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Holidays

Not Sure What To Leave for Santa? (Here’s a Tip: Leave Him Christmas Cookies.)

December 24, 2015
the best christmas cookies

I don’t know about you, but I am struggling a little bit when I think of how little time I have before Christmas and how much I have yet to do.  How does this happen to me every year?!!!  I mean, I know it is coming and yet I am always pressed for time.  Ugh.  Baking helps me settle the voices, but I know that is not true for everyone.  Lucky for you, these two cookie recipes are easy to manage, and they freeze really well.  The first is an Oatmeal Cookie with Golden Raisins and Dried Cranberries.  I know…I know…you don’t like raisins.  I will tell you this- these cookies are such a hit that the teachers who receive them every year won’t let me make anything else.  I have to share this recipe with someone every year as they can’t get over how much they love them.  But, if you insist that you will not like the oatmeal cookies then I submit to you the Chocolate Chocolate Chip with Peppermint Cookies.  Chocoholics can rejoice, and they look nice and festive as well.  The best part about both of these cookies is that you can use a small ice cream scoop to drop them onto your baking sheet.  Seriously, you can finish one batch in less than one hour.  Heat up your ovens, don your aprons, and don’t forget the holiday music and a glass of wine while you cook.  After all, you deserve it!  Let’s do this!

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Oatmeal Cookies with Golden Raisins and Dried Cranberries
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What you’ll need:

2 ½ sticks of butter, unsalted, room temp

1 cup light brown sugar

1 1/8 cup of regular sugar

1 large egg

1 ½ tsp vanilla

3 cups old fashioned oats

1 ½ cup all purpose flour

¾ tsp salt

2 ½ tsp baking soda

1 ½ cup combo of golden raisins, cranberries, cherries, etc.

(I like the golden raisins and cranberries)

Cinnamon

(I think I use about ½ teaspoon, but honestly I just shake it out over the flower and oat mixture until I can smell it)

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What you’ll do:

Preheat oven to 350.  Cream butter and sugars in a stand mixer with paddle attachment until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla- mix until combined.  In separate bowl, stir together oats, flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.  Add the flour mix to the butter mix (half first and then the rest) until combined.  Finally, add the dried fruit.  Use the scoop to portion onto the cookie sheets, and bake 8-10 minutes depending on your oven.  They should be golden brown and a little underdone in the center as they will continue to cook some once removed.

And then try these…

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Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies with Peppermint

ingredients

What you’ll need:

12 oz package of dark chocolate chips (go as dark or semi as you prefer)

2 TBS water

6 TBS unsalted butter, room temp

¾ cup sugar

½ tsp salt

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 ¼ cups all purpose flour

½ tsp baking soda

peppermint chips or crushed peppermint candies

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What you’ll do:

Heat oven to 375.  Set up double boiler with 1 cup of the chips and the water- melt together and let cool some.  Meanwhile, in mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt.  Add eggs and vanilla until combined.  Add melted chocolate until combined.  In bowl, combine flour, baking soda and the last cup of chocolate chips.  Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.  Here you can add the peppermint chips into the batter.  Or, as I did this time, I scooped my dough, and then sprinkled or dipped the tops into the crushed candies.  Bake for 10-12 minutes depending on your oven.

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BTW, both of these cookies go great with a glass of milk!  Also, they’re total Santa pleasers. Proven.

Bon Apetit!

Kristin Paull is a baker who makes the best cookies I’ve ever consumed in my life. They are like little works of art. Like better than wine. With more traces of lemon zest and cardamom.  Read more about Kristin here.

TBT: Winter Solstice Dinner

December 17, 2015
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Winter Solstice has many associated traditions…Sadly, they’re all pretty bleak. Like the bleak midwinter they honor. But a few years ago we had a Winter Solstice Dinner and it was quite lovely. Here’s a Throwback to some a few of our Winter Solstice Dinner Feast and some of our favorite Winter Solstice treats.

Winter Solstice Pumpkin Soup

Yuletide Yule Wreath

Peppered Guinness Roast Beast with Parsnips and Figs

Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce

All these work great for a Winter Solstice meal, or I think I’ll be making a few of them for Christmas this year.

Merry Yuletide!

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TTYL: The Things You’ll Love This Week (Welcome December!)

December 1, 2015
Peace Tree by Laurie White

Welcome, December–and the official beginning to all things holiday. So many hashtags, so many feelings, so many love/hate the Elf on the Shelf comments sections, and it’s only the first day of the most wonderful time of the year. This week we’ll take a look at what’s going on out there, starting out with a great big day of giving, a look at Hanukkah (coming up already, this weekend), plans to celebrate peace and light all month long, and books. Because reading is the best, before or after you see the movie.

  1. Giving Tuesday is on. There are so many causes and such great need out there, it can feel overwhelming to our inboxes, and way more importantly, our hearts. But the good news is that the giving message lasts far beyond today, so the trick is to take it all in, see what causes speak to us, and do what we can all year long to help. Some Texas spots among the many close to our Queso hearts include the Texas Diaper Bank, American Red Cross (shop their holiday catalog to donate an item in honor of a friend or just donate) and the Austin Disaster Relief Network that offer help to families affected by this year’s Memorial Day floods in Central Texas, and the Texas Book Festival‘s work to get books in the hands of kids who need them.

Menorah by abbyladybug on Flickr

Image by abbyladybug on Flickr.

2. As of sundown this Sunday, December 6, we’ll be wishing all of our readers who celebrate a happy Hanukkah. The annual Menorah lighting in Houston is Sunday at 2 pm, at City Hall, and includes all kinds of good stuff for free, including a rock concert by Jewish rock band 8th Day. Shalom Austin has Chanukah in the Hood on the books, and Chabad Dallas will hold a ceremonial menorah lighting at noon on December 10 at Thanks-giving Square a space downtown that promotes the spirit and unifying value of giving thanks in our community, nation, and the world. A good spot for this Festival of Lights, and for all of us, all the time.

Thanksgiving Park in Dallas

3. Speaking of light, we’re celebrating the gift of, and the hope for, peace. Thanksgiving may be all over for the year, but we’d like to carry its good vibes through Advent and the holidays. Contributor Karen just shared this quote from Pico Iyer: “It’s no coincidence that the word ‘holiday’ suggests a holy day, or that the longest book in the Torah concerns the Sabbath. If you wish to advance in any sphere, the best way is to take a retreat.” We want to share our spaces to rest and recharge during this hectic time, because, well, there’s really no reason not to. So. Peace. Light. Gratitude. We’re going to try to hold onto that this season–at least for five minutes here and there.

Bookstore in Savannah by Laurie White

4. One of the best things about the internet that I love so much is taking a break from it. It’s true. Lately I’ve been trying to do this by reading books, on real actual paper, and listening to podcasts, too. (I’m one of the millions addicted to anything Serial podcast-related, and I’m currently catching up on Truth and Justice with Bob Ruff, formerly known as Serial Dynasty. Love Bob! It turns out that traffic is a lot more tolerable when I’m engaged in figuring out a true crime mystery all by myself in my car.) It’s my super late 2015 resolution to read more, and my early 2016 plan, for sure. I just finished Fight Club (loved it) and The Book Thief (loved it more). I’m about to finish Jenny’s Furiously Happy (loved it the most) and to start You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day. I loved that UK booksellers went for Civilised Saturday instead of Black Friday, encouraging visits to bookstores. (And it looks even more civilised with the s instead of the z, doesn’t it?) Double points if you bought a book at an independent bookseller on Civilised Saturday, which was also Small Business Saturday, in addition to just Saturday. Basically all I want is books for the holiday, and to trade them, too. I’m all about that book, bout that book, no…you know. Anyway, what are you reading? We here at the Queso would love to know.

Peace, until next time.

This post was written by Laurie White, who writes, takes pictures, and teaches college students from time to to time. She is not from Texas, but she really loves to visit. Until then, find her @lauriemedia on Instagram. 

TBT: The Recipes of Thanksgivings Past

November 19, 2015
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Over the past few Thanksgivings, I’ve been channeling the ghosts of Thanksgivings past…specifically their recipes. And while I’m living in the house where enormous Thanksgivings were held, I feel like I need to live up to the traditions. The awesome food traditions. Most especially the awesome old-school Texas Thanksgiving food traditions.

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This is a bit tricky for me because I’m not an awesome cook at all, but I can follow directions, and I have a few, different yet simple Thanksgivingish recipes. So I’m going to throw down a few throw backs that have worked well in fairly recent Thanksgivings past, and maybe you’ll find them catchy.

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Pumpkin, barley and sage soup with green apple garnish. I like the idea of having soup at Thanksgiving. We never did this as I was growing up, but I think it’s a solid start. I’m bringing this soup this year.

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Kale, quinoa salad with grapes. I’m also bringing this salad. So I can then eat more pie. That’s just math.

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Ancho chilis stuffed with sweet potatoes, pecans and garlic. This is so Texas Thanksgiving. Like the traditional UT/A&M game, oh wait…except these chilis still happen.

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Pork tenderloin with pumpkin seed sauce. If you’re over the other other white meat, try the other white meat.

Photo Credit: Pork Be Inspired

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Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes. This photo does not do these justice. Trust me. It’s like mashed potatoes’ cool Texas cousin that you really want to watch the UT/A&M Baylor/TCU game with.

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Butternut squash and blue cheese risotto (whoa). This is my favorite. It’s like mashed potatoes’ cool New York cousin that won’t shut up about Hamilton.

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My Great Grandmother’s Cornbread Dressing Recipe. This is the quintessential Texas Thanksgiving must have. Also, it’s so so simple.

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Sweet potato pie with marshmallow meringue. This is like Charlie and the Chocolate factory Thanksgiving dessert without the chocolate and all the whimsy. Just trust me on this.

And finally…no Texas Thanksgiving would be complete without…

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A Simple Pecan Pie. You just have to have it.

So Happy Cooking! And Happy Thanksgiving!

10 in 10: LAST-MINUTE HALLOWEEN DECORATIONS FOR UNDER $10

October 28, 2015
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I talked to a friend today who was lamenting the fact that she hadn’t done anything yet for Halloween. I was legitimately confused.

“Halloween isn’t until Saturday,” I said.

“No, I mean for Halloween season. I’ve been slammed at work, and I haven’t had time to do Halloween, like carve pumpkins or decorate the house.”

Halloween season? I’m pretty sure for moms in the 70s and 80s, there were no seasonal seasons and “doing Halloween” consisted of buying whatever plastic Star Wars Scooby Doo costume we screamed for the grocery store along with a plastic pumpkin to carry around while we begged for Butterfingers. And maybe, maybe, they served up TV dinners on whatever night the nation collectively watched “It’s a Good Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” But that’s it. That’s. It. Decades before Pinterest happened, Halloween happened three days before it happened. With $10 or less. And I see no reason why we can’t do the same thing now. And that’s it.

I posted a similar version of this a few years ago (#wbw/#tbt/#etc), but we hold these truths to be self evident, still, today, now. Plus, we typically decorate for kids…and kids have no concept of timing (one hour = 5 years, to my son) so three days is like forever enough time to celebrate pumpkins, spiced or not. Therefore I give you, again, 10 legit ways to “do Halloween” in 3 days for under $10. Let’s go.3

You can get these little weird gourds almost anywhere. And right now, they’re totally on sale at most places because stores are already attempting to fill up every square millimeter with decor de Christmas, which is so two months from now.

 

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If you are against buying real gourds which are weird, you can get these reusable ceramic numbers at the dollar store. Trust me, I have 5 dollar stores within 5 miles of my house. Work.

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Candy. This is the week for candy. And candy corns. (And around here, we loves us some candy corns) If you don’t like to eat it, it’s cute to jar up around the house…and if you do like to eat it, you’ll love to eat it on ice cream. Plus it’s $1 at 5 places within 5 miles of the house.

 

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They’re cheap. They’re festive. Put a dollar’s worth of them next to your kid’s pencil stash, and you are festive. Well done.

 

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Again, dollar store. Or if you are crafty, you can make them. 

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Or pumpkin lights. $8 at Target.

 

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Placemats. Dollar store. And this set up can last through Thanksgiving.

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Or make it scarier with Poison plates. I like decoration that also has function. Like plates. Melamine plates especially, because as hard a children try, they are hard to destroy. I got these poison plates at Target a few years ago but they are good about having seasonal plates every season. Also Crate and Barrel has some cute black cat plates.  Or Amazon has kooky ghost plates. With Amazon prime, they can be delivered to you in 10 minutes or something.

 

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Dish towels. Like your mom would rock. And you would remember. $1.

 

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Craft store bats. Pin ribbons on them and hang them around. Spooooky!

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I saw buntings for sale at a gas station in central Texas, which only means, they are now LITERALLY everywhere.  $1.

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And finally, my son’s favorite. A Dollar Store foam cemetery. It’s just not Halloween with a few gravestones lying around.

Because nothing reminds you how much time you have, more than a Dollar Store foam cemetery.

No really, it’s not too late.

#YOLO.

Go.

 

Happy 4th of July!

July 3, 2015
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We have taken the week off, but we’ll be back next week in full force to celebrate July life, summer and the pursuit of Queso.

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Happy Fireworks!

See you next week!

I’m Like a Room Without A Roof

May 12, 2015
Happy

Harry made this for me for Mother’s Day at school from the given prompt “My Mom Is…” And I’m honestly surprised he didn’t say “EXHAUSTED!” But I’ll take HAPPY. In one way, it’s the best compliment he could have given me, because it suggests that when he looks at my eyes looking back at him, I am. Happy.

And I am.

Mother’s Day is a fine enough holiday if only because it was created to encourage people to take a break from killing each other during the Civil War. And honestly, how can you argue with that? However, over the years, it has morphed into an often forced and potentially lovely Sunday lunch gathering of flowers and florals and all things maternal. It’s a nice sentiment that makes a lot of people sad because they’ve lost mothers or children or both. I get this. I’ve lost more children than I’ve had, and as much as I don’t want it to be, Mother’s Day is always a silently roaring reminder, rolling in a quiet storm of dark clouds. I always work to push through it, focus on the happy, and I am for sure thankful that I get to spend my day with my mom and my son. But I also understand the blue periods or blind rage that people feel. It’s a complicated day full of shiny, happy Facebook photos of multiple children and moms of all generations. Happy and sad at the same time.

Of course that really sums up life in general, doesn’t it? This one afternoon that produces hundreds of thousands of photos and a rush of every emotion available to us as humans. Beauty. Miracles. Tragedies. All rolled up into one gathering. It’s all there over a few short hours, and if you read too much Facebook in one sitting, it’s really exhausting. But if I get to choose…and I do…I’ll go with Harry’s vision.

I’ll choose happy.

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On Mother’s Day, we swim. #Texas

There’s a lot to be happy for and about and with and through. I’m also really happy we don’t have to celebrate anything today. Although National Chicken Dance Day is tomorrow. So you’ll want to get ready for that.

 

Dos de Gibby

May 5, 2015
Gibby is two

It’s the fifth of May. Which means, Happy Cinco de Mayo! It also means, Happy Gibby Day! Because today is Gibby’s birthday and Gibby is two.

Just in case you didn’t know and/or didn’t figure it out, Gibby is our dog. She is 50%  dachshund, 50% miniature schnauzer, 100% sassy and 200% love.

I’ve never really had a dog before…or at least I never had one that I actually was in charge of caring for…and I used to be pretty scared of them. (All of them, even the little ones.) But this little one has become my pal. She hangs with me almost all the day long, when she’s not outside stalking her moral enemies, the squirrels.

Because this little one knows how to party. It’s fitting that she was born on Cinco de Mayo.

Happy Birthday, Gibby. You are love.

Soundtrack: She is Love. Oasis. 

Valentines from a Kid Who Kinda Hates Valentines

February 12, 2014
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Harry is not into Valentines. And this year, he must bring one in to each student in his class, but he’s really not feeling it. In his defense, he’s just starting to understand the differences between boys and girls, and he really doesn’t know what to do with this information yet. So mainly he wishes everyone would just shut up and play football or something. At least.

But he has to do it, so we looked for pre-printed Valentines packs. They all included pre-printed messages he didn’t want to give. Things like, ‘You are great.’ Or ‘I like you.’ Or ‘Hi, It’s Valentines Day.’

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Valentines Finds

January 15, 2014
valentines

Valentines Day is next and I’m already thinking in pink, red and white.  Plus, now that we’re in this weird, purgatorial No Man’s Land between New Year’s Resolutions and Thin Mints Deliveries, I’m dreaming of sweetness. And here are a few things I gonna need to get this party started.

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