Sunday, March 31, 2013

Longhorn Cavern

We enjoyed a stay-cation this spring break. Each day Trouble and I did something interesting in our neck of the woods. It was fun to visit places we've been meaning to check out but just never got around to. One of my favorite trips was to Longhorn Cavern State Park, in the Texas Hill Country. Mr.Perfect even came along as he couldn't miss a cavern exploring adventure.

The cavern at Longhorn Cavern State Park was created by underground streambeds that carved out the rock. From 1934-1942 the men of the CCC, The Civilian Conservation Corps, excavated much of the cavern and built it's beautiful entrance and a building leading to the cavern. 

The cavern has a very interesting history. It has been used since prehistoric times by Indians, Confederate soldiers and outlaws. During prohibition the cavern was used as a speakeasy. Trouble loved hearing the stories our guide told of the caverns' past.

Walking through the cavern we marveled at the beautiful rock formations and imagined what interesting tales the cavern would tell if rocks could talk.

What a fun way to learn a little about geology and Texas history!
Guided tours are scheduled throughout the day. For more information on tours and fees, call (877) 441-CAVE (441-2283) or visit  Longhorn Cave Tours.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Blanton Museum of Art

I thought Trouble needed a little more culture in his life so this spring break we made a trip down to The Blanton Museum of Art in Austin. Truth be told I'm a huge fan of Claude Monet's Water Lilly series. The Blanton Museum currently has a special exhibition that features art from the private collections of University of Texas Alumni. One of the pieces just happens to be a Water Lilly!

Trouble wasn't as excited at the prospect of going to an art museum as I was. He thought it was going to be boring. But once he saw some of the whimsical pieces featured at Blanton he changed his tune. Here's Trouble under Passage by artist Paul Villinski. Trouble loved the idea of a thousand black butterflies taking over an airplane.

They had an interactive area for further art exploration. Trouble learned about how color looks different in light. I learned about art in architecture.

Trouble brought along his i-touch and snapped a few pictures of some of his favorite pieces.
 Like this chocolate syrup version of The Last Supper...

and this mound of green candies shaped like a pickle.

The Blanton Museum of Art has so many unique and interesting pieces to see. Young and old would enjoy exploring the museum. Heck, Trouble was not bored at all. In fact he really enjoyed himself!

Trouble was so inspired he decided to give painting a try. My mom, Nana, gave Trouble a little mini acrylic painting lesson.
Thanks Nana for helping Trouble create his masterpiece, 
Papa Fishing!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Stuffed Grape Leaves/ Grape Leaf Rolls/ Dolmas

When The Bread Lady asked if I was interested in learning how to make Lebanese stuffed grape leaves, I jumped at the chance. Cooking with the Bread Lady is always a fun and tasty treat.

What you need:
  • 16 oz. jar of grape leaves
  • 1 pound chili ground beef (course ground sirloin)
  • 1 cup uncooked long grain rice, rinsed several times
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • juice of 4 lemons 
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut up
  • 1  14.5 oz can tomatoes (any kind will do)
What you do:
Wash grape leaves several times by rinsing in water. Let leaves sit in fresh water and set aside.

Combine ground beef (we ground our own), rice, butter, cinnamon, allspice, pepper and salt.

Place a tablespoon of the meat mixture on the underside of a grape leaf (the stem should be pointing at you). Roll up egg-roll style. Place stuffed leaves in the pan seam side down. How to roll grape leaves.

Place the stuffed leaves in a large pot in rows. Once the bottom of the pot is covered make another layer of stuffed leaves. We ended up making 3 layers of stuffed leaves.

Pour the lemon juice, cut up butter and can of tomatoes over the stuffed leaves. Add enough water to cover the leaves.

Place an inverted ovenproof plate over the stuffed leaves to keep them from floating.

Bring to a simmer, cover and cook on low for 1  1/2 to 2 hours.

As the stuffed leaves are cooking taste the liquid to see if salt or pepper is needed.

All Done! While making these little guys my mom commented on how similar they are to the Polish stuffed cabbage rolls our family makes. They really are similar.

Just look at all those delicious little stuffed grape leaves. I could gobble them all up! Oh yeah, I did.
 Thank you, Bread Lady, for your generosity, friendship and amazing recipes! It's such a joy to cook with you!