Line- dancing fever!

LOCATION:  In our new casita in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Very nice, but windy.  High 75

I taught Basic Beginners line dancing class this morning.  I lost a few and gained a few pupils since the first class.  They did much better today!

Then, a water aerobics class.  It has been getting quite cool at night (upper 30s), and the pool’s water heater just cannot keep up.  The water was miserably cold!  My hardy fellow Rochesterite and I did it, though! 

A bunch of us line dancers (from the more advanced class) headed to a line dancing “marathon” in the afternoon.  About 100 line dancers from RV parks in the Rio Grande Valley attended.  We danced for 2 hours!  Some of the dancers were quite good.  Our Retama Village group knew about 2/3rds of the dances.  It was a fun afternoon, and provided great exercise!

George accomplished another project today – fixing some leaks and adding some lines in the irrigation system.  The previous owner planted a lot of nice plants, so we have “instant landscaping”.  Nice!

DINNER:  This week’s meatless dish.  It is vegetarian, but could easily convert to vegan….

Roasted Cauliflower with Pumpkin Seeds

2 cup vegetable stock
2 # head of cauliflower
olive oil
2/3 cup panko (bread crumbs)
1/2 cup minced parsley
3 T pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup Parmesan  – optional (could omit to make vegan or use vegan Parmesan)
1/4 soy Bacon Bits (optional)
1 T horseradish

Bring stock to boil.  Trim cauliflower and cut into “steaks” .  Hint – make steaks fairly stick so they are less likely to fall apart.  Lower into boiling stock.  Decrease to simmer, partially cover, and simmer 15 minutes.

While cauliflower cooks, heat 3 T of the olive oil.  Add panko and cook until golden.  Add minced parsley, pumpkin seeds, horseradish, salt, and pepper.  Add optional bacon bits and parmesan.  Set aside. 

In a food processor or blender, blend half of the cauliflower (using any steaks that have fallen apart) and half of the stock until smooth.

Warm a bit of olive oil into a frying pan.  Fry the other half of the cauliflower steaks until golden. 

Divide the puree onto 2 plates.  Slip cauliflower steaks on top.  Season with panko mix and serve.

This was an unusual, but very tasty, meal. 

Baa Baa, Black Sheep?

LOCATION:  In our new casita in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Fairly cool.  Sunny.  High 73

I returned to pickle-ball this morning – 2 hours worth.  Even though I am very rusty after not playing for a year, the group graciously welcomed me back and gave me some tutorials.  We played until the wind kicked up too much.

I spent the afternoon planning our fall trips.  Many of you have asked me where our next journeys will take us.  So far, we have planned to go to North Carolina in March.  Then, we will take off for the summer RV trip in mid-April.  We will have to scoot back by the end of August in order to fly to Barcelona the first week of September.  From Barcelona we will take a train to southern France where we will explore the Canal du Midi for 2 weeks with 3 other couples.  From there, we head to Amsterdam where we will go on a 8-day Rhine River cruise in early October.  I wanted to extend our stay in Europe, so looked at available house-sitting  assignments in October.  I applied to one in rural England (near the Wales border) and was accepted!  We will be adding duck and sheep care to our housesitting experience resume’.  🙂  Here are our charges while we are there…

We were invited over to our friends’ house for margaritas, guacamole, and queso.  It was lovely to sit outside in their courtyard to chat. 

DINNER:  Green chili stew.  This is something that I have only seen in the Rio Grande Valley.  It comes in a jar and you add things to jazz it up.  I added sauteed chicken, onion, and corn.  It was pretty tasty. 

In the evening, the Retama Village “welcome lady” stopped by with a key lime pie for us  (even though we are not technically new, we are in a new house).  She makes really good pies! 

Enjoying a nice Sunday in our new digs

LOCATION:  In our casita in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Quite nice.  Sunny.  High 74

We had our traditional Sunday morning grits, bacon, and eggs for breakfast while watching “CBS Sunday Morning” on our new TV.  What luxury!

George finished another project – fixing up a nice desk in our bedroom.  It is really pretty, and will be a good spot for computer work.

I corresponded with our daughter to plan a get-together in North Carolina this spring, and a trip for her to come here to see our new house. 

Then, off to Home Depot……again!!! 

Our new casita is in a great location.  On one side of us is the community green space, meaning no one will ever build there.  On the other side are our Airstream friends, Joe and Jinny.  Joe was so helpful organizing our deliveries while we were gone.  That is the great thing about this neighborhood.  So, now Joy is parked next to a fellow Flying Cloud Airstream.  Almost twins!

We invited former neighbors over for Bloody Mary Sunday.  The weather was great so we sat outside in the screened in patio.

DINNER:  French Onion and Blue Cheese Tart

2 tablespoons butter
2 large sprigs of lemon thyme
1 clove of garlic, grated
5 onions, thinly sliced (you will need about 2 pounds 2 oz/1kg)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 sheet of pre-rolled puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten
5¼ oz  blue cheese
A small handful of chopped fresh chives, to serve

INSTRUCTIONS

Start by cooking the onions. They need to be cooked slowly on low heat, so it’s best to begin with those.

Melt the butter in a large nonstick frying pan–we have a load of onions to cook. When the butter has melted, pick off the thyme leaves and add, then add the garlic and onions. Mix everything together.

Now add the pepper, salt, and sugar and mix. Cook on medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very soft. 

While that cooks, start on the pastry. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with some parchment paper or use the paper the pastry comes in and roll out the pastry onto the sheet.
Using a knife, score a smaller rectangle ½ inch/1cm inside the pastry rectangle, making sure not to cut all the way through. Pierce the inner rectangle with a fork all over to allow the steam to escape when it bakes.

Brush the edges with the egg and bake for 20 minutes, until golden all over.

Take out and, using the back of a spoon, push down all the puffed-up pastry of the inner rectangle, creating a nice neat border.  Take the blue cheese and crumble all over the inner rectangle of the pastry. Add the onions and scatter them all over till you have an even layer. Now bake for 15 minutes.

Take out and let cool for 10 minutes before eating, sprinkled with the chives.  This was quite tasty and pretty fancy-looking for a party. 

BOOK:  “Children of the Revolution” by Peter Robinson.  I am working my way through this series about a detective in the North Yorkshire Dales.  How appropriate as we watched “All Creatures Great and Small” after dinner.  4 stars out of 5. 

Coach house for sale

As I have written, we live in a gated, 55+ community with swimming pools, clubhouse, pickleball court, and lots of friendly people and activities. The weather here in the winter is terrific….this week the highs will be in the 80s.

We have lived here for about 4 years, a few months each year, when we are not traveling with our Airstream Joy or doing housesitting somewhere in the world.

Last month we moved from our “deluxe coach house” to a slightly bigger “casita”.

If you know of someone who might be interested in buying our deluxe coach house with full RV hook-ups, please let me know. This is the realtor’s listing….

https://matrix.gmar.org/matrix/shared/Dflvs3Kvyq/3702MallardDrive

Here are some more photos…

Chili cook-off on a chilly day

LOCATION:  In our new casita in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Super windy!  High 65

We had 2 good line-dancing classes this morning, preparing for a dance marathon next week at another RV resort. 

Today was all about chili.  I took my crock-pot full of white chicken chili to the clubhouse to enter the contest.

There were 14 entries.  All (except mine) were traditional tomato-based, some with veggies, some with sirloin, others with hamburger, and the traditional bean-less.  Mine was the only white one.  The last time we did this, I won 2nd place with the recipe.  Others beat me out this year.  Boo-hoo!  In the photo below, mine was Entry #2.  I decorated it with tequila bottles, hoping that would give me an edge…..:-) 

Some friends came over afterwards to look at our new house.  We were too full to serve them any appetizers.  I froze  quite a few leftovers, so I see white chicken chili in dinner menus to come.

DINNER:  Just a salad with George’s home-grown tomatoes. 

Here is the white chicken chili recipe….

White Chicken Chili

Note – I took this from an online recipe, then modified it to our taste.  The recipe yields 4-5 servings, but is easy to double, triple, or even quadruple (which I did for the cook-off)

INGREDIENTS

2 15-oz can of white beans or 1/2 pound of dry white beans
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion diced
1/2 green bell pepper diced
1/2 poblano pepper diced
2 cloves garlic minced – divided
1/2 jalapeno minced (more or less to taste
4-oz can chopped green chilies – don’t drain
2 teaspoons oregano – divided
4 teaspoons cumin – divided
2 teasponns chili powder – divided
1 teaspoon cayenne
1-2 bay leaves
garlic salt
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced in small cubes.  (I used rotisserie chicken this time)
3 cups chicken stock
1 beer (optional)
Hot sauce to taste
4 oz cream cheese
4 oz heavy cream
1 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 bunch cilantro finely diced

DIRECTIONS

If using dry beans, soak them overnight.  Drain, cover with hot water and a bay leaf and garlic salt.  Bring to boil, then simmer about 2 hours.  Drain.  If using canned beans, just drain the beans.  Set aside.

Saute onions, green pepper, and poblano pepper until soft.  Add garlic, canned green chiles, and half of the cumin, chili powder, oregano, and cayenne, and cook additional minute.  Set aside

In a big pot, brown chicken in olive oil and finish off with the rest of the cumin, cayenne, oregano, and chili powder.  Add chicken broth (and beer, if desired). Add the onion mix.   Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the cooked, drained beans and cook 15 more minutes. 

Add heavy cream, cream cheese, and some of the Monterey Jack cheese.  Cook until  cheese is melted.  Salt,  pepper, and hot sauce to taste.  (At this point, I put it in the crock pot to keep warm until serving.  Not necessary if serving right away).

Serve with shredded cheese and cilantro. 




Christmas in January?

LOCATION:  In our casita in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Very nice.  Hiigh 74

Today was like Christmas!  First we unwrapped and set up our little table that goes between our 2 recliners.  It is a perfect size and color.  We are happy with it.  (Always a bit concerned about what things bought online will look like!)

Our friend Rob stopped by (thankfully) and helped George set up the stackable washer/dryer.  I gave it a test drive, and it works great.  I am now really spoiled!

While all of this was going on, another big package arrived – our 80 inch long TV table.  Rob and George lugged it into the house and set it up.  We still need to hide the TV wires, but think it looks great.  I am anxious to put up our pictures around the TV. 

During all of this activity, I was busy preparing chili that I am entering in a chili cook-off tomorrow.  I have to make enough for about 100 people for sampling.  It took all day to chop the vegetables and to cook it.  It turned out a bit spicier than I had planned…..might turn people off.   I won second prize the last time our community did this.  Stay tuned for tomorrow’s results!

DINNER:  By dinner time, I was tired of cooking, so put together a quick supper  – rice with Indian vegetables (a packet purchased at Trader Joe’s). 

We enjoyed watching PBS on our big TV relaxing in our lounge chairs with our nice little table between us.  Aaaahhhh! 

Back to Mission, Texas

LOCATION:  Back in our casita in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  High 80

We left our friends Dan and Joan in Canyon Lake, where the weather was supposed to be perfect for them today.  They are busy checking the weather as it looks like they might have to face a blizzard on their way back to Minnesota tomorrow.

We stopped in San Antonio to go to Trader Joe’s – the closest one to us (5 hours away!!).  I stocked up on things only available in a Trader Joe’s, including 2-buck Chuck.  🙂 

The drive was pretty boring after San Antonio  – just miles and miles of desolate ranch land.  We stopped at a BBQ/Mexican place for lunch.  We shared a HUGE smoked turkey leg with pinto beans.

Mission is in the Rio Grande Valley as far south as you can get in Texas

We also stopped at our local HEB grocery store when we arrived in Mission.  I will be entering my world-famous white chili recipe and needed to buy all the ingredients.  It was interesting to see empty shelves, similar to what it was like when Covid first hit.  I guess it is a supply/distribution issue.

Back home, we unboxed deliveries that had arrived when we were gone – a stackable washer/dryer and a little coffee table.  It is like Christmas!

DINNER:  Grilled red snapper.  George used our gas grill that is now set up and hooked up in our outdoor kitchen.  I warmed up some farro and added it to sauteed onions and mushrooms.  I served the fish in a bed of the farro mix.  Very tasty

Keep Austin Weird!

LOCATION:  Canyon Lake, Texas – in the Texas Hill Country.  Visiting friends here from Minnesota
WEATHER:  Thank goodness….the weather has turned beautiful.  Sunny.  High 70

We planned our day in Austin.  First stop in Austin – about 40 miles away – was a weird Indian store/wine shop/beer store/craft beer bar/Mexican food place where we have been before.  Unfortunately, it was closed….due to staffing.  So, we found another nearby brewpub for lunch.  There are seemingly hundreds around here.  This one is called Nomadic.  It is located in a warehouse district, the kind of brewery we like.  We were about the only customers.

Then, we explored some areas of downtown Austin.  First to Rainey Street, a short street that is jampacked with bars that were formerly little bungalows.  It really hops at night.  You can see the skycrapers encroaching on the area….

We drove down famous 6th Street, Austin’s music hub.  Again, it is really crazy at night, but looks kind of forlorn during the day.

We took another route home, through the Hill Country backroads, versus the Interstate.  We stopped in cute Dripping Springs to check out another brewery.  Thankfully, the weather is great today, and we could enjoy our drinks outside.

We stopped for Texas BBQ to take home for dinner.  We wanted to make sure Dan and Joan got some of the “good stuff” before heading home.

DINNER:  Take-out BBQ – brisket and ribs.  Sides were a salad and the BBQ place’s pork & beans.  All very Texan and tasty. 

Being a tourist in the Hill Country

LOCATION:  In Canyon Lake, Texas visiting friends from Minnesota
WEATHER:  Yuck!  Cool/cold.  High 46.  Sleet and rain

Today we played tourist in the Texas Hill Country, even if the weather didn’t want to cooperate.  We took the backroads toward Fredricksburg, first stopping in Johnson City, birthplace of President LBJ.  We took a driving tour of his ranch which was interesting.

Then, to Fredricksburg, a touristy German town.  We passed about 100 wineries on our way to town.  We will do those another day as Joan and Dan aren’t big wine fans. The town is full of shops and wine tasting places. 

We found a great upscale restaurant in downtown Fredricksburg called Vaudeville.  I think it used to be a theatre.  I had a cup of their seafood chowder and George had their Mediterranean platter.  Both very good.  We could have ordered a round of caviar for just $475 more…..

Then, on to famous Luckenbach, Texas, a ghost town that is now a venue for country music concerts.  Besides a stage and concert seating, it boasts a post office and bar (only).  I think Willy Nelson made it famous.

Back at the condo, we rested up and read.  We corresponded with our kind neighbor Joe in Mission where he handled deliveries of some of our recent online purchases – a washer/dryer and an end table.

DINNER:  Instead of going out, we just ate leftovers…..some good bread and cheese, leftover pasta, and salads. 

Exploring the Texas Hill Country

LOCATION:  Visiting our Minnesota friends in Canyon Lake, Texas
WEATHER:  A bit cool.  High 64

After a leisurely start to the day, we headed out to explore.  We drove around the lake and dam, and found a great Army Corps of Engineers campground – Crane Mill Park – where we will want to camp some time.  It is right on two of the fingers on the lake. 

Then, in search of beer!  Our friend Joan found one online open nearby.  (Since it is Monday, several were closed.)  The GPS took us way out to the country.  We thought she (the GPS) had led us astray once again.  She told us to enter this driveway.  No signage.  We thought we were trespassing on some farmer’s ranch.  But then, we started seeing barrels.  Could it be?  Yes, it was Five Stones Brewery, out in the middle of nowhere.  It has a huge outdoor seating area.  They are just opening up, so it is still somewhat of a work in progress.

We ordered some lunch and sat among the welders and others working on the tasting room.

What a find!  Then, on to Historic Gruene, Texas.  We learned that this town was established in 1870 as a cotton community.  Once the boll weevil arrived, the town died and turned into a ghost town.  It has now been revived as a tourist attraction.  Old houses are now shops and restaurants.  The old gin mill is now a thriving high-end restaurant. 

While Joan and I shopped, George and Dan found a campfire in front of one of the bars, and chatted up (of course) a local gal.

Back at the condo, we caught up some more, with my world-famous margaritas along with some chips and their home-made salsa.

DINNER:  Chicken tacos.  I stir-fried some onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers, adding chipotle, taco seasoning, and then some rotisserie chicken.  I filled tortillas with this mix in a Pyrex dish, adding cheddar cheese to the tops.  I baked just a few minutes until the cheese was melted.  Muy deliciosa!