Friday, November 11, 2011

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

I had a half-can's worth of pumpkin puree to use up after making muffins last week, so I googled pumpkin pancakes and came across this recipe from one of my favorite sites (as you can see by the blog roll on the left).

I loved being able to use whole wheat flour and was able to make my own little blend of pumpkin spice mix - cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg - to throw into the mix. I didn't have cake flour on hand, but AP flour seemed to work just fine for the other 1/3 of the flour mix. I also had no buttermilk but made my own substitute - a handy little trick I learned from my brilliant sister-in-law when she and her kiddos came to stay with us for our wedding.

These pancakes were the perfect dinner for one -- hubby had a boys' night out, and I was craving sweets after a spinach-kale-apple juice smoothie earlier in the day from my favorite juice bar.

I highly recommend this recipe. (And I recommend a cast iron skillet and real butter!) Next time, I'm going to throw some chopped pecans into the batter -- if I can afford them!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I'm Still Here ...! Makin' Muffins

It's been a busy few weeks, and I realize I didn't post at all in October.

I could blame our honeymoon in Argentina (expect a post on that trip soon!), but mostly, I just haven't been the mood to cook, grill, bake.

I have, however, been in the mood to eat.

When we got back from 10 days in the southern hemisphere, it took a few days to get over our colds and get my groove back ... and even longer to get to the store for some groceries. (Though the day we arrived, my sister picked us up at the aiport, deposited us at home, and promptly went to the nearest grocery store. She purchased the ingredients for -- and then cooked us -- a lentil-spinach soup, and filled our fruit bowl with fresh fruits after hearing our cries, that went something like this: "No more meat! No more pasta! Detox! Detox!")

I've finally been to the store, I've cooked a few meals (nothing noteworthy) and I've caught up on emails, caught up with friends, caught up at work, and caught up on the shows I missed while we were away (namely, the premiere of The Walking Dead, Season 2, which I've been eagerly anticipating for about 11 months).

Two days ago, when the calendar struck November, it occurred to me that fall had arrived -- hey, I'm in Texas; fall takes its time -- and I was ready to smell the smells of the season. In my own kitchen, not via the interwebs.

I'd stumbled across this recipe, and immediately bookmarked it. For the rest of the day, no matter how many other seasonal recipes I came across, it was this one that I kept going back to. It looked so easy.

And it was.

I've got very little to add ... though I'll note that I made regular-sized muffins and not minis, and my cook time was about 16-17 minutes at 350 degrees.

Next time, I want to try a cream cheese icing, or perhaps a glaze with orange zest and juice (and zest in the muffin mix, too).

For my first attempt, I followed the recipe closely but tried to up the health factor just a little. I swapped some white sugar for brown, some AP flour for whole wheat ... and I didn't have pumpkin spice, so I threw in a couple of pinches of allspice and nutmeg along with the cinnamon).

Overall, I was very pleased with the dense, moist muffin it yielded in return.

1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1 cup granulated sugar (I used 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated white)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I didn't have, so I added two pinches of nutmeg and two pinches of allspice)
1/4 tsp ground ginger (I skipped this)
1/4 tsp cinnamon (I did this)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1 cup AP and 1/2 cup whole wheat)
About 1 tbsp turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top (I did this)
About 1/2 tsp extra cinnamon for sprinkling on top (I skipped this)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and generously grease up your muffin pan.

In a large bowl, whisk everything but the flour. Then slowly incorporate the flour.

Sprinkle tops of batter with a bit of turbinado sugar (and/or cinnamon, or add a glaze later) and bake in a preheated oven for about 14-18 minutes, or until a fork or toothpick comes out clean.

(Did I mention my favorite thing about this recipe? ONE BOWL, BABY.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Limited Palette

It's not that I'm having all of these crazy aversions to food, with the exception of chicken (ick!) and fresh herbs (too ... fresh).

It's just that things don't really SOUND very good. (Thai is perhaps the one type of food I can stomach - and actually crave - and I'm having Thai twice per week.)

For lunch today, I went to our local H-E-B grocery chain to shop for a Meals On Wheels client and took advantage of the trip, as I often do, to pick a few things for myself. But I wandered the aisles in vain, unable to come up with anything that sounded remotely appealing.

Except the carb-y stuff. I wanted it all ... the biscuits, tortillas, buttermilk pancakes (the microwavable kind for the office--yikes!), toaster waffles, toaster struedel, donuts, croissants and just plain white bread to slather with butter.

I settled on whole wheat raisin bread, low-fat cream cheese and a few kinds of fruit.

Lunch has never been less sexy.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cravings vs. Brain-Boosting Foods

I haven't blogged in exactly seven weeks.

I've been pregnant for all of them, plus another five.

The last few weeks have passed me by. I'm tired, I'm nauseous. I have heartburn and indigestion. I love crackers and lemonade. I hate cilantro. And the smell of our kitchen bugs me no matter how hard I clean it. Which isn't very hard, because I'm not too fond of the smell of cleaning stuff these days, either.

My meals have mostly consisted of some form of carb with some form of cheese or protien. I have to gag down most vegetables but, fortunately, fruit still tastes great and I snack on plenty of it at work and at home.

I'm trying like mad to eat brain-boosting foods - I go through at least one can of sardines a week at work, and walnuts are an almost daily snack.

But most days, all I want is a grilled cheese sandwich. Or a slice of pizza. Plain cheese pizza. Light on the sauce. A foldable, New York-style slice.

I'm headed into the second trimester later this week, and I look forward to eating cilantro (berp) again soon. (Though I may never eat chicken again, and I don't find that idea tragic by any means.)

But for now, I'll take a quesadilla, please. Hold everything but the cheese and tortilla.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What's in my fridge?

Addie Broyles was kind enough to spotlight my fridge a couple of weeks ago.

And I'm such a lame food blogger that posting a link on my own blog didn't even occur to me until now.

And yes, I really am obsessed with Hal's Hot Love.

And yes, the whole thing really is one big ad for Shanita's Salsitas.

And yes, you really should get your hands on some of her salsitas. Immediately.*

*If you don't know HOW to get your hands on some, and you live in Austin, and you write a food blog .... I've got a way you can try some, for free, and even walk away with a couple of jars. Leave a comment with your blog link and I'll send you details about a launch party on July 31st!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Salmon + asparagus + grill

I go back and forth on salmon and asparagus. Is it a perfect pairing, or a cliche?

Last night's dinner has me leaning toward the former.

We just got back from a long weekend out of town to see Mike's family in Tucson, and I'd encouraged the cat sitter to clear out the veggie drawer and the fruit bowl to share with her family. So when we got back into town, our fridge was a mess of condiments, nearly expired milk, cheeses and little else.

I snuck out of work a lil' early to hit my favorite grocery store, on a mission for healthy, detoxifying foods. (We've both put on a bit of weight since the wedding, and we are thankfully both on the same page about knocking the pounds off, focusing on smaller portions while still making good food.)

At the checkout line, I have this habit of looking down at my groceries and trying to determine how a stranger would judge me if they were to pick through my items. I decided they'd be impressed at the colorful array of fruits and veggies -- and they'd wonder why I'm so overweight if I'm shopping like that.

I took the My Fit Foods approach to my shopping -- buying my proteins in reasonable, pre-cut portions (4-5 oz for me, 5-6 oz for him) and made sure we not only had fruits and vegetables on hand, but a precious few starchy treats (Magic Pop! and whole grain English muffins).

I admit it. Last night's meal would have been just as good without the homemade lemon aioli, which we made for a potluck tonight but decided to sample early.

Still, I went to bed with a slightly grumbly stomach after a salad lunch, an aqua fitness class and this healthy, no-carbs dinner. The scale this morning didn't disappoint.

Salmon, slathered in stone ground mustard. Asparagus with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. Both cooked on the grill. Paired with the last bits of roasted tomatoes purchased during a big community garden tomato sale.

Monday, June 13, 2011

House Pizzeria

I'd been craving House Pizzeria for weeks.

I resisted temptation last month, when we drove right past House but decided to go home and make our own pizza with the veggies we had on hand. But ever since I wrote about their potato and goat cheese pizza in my post for Dalia and Hussein's visit, I couldn't get House off my mind.

After a quick stop at a fundraiser and a happy hour for our friend Monica at Opa! Coffee & Wine Bar, Mike and I headed over to House.

The "Noble" was one of the House house specials that evening. When I saw what was on it -- pork belly, goat cheese, arugula and dates -- I decided the goat cheese and potato would have to wait.

The "Noble" was as good as I expected. Sweet and savory came together beautifully on a pizza dough that somehow manages to be chewy and crispy at the same time. I *love* the House crust! Even the burnt bits.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Where I Eat (Or: Recommendations for our Visiting Friends)

My childhood friend Dalia and her honey Hussein are coming to town for 4th of July weekend, and when Hussein asked me to send him a list of my favorite restaurants, I told him I’d write up a post for their trip instead of sending him a numbered list.

My picks have to be stellar for many reasons. First off, Hussein is a chef. In fact, he just got promoted to head chef at an incredible restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona called Zinc Bistro. The upscale, French-inspired bistro was featured on the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” for their French onion soup, and I was lucky enough to try it last year -– along with several other mouth-watering Zinc menu items –- and can report back that it is indeed one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, too. I never did a blog post on Zinc because the restaurant is dimly lit and my pictures were total crap. But I digress.

Hu-Hu, as he is affectionately known, specifically asked me for my top 5 breakfast, lunch and dinner spots.

I think I’ve nailed them down – with a couple of happy hour spots and the like thrown in good measure -- but I’d appreciate any additional comments in the comments section.

I’m secretly – okay, openly and loudly – hoping these two will eventually pack it up and move to Austin. Hu-Hu is a huge Longhorn fan despite never having actually lived in Texas, and Dalia and I grew up together, five hours’ south of here, so I continue to insist she needs to move back closer to home.

Hussein and Dalia are aware that Austin has a great food scene, but Hussein hasn’t spent much time here. So we’ve got to show him just how much Austin has to offer. I’m thinking these suggestions will help:


Counter Café/24 Diner. There are so many reasons to go to Counter Café – or 24 Diner just a few doors down when the wait’s too long at the teeny, tiny counter that once housed my friend Reid’s unforgettable, irreplaceable slider joint. Counter Café has won best burger accolades -- #2 in the state, says Texas Monthly. -- but for breakfast, their ginormous, fluffy blueberry pancake won the hearts of my mom and my grandmother (and me!) on a recent visit. And you’ve never had anything like their pimento cheese sandwich. Next door at 24 Diner, I love their budget-friendly breakfast scramble. It’s a smaller portion of their regular breakfast scramble (but still plenty of food!). With a cup of coffee and nice tip, it’s a great under-$10 breakfast. Others go to 24 Diner for righteous burgers – rightly so, as they rival their award-winning neighbor – and for their chicken and waffles.

Frisco’s. Home to the best biscuits, sausage and gravy this side of the Mississippi. Or at least in Austin. Also, the original owner, Harry Akin, was the first on the Austin restaurant scene to hire black staff and integrate Frisco’s.

Curra’s. Oaxacan coffee is the best mug in south Austin. Great breakfast tacos and chilaquiles. Everything about this place screams "south Austin" - in a good way.

Stubb’s Gospel brunch. Okay, this isn’t the best brunch food in town, but it’s damn tasty for a buffet. They have big silver trays filled with bottomless crispy bacon and the creamiest grits you can find in Austin. And then there’s the LIVE GOSPEL CHOIR to which you can shake your groove thing after you’ve had seven slices of bacon. Unfortunately, Stubb’s ‘indoor’ seating is not all too well ventilated to begin with, but nearing noon in early July it just might not be worth it. Sad face.

Cuban Sandwich Café. The best café con leche in town. Cuban breakfast plate for $5.50 includes eggs, ham or bacon, fries and baguette made in-house. Breakfast tacos and pastries abound. (Cream cheese and guava croissant is my favorite, but Mike likes to mix it up and try something new with each visit.) They’ll be featured on The Food Network later this summer. The owner, Enrique, is a Cuban-born former resident of Miami who keeps his place clean and his prices low. Oh, and it’s in my ‘hood!


Franklin Barbecue. This should be on the breakfast list, because you have to get to Franklin early if you want to eat there. But don’t take my word for it. See what Hitler has to say. The bride & groom at the best Austin wedding of 2011 (after my own, of course) were kind enough to feed us all Franklin’s. I am still grateful.

Torchy’s. Sure, there are far more authentic tacos to be had in this town. But my pals are coming from Arizona and Dalia is from south Texas. These people know authentic tacos, but they’ve never had a Brushfire. If they decide they want authentic, our neighborhood strip mall tacos will more than suffice.

Frank. Fancy hot dogs. Fancy bloody marys. Fancy coffee. Yes, coffee. They have a couple of talented baristas who will serve you some of the best lattes and cortaditos in town. (Oh, and Dalia doesn’t eat pork, but not to fret – most of their dogs are 100% beef and there’s a veggie dog on the menu as well.) I’m looking forward to trying their corn cup -- grilled corn served off the cob with chili mayonesa, lime juice, cilantro and cotija cheese. I used to make this all the time with Valentina hot sauce.

Blue Dahlia/Haddington’s/Foodheads three-way. My friend Dalia will appreciate the name of the first recommendation, but all of these picks get points for Austin-y ambience and fresh, fun twists on regular ol’ sandwiches. I’d probably choose Blue Dahlia over Haddington’s and Foodheads for the pretty factor. The place is just freaking adorable. But I love the patio most, and the patio at Blue Dahlia and outdoor seating at Foodheads will likely be too hot to handle come 4th of July weekend. So I gotta go with Haddington’s. My gourmet grilled cheese with sundried tomatoes was good enough to try re-creating at home, but through most of my meal, I was eyeing my sister-in-law’s fish and chips. I’m going back for those.

Koriente: Dalia and Hu-Hu are health-conscious, so I’m trying to balance things out a bit with this suggestion. Koriente is awesome for about a million reasons. Their sweet potato noodles and mixmix bibimbop are reasons #2 and #3. But my #1 reason for loving this family-run restaurant is this message painted at the back entrance to this downtown gem.

Happy Hour

Fino. Sangrias, bee stings, fried anchovy olives, blistered Padron peppers with sea salt, Mediterranean-inspired patio and menu. I got to attend a food blogger happy hour there long before I had my own blog. I went in Jodi's place (fortunately for me, she had to work late and offered me her spot in exchange for this post). Fino doubles as a favorite Happy Hour and favorite brunch pick, in my book.

Contigo. I haven’t blogged about this one yet, despite two visits, but you can trust Jodi. I’ve sampled many of their menu items since we’ve gone with a group that is willing to share. Nothing has disappointed, but the fried potatoes & pigs ears and ox tongue slider are OMG-musts. It’s going to be hot as balls July 4th weekend, and while the patio is seriously cool – the weather may not be. Dalia is even more heat intolerant than I am. Contigo may have to wait for a future visit.


Just go there. Trust us. And by “us,” I mean every Austinite who has been there.

Foreign & Domestic. Since Uchiko is a little out of our budget these days – saving for late honeymoon in Argentina! – we will hopefully cement our plans for dinner at this Hyde Park spot on their first night in town. My recent hanger steak with fried orzo was memorable, and I wanted to swim in my friend David’s bowl of homemade pasta – but the crispy lamb ribs dusted with sumac and za’atar? If the Food Network asks, I’d say it’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. On this next visit, I’m getting my own plate of ribs.* Not sharing. Nope. I don’t care if you drove here from Arizona and this is your first Austin experience, guys. Get your own ribs. Love you. Mean it. (Side note: The owner of F&D caught some flak earlier this year for an interview with Eater, and I personally think he came across a bit jerky. I'm not alone. I mean, the guy insulted Thomas Keller (not to mention every brand of Austinite to be found south of the river) -- and my friends know I publicly stalk Thomas Keller. I have dedicated evenings to him. Still, as long as Ned Elliot hasn't murdered anyone, I'm going to continue to support his endeavor with many future purchases of crispy lamb ribs.)

Barley Swine/Odd Duck + Gordough’s. Barley Swine is the air-conditioned, grown-up iteration of the Odd Duck Farm to Trailer concept that knocked my socks off a couple of years ago with its grilled duck wings and pork belly sliders. Even the asparagus was elevated to levels I’ve yet to achieve in my kitchen. So given that we’re all on budgets, I’d suggest Odd Duck for a taste of Barley Swine. And I’d suggest Odd Duck because it’s next to Gordough’s. Gordough’s is a ridiculous, divine, indulgent, do-NOT-mention-Weight-Watcher-points star of the Austin trailer food scene. I’ve heard too many people say too many things about how it’s just too much. Too ridiculous, too divine, too indulgent. “They’re just so big!” “Ugh, I can’t eat one of those things. So sweet!” And to them I say, get the hell over yourself and take a few friends. Get a coupla donuts and split them up. No one’s forcing the whole thing down your throat. Now, if you’re on a diet (as I should be) or you just don’t like donuts (get off my blog NOW), I get it. But if you like donuts and if you like sharing with your friends, give this place a try, enjoy every bite and don’t beat yourself up over it, for crying out loud.

Asia Café. This isn’t New York City, and our version of Chintatown is nothing to write home about if you just moved here from New York (or, say, China). But we’ve got some solid options for Asian fare in our town – and Mike and I (and many of our pals) are keen on the mapo tofu, fried rice, noodles, salt and pepper shrimp, water spinach, baby bok choy and various other offerings at Asia Café. (To be fair, Asia Café is not exactly in our town. It’s a twenty-minute drive from our house. Worth the carbon footprint.)

House/Homeslice/Little Deli. I realize I’m cheating with these multiple picks, but the fact is, there are so many good options within any given category. And for me, pizza deserves not only its own category but its own post. This will have to do for now. For me, each of these picks makes the list because they offer both respectable, delectable crusts and fresh inventive toppings. (Note: Eastside Pies wins the Most Inventive, but they are almost exclusively a delivery pizza place.) House and Homeslice are probably better choices for Austin newcomers; Little Deli is a family-friendly neighborhood joint, and I’d confidently recommend it to locals with children. (If you aren't sure what to order, the House goat cheese and potato pizza was the bomb! A minor complaint, as evidence in this picture not even taken by me is that their crust shows up with a few burnt spots most of the time. For some, however, this is a good thng.)

Midnight snack

Chi’Lantro. Everyone will tell you to hit up Kerbey Lane or Magnolia (blech and blech) while you’re in Austin for late-night grub. Thankfully, 24 Diner (see above) is there for those of us who have been here too long to be impressed with mediocre food and bad service. There are others, too, but when you just want a little snack go find the Chi’Lantro truck and get yourself some Sriracha-soaked kimchi fries. I’ve yet to have these fries at the trailer, but my kimchi-fry obsessed friend Johnny Rollerfeet had more than a half-dozen varieties available for us at his birthday gathering recently, and let’s just say you don’t have to be hungry to enjoy the hell out of these smothered papas. You can find ‘em downtown, super duper late – 3AM? I haven’t seen 3AM in a decade! – and I can’t think of anything better for soaking up booze.

Sweet treats

Cake & Spoon. Austin’s downtown farmer’s market holds many treats – hello, Bola breakfast pizza and Dai Due biscuits and sausage! – but for someone who doesn’t live here and can’t take the goods home, I recommend picking up a key lime or chocolate hazelnut tart from the Cake & Spoon folks. They did our wedding groom’s tarts in lieu of a groom’s cake. I can’t say enough about these tarts, from the flavorful fillings to the thick, crumbly crusts. So much goodness in such a little package. Cupcakes are jealous.

*How much for one rib?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Memorial Day weekend in my south Texas hometown. Dinner for 11 - with leftovers galore! - on my dad's awesome Argentinian grill.

(See, I told you it hasn't been all carbs.)

Monday, May 16, 2011


My diet is a bit more balanced than this blog would indicate, I assure you, but the only pictures I've managed to snap lately have been home-cooked and carb-heavy.

Last week, we found ourselves with a huge bunch of water spinach from the Asian grocery store, and rather than do the usual saute, Mike suggested a pesto with sunflower seeds (the only nut we had at home besides almonds) and a little basil from our herb garden.

I loved using our spinach that way, even though it wasn't the best pesto I've ever had.

(And, no, those aren't the largest sunflower seeds on Earth; we used mini farfalle pasta.)

The next day, we had a bunch of pesto left that I couldn't let go to waste, but I didn't want the same dish twice. (I have a problem with this. I'll gladly eat dinner leftovers for lunch, but I don't like to eat the same dinner twice when it's so easy to 'repurpose' the same foods.) So, what to do with that pesto?

I was reading "Blood, Bones & Butter" for one of my book clubs, and I must have seen the word ravioli among the pages, because I stopped for ricotta on the way home from work and asked Mike to make pasta dough. Ta-da! Spinach-ricotta ravioli.

And last night, after wrapping up an Austin weekend for the books -- checking out a new(ish) spinoff of our favorite Chinese restaurant, a movie we could both agree on, a new water sport, my first bike ride in a decade, a Saturday afternoon BBQ, dim sum brunch on Sunday with friends, a return to a new neighborhood spot with more friends, and a trip to Barton Springs for a book club gathering -- I was craving carbs. Again. Specifically, I was craving pizza. (Even though I didn't swim, my appetite grew exponentially in two short hours at Barton Springs.)

We were dropping off friends who'd joined us at the Springs and who live dangerously close to House Pizzeria. House is definitely in my Top 3 for Austin pizza. We were tempted, but Mike pointed out we had plenty of veggies at home and I knew we'd be able to find an easy, no-rise dough recipe on the interwebs. (My dad's crust is my latest go-to, but we were hungry and just didn't have the patience to wait on rising dough.)

Motivated by hunger (and happy to be saving the $20 while using up some of the veggies in our fridge), we turned out a roasted eggplant and zucchini pizza on thin crust in under an hour. He sauteed, I kneaded. It was a really good call.

I'm planning to break this carb kick with Hebrew National dogs (Saturday BBQ leftovers) and asparagrus on the grill tonight, a fajita potluck tomorrow and short ribs with our lovely friends (and conveniently close neighbors) on Thursday.

And then there will be Friday.

Friday, we have reservations for Austin's only five-star restaurant. It's the one-year anniversary of the day Mike proposed and the eve of my 38th birthday.

If I could only schedule my workouts the way I schedule meals.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dutch baby

Ever since I tore into my first Dutch baby at a north Austin strip mall eatery, it soared to the top of my Favorite Brunch Foods Of All Time list. That was a few months ago, when Mike and I were half-moved into our new home and decided to take a break amid the hubbub and treat ourselves to a fuel-filled breakfast.

We haven't made it back to the Original Pancake House -- and now we might not have to.

Our first attempt at a homemade Dutch baby was surprisingly delectable, and we didn't even use whole milk! (Side note: Are there many childless adults out there who keep a regular supply of whole milk in their fridge?)

Mike did all of the work on this one, but I still wanted to capture this steering wheel of a pancake in all its glory. The final product, once it's puffed in the oven and then collapses on itself within moments of coming out, is delicious on its own but most popularly paired with a healthy squirt of fresh lemon juice and sprinkling of confectioner's sugar.

Oh, baby, was it good.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bahn Mi

My first banh mi experience occurred at an impromptu lunch this week with the hubby, who was looking for a lunch companion via Facebook, forgetting that I regularly stalk him via social networking.

After strong-arming him into lunch, we agreed to meet in north Austin's Chinatown at Lily Sandwich. It's an unassuming little shop, not terribly clean but certainly not dirty enough to sound any alarms.

It's possible I couldn't really distinguish the three different types of "meat" in my sandwich. But I loved the fresh cilantro, pickled carrots and cucumber, and their crunchy-soft baguette. I also loved the budget-friendly price ($3.25) and getting to see Mike for one of our rare lunches together.

Their baguette was so fresh, we bought a few loaves (made in-house) to take to a friend's house for dinner later that evening -- and I'm pretty sure I'll be asking Mike to bring some home on a semi-regular basis as Lily isn't far from his office.

Side note: One Yelp reviewer mentioned that the guy taking their bubble tea order tried to gyp them out of a couple of bucks. The same thing happened to us, and my guess is that their bubble tea guy is the same guy who made our sandwiches. We ordered two sandwiches at $3.25 each, plus a can of soda. I figured that would come to no more than $8-$9, yet the man behind the counter simply said "Ten dollars." After a couple of minutes - we stood watching while he made our sandwiches - another guy rang us up with an actual calculator. Even with a last-minute egg roll thrown into our order, our real total came to just under $9. So, sure, the sandwich maker was trying to make a couple extra bucks off of us. Not cool, sandwich guy. But I'll keep going back, and I'll just call him out on his erroneous math if it happens again.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Carbs for breakfast -- croissants and cafe con leche at our favorite little Cuban cafe. Carbs and veggies for dinner - popcorn and goat cheese salad at my favorite movie theater.

I was clearly in need of some fruit and dairy at lunch to balance out the day:

Summer's arrived in Austin, Texas.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Garee curry

Last night after work and a 40-minute walk around the neighborhood with the boxing octopus and her youngest, I pulled some broccoli and shitake mushrooms out of the fridge and stared at them for a few minutes trying to figure out how to prepare them before they went bad.

Roasting broccoli is one of my favorite methods, but that wasn't going to work for the mushrooms. I could saute them both together, but that didn't sound very good and I wasn't sure what spices I'd use and what I'd pair them with.

I eventually landed at soup (it's still technically spring in Austin, right?), and then realized we were fresh out of veggie or chicken broth. So I went to the pantry, where I was reminded that we had 9 jars of assorted curry pastes and a couple of cans of coconut milk from recent cooking classes at Thai Fresh , which incidentally sells various quality Thai ingredients in their adorable south Austin restaurant for at-home cookin'.

I've always loved my garee curry the traditional way - with chunks of chicken, potatoes, carrots and onions, served wtih enough rice to soak up all of the spicy, creamy goodness that's left at the bottom of the bowl. And I've always had three local favorite spots for garee -- Thai Fresh, Madam Mam's and Titaya's. (Titaya's holds a sweeter spot in my heart as it's also the site of my first date with the man who would become my husband.)

Still, I'm happy to say, after last night's attempt at garee - made with broccoli, mushrooms and onions, sans rice and other carbs - my new favorite local spot for garee curry is my own kitchen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

No-knead bread

I could not resist cutting a slice off this no-knead loaf after 30 minutes of cooling, even though the recipe urges you to wait an hour.

Oh, don't look at me like that. It was 11:00pm, and I needed to get in bed.

I slathered my first warm slice with some room temperature butter, which I like to leave out on the counter despite my hubby's mocking and judgment. This morning, I slathered another slice with butter and some blackberry cobbler filling we're still picking on from a not-so-recent potluck. (We made a lousy blackberry cobbler in the slow cooker and couldn't bear to throw away the fresh fruit filling.)

I'm so glad Stella has been experimenting with no-knead recipes for long enough that she was able to recommend her favorite. Sparing me from the testing.

This bread was phenomenal. Is phenomenal. I hope to make fresh loaves a regular thing.

I went the plain route on my first loaf because I wanted to see exactly what this bread tasted like all on its own. But I plan to play with my bread in the future. Next up: rosemary and sea salt. Down the line: sundried tomatoes? cheddar and jalapenos? whole wheat flour? rolled oats?

I don't know about man, but this woman could do just fine on this bread alone. Especially if paired with some salami and soft cheese ....

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Taste the Love

My friend Shanita recently launched a homemade salsa biz. She's in the process of getting all of her licenses and whatnot in order, but she's already selling salsas through word of mouth, Facebook, out of the trunk of her Volvo station wagon and parties hosted by friends (like yours truly).

She makes several kinds of salsa (four staples and a range of seasonal salsas), but my love, my obsession, is the Hal's Hot Love - a creamy, garlicky roasted jalapeno salsa that I just can't get enough of. I often build my meals around Hal's.

You would, too, if you had two (ok, three) jars in your fridge. (Four if you count the one I keep at the office!)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

hopdoddy = family

I've only been to Austin's new bustling, enviro-friendly burger spot twice. Both times were with family. The first time, a large group of us went on a Saturday afternoon, and I had a regular ol' mushroom-and-swiss burger that was anything but regular.

My little sister was dying to go back and we agreed to have lunch - which we don't do often enough - when she was scheduled to get out of her nursing job earlier than usual.

We'd committed early on to sharing a burger with a salad, and she convinced me to try the Janis Joplin. This hemp seed veggie patty was so meaty and fresh, you could see the bits of lentil throughout. All of the fixin's -- avocado, sprouts and Tillamook Cheddar with a slathering of Mustard -- made it look and taste substantial. (This is key for meat lovers who find themselves eating meatless burgers.)

The $6 field greens salad was generous in size and topped off with killer croutons that can only be homemade, like the Hopdoddy buns.

My half of the salad and half of the buger ($7.50 total) was the perfect lunch. My sister is the perfect lunch companion.

In fact, the only thing about our lunch at hopdoddy that wasn't perfect was the crappy photo I took on my iPhone:

Friday, April 1, 2011

barley swine

The only critiques I heard about barley swine had more to do with the quantity of animal products on the menu than with the food itself.

And while I am falling deeper and deeper in love with carbs, I am my father's daughter, and, well, he owned a steak house and was raised in Argentina. Sweetbreads weren't some weird food that people in other parts of the world consumed; they were a regular feature in the asados of my childhood.

And barley swine might have served up some of the best sweet breads I've ever had. Even if they did cost $13 for two small pieces.

Sweetbreads with garlic puree, roasted brussel sprouts and braised bacon

The sweetbreads of my childhood, I confess, were not sourced from local farms nor were they served on fancy plates in an urban setting. I understand the need to charge $13.

Our meal began after a ridiculously short wait (about 10 minutes on a Saturday night; the hostess told us we'd gotten lucky) with the complimentary olives, one beer and one diet coke. Five small plates and $90 later, we were satisfied and impressed with this fun and trendy spot. Just not crazy about the price tag.

The lows: There were absolutely no lows for me during our visit. My husband would probably argue that the seating arrangement was a low. Tables of six forced parties of two to sit next to strangers; in his case, his right arm was up agains the wall and his left arm was up against a strange but cute blonde woman who wasn't his wife. More awkward for him than for me, I suspect.

The mediums: The jerk-rubbed pork belly came with grilled sweet potato and kale salad. Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite foods. They have so much potential for, well, sweetness. Grilling them seems to be one of the blandest possible ways to serve it. The pork belly itself was just fine. But at $12 for a modest-sized piece, I couldn't help but think of the mouth-watering hunk of pork belly we'd oven roasted from the farmer's market that set us back a mere $18 and fed us for two dinners and two amazing PBLTs the following day.

The medium-high: The scallop dish was lovely. Especially the parsnip puree with vanilla and saffron ... though my not-so-refined palate couldn't make out the saffron or vanilla, as hard as I tried. The leeks were equally subtle, but not bland. The scallops themselves? Just fine, cooked as they should be, but I love a really good crust or sear on a scallop. I wish they'd take that step for added caramelization.

The orgasmic: Braised short ribs, celery root, trumpet muschrooms and black truffle shavings. The picture does not do this plate justice. Every bite was perfection. It was among the most elevated forms of 'meat and potatoes' I've personally experienced.

Also among the orgasmic was that previously mentioned sweetbreads dish.

The kicker for us was the $90 price tag for five small plates, one beer and one diet coke. It was a wee overpriced for what we got. And yet ... when you look around the packed room, at the many bustling waitstaff and chefs in plain sight (thanks to a contemporary open kitchen style), and you think about the quality product you're being served, and the prime location in one of Austin's hippest neighborhoods ... the $90 made sense. It just doesn't make sense ... regularly. This will be a special-occasion spot in my book.

I'm looking forward to seeing how their menu changes this spring and beyond.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Homemade pizza

I was warned my love of carbs would grow with age. I've always been the kind to choose a steak over a cake, oysters and shrimp over rolls and biscuits. But that's changing ...

Owning a Kitchen Aid, procured through marriage, makes it a lot easier to produce tasty carbs in my own home.

Last night, for example, my sister and I tried to replicate our dad's famous pizza dough -- and while we missed the mark, we came closer than our past attempts. Now, my dad made his dough by hand, but Mike suggested we use our still-new-to-us silver toy, and I'll be darned if that dough hook doesn't do a beautiful job of kneading!

We kept last night's toppings simple: thinly sliced prosciutto, grated fresh Parmesan and arugula tossed with fresh lemon juice, olive oil and salt.

(Oh, and P.S. - I realize I've published two pizza posts in a row but in all fairness, they were eaten days apart!)

(Expect a post soon on whole wheat honey bread. Which I'll share and eat in moderation.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Simple Lunch: Pita Pizza

Here's another one of those simple lunchtime meals. (Only three ingredients for this healthy, light* lunch. Or five, in my case, since I used three kinds of cheese.)

Phoenicia's pita bread, vine tomatoes, a 1/2 slice of provolone, a 1/2 slice of mozzarella and a few crumbles of blue cheese. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

*You might look at all the cheese and think ... light? Well, yes. I mean it's better than any take-out, drive-through style lunch and lighter than most restaurant fare. And my Weight Watchers tracker tells me it's an 8-9 point lunch. Not too terrible for something so tasty. (Oh, and I was hungry about two hours after I ate it ... not the kind of lunch that weights you down all day.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Some thoughts can belong to you and only you


According to some, those of us who have not properly paid tribute to Japan via Facebook or Twitter or on our own personal blogs are terrible, superficial twits who cannot recognize real tragedy despite 24-hour news cycles, the blogosphere and, you know, our own sense of human empathy.

I am a self-absorbed asshole because I have not ceased and desisted from food blogging, or going out to dinner, or watching a movie. In fact, why am I eating at all when people in Japan are standing in food lines? How dare I go on and on about food and the weather and the hipsters that have invaded my weird city this week when thousands of people have been devastated? I should be sure to reference war- or disaster-torn regions when making crepes and cakes. Because, by golly, people around me are suffering and it cannot go unacknowledged!

I should take the lead of those with a moral compass better than my own. Like one food blogger -- usually one of my favorites, so I'm sad to be picking on her of all people -- who recently posted a ham-and-endive recipe.

"I look at that white plate with two baked endives sitting up there and I see so much more. A hungry, black tide swallowing up everything in its path. An old man walking along a cleared path through utter devastation, weeping. Two parents kneeling in front of the muck-slicked car that held the body of their daughter at the wheel. Nuclear reactors on the precipice."
REALLY?! Where on Earth did YOUR endives come from, lady?

Her post angered and annoyed me.

It angered me because she was no doubt paranoid about food blogging and the attacks that have come with it this week. So perhaps it's those who are attacking that angered me, and it's only annoyance I feel towards this blogger.

Annoyance because she gave in. She got all torn up and guilty and gushing-with-apologies, stating that "writing about anything else, about lunch or cupcakes or Paula Deen's artichoke-spinach dip, feels deeply weird."

So then why did you do it?

I read her post, her lovely words -- and they rang hollow. I interpreted them as follows:

"I'd really like to share this ham and endives recipe, but all the other food bloggers are acknowledging the tragedy that hit Japan this week, or they're getting slammed for *not* acknowledging it. So I just want everyone to know how much I care. I'm really tortured by what's happened this week. Enjoy the ham and endives!"

Forced, fake, full of guilt.

So I'm just here to say a big EFF YOU to those people who feel that they can pounce on someone for continuing with their lives in the face of tragedy. Because, guess what, you self-righteous assholes? TRAGEDIES ARE HAPPENING EVERY MINUTE, EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Why aren't you this upset every fucking day?

Most of the tragedies taking place EVERY MINUTE, EVERY SINGLE DAY are not acts of God or natural disasters or occurences beyond our control. They're tragedies that don't have to happen. Like famine, malaria, politics, HIV, murder, drug wars. Tragedies we could be doing something about.

It makes me feel a bit smug to think that the couple of folks who got under my skin this week via Twitter probably do less volunteer work in a year than I do in a month. But the fact that I feel the need to acknowledge that pisses me off. I can't even say that "what's happening in Japan is heartbreaking" without feeling like I, too, have to concede to the universe or Twitterverse, admit that I care, that I have actually thought about the tragedy and the death and the destruction even WHILE I AM BAKING A CAKE. Because if I don't say it, then I must not be thinking it. Surely I haven't had a few moments to myself -- private, non-Tweetable moments -- when I have shed a tear or experienced a pang of pain for the man who lost his wife, the hundreds of newly orphaned children, the helpless animals who were swept away in the waters. And if I haven't shared these thoughts in a forum or manner accpetable to others, then they haven't really happened and surely I'm a self-absorbed, superficial twit. But I know I'm not.

Instead, I'm going to be the jerk that says Go Fuck Yourself for making any of us feel badly.

And when you're done, please send a check to the Red Cross.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

St. Louis ooey gooey, continued

This ooey gooey cake was certainly both ooey and gooey going into the oven. It was probably even ooey and gooey most of the way through.

I'm blaming the end result on our (still new to me) oven.

Deb's recipe called for a 30-45 minute cooking time and warned of overcooking. I followed the instructions and set the oven timer for 30 minutes. I actually pulled the cake out at about 28 minutes. In retrospect, this was about 5-7 minutes too late.

The resulting cake was ... well, cake-y, to be sure. But nothing gooey, ooey or even terribly buttery about it. I was so upset I forgot to sprinkle some confectioner's sugar on the finished product and instead immediately sliced it up and delivered it to Neighbors with Superior Cooking Skills*, who might still appreciate this with their morning coffee. As of this evening's two tastings (I had to have two pieces to confirm its mediocrity), it was, as they say, not really worth the calories.

*I got to try Boxing Octopus' salt and pepper sandwich cookies today. Her post on them partially inspired me to do some baking today. I have a feeling, with today's sweets swap, she definitely got the short end of the stick!

St. Louis gooey butter cake

I'm in a rare mood.

I want to bake.

Which means I'm turning to my favorite food blogger for some inspiration. (I really wanted to make these awesome raspberry bars but that would require leaving the house for preserves.)

So I'm letting these come to room temp while I vascillate between wanting to go the productive route (laundry/cleaning) but leaning towards an It's-Spring-Forward-Sunday-gimme-a-break route (DVR).

Stay tuned. Even if this doesn't turn out well, the house should smell good for the rest of the day.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Whole Foods Udon Noodle Bowl

I re-joined Weight Watchers a few weeks ago, and suffice it to say, progress has been slow. I'm down 3 pounds in 4 weeks. Not terrible, but I know I can do better.

One of the ways that'll happen is by eating healthy meals that don't taste or look or feel like diet foods.

This hot udon noodle bowl - fish broth, noodles, spinach and scallions - is one shining example. I haven't checked, but my guess is this is a three- to four-point lunch. And only $6. Not bad at all, considering I got it at Whole Paycheck.

I suspect this bowl and I will become good friends in the weeks and months to come.