All posts by Afriel Townshend

Afriel Townshend is a regular contributor to the Big Grey Horse Media blog. She works closely with her mother, Laura Townshend, as they travel around Texas. Afriel also assists with marketing and social media campaigns. In addition to riding show hunters on the Texas Hunter & Jumper Association circuit, Afriel is currently in college pursuing her bachelor's degree.

Book Review: The Veritas Cookbook: Cooking With Chef Tai

Disclosure Statement: Big Grey Horse Media was provided The Veritas Cookbook: Cooking With Chef Tai for reviewing purposes. While this product was sent to us without charge, our opinions are honest. We thank Savory Publishing for sending us this lovely cookbook to review.

There are so many wonderful things to be said about The Veritas Cookbook: Cooking With Chef Tai. Chef Tai Lee has some truly appetizing recipes packed in this book. I can guarantee anyone could find something to like in this book. Everything just seems so decedent and over the top. The beautiful presentation of the food within the pictures only enhances the delectable recipes. This is definitely a fine dining cookbook that you would break out to make a great impression for a dinner guest. Chef Lee also includes suggested wine pairings for those who are ignorant or unsure.

Something that really touched me about this book was the background of Chef Lee. Since I love cooking, my first question is always the inspiration behind a chef. I think it was a lovely idea for Chef Lee to include this for not only his devoted fans of Veritas Wine and Bistro, but the new fans who will discover this high class cookbook. Chef Lee included a thank you page to commemorate his staff. I love seeing staff celebrated because a restaurant, especially one as high end as Veritas Wine and Bistro, cannot operate effectively without a great staff to back up the chef.

Since this is a fine dining cookbook, I would not recommend this to a beginner. There is a certain level of technique one needs to acquire before getting a handle on these recipes, especially some of the specialty ingredients. However, the writing of the preparation, or method as Chef Lee calls it, is easily understandable for a novice and above level of experience.

The biggest problem with this cook book is the lack of navigation. Part of the problem is the cookbook’s lack of index and table of contents to easily guide a cook through the book without having to flip through every page. There is also no division of sections nor any page numbers. The book is just an entire run on of recipes with no break into what category of recipes you may be entering next. The stars next to some of the ingredients have no footnote of where to find them, whether within the book or outside. I also have yet to find the recipe for the Shiitake Mushroom Demi. These are big problems because it doesn’t allow the cook to complete parts of a dish.

My overall take of this cookbook is that it’s more of a draft than a final product. With some basic editing tweaks this cookbook layout could become just as great as the recipes themselves.

HEB Foodie Series: Chicken Pesto Wrap

Chicken Pesto Wrap On TableI think it’s apparent that we have a deep love for HEB. I believe that the company makes quality items, especially their chef prepared and Central Market items. Unfortunately, the widest selection of these items is about 45 minutes away from my home. Thankfully when I drive to Austin Community College, I cross paths with the HEB in Bee Caves. I try to plan my shopping trips after school at this HEB and occasionally stop by for some sushi for lunch.

The other day I decided to be adventurous and try this HEB’s Cafe on the Run. I’ve passed by it many times, only giving quick glances as I continued on with my shopping. I figured what they had was good since I am already a pretty big fan of HEB and Central Market brand goods.

The crazy Texas weather was almost freezing when I stopped by, so I wanted something filling, but with good ingredients. As I looked around the varied selection, my eyes kept coming back to the chicken pesto wrap. It was absolutely huge, which is great for those of us wanting to get the best bang for our buck. I had time to kill between my classes, so I decided to dine at Cafe on the Run.

The area was mostly clean, but it could have used a bit more elbow grease. I don’t know when the cleaning hours are for that area, but they could have done a better job cleaning the tables since mine had dried food stuck to it. I ordered a fountain drink and the lemonade was pure water, which was disappointing. This knocked my opinion down a bit and will most likely leave me buying a drink from another source since I rarely drink soda. Otherwise, the Cafe workers were nice and weren’t overbearing while I was deciding what to order.

Chicken Pesto Wrap Close Up

The chicken pesto wrap came with lettuce, tomatoes, shredded mozzarella, pesto, and chicken. I heated the wrap up a little in the microwave and it absolutely rocked. The veggies tasted fresh and the wrap was very filling. You could easily share this wrap with someone else. It may look small in the box, but believe me, it was enough food to fill me up.

Chicken Pesto Wrap In Box

New Year’s Resolutions 2014: Who Needs Them?

Americans seem to set themselves up for failure every brand, spanking new year. As I was trying to find the 10 most common New Year’s Resolutions, I wondered why we do this to ourselves. Sad to say, because the 10 most common resolutions are interchangeable with the 10 most commonly failed resolutions. These happen to be somewhere along the lines of:

  1. Be Healthier
  2. Quit/Less Smoking
  3. Quit/Less Drinking
  4. Get a Hold on Debt
  5. Volunteer More
  6. Become Less Stressed (yeah right)
  7. Save More Money
  8. Go on Vacation
  9. Lose Weight
  10. Exercise More

I really feel that the majority of these goals are never achieved because we select goals that are too big for our willpower, or personal circumstances, to successfully accomplish. Creating a goal that you’re supposed to keep all year seems too daunting for the majority of Americans. Why?

Because you’re insane to think that a year long goal of this magnitude can be accomplished all at once. Each of the resolutions listed above require a drastic change in your daily routine. There’s probably a good reason why you weren’t working out before you made the resolution. My guess is you’re lacking the willpower to sustain such a long commitment to reach your goal.

Remember, we’re only human.

I believe a solution to all this madness is quite simple: forget New Year’s resolutions. Don’t perpetuate the cycle of another failed year. Be positive about it and say, “I respect myself too much to beat myself up with another stupid goal.” Be the unresolutionist.

For all of you who are utterly shocked and still determined to carry on with more resolutions, have no fear. I’ve got a solution for you, too. Make your resolutions smaller and easier to manage. Make a small list of easy to achieve goals.

Instead of implementing a weight loss goal of 50 pounds by bikini season, make it easier both mentally and physically by having a weight loss goal of 5 pounds for the first month. If you can accomplish that, then do another 5 pounds for the second month, and so on and so forth, until you have reached your overall goal.

We all know that the hardest part to overcome is what’s in our minds. What psyches you out more, 50 lbs in five months or 5 pounds a month until you’ve reached your goal? Don’t lose the battle before it starts. Give yourself a fighting chance, for Pete’s sake!

This goes towards all the other goals as well. However, I do have some prejudices against smoking and alcohol. My personal thoughts (if you’re trying to quit, that is) are to throw your little stash away, lock yourself in a room, and don’t leave until you are no long dependent on cigarettes and booze. I honestly think the best way to give up smoking and drinking is to go cold turkey.

If your fancy is to volunteer more, ease yourself into it. Start off by volunteering every other time you have a day off to make sure you can fit volunteering into your schedule. Also, pick a volunteer group that doesn’t demand more than you can give. Be firm about the amount of time you can give so no one overloads you. This can lead to unwanted stress and the possibility of you quitting your volunteer work.

The only advice I have on saving money is this: Don’t buy things you don’t need. And I mean only the things you need. You only need the basics of food, water, and shelter. If you and your family eat out too often, change it. Get the family involved in cooking the meals. This will make the transition easier and a fun experience for everyone. Have a habit of ordering from Starbucks five times a day? Recreate those recipes at home and bring coffee with you on the go. No, the coffee will not be the same, but isn’t the cushion of a well-stocked savings account more important than what your taste buds think?

While the thought of going to some island paradise is an idyllic dream vacation, the majority of us just can’t afford it. Don’t let this deter you from having one, though. Just pick something more realistic. You are guaranteed to save more money by staying in the states, especially your own. While the thought of foreign adventures and ancient monuments are extremely appealing , America is full of a rich history from all the unique cultures that built, and continue to build, our nation.

Last, but certainly not least, is reduced stress. Honestly, with how our society operates, I do not believe that we can ever become completely stress free, but we can take measures to reduce the amount of stress in our lives. This means take more time for yourself. If you unwind by soaking in the tub, do it more often. Make time to be alone in complete silence for at least 30 minutes a day to reboot yourself. While our society may pressure us to become 24 hour robots, we know deep down that we can only be human.

Can you see how I’ve broken each resolution down into manageable steps? Each step is measurable, too. Breaking down a big resolution into many small steps is truly the only way to reach your goals.

Good luck in 2014, and may all your dreams come true!

5 Ways to Ruin Christmas for Your Family

Cute Christmas OrnamentWant to ruin Christmas for your family? Here’s my top five ways to ensure your family has a really good time this holiday season.

Re-Gift. Just don’t do it. Especially if you have a small family or social circle. If you do, there’s a good possibility the gift will recycle and everyone will find out how cheap you really are. The best thing you can do with a gift you don’t like is donate the gift to charity. Keep in mind, however, that if the gift is poor quality, or is ugly or old, that’s not an excuse to give it to the needy.

Buy everyone the same gift from the dollar store. It’s a super big no-no even if the gifts are different colors or designs. Cheap-o gifts that are basically the same thing, given to everyone on your gift list, isn’t the true spirit of giving. All that shows is either a) how much you don’t care or b) how little you are involved in people’s lives. If you aren’t sure what to buy your friends and family, give them cash or a Visa gift card. If money is an issue, make something. Preparing a loved one’s favorite dessert or treat shows that you care. And if you don’t cook, share a family heirloom.

Stress out and act like a freak. If you know the holidays stress you out and your family tells you, every Christmas, that the Grinch has nothing on you, then maybe you should step back as the Christmas party host. Can’t do that because you’re a control freak? Well, maybe you should, for the sake of your family, refrain from all holiday events. No one wants to be the reason why Christmas was ruined. Give your family a break, okay?

Share old candy. This doesn’t go for just Christmas, because it can be applied to Valentine’s, Easter, and Halloween, too. Don’t give out candy you’ve had for five years. That’s not saving money and it’s plain, old GROSS. Nothing is yuckier than biting into stale, oxidized candy. Red Christmas Ornament

Make Christmas be about you. Guess what? Christmas isn’t about you! It never has been, nor will it ever be. It’s about the birth of Jesus (at least for practicing Christians). And while I know that you may be thinking, “Hey I’m still walking this Earth and according to my awesome self, I’m the bees’ knees. So take THAT Christmas,” let me remind you this attitude will get you nowhere in life. Your family came together on this holiday to be in the company of their loved ones and have a good time.

Classic Hot Chocolate Recipe With a Smooth and Minty Twist

Classic Hot Chocolate
Classic hot chocolate with a twist of cream and mint.

Homemade hot chocolate is always divine, but it’s truly special when shared with the people you love. This classic hot chocolate recipe is super easy to prepare and serve. On a frosty Texas day (or night), nothing else warms you up better.

My mom likes a bit of spice, so she adds a sprinkle of cinnamon and a bit of chili powder. That’s not my preference, but I’m always happy to accommodate her.

My coconut chip nut bars are a tasty way to enjoy this hot chocolate, too. Perfect for hungry Texans, and so nice for the holidays. The hot chocolate and coconut chip nut bars recipes are easy ways to teach your kids how to cook.

Another secret I’ll share with you is this: Pair your hot chocolate with a square (or two) of a fine chocolate bar. And no, that’s not chocolate overload. It’s called a tasty and fabulous indulgence!

This lovely little recipe serves six people.

 

Classic Hot Chocolate

  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • whipped cream
  • crushed candy cane
  • candy cane

Whisk together the cocoa, sugar, salt, and water in a medium saucepan until thoroughly mixed. Heat on medium high, while continually whisking, until the mixture starts to boil. Continue whisking for three minutes. Turn off the heat and slowly add the milk, and keep whisking. Add the vanilla. Once milk is heated, but not boiled, pour the chocolate into a mug.

For the perfect peppermint hot chocolate (as shown in the photo), add a candy cane to the side of the mug, top with whipped cream, and sprinkle with the crushed candy cane.

 

Simple to Make and Easy to Bake Coconut Chip Nut Bars Recipe

Coconut Chip Nut Bars Recipe
Coconut Chip Nut Bars – so yum!

This coconut chip nut bars recipe was obtained by my mother in her mid-20s. The recipe is perfect for those of us who run very busy schedules. Coconut chip nut bars are also easy for people who are inexperienced in the kitchen. If you’re new to cooking or have been afraid to make a dessert from scratch, try this recipe. You’ll love the yummy results!

Because this treat is so simple to make, I recommend having your children help out. The layers don’t take long to out together and the kids will enjoy being your helpers. Sprinkling the chocolate chips and coconut is something even a young child can do.

This can be a fun recipe for the holidays, too. The bars, when served, are gorgeous. Pair the coconut chip nut bars with a hot cup of cocoa and you’ve got it all going on! What a great way to relax and enjoy a nippy Texas evening.

Making Coconut Chip Nut Bars
Pouring sweetened condensed milk into a pan of chocolate chips.

 

Coconut Chip Nut Bars

Makes 3 dozen bars

Crust:

  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup baking cocoa
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cold butter

Preheat the oven to 350oF.

In a medium bowl combine flour, powdered sugar, and cocoa. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press the crumbs firmly into a greased 9×13 pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool.

Topping:

  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup flaked coconut
  • ½ cup crushed Heath Bars

While the crust is baking, combine the milk and one cup of the chocolate chips in a saucepan. Stir over medium low heat until the chips are melted. Stir in the vanilla. Pour the chocolate sauce over the baked crust. Sprinkle the nuts and remaining cup of chocolate chips over the sauce. Top with the coconut and candy bits. Gently press the topping down into the chocolate mixture.

Bake at for 18-20 minutes or until firm. Cool on a wire rack and cut into bars. Chill until served.

10 Ways to Ruin Thanksgiving Dinner for Yourself and Your Family

This is a humorous look at all the ways families can drive each other crazy during the holiday season. Afriel’s “10 Ways to Ruin Thanksgiving Dinner for Yourself and Your Family” should give everyone a good belly laugh!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Image courtesy of nongpimmy / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 10. Let your toddler run around naked while you’re in the middle of a diaper change. Be sure to let the kiddo run naked long enough to poop on the floor, too. For extra kicks, ask your teenage sister (who doesn’t like little children) to check out the “present” the toddler left, and wants her auntie to clean up.

9. For the manly men in the family, pile your Thanksgiving plates high with food. Then go back for seconds as the party’s hostess cheers you on. Course, you’ll  realize you really didn’t want that second plate of food when you hear about the desserts. So, be a good guy and throw the entire plate of food in the trash.

8. For all the moms with young children: Time your arrival so you walk in the door holding a kiddo who’s diaper is soaked with pee and/or filled with poo. Hey, everyone in the family is eager to hold your kid and sure, family members are dying to change those dirty diapers. This is a great way to make a grand entrance and leave lasting impressions upon your family.

7. Instead of eating what your Thanksgiving hostess prepared (and spent hours in the kitchen making), walk in the door with a salad from Sonic. We know you’re watching your weight and hey, those Sonic salads beat out a homemade dinner any day! Nothing like hurting the feelings of the person who prepared your meal.

6. Now this is something I think everyone should already know. Don’t be late. Especially if the hostess is a stickler about being on time. You know the entire family wants to hear her griping throughout the meal. All that bitching aids digestion, right? What’s the holiday for if not to hear the hostess complain, non-stop, about how Thanksgiving is ruined?

5. This goes if you’re the hostess of the party. I know the holidays are stressful, but don’t confess, after everyone has eaten the majority of their food, that you made it ahead of time – like six months ago – and were keeping it frozen until that morning when the meal was reheated.

4. Want to set your family on fire? Decide that Thanksgiving is the time and place to reconcile differences. Or fight. Or be rude. Or pick on the people you love. Just be pushy enough to force others to talk to you about the subjects you think are important and necessary. Especially when others simply want to have a good time and keep it light.

3. Talk about current events even though you have no idea what you’re saying. There’s nothing like making others feel uncomfortable and embarrassed for you. An example: The Bluebonnet Plague does not, and will not, ever, exist. However, the Bubonic plague was a real world event that happened in the late middle ages in Europe, also known as the Black Death. See how easy that was?

2. Take out your snuff pack, grab a pinch, and shove it into your mouth. Be sure to bring your spit cup! Course, the ideal place to do this is at the table while your family is eating. Why excuse yourself when others can partake in the greatness of your disgusting habit? Nothing else could make such an awesome statement of gratitude for family and the holiday.

1. Once you’ve married into the family, by all means behave as you please. Stretch out your legs and swing those cowboy boots onto the coffee table. Pretend to be asleep on the couch while your kiddo is screaming and getting into things they shouldn’t. Roll your eyes at the senior citizens in the family, thinking they didn’t see your face. Mock others behind their backs. You’re part of the family, now, so there’s absolutely no need to pretend you’re not rude, or that you like us. We love you just as you are!

Two Texas Halloween Events That Raise Money for Charity

Afriel digs Halloween – there’s no other way to put it. She’s told me, more than once, that Halloween is her favorite holiday. In writing her posts this month, she was passionate about two Texas Halloween events that raise money for charity.

SCARE for a Cure and the Houston Zombie Walk are two extremely cool charities that support the holiday I love the most: Halloween. They both have causes that are easy to stand behind: cancer, kids, and animals. I’m really close the causes because my grandma had cancer, I grew up around many poverty-stricken families, and I love animals. When I was little, I  dreamed of growing up and visiting a local hospital to give presents to the sick children sequestered there during Christmas (an experience I have been through several times). I guess you could say that the spirit of giving is in my blood.

SCARE for a Cure  is absolutely, positively, 100% volunteer based. The organization began in 2007, and has a themed haunt based at J. Lorraine Ghost Town in Manor. This year’s theme is Fairy Tale Nightmare. Creepy, yet fascinating, right? SCARE for a Cure donates to The Breast Cancer Resources of Texas and other local charities.

Want to be a part of their cause? You have the opportunity to do general volunteer work helping set up the haunt and/or becoming a ‘booscare’. Contact director@scareforacure.org if you want to act and volunteer@scareforacure.org for building, tech work, makeup, costumes, and other general work. For more information, refer to SCARE for a Cure’s FAQ.

Houston Zombie Walk  is a year-round event with the 2013 proceeds going to Houston’s Children Charity, Houston Humane Society, and the Dove Key Ranch Wildlife Rehabilitation. This will be Houston Zombie Walk’s third year of zombie walking, but the organization is adding something new: Houston Halloween Fest. When I first learned about this charity, I thought, are the workers at the charity going to dress up like zombies and chase people around Houston? NOPE! It’s even better. YOU get to be the zombie! Another bonus? This is a family event that everyone will love. You can be a creepy, scary, sexy, ugly, or half-decayed. Get crazy and wild with your ideas (but keep it clean with no nudity). For more info check out the FAQ and rules.

While I am very sad to say that I cannot participate in either of these charities this Halloween, I am excited to say that I will try to make sure the events get worked into next year’s schedule. I love what these charities are doing and I feel that they should get more exposure.

Texas Pudding Surprise Recipe

Texas Pudding Surprise Recipe
Texas Pudding Surprise

Many years ago, my mother acquired what I call a “pudding surprise” recipe. While the original recipe calls for instant pudding and Cool Whip, I reworked it and made everything from scratch. Enjoy my Texas Pudding Surprise recipe!

It took until I started high school to appreciate how easy and amazing from-scratch home cooking can be. I chuckle when I hear others say that they love homemade meals, yet never have time to make those meals. While some recipes are laborious, the majority are quite simple to prepare.

For the crust, the original recipe calls for chopped pecans. Since I have braces, I put the pecans in a food processor. You are more than welcome to stick to the coarsely chopped version. You might be surprised to see there’s no sugar in the crust. Honestly, you don’t need any. The sweetness from the layers is more than enough.

Texas Pudding Surprise
Texas Pudding Surprise – YUM!

Homemade pudding, by far, out shadows anything pre-made or in a package. You can literally make any flavor into a pudding. If you don’t have time for the forty minutes it takes (only twenty if you’re making one batch), then you can break this up into about four ten-minute intervals. Remember that you can always mix the dry ingredients ahead of time and keep them stored until you need them. You can also apply this for the wet ingredients. However, their shelf life is much shorter, so I would recommend that you use them in the next two to three days to guarantee freshness. As a side note, you never want to pour a hot liquid into a powder that can gelatinize. That is why I put the milk in the freezer.

Texas Pudding Surprise - Whipped Cream
Whipped cream, freshly made. Check out the peak!

If you plan on making the whipped cream from scratch, like I did (super yummy and without the processed taste), you can make it ahead of time. I hand whipped this and it took about 5-10 minutes (with a few short breaks to rest my arm) and would have been significantly faster using a hand or stand mixer. Making whipped cream is very similar, but easier, than making a meringue, and there are a couple of tips to remember to always get the best results. While you can use whipping cream, heavy whipping cream is best because it has a higher fat content. I used regular sugar when I made the whipped cream, but you can also use powdered sugar. The preference is yours. Remember those tips we talked about earlier? Do what I say and you’ll have perfect whipped cream. The most important part of making whipped cream is the metal bowl and whisk. Why? Because both need to be chilled in the freezer before using.

As mentioned earlier, you can always make the layers ahead of time, since doing this all at once does take a significant amount of time. I strongly suggest making the pudding the day before. Then you only have to make the whipped cream and the cream cheese mixture.

Texas Pudding Surprise
Texas Pudding Surprise

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family did!

Texas Pudding Surprise

Prep Time: 1 hr.

Bake Time: 50 min

Chill Time: 5 hrs.

Total Time: 6 hrs. 50 min

Crust: 

Texas Pudding Surprise Crust
Texas Pudding Surprise Crust, before and after

Prep Time: 5 min

Bake Time: 20 min

Total Time: 25 min

1 cup flour

1 stick melted butter

1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350o F. Mix flour and pecans together. Melt butter and add to dry ingredients. Mix until crust can hold together into a ball. Press crust into bottom of 13x9x2 in pan. Do not press up the sides of the pan. Bake for 20 minutes and then cool completely before adding other layers.

1st Layer, Cream Cheese:

Prep Time: 25 min

8 oz cream cheese

1 cup powder sugar

1 ½ cups whipped cream (see recipe below)

Put cream cheese into a medium bowl and allow to soften. Use a fork to work the cream cheese into the consistency of thick mayonnaise. Cream in the sugar. Once fully incorporated, add the whipped cream. Pour layer on top of crust.

Texas Pudding Surprise - Cream Cheese Layer
Cream Cheese Layer

2nd Layer, Chocolate Pudding:

Prep Time: 5 min

Bake Time: 15 min

Chill Time: 2 hr

Total Time: 2 hr 20 min

2/3 cup sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

¼ tsp. salt

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 ½ cups milk

4 large egg yolks

2 tbs. butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Put milk into freezer for 5 minutes for a brief chill. In a medium bowl, use a whisk to combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cocoa powder. This will take away the need for a sifter. Slowly add milk to the dry ingredients, constantly whisking. Fully incorporate mixture before adding the egg yolks. Transfer mixture to a medium sauce pan. Turn burner onto medium high. Constantly whisk. When mixture starts to boil, continue to whisk for another 5 minutes. Turn heat down to medium low and continue to whisk for another 3 minutes. Add butter and vanilla. Transfer to bowl, cover, and cool for two hours. Then pour over cream cheese mixture.

Texas Pudding Surprise Dry Ingredients
Dry Ingredients – Chocolate Pudding
Texas Pudding Surprise Wet Ingredients and Cooking - Chocolate Pudding
Adding Wet Ingredients and Cooking – Chocolate Pudding
Texas Pudding Surprise - Chocolate Pudding Layer
Smooth as Silk Chocolate Pudding Layer

3rd Layer, Vanilla Pudding:

Prep Time: 5 min

Bake Time: 15 min

Chill Time: 2 hr

Total Time: 2 hr 20 min

2/3 cup sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

¼ tsp. salt

2 ½ cups milk

4 large eggs

2 tbs. butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Repeat the steps for the 2nd layer while omitting the cocoa powder. Pour over chocolate pudding.

Texas Pudding Surprise Vanilla Pudding Ingredients and Cooking
Vanilla Pudding Ingredients and Cooking

4th layer, Whipped Cream:

Prep Time: 20 min

1 ½ cups milk

2tbs. + 1 ½ tsp. sugar

1 ½ tsp. vanilla

Put both the whisk and a medium sized bowl inside the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. Once chilled, pour the heavy whipping cream into the bowl. First gently whisk the cream back and forth for about 30 seconds. Pour in the sugar. Whisk vigorously for about 10-15 minutes.

You will notice the mixture will thicken throughout this process. You will stop when you have reached a hard peak. If you continue to whisk you will eventually get butter.  After you have a hard peak you can mix in the vanilla extract. Then top the vanilla pudding with the whipped cream.

Texas Pudding Surprise - Whipped Cream
Making the whipped cream.

Once all the layers are put together, chill the dish for 1-2 hours before serving.

How to Prepare for Halloween in Texas

Are you mystified by the process of preparing for Halloween in Texas? Your questions can range from: “Where should I get my costume?” to “Where can I find decorations?” and, of course,  “Which place will scare me so badly that I’ll soil myself?”

These are hard questions to answer if you didn’t plan this fright fest holiday in advance.

Halloween bat decoration

If you’re a costume lover like me, then that’s the first step you need to take. Figure out what you want to be. This is a super-fun process. You can go solo with an extreme costume, couple it with a boyfriend/girlfriend, or do group themed costumes, like being a group of rockin’ bod Spartans screaming, “This is SPARTA!” all across town. Fun, right?

Since we’ve got that down, you have to decide how you’re going to decorate. Look at our Halloween in Texas Pinterest board for inspiration. Or take a drive around the neighborhood and see what others are spooking their homes with. This can inspire you to do a similar theme or add something the neighbors don’t have. Don’t have neighbors? Great! This means you can be the star ghoul of Halloween! Your competition is zip, zilch, nada, zero. Kudos.

skull surrounded by orange frames

Net step? Where to get your costume and decorations. Top Dog has both a web and store presence.  Their store fronts are located in Tomball, Spring, and Houston. Frankel’s Costume is also located in Houston. Their stores sell costumes and decorations, as well as puppets and magic tricks. Currently, the inventory is discounted up to 90%, so get busy shopping!

Now it’s time to soil your pants. Texas is littered with all kinds of haunted houses. I am an absolute scaredy-cat who needs a group of friends to accompany me to a haunted house. Yes, I’m the girl clutching, with a death grip, onto whoever is closest. And trying to not hide my face in their arm because it’s all too scary, even though I know none of it’s real. What scares me the most, though, is the chainsaw. A chainsaw by itself isn’t scary. I’m afraid that whoever is holding that chainsaw will lose their grip. The chainsaw then comes flying towards me, mangling my body. And no, I have never soiled myself.

A great website that I found is Texas Haunted Houses. They have over 50 haunted houses listed. This can help you decide which creepy, haunted houses are hot in your area, and which are the scariest, based on the reviews.

Have a BOO-TASTIC time preparing for Halloween in Texas!

Images provided courtesy of creepyhalloweenimages.com.