For My Family This Morning: Orange Cream Cheese Pecan Bread

With my family's combined hectic holiday schedule of working at various jobs, coaching and playing basketball, shopping, decorating, wrapping gifts, food snob events, making time for friends, etc. it's rare that we are together for a meal. Since we were all home for a short time this morning, I decided a special breakfast was just what we needed.

So, we fired up the griddle, got the bacon to frying, ground some Texas Maple Pecan Coffee beans, peeled oranges and washed apples and pears for the juicer, cracked open eggs from our very own flock of Rhode Island Reds, and assembled the ingredients for one of my favorite, yet 'oh so easy' breakfast treats: Orange Cream Cheese Pecan Bread.

As we gathered around the table and held hands to pray, I was so grateful for the love that our family shares and for such simple pleasures which bless our lives.

Later today, we'll head to Sulphur Springs to celebrate with Jonathan, our third son, on his good news: acquiring a job! Lunch with him and his sweet wife, Chelsey and seeing the house they will soon move into will take up most of our afternoon. And then we are off to Kevin and Deanna's to take care of our grandson, Kade, while they head to a company Christmas party.
Time with family is our greatest treasure. Good food is just an added bonus.

As I've heard said, and say so many times myself: We are more blessed than we deserve. And I try never to take it for granted.

Happy Holidays from the Holladays,
Polly~ The Food Snob


Hey! What's For Dinner??

This morning, I was elbow deep in flour and sugar as I measured out ingredients for Rosemary Bread and Fudge Walnut Cranberry Cake. A huge bowl of real butter was softening for Garlic Parsley Butter to be whipped, rolled into logs, wrapped and frozen. Grapes were washed, dried and stored in the fridge. Walnuts were toasted and chopped. Feta was crumbled. Peppers were roasted and diced. Potatoes were scrubbed.

There's lots to do to prepare a meal for 300 folks, and that's about the number of expected guests for this year's Paris Pregnancy Care Center Gala.

Food prep is a team effort as Kathy Townes and I join forces and are blessed with volunteers who eagerly ask what they can do to help.

Her staff is an amazing group of women from Detroit (Texas, that is). My help comes from my family and some dear friends. Kathy is taking charge of the meats and one dessert. I will be preparing the sides, bread/butter, and the other dessert.

It's the least I can do considering the thousands of hours other people donate at the center throughout the year. They are the ones who make a daily difference: loving, supporting, educating, counseling, and helping countless men (yes, men!), women, and children in our community and surrounding areas. Their help involves more than free pregnancy tests. They teach a variety of classes from childcare to Scripture, provide sonograms so that parents can see their babies, and help with a whole host of practical needs. And they engage in our most powerful resource: prayer!

Folks who plan to attend the gala always want to know who's cooking and what's on the menu. Those are good questions.

But the most important question I can think of is 'What can I do to help the unborn?'

Someone must stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Someone must say what they cannot:
"I want to live."
"This hurts."
"Please don't take me out of my mother."
"All I need is time to grow."
"When you consider a lifetime, 9 months isn't that long. And when you look back, I bet you will never regret choosing what I would choose: life."
"If you don't want me, someone does."
"If you can't take care of me, someone can."
"If you don't think I'm real, I am."

By the way, the menu is:

Beef Tenderloin
Roasted Chicken

Roasted Pepper/Artichoke Potatoes
Spring Mix Salad w/Red Grapes, Black Olives, Feta, Red Onion and Raspberry Vinaigrette
Rosemary Bread
Garlic Parsley Butter

Coconut/Lemon White Cake
Fudge Walnut Cranberry Cake

Coffee (provided by Paris Coffee Company)

I will also be selling my remaining cookbooks: "Cooking With Polly The Food Snob" for just $10. All of the items I'm preparing tonight are found in the cookbook. And for every cookbook purchased, $5 will go directly to the Paris Pregnancy Care Center. It's just a small way I can give back to this amazing community of ours.

Take note:
Date: October 20
The place is the Love Civic Center.
The starting/food service time is 6:15. Program will follow.
The charge: free.

The blessing you receive by your generous donation of financial help and/or time volunteering will be far greater than you can ever imagine.

Hope to see you there!
Polly~ The Food Snob


Cooking For Those I Love Best

I love when my husband or sons (AND daughters-in-law) request something that they'd like to have, whether it's dinner or dessert.

A couple of weeks ago, I created a layered dish w/brown rice, sauted hatch chile peppers, red onions, garlic, and turkey (which I'd baked earlier that day). I made a sour cream sauce to top it with, substituting Greek yogurt for the sour cream, and adding freshly ground cumin for a Mexican flair. That meal got raves, especially from Daniel, who requested that we have it AGAIN, and a couple of days ago he added cheesecake to his culinary wishlist.

So, early this morning just before leaving for basketball practice (two of my boys play, and I'm also currently coaching a varsity girls' homeschool team) I put some chicken breasts on to simmer, knowing that Michael would be there to keep an eye on the pot.

Once back at home, I deboned the chicken and set it aside. As you'll see pictured, a pot of soup was quickly put together from veggies in the fridge and freezer, as well as some previously made marinara that I always keep on hand. Once this was going, I put on 3 cups of brown rice, using some of the remaining broth in which to cook it. In no time, I had another one of those favored chicken/rice/sour cream sauce dishes completed. Right now, it's sitting in the oven waiting to be heated through.
Yesterday, I baked a brown sugar cheesecake, and in the fridge it went this morning. Just a few minutes ago, I made a rich and gooey homemade caramel sauce. Since my sister-in-law, Rebecca Robinson (owner of Swirlz Bakery Boutique), introduced me to her AMAZING salted caramel cupcakes, I've been hooked. So, (to please myself) a few grains of Mediterranean sea salt were sprinkled in, and the sauce poured over the cheesecake. Once it cools down, back in the fridge it will go.
Two meals, a half gallon of extra chicken broth, and a dessert later, I am now ready to take a break and enjoy the rest of the evening.
I remain forever grateful for these simple pleasures in life, and the blessing of sharing them with my family and friends.

Happy Eating!
Polly~ The Food Snob


Healthy, Cool, And Delicious Summer Meals

If we let it, this Texas heat is enough to make us forget how thankful we should be. It can also make me want to stay as far away from an oven and a stovetop as possible.

But alas, we must eat.

And being blessed with working refrigerators and more than enough fresh ingredients from which to choose, cool and creative menu items have been on my mind.

Yesterday, I dreamed up a Greek salad which included stir fried chunks of chicken breast and quinoa, an amazing light and healthy grain which supplies six grams of protein per serving.

Preparing the quinoa according to package directions took only twenty minutes. I then spread it all onto a cookie sheet to remove the heat.

While that was going, I cut the chicken breast into small pieces, seasoned it with kosher salt and freshly ground peppercorns, and cooked it in a small amount of olive oil. This was also set aside to cool.

The Greek salad dressing consisted of olive oil, pomegranate infused red wine vinegar, fresh lemon juice, minced garlic, dijon mustard, Greek seasoning, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Shaking that up in a jar, I put it into the fridge to chill. You might consider changing over to homemade dressings instead of the bottled versions, because they truly are so simple, much healthier and far more delicious. Need a little help getting started? Just give me a holler through this site or facebook. I'm always happy to answer any questions.

From our produce fridge, I selected colorful artisan lettuces (straight from Salinas Valley, CA), a red onion, cucumber, and garlic. I also chose green and kalamata olives, feta cheese, and pepperocini rings. Grape tomatoes were taken from the countertop.

Prepping the salad ingredients took little time as I washed, sliced, chopped, diced, and tore according to preference.

Once the chicken and quinoa were cooled sufficiently, I added both to the bowl and put it all in the fridge until ready to serve. All that remained was tossing with the dressing, which I did at supper time. It was a complete meal I will definitely make again. And since I prepared more than enough dressing, that's one step I won't have to do next time.

If this sounds as good to you as it was to my whole family, don't hestitate to ask for more detailed directions.

Tonight's newly created menu is Grilled Fish Tacos with Red Cabbage Slaw, Creamy Lime Dressing and Spanish Rice: all suprisingly simple, delicious, and definitely healthy. I've already gotten most of the prep done and I know my guys are going to love it!

In the meantime, stay cool....AND thankful!

Happy Eating!
Polly~ The Food Snob


Workouts, Smoothies, and Fresh Juice

In the interest of continuously building and working on a well rounded, healthier lifestyle, my husband and I are now two weeks into a daily workout routine which we hope to make a permanent part of our lives.

It begins by waking up at 5:30 (yes, that's a.m.), eating a light carb snack, then heading out at 5:50 to warm up. By 6:00 we either alternately power walk and jog 3.5 miles or go a shorter distance in the same fashion and then head inside to work about 20-30 minutes on strength training.

Good grief! Our first few days were so HARD, but we kept telling ourselves that each day would get easier as we built up endurance and won the mental battle each of us fights every time we do something outside of our comfort zone. So far, so good. We've managed to increase our length of running with each outing, and with both of us in our upper forties, I'm pretty proud of this accomplishment!

Since reading that high protein/low carb is important for a post workout meal, I've combined several healthy ingredients for a two person smoothie that's both quick and delicious.

1 cup of frozen blueberries
1 small handful of raw almonds or walnuts
2 Tb flaxseed
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 tsp Maca
1 scoop vanilla whey protein
1/3 cup dry rolled oats or 1/2 cup cooked steel cut oats
1 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

All of this goes into my Vitamix, set on high, and blended for about a minute. It's a complete meal in a glass and gives our bodies exactly what we need after working so hard. And because I'm using the Vitamix, everything including the flax and nuts is completely pulverized so that it's truly a smooth drink.

As we enjoy this, I begin prepping a fresh vegetable juice in my Breville juicer. Seconds later, we each have a glass of carrot/celery/red bell pepper/cucumber juice. And when my garden tomatoes are plentiful, I add a few of those, as well. For family members who request a bit more sweetness, an apple or a pear goes into the mix.

Can't think of a better way to start our day than exercising our bodies and then filling them with healthy goodness.

Hope this inspires you to start something else positive in your own lives.

Happy Eating!
Polly~ The Food Snob


Welcoming Mary Crumpler Home

I've done a lot of events in the last several years. The ones that stand out the most are less about the money and more about the occasion such as the Ethiopian wedding reception we did for Mac and Tewabech Mekonnen's son and daughter-in-law in October of 2006. The rich culture, amazing history and unparalleled love made it such an honor to take part in.

I felt the same privilege and honor on June 4 of this year when I and my staff were called upon to help welcome Mary Crumpler home with the party she'd been planning since December of the previous year.

Many know that Mary suffered a stroke in the fall of 2010, and how she has courageously worked and fought her way back. Her spirit and tenacity, as well as the support of dear friends, Kay Grubb and Sandy Welch, were an inspiration and lesson for all of us.

Minutes before the big night was to begin, I gathered with Mary, Kay, and Sandy. Holding hands in her front living area, we prayed and gave thanks for God’s help and healing in this amazing journey. Tears of joy flowed down our faces as each of us reflected on the long road Mary’s had to take and the culmination of her efforts as she finally returned to her heart's greatest desire: HOME!

Escorted to the party in the most charming way by the Paris Trolley, the number of guests who showed up to celebrate her homecoming said it all as each room of the house, as well as the beautifully pruned and decorated backyard and driveway overflowed with folks literally shoulder to shoulder in anticipation of this long and meticulously planned party.

Brilliantly hued flamingos, Mary's favorite bird, were strategically placed as part of the decor. Palms adorned her yard, Chinese lanterns floated above, and gorgeous floral arrangements courtesy of Chapman Florist were featured at the food service areas.

Culinary options were discussed, and a predominately and extensive Italian menu emerged for guests to enjoy. Selections included:

Spicy Artichoke Dip
Mediterranean Cheese Melt
Home Baked Crostini
Home Baked Rosemary Brown Rice Crackers
Antipasto Platters
Four Cheese Bread
Mini Muffalettas

Freshly Fried Zucchini w/Creamy Horseradish Sauce
Freshly Fried Eggplant w/Marinara
Roasted Asparagus

Sundried Tomato Penne
Roasted Pepper/Artichoke Potatoes
Roasted Rosemary Chicken Slices
Chicken Italian Sausage

Brandied Tiramisu
Peppermint/Chocolate Cannolis
Italian Cream Cake Cupcakes
Tart Lemon Cupcakes (at Kay’s request)

Due to the typical hot and humid northeast Texas weather for this June evening, gallons of iced Fresh Cucumber Water and Almond Lemonade Tea were enjoyed by the guests, while chilled beer and wine were also available for the more adventurous.

It was such a pleasure to serve the crowd as they greeted the beaming hostess and mingled about. Eventually, many headed outside to witness Mary dancing to the tunes of the live band she’d hired to play. It was if she was shouting “Victory!” with each step. I can’t imagine there was a dry eye to be found, and it didn’t take long for others to join in and celebrate right alongside her.

At the end, after the last guests had said their goodbyes, Doc and I joined Mary for the evening’s final spin on the trolley. Seeing her smile of satisfaction and hearing her words, “It went EXACTLY as I’d envisioned” thrilled my heart and perfectly wrapped up one of the most memorable and cherished events this Food Snob has been privileged to take care of.

To my amazing staff of beloved family and friends: (my husband) Doc, Vicki Frankland, Tanya Welch, Jeri Lynn Golden, and Deanna Holladay- Thank You! I couldn’t do it without you!

And, just as big of a thanks to Mary for giving us an evening to forever remember. I admire and love you so much!

Happy Eating!
Polly~ The Food Snob


It's All About The Food!

The past few months have been busy ones in this Food Snob's world. Been meaning to blog, but life has been so full that I haven't taken the time until now. But having (very) recently posted new pictures, I wanted to write a little bit about some of them.

Back in May, my beloved and I took a week long trip to sunny California to celebrate our 30th anniversary. Highlights included food, food, and more food!

Driving through Salinas Valley, 90 miles of farmland otherwise known as America's Salad Bowl, was a definite favorite as Doc stopped over and over for me to get out, walk through, and take pictures of these amazing vegetable fields. By far, my favorite was of artisan lettuces, where gorgeous red leaves lined up alongside rows of brilliant green ones as far as the eye could see. It was all I could do not to pick an armful to take back to the car for a vegetarian feast.

Leeks grew in gigantic fields, as did cauliflower, asparagus...the list goes on and on. Strawberry and Cherry stands were dotted along the highway, with acreage where they grew nearby. Baskets of both were purchased to enjoy as we drove. Gilroy and Castroville were on our route, billed respectively as the garlic and artichoke capitals of the world.

Meals were eclectic as we stopped first at a Whole Foods in Carmel, and raided the specialty sections for a Dallas Maverick playoff watching feast. We left loaded down with a variety of amazing olives, roasted tomatoes, sea salt/rosemary ciabatta, Irish butter, fresh basil, nitrate free pepperoni, cheeses, and wine. You can see a picture of it at the lower half of my blog. Each bite yielded reactions of "Mmmm, mmmm, GOOD!"

The Black Cat Bistro, a top stop in Cambria, was thoroughly enjoyed as they greeted my husband and me with "Happy Anniversary" and complimentary champagne. My eyes just about rolled back in my head upon tasting their amazing Semi-soft organic sheep's milk gouda and Triple creme cow, goat and sheep milk from Piemonte, Italy. The delight continued with my entree selection of Seared Sea Scallops with Corn pudding, tomatillo cream, sautéed mushrooms, and brown butter. And for dessert, I chose a Salted Caramel Tart with a shortbread crust, bittersweet ganache and la fleur sea salt. Paired with a steaming cup of rich coffee, it was a flawless way to end our evening. I could have died that night knowing my last meal was one of complete perfection. If you're ever in Cambria, this is a sure bet for the finest of dining, exceptional service, and charming ambience.

Shops featuring sourdough bread, international olive oils, and chocolate were treasures to slowly browse and enjoy, tasting various samples and drooling over the vast selection of flavors, textures, and distinct aromas. Dark Cherry Balsamic Vinegar, Meyer Lemon Olive Oil, Asian Dipping Oil, and San Francisco Sourdough all made their way into my baskets and back to Texas to share with my family. And most definitely, chocolate confections were bought to be enjoyed during our trip.

So many culinary wonders, and while we had a super great time, I was happy to get back into our kitchen again to work on new creations of my own.

I hope that you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoy sharing them with you. Next blog is going to be about the amazing Mary Crumpler and the honor I had in helping make her June homecoming all that she had dreamed.

Happy Eating!
Polly~ The Food Snob