Homemade Vegetable Stock

For me, cold weather means turning on my oven for roasting and eating ALL THE SOUPS.

The right way to start any soup is with a good, homemade stock. Yes, making stock can take a long time but what else you got going on during a freezing Sunday before work?? Plus, food is THE BEST air freshener for your whole house. This week I was in luck.  We had a small company birthday party and there was a veggie tray that everyone steered clear of. I took home the extra because I hate wasting a perfectly good two thirds of a mirepoix.

Vegetable stock

Vegetable stock

Vegetable stock recipe

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2-3 carrots (i had baby carrots and just plopped two handfuls in)

1 onion, quartered (don’t bother to peel)- I also save onion peels in my freezer and add them to stock

1-3 celery (from the veggie tray- just a couple of handfuls as well)

2 or 3 cloves garlic (don’t bother to peel)

SPICES- salt pepper, 1-2 Bay leaves, I just used Italian seasoning as well (spices are all dependent on what you like)

Add the oil to a stock pot and sautee over medium heat the carrots, onion , celery and garlic for about 5-7 minutes- until they start to brown. Then add 6-8 cups of water (depending on the size of you pot). Add in all your spices and let simmer for 1-2 hours. Drain out all the vegetables and take out the spices.

I freeze half of mine for the winter and use the other half over the next week or so. This stock is great for any soup and I like it use it when I make winter ramen as well.

Napa Valley- How I had a Successful Trip

Napa Valley is a place that has long been on my “must see” list. I had a few lady friends mentioned that we should all go together and we collectively put our feet down and did it! We all booked flights and my lovely organized friends booked a place for us to stay and even a driver. * Don’t drink and drive folks*

Ladies weekend in Napa

Ladies weekend in Napa

My recommendations:

Stop at a grocery store: This may seem like an odd one but you will not regret it. Snacking with wine tasting is ESSENTIAL. We were staying outside of Napa proper and there was a gem of a market there. (Glen Allen Super Market) Gourmet sandwiches, phenomenal cheese plates are normal finds here and some vineyards will let you have food while you sample wine.

Rent from Air BnB or Home Away: If you’re staying for a few days it’s glorious to be able to wake up and make a big breakfast.

Our blissful homemade breakfast

Our blissful homemade breakfast

Hire a Driver: All of us LOVED our driver. He felt out what our wine preferences were and really lead us around based on our feedback. He really steered us in the right direction. (hehe see what I did there??)  We used Da Vine Wine Tours. Worth every penny.

Head OUTSIDE Napa: Tastings in Napa run a high price.  There are a lot of award wining wineries in the surrounding areas that won’t charge $30 for a tasting, research those before you go. Also, mention to your driver that you’re willing to leave the Napa bubble

Visit Yountville:  is quaint, cute and the biggest draw is the Bouchon Bakery (owned by The French Laundry Chef- Thomas Keller). Bouchon has a to-go bakery where you can walk up and grab some macaroons or warm cheesy sandwiches to go.

Build a day off into your itinerary: If you’re there for 4 days or more, that’s a LOT of wine tasting. I would take a day to head into The City or plan some other day trip in the surrounding area. Your liver will thank you.

Don’t be shy about a brewery tour!: While it’s known for it’s wine, the Napa area has a strong brewing scene as well.  The famous Pliny the Elder IPA hails from the Napa Valley and you can see where it’s brewed at the Russian River Brewing Co.

napa pliny the Elder

You know I had to try the beer there too ;)

We’re already talking about another trip to Napa. Now that I know these tips, the second trip will be EVEN better than the first.

 

My Original Art by Valentina Design

Moving from my one bedroom apartment to my new house means that I have a LOT more space and only enough furniture/decor for one room and a kitchen. I’m trying not to buy things like a crazy mad woman because I just bought a house and I am not made out of money (can we fix that somehow) but I found this artist that I’ve LOVED.

First I saw this: Shower curtain

Shower Curtain

Shower Curtain

There is no way I’m spending $85 on a shower curtain. I. Just.Can’t. So I googled the artists name to see if I could buy anything directly from her. ETSY to the rescue!! She has a shop.

Here it is: Valentina Design (in case you have the same taste as me)

I was able to buy 4 prints for an extremely reasonable price (pictured below). She also sent me some BONUS post cards that I are too cute. I’ve put them in some frames around the house as well.

My 4 framed pictures

My 4 framed pictures

I had such a great experience from her and love her stuff so much that I thought I’d give her some recognition. THANK YOU, Valentina Designs, for help decorating my new home!

Trader Joes Comes To Austin

One if the things I missed most about Southern California while I’ve been in Austin is Trader Joes. There just are certain, well-priced, items that are only available there.  Ask my friends. I would go home to visit and I would leave with a bag of Trader Joes non-perishable items.

I need fret no more- Austin has Trader Joes!  My top 3 favorite perishable items, that I can now get on a weekly basis are as follows:

Trader joes 2

4.99 fresh flowers. They’re reasonably priced, seasonal decor that I like to buy almost every week.

Trader Joes 3

Frozen Croissants- Simply put them out over night to rise and pop them in the oven in the morning for one of the best breakfasts you’ll ever have. They have Chocolate filled, almond and, in fall, pumpkin. I call this my “treat yo-self” breakfast. (a term coined by show Parks and Recreations)

Trader joes

Technically this is two items. 1) Trader joes cheeses. They have a fantastic selection that I could just get lost in and yet still not lose my wallet. 2) Seasonal produce specials. In this case FIGS. These two pounds of figs were only about 5 bucks. That is a great deal. There are seasonal items like this on sale all the time. Some of their standard produce isn’t for me but these deals are not to be missed.

Can you tell how happy I am that a piece of home has opened in Austin?? :)

Turf N Surf Po’Boy Trailer

Working smack in the center of downtown Austin, TX has it’s advantages.  My #1 favorite of them is THE FOOD.  There are lunch options a plenty and I have about 3-5 absolute favorites.  The type of favorite where if you simply say their name, I’m IN.

Turf N Surf Po’boy is right up there with the favorites. This place started as a food trailer about 3-4 years ago and now has expanded to multiple locations. Currently, I visit the downtown, brick and mortar location inside the Lavaca Bar and Grill. They have outside seating, a walk up window for to-go orders and indoor seating as well.

Seating outside or in

Seating outside or in

I have two favorite orders here. 1) the fried or blacked catfish poboy 2) the pork tacos.

Note, these are NOTHING like a po’boy from NOLA so don’t expect that. Expect an almost open faced sandwich or two over stuffed tacos. Every main dish item you order here can be either a poboy, salad or a taco. I’ve never done the salad. I think the poboy and the tacos come with enough fresh veg on them that I’m not missing out by not ordering a salad.

Fried catfish poboy

Fried catfish poboy

They have a changing menu of items based on what seafood they can get at the market. These tend to be a bit more pricy but my standards are always reasonably priced. Everything always is fresh and well prepared. There are sides like cilantro fries and jalapeno hush puppies, but unless you’re splitting everything with another person, it is WAY too much food (I guess you could make it two meals). If you’re in town, give it a try!

 

My DIY Keggerator

Do y’all remember me saying my #1 item for the new house was a keggerator??? Well here it is!

new house kegerator 2

It’s nothing pretty (I’m going to work on that) but it’s functional and mine!

Why didn’t I buy a pre -made keggerator? 1) I’m stubborn 2) I wanted to get some kegs for home brewing with my DIY kit.

I have to say that in the end, the price wasn’t THAT different from what you can buy online but I’d still do it the same way because this is exactly how I wanted it. There are ways to make it cheaper. You could buy a used fridge off of craigslist but I wanted to know mine would last so I bought new and had it shipped for free. The entire thing came together in a day; buying all the items to make that one day happen, took a lot of research and a few weeks.

Basic steps:

1) get a fridge or freezer

2) get a keg conversion kit- I got this one. I came with two empty kegs, a Co2 canister, and all the lines and tap for the two kegs.

Keg converter Kit

Keg converter Kit

3) TOOLS- you’ll need something to drill a hole into your fridge/freezer. That way the lines can be pulled through. We used a large drill bit on a powerful drill. Wrenches for getting those bolts to hold the piping down.

4) I wanted two taps so I got a T shaped pvc plumbing pipe from home depot. Make sure you get the bolts n nuts you need while there too.

5) Finally, you’ll need some insulation to fill in the holes you make so your fridge can keep itself cold. This can be from your home depot run too.

6) OPTIONAL- add a temperature regulator. If you have a freezer this is needed to make sure all your beer wont freeze. You need to wire it in to your unit and this is something I called for help on. I suggest a LOT of youtubing or making friends with someone who’s better at hard wiring electronics (sorry, I’m no help!)

It’s a LOT of work and research but this post should start to point you in the right direction. At least you’ll have an idea of what you’re getting yourself into.

 

 

Snow Monster comes to Austin, TX

First off, because we live in sweltering heat a large part of the year, Austin loves snow cones or anything icy. Now in comes a great new sweet and cold treat for those terribly hot days.

The snow monster!

Mango is the most popular flavor

Mango is the most popular flavor

The snow monster’s mystic origins call from Taiwan. What is it? Basically you take regular ice OR ice cream and shave it into incredibly thin ribbons. These will melt like snowflakes on your parched tongue. Then drizzle it with some fruit sauce and select the toppings of your choice.  Toppings range from fruit, to fruit jelly, to boba. Mango seems to be the house favorite but my favorite is the taro flavor with taro  jelly and some mango on the side. Tip: go with a friend because the serving size could be considered too large for one person to devour. (or be like me and eat it all and ask your friend to share too)

Taro snow monster with taro jelly and mango

Taro snow monster with taro jelly and mango

This place is NO WHERE near me but I’ll go for a drive when I crave it.

You can check our their site here: Snow Monster Austin

They have seasonal flavors and regular ones. They also have a “rewards” program; a buy x number and get 1 free type program. Can’t recommend trying it at LEAST once enough.

How to make Pickles from your garden

Good news: My garden has been successful!

Now I have an abundance of both beets and cucumbers. Pickling seems like a difficult process but it doesn’t have to be.  I should be clear that I knew this pickles would be consumed quickly and weren’t meant to last for years in a cellar.

cucumbers for pickling

cucumbers for pickling

beets from the garden

beets from the garden

I did the easiest, no-fuss recipe I could find. I’ve done more complicated recipes, I just didn’t want to fuss with anything too much this time. Simple, basic, good. I used the same recipe for both veggies but kept them separate because I didn’t want to mess up the color of the cucumbers.

Fridge Pickles (must be eaten within 3 months)

1 pound of veggies you’d like to pickle

1/2 cup vinegar (I use a mix of cider and white)

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon pickling spice (you can make your own. This time, I just used the generic “pickling spice”)

*For beets only- wash thoroughly and boil for about 45 minutes until they are completely cooked. My garden beets also need to be peeled because they developed a tough outer layer of skin.

Combine vinegar, sugar, salt and spices in a pot and simmer on low for 5 mins. While this is simmering, chop your vegetables and place them in your clean pickling jars. Pour pickling liquid over your sliced vegetables while it’s still warm and immediately seal.  I let mine cool on the counter for a few hours and then put them in the fridge.  You can start eating them in about 5 days and they were gone within the month.

I love pickled beets on salads with goat cheese or just straight up (blood red fingers and all). The cucumbers are great on sandwiches and I can’t have a grilled cheese without a pickle! Hope your family loves them as much as I do.

Pickled beets and onions

Pickled beets and onions

cucumbers and garlic pickles

cucumbers and garlic pickles

New car! Hyundai Accent

Well I got into a bit of an accident.  I’m fine, so that’s good. The car, on the other hand, has seen better days. I have a 10 year old Toyota right now. It’s run great this past decade but with a 3 week wait period to fix it, I figured it was time to upgrade. I’ll still have both cars, which will be great if anyone visits.

new car!

new car!

I’m pretty excited to have another BRAND NEW car parked in my brand new garage :)

As you might imagine, this has kept be super busy the last few weeks. Food related post is up next!

Home Gardening

New house. New Projects.

WAY TOO MANY new projects. The lists never end!

At the tippy top of my new home list were two things.. 1) Make a Keggerator 2) backyard garden

I guess the “responsible” choice was the garden… I’ll get my keggerator… sooner rather than later.

new house winter garden

My new backyard garden

How we did it:

I don’t recommend buying a kit. They’re entirely over priced. We simply went to the lumber aisle of home depot and picked out some 8 foot long planks (8-10 inches tall). Then we chose to break up the garden a bit instead of having one BIG box. The easiest way to do this is have your lumber provider cut your wood in half or thirds for you (depending one what sized garden you want). The get some screws and brackets to hold the whole thing together. That is actually the EASY part. The hard part is figuring out the soil!

How much do you need? Should you buy bags of dirt or bulk? HOW do you buy BULK dirt?

Thank goodness there are “soil calculators” all over the internet. I found that they over estimated the amount of soil I needed but it wasn’t a big deal.

Bags of dirt or bulk? For me, this all depends on where you live. As a rule, I’d say bulk buy whenever possible. It’s ALWAYS cheaper in bulk. The problems with bulk buying dirt are delivery and availability. Most places will charge a delivery fee that make the savings of buying in bulk non-existent.

In Austin we have a fabulous gardening center that allows you to either “bag your own” dirt or, if you have a truck, they will just plop 1/2 a cubic yard of dirt in your bed. Having a truck is by far the cheapest way to get your soil but the bag it yourself option was very reasonable too.

What to plant?  THIS is the fun part. Of course, always plant seasonally but GO WILD. I’ve planted arugula,  2 different spinach types, beets, carrots, cucumbers…. I plant mine all from seed (it’s cheaper but more risky).  Since I live in Texas, where it almost never freezes, I think I’m going to try for year round greens.  Light lettuces in the summer and perhaps chard or kale in the winter.

I can’t wait to show you all the fruits of my labor!