29 November 2011

salted caramel pecan pie

Thanksgiving rocked. Spending time with both sets of family and family friends was wonderful. Lots of fun, and even more food. For some reason--my family especially--cooks enough for everyone to eat on for the remainder of the year. And while fresh veggies get soggy when reheated, veggies in casseroles don't have the same fate. So the 5 casseroles will be nice over the next few weeks. Normally, I eat one bite of turkey as an ode to Thanksgiving, but the turkey this year was really good. I even brought leftovers from my parents. Unlike Husby's family who cooked one turkey for about 30 people, mine went for two turkeys for 15 people. Clearly, we're not the best at math. But give us some canned veggies and cream of mushroom soup, and we'll whip it up into a creamy something that doesn't taste like a vegetable.

The results are tallied, and the Salted Caramel Pecan Pie was a hit. Simply amazing. Fabulous. I made it twice. Husby and I don't even like pecan pie. But we both converted to the salted caramel variety. So, we're not unequally yoked in the pecan pie department.

I merged three different recipes (here, here and here). You should know that although I know how to make real pie crust, I don't like to make it. If I can find a press-in crust recipe, I'll do it. My apple pie has a similar, non-shortbread crust, and even non-crust lovers eat it. So, I thought that rather than rolling out the crust given in the original recipe that a brown sugar shortbread crust would be great. And it was!

Salted Caramel Pecan Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie


For the caramel filling:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup half and half

For the pie crust:
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt


To make caramel filling: in a medium sauce pan add corn syrup, butter, half and half, sugar, and sea salt. Bring to a boil then remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. While cooling, add vanilla. Once cooled, whisk in beaten eggs.

While caramel filling is cooling, prepare the pie crust. Spray pie plate with non-stick cooking spray. Cream butter and brown sugar about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add in egg yolk and salt, mix well. Stir in flour 1/2c at a time. The mixture will seem very crumbly; this is normal. Press dough into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie dish. Freeze until firm, about 20 minutes. While pie is in the freezer, preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 if using a glass pie plate).

Remove pie crust from freezer and place pecans in the crust. Pour caramel filling into pie pan and bake in the 375 degree oven for 45 minutes.

25 November 2011

Thankfulness: Days 22-24

A spirit of thankfulness, not just for 24 or 30 days, but always.
It's a condition of the heart. But I often get busy and my heart doesn't dwell on thankfulness.
In Psalms, David cries out to the Lord over and over, lamenting.
But he continues to give thanks again and again.
As Thanksgiving Day is gone for another year, I want to remain thankful.

I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness
And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.
Psalm 7:17

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
Psalm 95:2

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.Psalm 107:1

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks through Him to God the Father.Colossians 3:17

...in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:18

Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 7:12

22 November 2011

Thankful: Day 22

I am so thankful for a lazy day. Currently, I'm in my pajamas; I never changed this morning. We even had a friend come over to help work on the sprinklers and hang a light fixture. I brushed my hair before he arrived. Then I made us all a huge pot of coffee because fall seems to have made a comeback in east Texas. At least for the next 72 hours. Which means my plan of leggings, boots and a sweater dress will happen on Thanksgiving Day. Praise the Lord.

We celebrate with Husby's family on Thursday and with my family on Saturday. It works so well that way. For celebration #1, I was asked to prepare a green veggie. Last year, I decided on Brussels sprouts, and oh, the lamenting...FROM OUR PARENTS. I suppose there's a reason that I'd never had a Brussels sprout. 40+ years ago, in school cafeterias, the only preparation was boiling them. Guh-ross. My mom certainly didn't have those in our rotation growing up. I'm glad I didn't have to eat those. I'm happy to report that our parents and all other adults in attendance with an aversion to Brussels sprouts were happily surprised to figure out that THEY'RE NOT SO BAD. In fact, THEY'RE KIND OF GOOD. I use Alton Brown's recipe for Brussels Sprouts with Pecans and Cranberries.

Speaking of pecans. I enjoy pecans in savory dishes, but I don't like them in any sort of dessert. Which makes perfect sense that I'm making the pecan pie. My aversion to pecan pie runs deep. I remember eating it when I was about 4 years old, after a trip to Red Lobster, and then suffering food poisoning--probably from the scallops. I don't like pecan pie. Or scallops.

(Other aversions because of illness include: Cherry Sours and oranges.)

(Side note: I love anything orange flavored and [no pulp] orange juice. Just not a big fan of oranges.)

(After 12 years of not eating oranges, I tried one in high school. They're okay.)

(I don't think I'll ever eat Cherry Sours ever again.)

Anyway...I can make pies. At my mom's restaurant, Thanksgiving is a big deal. This year, the count for pies is 60. It's been like that since I can remember. So, growing up in a crazy pie-making place, I learned to make just about any pie. And just a few years ago, I learned to make pie crust. However, I decided to do something a little different than the typical pecan pie. I've decided to merge three different recipes: Salted Caramel Pecan Pie, Press-In Shortbread Crust and Brown Sugar Shortbread Crust. Because it's always good to prepare something brand new for a gathering. And it's even better to attempt to merge three recipes. Right?

On the docket for tomorrow: Christmas tree goes up, grocery shopping, pie made, and Brussels sprouts prepped. Plus a movie with Husby. For our anniversary, I gave him an IOU for the first showing of The Muppets. Tomorrow will be a good day. For that, I am thankful.

21 November 2011

Thankful: Days 15 - 21

Wow. The past week is such a blur! I was one of three chaperones that took 45 high school juniors on a three day trip through Texas and into Oklahoma. Needless to say, I was a little pre-occupied and blogging just wasn't an option. The students were awesome. Of the 45, 34 were boys. (There really are only 9 girls in the junior class.) If you haven't been around 16 year old boys recently, let me tell you that they are 234,892 times more annoying and gross than girls of the same age. At one point, I had to yell, "QUIT FARTING ON THE BUS!" Classy, I tell you.

We made it safely home after traveling almost 800 miles, and for that, I am thankful. There were no injuries. (See: boys jumping over anything they can find.) And I've already received an email from a parent detailing how her son talked for an HOUR about the trip, and all that he learned. For that, I am thankful. Boys aren't exactly known for sharing. Plus he (and hopefully others) really LISTENED on the trip. It made the hours of planning so worth it.

After returning home in a semi-sleep-deprived state, Husby was fine with a nice dinner from the Taco Bell drive through. Super thankful for an easy-to-please husband. After a chili cheese burrito (my Taco Bell favorite) and the final two episodes of Wonderfalls, I absolutely had to go to bed. After three morning of super early alarms, the earliest a 4am, I was able to rest. Normally on days off, I'm unable to sleep late. But my body knew I needed rest. I slept 9 hours! For that I am oh-so-very thankful!

Mid-morning on Saturday, we were out the door to a very important first birthday party. This little guy is the sweet son of my BFF of southeast Texas:

Photo by Charissa Foux

Isn't that the cutest picture ever?! I was able to deliver Hayden's cake, and the boy seemed to love Cherry Laurel Butterum cake. He made his mom proud. :) I am so thankful to be able to celebrate the oh-so-important events with friends like these. 

Yesterday, we were able to have lunch with my sister-in-laws family visiting from Spain. Although there was a language barrier (my 8 semesters of Spanish in high school and college didn't really "stick"), we had an enjoyable time with them. I look forward to celebrating our tradition of Thanksgiving with them. It makes me happy to see my sister-in-law loving on her mom and niece. For that I am thankful.  

And then there was today. I decided that the best time to have two root canals done was during my week off. (Note to self: breaks aren't enjoyable when you're in pain. Use sick days next time.) I am thankful that SO FAR it hasn't reached the pain level of Wisdom Teeth Extraction 2010 or Temporary Crown Loss 2009, but it's not super fun. Probably the least fun was the shot in the hard palate. And that happened twice since I had one root canal on each side. BUT my dentist saw it fit to prescribe Valium prior to the procedure. And my 12 year hiatus from laughing gas is over. I didn't see a spinning clown the entire time. Super great! Already I've noticed a difference: I DIDN'T DOUBLE OVER IN PAIN when I drank coffee this afternoon. For that, I am thankful.

The remainder of the week involves two Thanksgiving celebrations, an authentic Mexican dinner with family, decorating for Christmas and spending time with some sweet friends. My wonderful college roommate will visit; we haven't seen each other in forever and busyness has prevented us from connecting in weeks (maybe 2 months!). But we'll enjoy sitting and talking and reading and napping and drinking hot apple cider with twinkle lights glowing in the background. It's going to be a good week. For that, I am thankful.

13 November 2011

Thankful: Day 13

I am thankful for the command to observe the Sabbath.
To rest. To reflect. To be restored.
Unfortunately, I don't always do it.
I have things to accomplish.
Things that seem more important than renewal.

Currently, I have a list to complete:
straighten the house, wash the last two loads of clothes,
change the sheets on our bed, partially pack for a work trip, vacuum...
the list goes on. And so could I.
But I've decided to sit and rest. To reflect. To write and remember.
To connect with friends with notes actually mailed to them. To pray for these friends.
To drink a cup of vanilla caramel tea while rosemary apple butter simmers on the stove.

This afternoon, I'm observing the Sabbath.
In this light the Sabbath prescription is a loving reminder to take full advantage of a condition that already exists. At rest, our souls are restored. This is the only commandment that begins with the word “remember,” as if it refers to something we already know, but have forgotten. It is good. It is whole. It is beautiful. In our hurry and worry and acquiring and working, we forget. Rest, take delight in the goodness of creation, and remember how good it is.
~Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller

12 November 2011

Thankful: Day 12

I am so thankful for songs that bring me closer to the throne of Christ.
This is one of my favorites.

Captivate Us

Your face is beautiful
And Your eyes are like the stars
Your gentle hands have healing
There inside the scars
Your loving arms they draw me near
And Your smile it brings me peace
Draw me closer, oh my Lord
Draw me closer Lord to Thee

Captivate us, Lord Jesus
Set our eyes on You
Devastate us with Your presence, falling down
And rushing river, draw us nearer
Holy fountain consume us with You
Captivate us Lord Jesus, with You

Your voice is powerful
And Your words are radiant bright
In Your breath and shadow
I will come close and abide
You whisper love and life divine
And Your fellowship is free
Draw me closer, O my Lord
Draw me closer Lord to Thee

Let everything be lost in the shadows
Of the light of Your face
Let every chain be broken from me
As I’m bound in Your grace
For Your yoke is easy, Your burden is light
You’re full of wisdom, power and might
And every eye will see You

10 November 2011

Thankful: Day 10

I go back and forth with my thankfulness.
Am I really thankful?
Honestly, I feel superficial in my thanksgiving.
I've been keeping up with the Compassion Bloggers who are in Ecuador.
I'm consumed and convicted by the stories they tell and the pictures on their blogs.

The faces in these pictures, they're powerful.
The conditions in which they live are heart-breaking to me.
But not to them.
They're thankful for what they have.
Thankful for a roof to cover their heads,
even though shreds of glass litter the low lying roofs to keep thieves away.
Thankful for the potatoes and pigs they're able to sell to provide for the family.
Thankful for a job, even though a single mom is away from her children for 14 hours a day.
Thankful for $200 a month income.
And ever so thankful when a child receives a Compassion sponsor.
I can't even fathom it.
And yet these sweet people are thankful.

Through this month of figuring out how to give thanks,
my heart is being molded by the Father.
I'm learning what thankfulness is.
And what it isn't.

I'm thankful that we have resources to give to Compassion kids.
Thankful that we have two of our very own--who live in Thailand.
Regretful that I am not a more active Compassion sponsor.
Thankful that my heartstrings are being pulled to pray for and encourage "our kids."

Do you have a little extra money to give each month?
Do you sponsor a child through Compassion?
If not, here's how.

09 November 2011

Thankful: Day 9

Even though it's felt like a sauna for a week,
I've refused to dress appropriately.
For the past week, I've dressed as though it's fall.
Because, you know, it IS. Except for the temperatures in east Texas.
And I've been overly warm everyday.
I love sweater dresses and tights and boots and scarves.
Basically, I love feeling like I'm in my pajamas all day.
So, today I am thankful that another cool front came through!
After yesterday's storms and tornado warnings,we have fall-ish temperatures.
And I didn't sweat on my way up the stairs to my office.

Now, tonight I am thankful for a toasty fire and my wool boots.
And Husby is bringing home dinner a yummy Vietnamese dinner.
Pho and spring rolls? Yes, please.
My plan is for dinner in front of the television, watching Alias.
Because, you know, I'm 6-10 years behind on a few different series.
I'm not sure why I didn't jump on the boat then,
but now I like to talk about HOW GREAT Alias is,
even though everyone already knows what happens. Shhh...don't tell me.
 I'm thankful for all of you who have put up with listening about the amazing Sydney Bristow.
Maybe one day, I'll get to talk about Lost.

08 November 2011

Thankful: Day 8

Today, I don't feel super thankful.
Is that bad to say? Probably.
I just can't think of a "great" thing.
Don't get me wrong, I have so much to be thankful for,
but I don't want my month of thankfulness to feel like a month of things I like best, forgetting the rest.
I don't want to brag about what I have, lest I covet what I don't have.
I don't want to only acknowledge the things that make my life more comfortable.
Or the situations that I adore and are easy.
I feel like I shouldn't be thankful only for the things that are going right;
actually, I know that I shouldn't be thankful only for the good and right and fair.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 it says:
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
Thankfulness obviously isn't supposed to be observed only for a month--or a day.
But in a society where thankfulness often is equated with possessions,
it's nice to shine light on what makes us thankful.
I know that I don't live like this regularly. I should, but I don't.
This is my confession.
I am thankful for a God who loves me, even when I don't thank Him enough.
And when I don't thank him for what he's supplied? He still loves me.
For that, I am thankful.

07 November 2011

Thankful: Day 7

You know that time change?
I'm thankful for it.
I'm probably the only one in the U.S.
I always love this time of year, when it gets dark earlier.
(I realize this might change when we have children.)

Although I wish I were home every night before dark,
it's almost impossible.
Tonight was one of those nights.
I had errands to run.
But as a began home, in the dark, I smiled.
There's something magical to me about headlights shining in the newly darkened sky.
I like to think that everyone is heading home, to be with family.
Though I'm sure that's not always the case.

Now, if only another cold front would blow through, it might feel like a real November.
Not like a muggy, summer morning in June.
I want to wear tights and boots and sweater dresses.
Without feeling like I'm having a heat stroke!

In time, it will come.
The season will change.
The temperatures will match the darkened skies.
The season of coziness will have made it's way to Texas.
And I will be thankful.

06 November 2011

Thankful: Day 6

I am thankful for my job.
Although I {halfway} joke about wanting to be a stay-at-home dog mom,
I'm glad that I'm able to work.
I enjoy what I do. It's the perfect job for me.
Previously, when I worked in the foster care field, teenagers scared me.
But now, I have no idea what I'd do with a room full of 8 year olds!

I love being a college advisor.
I love being able to shape dreams.
I love interacting with kids every day.
In the summers, it's so quiet!

I am thankful that I get more time off than I would ever have with any other job.
Thanksgiving Break, Christmas Break, Winter Break, Spring Break, Easter Break,
and 3 weeks in the summer!
It's delightful, and I know that it is a luxury.
I love the field of education for this luxury.
And I try not to rub it in. Especially to Husby.

I am thankful for my bosses.
My immediate boss is probably the best college guidance counselor in Texas.
I've learned so much from her in three years.
And I'm super grateful that she's back this year, after an extended maternity leave last year.
Although it was a good year, I love my smaller desk.
We rearranged the office at the end of last year, and I like to think that my desk hugs me. Ha!
During the week, I spend more time with her in the waking hours than I do my husband.
We get along really well and laugh a lot.

I'm so happy to do something that I love.
Something impactful.
Something fun.

05 November 2011

Thankful: Day 5

Although simple, I'm thankful for wonderful smells.
I love that God created us with a sense of smell.
Currently, we're brewing a second pot of coffee, and it smells delightful.
On a not-so-early-morning walk, the smell of hay filled the west Texas skies.

Other smells I love include: 
  • freshly baked rolls from my mom's restaurant (which pales in comparison to eating them, with the tops brushed with butter as they're pulled from the oven),
  • the dentist office (I'm not sure why, but I've always loved it, even though I don't love the dentist),
  • vanilla caramel tea
  • Husby's cologne
  • libraries and used bookstores
  • pork bacon while it's frying (I typically don't eat pork bacon)
  • fresh laundry
  • grapefruit
  • rosemary, dill and mint

04 November 2011

Thankful: Day 4

I am thankful for all of my friends.
But today, I am especially thankful for couple friends.
Who knew when getting married that finding a couple to hang out with would be so challenging?
The girls both have to like each other; the boys both have to like each other.
Then, the opposite sexes at least have to get along.

So far, we've been pretty lucky in this department.
We have a few sets of couple friends.
Today, though, I'm thankful for a specific set.
They've invited us to their house for the weekend.
With the promise of pumpkin pecan rolls.
And coffee.
And a drive-in movie. 
I'd be more than happy to visit them even if they didn't promise any of these things.

I've known Patti for over 10 years.
We went to Romania together.
We're soul-friends. BFFs.
I rode with her from Dallas to Denver a couple of times while she and Brent dated.
I only drove about 2 hours, total.
I'm not the best roadtripper.
I automatically fall asleep when I get in a car.
It's a Pavlovian response since I get carsick and can't do anything, but sleep, in a car.
I lurve her.

Brent and Husby get along so well.
They talk about things like Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.
They're both quite intelligent and discuss deep subjects.
At which point, Patti and I talk about the latest coffee creamer flavors.

Brent and Patti are on our hometeam.
(This term is from Bittersweet. It's meant for those people that can see you at your very worst without feeling guilt or any judgement being passed: no-makeup, in pajamas, uncleaned house, in a crisis.)
Oh, the fun we have with them!
We love them, so.

Patti & Brent

 Me & Husby

03 November 2011

Thankful: Day 3

I am thankful for a God who loves me, who is my King.
Even when I fail to treat him as such.

I am thankful for a God who hears my prayers.
I am thankful when my prayers are answered to my liking.
I am thankful when they are not, even though my heart might hurt.

I am thankful for a God who is always present.
In the good and in the great.
And in the bad.
Especially when we feel like we don't deserve something in life.
Who deserves it, really? Non-Christians who have no hope?
And do we want what we really deserve?
Even when his children are hurting, he is there.
His heart breaks with ours.
I am thankful that he is my Comforter.

I am thankful that he is my joy.
He is Redeemer.
He is sovereign.
He is loving.
He is just.
He is wise.
And, since the Bible is truth and we're created in the image of God,
then I think he is a fun God who enjoys laughter.

For all of these, I am thankful.

{This morning I read Ann Voskamp's blog.

02 November 2011

Thankful: Day 2

I am thankful for my family.

My parents are fantastic.
They are giving.
They are fun.
They are friends (now that I'm all grown up).
They are thoughtful.
They embarass me, sometimes.
My dad no longer wears socks with his sandals.
My mom never did wear socks with sandals. Thank goodness.
They are forgiving.
They're both amazing cooks.
They work extremely hard.
They love each other.
They love their children well.

Dad & Mom

My middle brother is getting married.
I couldn't have picked a better wife-to-be.
I'm super excited to get my very own sister-in-law.
(For the record, Husby's brother is married, but it's different that it's MY brother.
She's MY sister-in-law. Does that make sense?)

I am thankful for them both.
Paul often annoys me to no end.
Then he laughs.
Sometimes he tries to chase me with things dead or alive.
He loves getting a reaction out of me.
For years, my mom has told me to "just ignore him."
I've never done it.

He looks just like me.
I like to say he looks like a girl.
I'm not sure why he chases me with things dead or alive.

Brooke is hilarious. And funny.
She puts up with my brother.
And she loves him a lot.
Even when he comes after her with things dead or alive.

Brooke & Paul {They're using the same fabulous wedding photographer that we did.}

My Little Baby Brother (that's his preferred name) is Chad.
He's super cute.
And outdoorsy.
Just like his sister. Except I'm not outdoorsy.
Unless it means sitting outside in rocking chairs at Cracker Barrel.

He doesn't annoy me as much as Paul.
Except when he tries to act like a grown-up.
Then I remember that he's 25.
So he can have adult opinions.
He finally found a profession that he loves.
I'm super happy for him.
And super proud of him.
He has red hair.
I just got red highlights put in my hair.
I like them.
And I love him.

Little Baby Brother :)

01 November 2011

Thankful: Day 1

I'm thankful for my husband.

He loves the Lord.
He loves me.
He puts up with me.
He is patient with me.
He is encouraging.
He makes me laugh.
He knows all the best {sometimes quirky} television shows, including:
Pushing Daisies, Veronica Mars, Alias, Wonderfalls.
He makes really good lasagna.
He likes dessert as much as me.
He lets me have free reign over decorating our house.
He works really hard.
He is dedicated, fiercely loyal and wise.
He still chooses me.