on the few moments of solitude I enjoyed this morning – I am reminded to EAT, DRINK & especially to BE JOYFUL!

I received no compensation for either the review of Momma Spriggs or of Reid’s  Orchard & Winery.  The ideas expressed are strictly my own based upon my experience.

Cool Rain and Warm Cider

Saying Saturday afternoon was rainy is like saying George Clooney is cute – an utterly obvious understatement!!!  But we didn’t let the rain get us down.  Jeff and I spent the day running errands and while we were in the car hustling from one stop to the next, our friend Ben called to ask if we wanted to come over and learn to make apple cider.  Hello?  Of course we do!

In April, I wrote a little bit about Ben in a post entitled Serving Together in Love.  In that post, I wrote:

“You probably know someone who would do anything for anybody just because they needed help, right?  Well I do.  His name is Ben.  He’s “the guy” that everyone knows.  You know what I mean….he’s the guy in the phrase, “I know a guy with a truck.” Or, “I know a guy who delivers tanbark.” Or, “I know a guy who will come to your house and plant a tree in the dark.”” 

Well, he’s also THE GUY with the cider press!!!  The press was built by Ben’s grandfather and has been modified by several family  members as it has been handed down.  On Saturday Jeff and I were fortunate to see the press in action, spend time learning about the cider-making process, and hang out with Ben and Christa – and their sweet puppy, Paxton.

Paxton

Is he adorable, or what?  He’s sooooooo cute and such a pup!  He’s got sharp little teeth, he’s unquenchably curious, and he tugs at your heart-strings with just a look!  But I digress (as I usually do when there’s a puppy involved)!!!!

Anyway, when we arrived at Ben and Christa’s house, it was raining so hard I thought it might be monsoon season….but alas, I was wrong.  We sprinted from our car into the garage to find the welcoming smell of warm apple cider and to see Ben and Christa in action.  There was a large plastic tarp on the garage floor and in the center of it was THE PRESS.  Off to one side were hundreds of apples awaiting their fate.  And in the turkey fryer/cabbage cooker/cider boiler was a batch of cider bubbling away (thus the yummy aroma)!

Ben showed us a cycle of the process and then – like a surgical instructor taking seriously his charge to see one, do one, teach one – he put us to work!  With his help, we fed apples into the spinning blades and watched as they were extracted into the basket.  Then Ben put the lid on the basket and Jeff took a spin (ha ha – pun intended) at pressing.  After pouring the pressed cider through the strainer and into the boiler, we repeated the process with me pressing, until we had fed all the apples through the press and all the cider poured through the strainer and into the boiler.  Like any good process, then it was time to wait.  You know the part where you kick back, goof off and take a little rest!

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Fortunately, before we arrived, Ben and Christa had been working tirelessly so there was some cider that had already been cooled that was ready to bottle.  And drink.  We sipped our cider and watched Ben bottle the cooled cider.

Ready for Dispensing

Fruits of Our Labor

We did not leave empty-handed.  We got some cider to take home to drink and some cider to make into Apple Cider Caramel (See recipe below) for ourselves and for Ben and Christa.  We also left with two gigantic sweet potatoes, a watermelon, and various other things from Ben and Christa’s garden.

So although the day was cold and rainy and I was freezing by the time we got into the car, our bellies were warmed by the cider and our hearts were warmed by time spent learning something new from and spending time catching up with good friends!!!

Apple Cider “Caramel”

Meal type Condiment, Dessert
This recipe was a happy accident. I envision it being excellent over vanilla ice cream, perhaps drizzled over a bagel with cream cheese or over oven roasted sweet potato fries. The possibilities are endless!!!! Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Apple Cider
  • 1 pinch Kosher Salt
  • 1 pinch Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar (divided)

Note

mmm mmm mmm blog at www.cookeatentertain.com

Directions

1. Put cider, salt, pepper and 1 Tbsp of brown sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan, stir well and bring to a boil.
2. Lower heat to medium low (low if you have a particularly hot burner) and reduce to 1 cup.
3. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of brown sugar, increase heat. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and reduce to 1/3 cup.

Lavender Steamer

Lately I’ve been trying to give up coffee…or at least to decrease the amount I drink.  It’s not so much the caffeine (although the older I get the more caffeine affects me in a negative way); but rather it’s that (as I have confessed previously) I use coffee as a cream and sugar delivery system!

So, what’s a girl who loves a warm beverage – especially late-afternoon – to do?  Well, a lavender steamer is one option.

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Jingle Bells

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh, what fun it is to ride in….the backseat of a Honda Pilot holding a mug of hot chocolate in your hand, laughing with friends, and peeping at Christmas lights!

Jeff and I had such a fun night with our friends Mark and Lu and their kids last night.  We were invited to their house for a casual dinner before our First Annual Christmas Light Ride.  Lu made three (yes, an overachiever if ever there was one and more energy than anyone I know) kinds of soup and had fixings for sandwiches.  The soups were D’licious!  She made a chick pea soup that you top to taste with fresh cilantro, a warm baked potato and bacon soup that you top to taste with shredded cheese, and a spicy lamb and veggie soup.  All were incredibly warming and homey.  And the sandwich fixings were definitely not your ordinary deli.  There were several kinds of bread including jalapeno cheese bread (mmm mmm mmm), different meats and cheeses, a bevy of condiments and toppings.  What a terrific meal.

And since Jeff and I don’t have kids of our own, it is a nice change of pace to have dinner in a house full of activity and some great sarcastic humor.  It was the funny banter between siblings that you just can’t get anywhere else sprinkled with movie quotes and an obvious love for one another!!!

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Octoberfest at The Kitchen Shoppe in Carlisle

Gourds1I am so excited to start my work study program at the Kitchen Shoppe in Carlisle tonight! If you haven’t taken a cooking class there, I’d highly recommend it.  Some classes are demonstration only and some are hands-on classes. There are a wide range of topics – something for everyone!

The class I am working this evening is Octoberfest and is being taught by Grayson Bowman and Dennis Dragas.  The course catalog describes the class as follows:

“Celebrate Octoberfest with German Food and Roy Pitz Brewery!  Food and Beer Tasting!

Octoberfest in Germany is a time for good food and great beer!

– Beef Goulash
– Apple Sausage Breakfast Ring
– Sauerbraten with Red Cabbage and Potato Dumplings
– Apple Dijon Pork Roast with Potato and Asparagus Casserole
– Beef Tenderloin Stroganoff
– Linzer Torte”

I can’t wait to get there and get started!  This is such a great way to combine my love of cooking and my love of learning!  Although I love to cook I would never be arrogant enough to think I have nothing more to learn.  In fact, learning and trying new things is part of the fun – it’s always an adventure!

Click here to see a list of classes and/or to register.  Click here to request a course catalog via US Mail.

Update:
My first night at The Kitchen Shoppe was wonderful.  I worked with many amazing folks, some who were new like me and some veterans.  Everyone was very helpful and friendly.  After about the first 15 minutes we really got into a groove.

Although I was only serving and clearing (it is quite difficult for me to be in a kitchen and not be chopping, stirring, seasoning, etc.), I enjoyed being busy and being able to fully experience the class.  I haven’t cooked much, if any, German food and was glad to have the opportunity to learn about a new kind of cuisine, to taste some great dishes, and to meet other people with a passion for food.

The food was paired with beers from a semi-local brewery.  The Chambersburg-based Roy Pitz Brewing Company, whose tagline is “Liquid Art,”  was very well represented by a young man with a burning passion for beer-making!  Their seasonal pumpkin brew was a terrific end to the evening!