Thursday, August 30, 2012

Steak and Summer

Broiled stuffed flank steak and zucchini with a lemon yogurt sauce. Dinner has been fancy at the Hogans' lately.

I swear I don't just eat all the time, contrary to what my blog lately would lead one to believe. I guess because I've had so little free time, and we have to eat, I've been throwing all my creative efforts into cooking. I have to let it out somehow. The result is, we've been eating like royalty. We've made some damn good food lately.

This latest culinary expedition was SO GOOD. Like fancy restaurant good. This is really the first time we had broiled anything, and we totally set the smoke alarm off while broiling the steak. I'm pretty sure I saw some of the kitchen twine give off a tiny burst of flame at one point. But smokey apartment aside, it was delicious and the steak cooked perfectly. We broiled the zucchini as well. I was seriously amazed at how well broiling cooked everything and how fast it was. Fast is good in my book, less time on your feet.

So in other news, concerning my life outside of the kitchen, summer is basically over for the Hogans. Brendon's first day back to pharmacy school was yesterday. Whomp, whomp, whomp. But, what a wonderful summer we had! Possibly my favorite summer in my young life so far. We more than made up for the lameness that was the summer of 2011. And though I am a little bummed about Brendon being back in school, fall is such a wonderful time of the year it doesn't seem so bad. The weather is cooling down already and I have visions of pumpkins and holiday goodness in my head. Fall brings so many good things, even the big dark cloud that is pharmacy school can't bring me down! Though I may be singing a different tune once school steals my husband away for real. It's still the first week so we aren't in full out pharmacy mode yet. I have high hopes though. This is our second year so we're more prepared, older and wiser (HA)! One more semester down and then it will be like summer time all the time! Just work and play. What a relief it will be to not have school in our lives for the first time, ever

But in the mean time, I'm trying to enjoy these days. Enjoy Brendon's first days of school, hanging out with our phriends (see what I did there?), pretending I'm a UT student and lurking around campus. As stressful as these times may be, I'm sure we'll look back on them with fond memories. Plus, I've taken to thinking of the UT College of Pharmacy as the UT School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (with a focus on potions) and obviously that makes it a hell of a lot cooler and more bearable. I did marry a Harry Potter look alike after all.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cauliflower and cheese soup

Cauliflower is a little weird. It looks like a brain. It's definitely not one of my favorite foods, although I'll eat it (as long as it's cooked to death or drowning in a sauce of some sort). But this soup y'all... it's good. I used this recipe from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine. It's so easy and so bueno. And you could totally swap the cauliflower for pretty much whatever veggie you want.

Here's the run down:

You'll need; butter, an onion, a head of cauliflower (or an equal-ish amount of another veggie), cheese (white cheddar here), chicken broth, water, salt & pepper, and then cayenne to sprinkle on top (optional, but delicious). Specific amounts found over in Martha's recipe.

First things first, get yo' butter melting in your pan while you chop up your onion and cauliflower.

Cook your onion in the butter until it's soft. Drool over how delicious it smells.

While my onion was a-cookin', I had my Mr. H shred my cheese (doesn't that sound like an innuendo?). We couldn't find white cheddar pre-shredded, so we just got a block and did it ourselves. And you could totally use regular yellow cheddar. Or any cheese you'd like!

After your onions are soft, throw in your cauliflower and cook until they're golden brown. Stir these babies a bunch, or the ones on the bottom will stick to the pan and the guys on top wont cook.

Next up, the liquid! 4 cups of chicken broth + 1 cup of water. Really any liquid will do here. Chicken broth has lots of flavor, so anything flavorful is bueno. We make a similar sweet potato soup with coconut milk and broth. Though I've never tried it, I bet beer would be good. Beer and cheese? Win.

Once your cauliflower is soft and mushy, puree the whole thing in the blender. We did ours in two batches. After it's a nice even texture, pour it back into the pan and add your cheese.

Stir until the cheese melts, pour into bowls, sprinkle it with cayenne (or any seasoning you favor, cinnamon or nutmeg would be good with a squash or sweet potato based soup) and eat! Preferably with some sort of dipping side item. We had ours with french bread!

Soups like this are so easy. They're fairly quick and kind of a one dish wonder. Just cook your veggies, add some liquid, and blend it up! Great meal when you're not in the mood for something heavy and overly filling. And soups are perfect for fall and cool weather, although we are obviously jumping the gun here a bit. I mean it is still in the 90's, but whatev.

Cooking fresh

So it's not really a secret, I like to cook and love to bake. I'm not super talented in the kitchen department, but I'm fairly competent. I've been cooking for myself and Brendon for a while, and over the years I've built up a decent arsenal of cookware, spices, and general knowledge of preparing food, including the ever important cooking lingo.

When I moved into my first apartment and was away from my mom's home cooked goodness (and dorm food) and I started cooking on my own, I made a lot of quick and easy frozen/boxed dinners. A lot. I mean we're talking fish sticks and frozen pizza. This was progress for me, because somehow I got it into my head as a young adult that I couldn't cook. That idea was completely ridiculous because I had grown up cooking along side my momma, thank goodness. I was mostly just lazy I think.

As the years went by I ventured into the wide world of recipes. OH RECIPES, how you changed my life. I found that hey, I could make the same stuff that came prepackaged and it would taste better! And it was better for me! Home cooked meals became my bread and butter. At first we had a standard variety of meals that we rotated through, nothing too fancy. Not everything was from scratch, but at least the main dish was. Then I got sick of our normal options and was forced to get creative. I subscribed to a few cooking/home magazines and tore recipes out like crazy, and I still do. Thank you, Martha.

Yours truly, in a pot.

I'd say these days whenever we (and I mean we, because Brendon has been a champ in the kitchen lately) cook (which is almost every night of the week), 85% of our meals are made from scratch. We still supplement our meals with a canned veggie or packaged rice to save time occasionally, but the fresh stuff is just so much better. And we're re-doing the way we grocery shop. Usually we'd make a massive trip to the store to last us for a few weeks, but this doesn't work so well when you're cooking with fresh ingredients. So lately we've been doing a little menu planning and shopping more often for what we'll need that week or so, using our recipes as our grocery list instead of just getting the same old batch of stuff. This is, unfortunately, a bit pricier. Fresh veggies are not as cheap as canned or frozen, plus you're going shopping more often. BUT, it tastes so much better. And we're eating new things all the time! Sometimes they're good and sometimes they're not. You live, you eat, you learn. And then you throw that terrible recipe out.

Of course, cooking from scratch is time consuming and there are definitely some nights when we're absolutely beat from work (after working on your feet all day, cooking is not always appealing) and neither of us have the energy to cook, so we grab fast food or get Chinese delivered, which is never ever good and we always regret it. But I think for the most part we've radically changed the way we eat. We're eating fresher, healthier, and better quality food. And they say, you are what you eat! I don't know about you, but I'd much rather be fresh than preserved!

But because I don't want you to take me too seriously, you must know I still drink a whole lot of these:

Yaaaaay-uhhh. Guilty pleasure. That and, of course, desserts of all varieties.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pyrex family

When we first moved to Austin, I started collecting Pyrex. Growing up we had some really pretty pieces that we used all the time (and my mom still does), and now that I was all grown up (joke, obviously) I needed my own! Luckily Austin is full of thrift stores, which is the best (cheapest) place to buy Pyrex. We live super close to a bunch, one is seriously within walking distance and we visit almost weekly. There's not always Pyrex (mostly there's junk, dirty junk, and more junk), but when we find some it's always so exciting. It's like adding a new little member to our growing Pyrex family! And the best part is that we use a lot of it all the time!

Serving bowls, casseroles of all sizes (look at that tiny pink one! It's my favorite, so cute!), mixing bowls, cups, and little plates, all with the cutest little patterns. Most of them are in great shape too! Pyrex is so tough. For instance, while I was getting this nonsense together for a picture I dropped that big red casserole on the ground and I screamed and it just bounced (although it was on the carpet). This stuff is decades old, but it all still serves and bakes like champions! I think the green guy in the middle is probably in the worst condition, but who cares! There is always love for Pyrex in my home!

On our latest thrifting expedition, we found three saucers that had a pattern that matched some Pyrex cups I had perfectly, but there was no Pyrex logo on the bottom. It felt a little light for Pyrex, but I bought them anyway because they were like a dollar something and I couldn't pass up the matching pattern. After a little research I found out that they are actually "Corelle" plates from the 70's-80's that Pyrex made matching "compatible" items (such as cups) to go with. So not quite Pyrex but close enough! I saw a set of dinner plates that with a suspiciously Pyrex-eqsue pattern around the rim but no stamp on the bottom, I bet that's what they were! Shoulda bought 'em.

It probably bores the whole world but I love these little guys! They make me happy. And my food looks so much better sitting in them.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Peanut butter fudge

It's recipe time y'all, and today we're talkin' fudge. You can't go wrong with fudge! It's so easy and takes practically zero cooking skills. Usually I stick to regular old chocolate fudge, but recently I've been mixing it up. This recipe is for plain chocolate fudge, but deviation is encouraged. I got this recipe from my mom a few years back, it's the recipe she always made growing up and has always been my favorite. I think it's from the condensed milk container back in the day? Wherever it's from, it lives up to it's name, it's pretty "foolproof".

"Foolproof Fudge"

For the simple version you'll need:

- 18oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 (14oz) can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk (I'm sure you can use any brand, but this stuff makes the best fudge in my opinion)
- Dash of salt
- 1.5 tsp vanilla extract

Now, to mix it up you can sub out half (or a third, or fourth, or whatever) white chocolate or peanut butter chips, etc, for the semi-sweet chocolate chips. Throw some nuts in there if you want. Coconut would probably be pretty good. Seriously put whatever you want in there, the sky (or the size of your pan) is the limit really.

For this particular batch of fudge I used about 12 oz of peanut butter chips and 12oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips. I made a large batch, so I increased the other ingredients as well.

SO, first you'll want to line a 8"x8" or 9"x9" pan with wax paper. Then in saucepans over low heat, melt the chips with your condensed milk. I divide up the condensed milk accordingly if I'm using multiple types of chips. Stir often and make sure it doesn't burn to the bottom.

Once it's all melted and smooth, add your salt and vanilla (again, divide up between pans if using multiple chips).

Then spread your first layer (or all of your melted fudge if you're doing one flavor) into your pan. It doesn't really matter which goes first, but I'd do whichever you have more of if you're not doing half and half.

Then add the next layer on top and smooth it out. You can also bang the pan a bit on the counter (if it's not a glass pan) to help it settle.

Here comes the fun part, marble that nonsense! It's so easy but it looks so pretty and fancy! I just use the end of a wooden spoon and swirl it around the pan, bringing up the bottom layer into the top. I want it to be mixed well but not to the point that it blends into one color. Although I'm sure it would taste great, it doesn't look as cool. And I'm all about looking cool.

Now throw that sucker into the fridge and let it cool for two+ hours. Once it's thoroughly chilled, you're going to flip it over onto a cutting board. Peel the wax paper off and cut it up into whatever size pieces you like. Fudge is super rich so I usually do about 1 inch squares.

And you're done! Store it loosely an airtight container at room temp, although we keep ours in the fridge because it's pretty good cold, especially in the summer!

Share it with your friends (or don't)! Fudge is great for sharing/gifting because it keeps really well and is super easy to package. I took half to work and Brendon took half to his work. Plus we ate some obviously.

And like I said this is soooo easy to alter. I've done it with white chocolate and subbed out the vanilla extract for almond and it was pretty delish. But honestly, as good as the fancier versions are, the regular old chocolate will always be my favorite. Just like my momma made it.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Recent summer life...

... has been full of fun things! Fun with friends, family, and lots of time in the sunshine. I feel like we're trying to squeeze every last drop of summer-fun out summer while we can. Our swimsuits are getting plenty of use lately!

Over the weekend we ventured down to New Braunfels to hang out with my parents. We relaxed by my dad's pool and played some Brooks-Badminton and then that evening hung out with my momma and had a feast of home cooked deliciousness. It had been soooo long since we'd had the chance to get down to NB to see family, it was good to be home!

We spent yesterday with Brendon's momma and his little brother at good old Schlitterbahn. We had a blast! It had been years since we had been and it was neat to see what's changed and what hasn't. I used to spend many summers there growing up, but have only been a few times in my "adult" (and I use that term loosely) years. It's still so fun! Especially with Brendon's brother AJ, he brought out the kids in us! And the engineering behind all that nonsense they have there blows my mind. They sure do know how to to work their water. And somehow all day I managed to not get sunburned! Must have been that spf 70, gotta protect my paleness.

Last night the weather was phenomenal. Actually all day it was pretty dang great, considering the extreme heat that Texas has been giving us lately. There was an awesome cool breeze floating around, I think it was our first little taste of fall. Goodness I can't wait! My favorite season is almost here! Although I'll be sad to say farewell to my sundresses.. sweaters and cardigans, y'all. Can't wait to wear them.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Itching to create

I have been wishing and hoping and wanting to make things. I have a half finished painting in my living room (so sad), endless recipes in my kitchen, and a head (and drawer) full of patterns I want to make into pretty clothes. But alas! I cannot seem to find the time to sit down long enough to make anything. So until this free time falls into my lap, I will just daydream of putting my hands to work. And blog about it. Starting with pretty things to wear.

Like I said, I literally have a drawer full of patterns begging to be sewn. I even have fabric ready to go. And I have had a few patterns stuck in my head that I can't wait to put into action.

Look at this dress. Look at that BOW. I need this dress in my life, asap. I'm not nuts about those color choices in particular, but I do love the color blocking. Maybe blue and orange?

Also, this please. Is this not the prettiest thing? I want to make one just like this. That white fabric is perfect. It looks soft and breezy and it's feminine in the best way. It also looks fairly challenging, which is always fun.

The bad news is that these two patterns (and the one below) only seem to be available online via printing it yourself. And that was a fiasco the last time I tried it, so I'm not too keen on doing it again. But we'll see.

And, since fall and German festivities are just around the corner, I'd love to make a new dirndl. The one I made last year is a tad too big now and this pattern is more modern. Although I'd shorten that skirt quite a bit and obviously not make it all black. And check out those kiddos. Too damn cute!

I also bought a pattern for lederhosen (!!!) for Mr. Hogan. He felt a little left out last year, so this time around he'll have some German garb. Since he is the only German of the two of us, I guess he deserves it.

Now if I could only find the time to put all my plans into action. I'm sure when Brendon starts school I will have significantly more time on my hands. Silver lining to pharmacy school stealing him away.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Spaghetti sauce is the boss

I'm not a great cook. I'm a slightly decent cook, though I'd say my forte is baking. But, I have a few foolproof dinner recipes up my sleeve, thanks to my momma. My mom is the guru when it comes to yummy meals, and thankfully she has shared some of her secrets with me. When I first moved away from home my mom emailed me a few of her signature recipes, one of them being her spaghetti sauce. I made it a couple times, then lost the recipe and email, so I just started making my own via what I could remember. I did that for a few years and then this Christmas my mom gave my sister and I the secrets to life, aka a cook book of her recipes she makes, including her almighty spaghetti sauce. Turns out I was pretty close! I still make my version of her spaghetti, although Brendon (by himself!) made her recipe a few weeks ago and they taste almost identical. Like mother, like daughter.

So here is my version of my momma's spaghetti sauce recipe. You need:

- Tablespoon of butter
- 1lb of ground beef
- About half a cup of wine or beer
- Salt and pepper
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- 16oz can of tomato sauce
- 16oz can of Italian seasoned diced tomatoes
- 6oz can of tomato paste
- Few cloves of garlic
- A tablespoon or so of sugar
- About a tablespoon or so of various Italian seasonings dried or fresh (I use whatever I have on hand, this last time was dried thyme, oregano, fresh basil, and a couple of bay leaves) - really you can use whatever you like!

First I melt the butter in a big ol' pot over medium heat, then add the ground beef. I break it up so it's into the smallest pieces possible, as this is meat sauce, not meatballs (although you can totally do this whole thing with meatballs, I've tried and it's delicious, just a little more work). Then I season the ground beef with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. I pour about half a cup of beer or wine in too. Then I cook the beef until it's browned.

Next I throw in the canned tomato goodies and season up my sauce with all the other ingredients (including another round of garlic and onion powder, salt, and pepper, about a tablespoon of each). I just kind of wing it and season it to taste, I never use measurements, which is why I'm saying "about" a lot. 

Once everything is mixed in I bring it to a boil then turn it down to super low, so it's just barely simmering. Then I let that nonsense cook for a couple hours. The longer the better. I check on it every now and then to make sure it isn't getting too hot. It will go from looking like this:

To this swampy deliciousness:

And you've got some boss sauce!

This stuff is unbeatable in my book. Throw it on some noodles and enjoy. Or do whatever you want with it! We made my moms lasagna recipe this past week with a batch and it was pretty phenomenal. I've been loving the leftovers. You can also totally freeze half for later. It's amazing stuff. Mad kudos to my momma for teaching me well.

Monday, August 6, 2012


As I'm sure you've gathered (as I have been saying incessantly), life has been busy lately. Mostly because of work. I previously said I've never worked so hard, ever, and that's the truth! The past three weeks have been intense. I've never been so tired. But it was all worth it and I feel very accomplished. I love working hard. Actually I don't know how to do anything else really!

Anyways, throughout all of this, my dear Mr. Hogan has been nothing but absolutely supportive and wonderful (with only very minor whining once or twice ;)). He was there to tell me I was doing a good job and that it was okay for me to be a big whiner. He didn't complain when I was constantly sleepy, when I passed out during every movie we watched and on the shortest car rides to and from dinner (and once at 7:30 in the evening). He told me he missed me and he wished I was home more, but he was never angry or short with me. I could tell he was grumpy (now he knows I how I feel when he's in school!), but he did such wonderful job of keeping his cool. And he did all kinds of dishes, cooked all kinds of meals (!!), and cleaned our little home. I should be crazy busy more often!

I don't know what I'd do without Brendon. He's my rock, my happy place, and my home. He is also hilarious and adorable which doesn't hurt.

Thankfully life has returned to normal this week. We have a few more weeks of summer until pharmacy school steals my husband away again. How is it already that time again? How it is August? June and July where did you go? Come back! I said at the beginning of the summer that I was anxious about this summer since last summer was a rough one, but I had a feeling this one would be better. And goodness has it been! It's been such a wonderful summer. Everything a summer should be, lots of sun, lots of fun! It's a good thing fall is my favorite season, or I'd really not want to let this one go.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tomato Pie

It's been a long while since I've posted any food up on this blog. I blame it on my zero time/energy to cook. And laziness. And Home Slice pizza.

A couple weeks or so ago, before my life got extra cray, we made tomato pie! I'd heard rumors of it on the internet and then my step mom made one not too long ago and it looked amazing. So we made it happen. It's super easy.

I used this recipe, but altered a bit. Yes, that is half a cup of mayonnaise on the ingredients list, I don't play around. And anything with fresh basil is usually a winner. That basil plant on our window sill was the best investment ever. I left out the onion (because I'm not a fan) and added squash, zucchini, and mushrooms. So I guess it was less of a tomato pie than a veggie pie. Variety is the spice of life. I ended up cutting up WAY too many veggies, I probably could have made two pies. But it was okay, we threw them in a ziploc baggie and had them a couple nights later with cheese sauce, bonus! Cooking/smothering the healthiness out of vegetables is my specialty.

Anyway, this pie nonsense was good. It was hella rich, but yummy. It would be perfect for winter time, which is a bummer since tomatoes are summer veggies. But it was good and if you aren't scared off by the mayo, I suggest you try it. And you could totally leave out the mayo anyway. It's a great one dish meal that you can throw in the oven, forget about, remember, and then eat.

Go buy some fresh 'maters and try it y'all!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Two cats and their human

It has been too long since these furry babies have graced my blog. I've said it before (possibly a gazillion times) and I'll say it again, I don't know what I'd do without Sophie and Greg. These two, man. They are too wonderful.

Greg is much more photogenic than his grey sister. When I take pictures of him, he looks like this:

And when I take pictures of Sophie, she looks like this:

Seriously. 90% of the pictures I take of her, she has the "ghost head" as Brendon and I have taken to calling it. She wont stay still for crap. I think it has to do with the fact that she is way too cool to have her picture taken. She's too cool for a lot of things. Like cuddles, most of the time. But she can act tough all she wants, she's a big softy. She is the first to greet me at the door when I come home and usually the first to wander sleepy eyed with me into the bathroom when I wake up (even at 3:30am). And she always loses her cool when we are gone for long periods of time. She is a big fan of us, she just doesn't like to admit it. Little tough sweet baby, what would I do without you?

Greg on the other hand is always about the love. He is the most affectionate cat, probably on the planet. Also perhaps the weirdest.

I have felt bad lately, because I've hardly been home to hang out with these guys. So today since I had free time after work, we had a cuddle party on the floor. Which is pretty much their favorite thing ever. You want these cats to love you? Lay on the floor.

Greg basically lost his mind with happiness.

The whole time I was taking pictures with Greg, Sophie was directly behind the camera, looking like this:

Classic bitch face. She's not Greg's biggest fan. And she turns into the green eyed (literally) monster whenever he gets attention.

But of course she got some love too:

But it didn't last long, because she's a brat like that and had to escape asap. Unlike Greg, she is not a fan of kisses or hugs.

Cat love. It's endless. And I'll leave you with this lovely image:

Greg looking incredibly special. Surprise!