Oooh lambs, we are getting to my favorite time of year – the holidays! In fact, each year the city of Austin puts on the Trail of Lights and the Zilker Christmas Tree. Sadly (due to budget issues) the Trail of Lights did not happen but the tree, thank goodness, is up. A brief history for you from the Nile Guide:
For more than 35 years, one of the tallest man-made trees in the country lights up the holidays in Austin. The 175-foot Christmas tree, decked out in nearly 4000 twinkling lights, is lit every night from early December to the end of the year. It is tradition to stand in the center and spin around with your loved ones underneath the tree for a fantastic light show. Be careful, as you will find many people twirling in circles. The lighting takes place in Zilker Park.
Since we live in the Zilker vicinity, our friend Kari had the great idea for a small holiday get together for some food, hot chocolate and a visit to the tree. Here is her photo from her twirling underneath the tree. I also took my first ever spin with David. Warning, you will get dizzy but there was something magical and yes, a little touching to see all of our fellow Austinites whirling and twirling under the tree.
But what to make for such a festive occasion? I decided to make this All-American Chili and Mexican Hot Chocolate from Cooking Light. Who doesn’t love chili and hot chocolate!? No one I care to know. I made the chili the day before, because even as Cooking Light says, chili is even better the next day. I really liked this recipe and the perfect chili-ness of it all. Beans, two kinds of meat, veggies and oh yeah, a spicy kick. One thing I changed was instead of ground sirloin, I cut a sirloin steak into small cubes and browned along with the sausage since I tend to like big chunks of beefy mcbeef in my chili. Also, this thing had a KICK. When I tasted it the day before the spiciness was right on, but the next day? Yowza. I would recommend if you are making this to be enjoyed a few days after making, to either deseed the jalapeno or lower the chili powder level if you have a spicy-sensitive group. However, I was getting great reviews from the table so maybe I’ve become a spice-pansy.
Kari, who just got back from Italy, also made awesome Cauliflower Fritters and homemade bread. Maybe if y’all apply enough pressure here she will give me the recipe as these were molto buono! UPDATE, Kari gave us the recipe, see below. Also Lex, being the awesome chef that she is, did some kind of delicious wicked voodoo with Kari’s leftover bell peppers from the farmer’s market. I asked her what she did and all she could say is “magic Aunt Moey!”. She’s so kin to me.
On to the Mexican Hot Chocolate. We loved it. It was simple, chocolatey, spicy and the perfect beverage to take with us down to the tree. And if you want to add a little Bailey’s we would highly recommend it 😉 Overall, the gang loved all the yummy dishes and beverages but isn’t that what food does? It brings us all together to share stories, laugh, and appreciate the time we have with our good friends and family; especially this time of year. Not to get all sentimental but my life has changed in so many ways this past year, from David being in my life, new amazing friends, and my wonderful niece and her significant other moving to Austin. I couldn’t be more grateful and can’t help but look back over this year and grin from ear-to-ear. In fact, I kind of feel like this…http://en.vidivodo.com/210589/hugh-grant-dance#videoalt
Here are some more pics from our fun holiday evening AND we survived our first dinner party with the new countertops. Digital high five!
4 oz/Tbsp white flour1 tsp Salt1 egg1/4 Pt liquid (half water, half milk, or whatever you have)3 Tbsp parsley, chopped2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, shredded1 garlic clove, dicedSeveral Tbsp vegetable or canolaVeggies – You can use Cauliflower, brocolli, corn, potato, squash; the more veggies you use, the more fritters you will make. For 6 people, I doubled the recipe and added a whole (small) head of cauliflower.Mix flour and salt in medium sized bowl. Make a dip in the dry mixture and add egg, mixing together with a fork. Slowly add milk/water mixture – you may not need all of the liquid, it will depend on the size of the egg. The batter should be fairly runny and come off the fork easily. Add diced garlic, shredded parmesean and chopped parsely. Let rest for 10-15 minutes. Cook vegetables until soft while batter rests. Tear (do not cut) into bite sized pieces. Fold veggies into batter. Heat vegetable or canola oil in a medium sized pan – add enough oil so that you will be able to shallow fry the fritters. When oil is hot, add a spoonful of batter in available areas in the pan. Once they start to cook, you should be able to push them closer together and add more batter to the pan. Cook about 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper plate. Serve hot.