I call the Super Bowl my Thanksgiving #2. For the past 4 years I’ve gathered with the same group of people and we have feasted while yelling at the tv. To me, this is perfect. It’s a potluck but we have a generous host that always goes over the top with providing everything for a good party. The amount of food could be considered ridiculous.
Here are my contributions to this year’s party:
Homemade herbed goat cheese, Homemade avocado cucumber salsa, Toasted baguettes brushed with truffle oil, Napa valley wine and Heller Bock (very drinkable cheap trader joes beer)
Homemade herbed goat cheese- This is unbelievably easy to make and sounds impressive. It was a big hit at the party. Costco has the cheapest goat cheese I’ve ever seen. I get some every time I go. Let the cheese sit on the counter and come to room temperature, then stir in either fresh herbs or pesto. I have pesto in my freezer from my garden this summer. I just melted that and mixed it in.
Homemade avocado cucumber salsa- Most people don’t know that there are cucumbers in this salsa but they add a nice cooling effect to the serrano I like to add in. Roughly chop avocado (2), cucumber (1), garlic, serrano pepper (1-2), cilantro and place in a food processor with lime juice (1 lime), salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.
Toasted baguettes brushed with truffle oil- the biggest take away from this dish is that Trader Joes sells bottles of truffle oil for about 5 bucks. And that is ridiculous. You can’t afford NOT to get it at that price
Finding the perfect gift for a loved one can be difficult. I have to say, I’m not the world’s best gift-getter. I think the best gift are ones you didn’t even know you wanted until you open them and are amazed. Here are some foodie gifts that I have put to good use.
I didn’t know how much I would use this in my kitchen. It’s larger and easier to read than my phone so I frequently pull recipes I’m trying up on it while I’m cooking. You can get a Kindle for less that a hundred bucks now and that’s an amazing deal.
Slate Cheese board
I prefer my slate cheese board to a traditional wooden one simply because I can write on it. I have dragged a plastic cheese wrapper or two out before to tell my guests what they’re eating and this is a much nicer way to let them know. (around $20-35)
Ceramic Knives- I like the brand Kyocera. They allow you to send them in to be sharpened for life. Ceramic knives hold their edge for longer and slice things like buttah. The small ones are only about 20 bucks and the larger chefs knives only run 40. My household has 2 ceramic knives and I use them daily.
A Mr. Beer! If you read my post on brewing beer, this was how it all started for me. I didn’t even know what a Mr. Beer was when I got one as a gift. Great for your friends who like craft beer to start them making their own. (basic kit is around $55)
SEEDS- if you have any friends that like to garden, this is a wonderful, inexpensive gift. Even the most rare/heirloom variety seeds are $3 on the web. You can give the gift of an heirloom garden!
TV show or Movie based cookbook- They have cookbooks for any show or movie that involves food or feasts. Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Breaking Bad… Google someone’s favorite show and there MAY be a cookbook for it. This also opens up the opportunity for a themed dinner night with them!
These have all be unexpected wonderful presents for me, hope some of them inspire you as well!
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 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 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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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:
4.99 fresh flowers. They’re reasonably priced, seasonal decor that I like to buy almost every week.
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)
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??
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
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
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!
Do y’all remember me saying my #1 item for the new house was a keggerator??? Well here it is!
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
cucumbers and garlic pickles