Friday, December 30, 2011

French Press

As a lifelong fan of the auto-drip coffee maker, this was quite a change.

It now takes me approximately 10 extra minutes to get ready each morning, but then again... it is worth every delectable sip.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Yes, please.

Austin has an abundance of food trucks. I mean, there are at least 15 food trucks in my neighborhood alone!

Most would think that Austin is full of steaks and tex-mex... don't get me wrong, there's plenty of that. But the asian-fusion, thai, crepe, empanada, and cupcake themed food trucks really out shine your stereotypical Texas eats.

Today I'd like to put the spot light on Little Thai Food. Located approximately 1/2 mile from my crib, Little Thai Food gets lots of love from our house.

If you ever make it to South First Street in Austin, be sure to order one of these:

Chicken Pad Thai

And one of these..

Red Curry

Like all food trucks in Austin, bringing beer or wine is a must. I particularly love sitting outside in the chilly winter (the 60's are chilly, right?) eating super flavorful food created by a very talented mother-daughter team.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Taco

Growing up, I thought your average taco came out of an "Old El Paso" box.

I also thought they were gross.

Then I moved to Austin and realized that tacos are the most amazing thing ever. You can wrap anything in a tortilla! Eggs, veggies, tofu, spinach, turkey, etc., it's all better when wrapped in a lovely little tortilla.

Here's what you need to know about tacos in the non-Old El Paso world:

You're either a flour tortilla person:

My personal favorite. They're soft and fluffy and complement so many things.

Or a corn tortilla person:

Corn tortillas are wheat and gluten free, low in calories and fat, and all around just healthier. Unfortunately, they're not my favorite of the two-- go figure.

What tortilla are you?


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Black Beans > Bacon

I mean it.

Bacon has long been my favorite food. But in recent months, black beans have moved to the top of my "favorite foods" list. I love them most when covered in queso fresco... I must have some latina in my blood that I'm not aware of or something.

I've made black bean tacos at least once a week for the past month. They're completely impossible to mess up. In fact the only way to mess them up is if you put too much cheese on them. But honestly, there's no such thing as too much cheese.

You will need:
2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, red & green look nice together
tortillas, flour or corn
queso fresco

**Queso fresco can be found in every grocery store in Austin. However if you don't live in a city with a large hispanic population, it can be found in the "ethnic foods" area of the refrigerated section.

In 3 easy steps:

In a medium sized sauce pan, heat 2 tbsp of oil over medium heat. Toss in onions for a couple of minutes, then add in black beans. Reduce to low heat and heat through.

Slice bell peppers into thin strips. Sauté bell peppers for a couple of minutes. You still want them to be crunchy. In fact, you could skip this step and add them to the taco, raw and crunchy.

If you have a gas top stove, heat tortilla for 1 minute on each side. If not, wrap in a damp paper towel and heat in the microwave. Immediately top with bell peppers, black beans and queso fresco!

These are slightly addictive...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

'Tis the season

I am an extremely visual person. I can read books all day long, but it doesn’t quite stick until I have either tried my hand at it or the book provides a corresponding diagram. Eating with the seasons has always been an appealing notion to me, but I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around it. Farmer’s markets are great indicators of what food is in season, but honestly I just can’t hit the farmer’s market every week. I sometimes need groceries on Tuesday – go figure.

Supermarkets have really clouded the “in season” idea. Produce is shipped from God-knows-where so it all looks pretty and fresh whether it is in season or not. This infographic (click to enlarge) really helped me understand when to eat what. For me, it really clears up some of the confusion when I’m grocery shopping. And it opens up doors for further exploration because of course, not every food could fit on this page.

‘Tis the season for kale and cauliflower!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bean and Pasta Soup

I'm usually just not a soup kind of gal. But the first recipe I made during my "week as a vegetarian" was soup... and it was absolutely perfect.

I made this soup on a cold, rainy Sunday. It's not like I had anything else to do anyway in that unfortunate weather.

Disclaimer: Don't let the ingredients intimidate you,
this recipe is super easy and hard to mess up.

1 onion
5 carrots
4 celery sticks, leafy greens reserved
1 bunch of mustard greens
4-5 tbsp olive oil
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can great northern or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup white wine
6 cups vegetable stock
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 lb orecchiette pasta
salt and pepper

What to do:
Chop up onion, carrots and celery into similar sized, small pieces. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and add in chopped veggies. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Cook until beginning to soften, about 4 or 5 minutes, then add white wine.

Allow white wine to reduce slightly, about 2 minutes, then add beans, stock, rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

Add tomatoes, pasta and mustard greens to the pot and stir. Cook over medium heat. When pasta is ready, mix in chopped celery greens.

When ready to serve, remove bay leaves, thyme and rosemary sprigs from pot. Top with grated parmesan cheese (this is the most important part!)

It's funny because the week after Thanksgiving I cooked a very similar recipe using all of the leftover turkey, but this one turned out so much better. I promise, you won't miss the meat at all!


Monday, December 5, 2011

Vegetarian Week

Ross and I decided we are going to attempt to eat like vegetarians for a week...possibly 10 days.

{I'll tell you the story of how this idea came about.} It all began the day after Thanksgiving. I felt as if I weighed 1,000 lbs. And as the weekend continued, I continued to eat "Thanksgiving dinner" again, and again, and agaaain.

Somehow, by the time the weekend was over, there was still an obscene amount of food left at Ross' parents house. And of course his mom decided to send it all home with us. This is not to say that we weren't grateful for all of the leftovers, they were delicious. But my body seemed as if it literally hated me. So over the past week we polished off the remnants of Thanksgiving dinner, every last bit of it.

In order to "redeem" ourselves (if that's even possible), we decided to spend the next 10 days eating vegetables, beans and other meatless proteins. Plus, I've been wanting to have a "veggie week" for months, so this was the perfect excuse :)

I'm anxious to see what the week has in store for us. I'm also excited to have lots of new recipes to post, providing all of them turn out.

I'll start this adventure with a peek at my go to veggie-friendly snack:

Red and orange bell peppers dipped in hummus. Yum.

P.S. Once you switch to bell peppers, you'll never go back to crackers.

Here we go...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Homemade Salad Dressing

I am quite partial to Hidden Valley and Newman's Own...

In high school I had a friend who always "craved salads", this baffled me. How could anyone possibly crave a salad? A hamburger maybe, but a salad.. no.

It only took me 8 years to realize why she constantly craved salads. She was making her own salad dressing! I tried this one time, out of boredom as usual, to find that it turned out much better than your average iceberg lettuce-ranch dressing-bacon bit-tomato salad.

If you're fresh out of gluten, fat, and carbohydrate loaded pre-bottled dressings, why not make your own?

Salad Dressing:
3 parts extra virgin olive oil
1 part white wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbsp habanero spicy mustard
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp cumin
Lots of s&p

And here we go:
Mix it all together in a glass jar or old salad dressing bottle. This will last in the refrigerator for a few days. Be sure to let the salad dressing return to room temperature before dressing your salad or else the consistency will be off.

Incase you want to make the salad too...
3 handfuls spinach
1/2 avocado
2 tbsp goat cheese
1 vine ripe tomato

I'd like to dedicate this post to Sarah B., who was that weirdo in high school who always craved salads. Little did I know, she was on to something.

Thanks love!

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's easy to get wrapped up in all life has to offer.

For instance, the finer things in life.

Being employed at a luxury Hotel is incredibly stimulating. In my particular line of work, I spend a lot of time interacting with the Restaurant and Pastry Shop.

Let's just say I need photos of the new breakfast menu or Holiday desserts. I simply run down to the kitchen, where the food is perfectly plated and expedited, then snap a few photos.

Here's the downside: when the photos are done, I'm handed a fork.

As if I'm supposed to sample an entire menu on my own?

indulgent: "a gluttonous appetite for food
and praise and pleasure"

I really cannot complain. My job is amazing, I'm so blessed. But I can't help but want eggs benedict every morning, or chocolate soufflé after each meal.

After months of "sampling" excessively and enjoying a few free meals here and there, I had to come to terms with the fantasy world I had been living in. It was time to realize that all good things must come to an end. And if I wanted my waistline to stop expanding, I should not be quite so indulgent.

I decided the best way to come to terms with growing palate would be to come up with a list of my favorite foods. Not my favorite meals to order fancy restaurants, but my favorite day-to-day foods that I just cannot get enough of. A list of foods in which reveling in their excellence does not elicit strong feelings of remorse or glutton.

Here is the abridged version:

black beans
a ripe banana with peanut butter
raw, crunchy red bell pepper
hot oatmeal with raisins, sliced almonds and honey
queso fresco, crumbled over... anything.
fat free half & half heated in the microwave before pouring into hot coffee
balsamic vinegar & olive oil with cracked black pepper
warm, fresh baked bread

I am aware that not many people share my same list, but it is good to have a list to refer to when self control suspends itself at the worst possible time.

This is not to say that I don't indulge in items that are not on my list (i.e. Thanksgiving Day). But I know that if I skip a bite or two I won't miss them, because I can always find a few items from "my list" in my personal kitchen.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Word from Julia

“This is my invariable advice to people:

Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I'm Thankful for the Dressing.

I'd like to take a moment to talk about everyones favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal...
the stuffing.

Cornbread or white bread? Stuffed IN the turkey, or baked in a pan? With sage, of course. What about apples? or a bit of andouille sausage? with oysters??

Whichever way it's prepared, is it ever disappointing?

courtesy of food network blog

The dressing complements the turkey, ham, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes just perfectly. I'm beginning to think it should be eaten year round! Whew, now I'm getting a bit carried away... just excited, that's all.

But seriously, I am also thankful for:

My loving family (blood related, or otherwise)
My wonderful friends, who can be found across the world
Dexter, the craziest puppy with the sweetest eyes you will ever meet
The network of people I'm surrounded with who constantly support and encourage me

The list goes on. To sum it up, I am truly blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pretty Food

Do you ever have days where you just want to make pretty food?

You know the days I'm talking about.

Your hair is out of control.
You had to wear your "stand by" outfit because you forgot to do laundry.
You realize your nails are chipped just as you sit down at the office.

On days like these I think:

well damnit, if I can't look half way decent today, at least my food can.

Challenge: Find the most colorful items in your pantry and put them together in a pretty way.

This. Never. Fails.

If you have these items:
one long, skinny egg plant
one herb goat cheese roll, any variety
one jar of roasted red peppers in oil
one jar of marinated artichoke
olive oil

You can easily make this dish:

Slice eggplant lengthwise into thin, 1/3 inch pieces, discarding the end pieces. Place in colander a few at a time, sprinkling with salt as you layer. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, then rinse pieces and pat dry.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and cook one to two minutes on each side. Add oil to skillet as you add in new pieces. Remove pieces one by one and place onto a plate covered with paper towels. Spoon goat cheese onto big side of the eggplant, and roll up to small side, placing the seam side down.

Place rolls into a baking dish and bake until warm, at 350° about 10 minutes.

Chop 1 roasted red pepper and 1/2 jar artichoke coarsely to serve with the eggplant and goat cheese rolls.

These are really great, portable appetizers. If you want to take to a party, you can just roll up and place in a tupperware container. When you get to the party, bake for 5 to 10 minutes until just warm and top with the roasted red pepper and artichoke.


Monday, November 14, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

I often say that my birthday (Nov. 7th) kicks off the Holiday season.

Every year for my birthday I receive new Christmas music. Two years ago was a "Christmas by Sinatra" CD, last year was "Elvis' Christmas Album" on vinyl, and this year was "A Very She & Him Christmas" on iTunes.

Since the City of Austin has decorated downtown and I have a new Christmas album, spiced nuts are naturally the next step in paying tribute to the most wonderful time of the year.

In words best sung by Nat King Cole: "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose...", lets roast some nuts, y'all.

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Almonds (slightly altered from Better Homes and Gardens.)

1 egg white, slightly beaten
1 tsp water
2 cups raw almonds
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 and bake almonds (spread in one layer throughout the pan) for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Lower oven temperature to 325. Whisk egg white and water until frothy. Stir in remaining sugar, spice & salt. Mix in almonds until covered completely.

Bake 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through.

Move almonds from the baking sheet to parchment paper to cool. Place in a festive bowl, or bag up as gifts.

On top of the fact that these almonds are easy and so tasty, they will make any house smell like pure Holiday cheer.

Happy (almost) Holidays!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Last week, Ross and I moved into a new home.
It's about a hop, skip and a jump from our old pad.

courtesy of etsy.
One week into the new place I didn't know if the oven worked, much less the stove top. Once I discovered that a wooden match was the gas stove top's best friend, it was time to make this house a home.

Now, what to cook. I had a box of Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup, some pasta, and one bunch of asparagus. Clearly something tasty would come from combining three of my favorite foods... right?

Here's what I did: Cut off & discard the woody ends of the asparagus, and chop up the rest into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Boil one small pot of water (for the asparagus) and one large pot (for the rotini pasta). Toss asparagus into boiling water for 2 minutes, then places immediately into ice water. Add pasta to salty, boiling water and cook until al dente.

Brown hot turkey sausage in a large pan, with 1 tbsp olive oil. When turkey is browned, toss asparagus in with sausage and season with cracked black pepper and garlic powder.

Drain rotini & pour 1/2 to 3/4 cup Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup over the pasta, stirring in sausage and asparagus mixture.

This was the result:

It was a.m.a.z.i.n.g.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Fall Favorites


Fuji, gala, red delicious, granny smith, honeycrisp...


Pumpkin, spaghetti squash, zucchini, acorn squash...

Root vegetables.

Sweet potatoes, carrots, leeks, yukon gold potatoes...

I have a feeling my dishes will be getting a little bit heartier.


Monday, October 31, 2011

Victory Garden

I stumbled upon a really cool group from Portland the other day, Victory Garden of Tomorrow. They design posters that comment on food culture in the US and have the energy of WWII propaganda. I really love how they are merging the worlds of design and food. Here are a couple of my favorites from their website.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Spaghetti No More

We all have spaghetti sauce recipes that are "the best ever." And I'm pretty sure each of the recipes make two to three times more than we could possibly consume in a week.

To be honest, I don't love spaghetti. I like making it because it's quick and easy, but I don't really crave it. However, I do enjoy the aftermath. Containers of spaghetti sauce fully prepared, making leftover creations a breeze.

This time (like every other house in America, we eat spaghetti at least once a month) I decided to make a cheesy-marinara bake. I also happened to have leftover ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and a box of pasta.. so it wasn't a difficult decision...

You will need:

3-4 cups leftover spaghetti sauce
8 oz (or more) low fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (shaved, shredded, or otherwise)
1 box of rotini pasta (whole wheat works perfectly)

What to do:
Cook pasta according to directions on the box, salting the water heavily. Spoon 1/2 cup of spaghetti sauce onto the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish. Pour cooked pasta into the baking dish and season with garlic powder and black pepper. Spoon dollops of ricotta cheese over pasta, and cover with remaining spaghetti sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted.

I'll admit... Not exactly a ground breaking recipe, but the perfect comfort food for the first legitimate cold snap of the season.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chili Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

In true October fashion, I roasted pumpkin seeds this weekend. This was my first go at roasting seeds and it was a thrill. This was one of the easiest snacks I have ever made, and everyone loved them. The time in the kitchen was less than 10 minutes!

What you need:

  • 2 cups raw pepitas (this is just the pumpkin seed after shelling)
  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • 4 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp salt
What to do:

Spread the pepitas evenly in a dry griddle over medium heat. Once the pepitas start making a popping sounds stir them around and wait for the sound again. Roast for 30 more seconds and remove from heat. Pour the seeds into bowl with the rest of the ingredients and stir. Place the bowl in the fridge until the seeds have cooled. Transfer the seeds to a sealed glass jar and start snacking!

This snack recipe is vegan, sugar-free, and gluten-free! Chili powder is high in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Enjoy!

Cooking Diary:

Purchased 2 cups of pepitas and a glass jar.

Spread the pepitas over griddle and started roasting. Mixing bowl ready.

Caroline got spooked by the popping seeds and took cover in Chris's arms.

Mixed the roasted seeds with chili powder, salt and oil. Cooled in fridge.

Transferred seeds to jar to store.

Enjoyed my new snack and a cup of tea on the porch!

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