If you only have a second in Austin, here’s where you should grab a bite

We’re in town for Sister-in-Law’s wedding this weekend and it’s always a whirlwind to see everyone, do everything and putting a wedding into the mix makes for a busy weekend.  But it doesn’t mean that I won’t stop at one of these places.

If you have a quick visit to Austin planned, here are some of my guilty pleasures:

  1. Taco Cabana– Think of a sit down Taco Bell with booze and homemade tortillas.  It’s quick, it’s pink and it’s really good.  I always swing by for a breakfast burrito.
  2. Bill Miller BBQ– Rancher plate.  For $5 you get one meat, two sides and a large iced tea.
  3. SaltLick– Brisket. This is good stuff opposed to Bill Miller which is cheap and tasty.  The BBQ sauce here is vinergy, but has that wasabi appeal to it.
  4. Kolaches- Get them anywhere, I have a few favorite spots, but Kolaches are the best in Central Texas.
  5. Katz– Did you know Schlotzsky’s is an Austin based company? So, imagine a deli like that before it became a chain.  This place is awesome.

Guilty pleasures.  Where would we be without them?

What? Everyone’s doing it. Get off my back.

I’m really surprised that AT didn’t get whiplash tonight when we were watching Desperate Housewives.  You see I had her over for dinner and to help me determine the best places to put my Christmas trees.*  She gave me a hard time earlier when I said I was putting up some decorations.  When the scene in Desperate Housewives cut to Bree putting her holiday cards together, it was too funny.

Here I was, in the kitchen with my coordinating apron cooking home made mac and cheese, pumpkin bread and preparing to bake apples.

More on that later, I want to give some quick fly-bys of some of the food that passed my way this weekend:

  1. RoadRunner Park Farmer’s Market- There’s a very informational web site you Phoenix-Phoodies (oh, that’s so funny, get it, PHoenix-PHoodie, omg) should bookmark, it’s the Arizona Community of Farmer’s Markets.  With the cooler weather comes more variety from local farms.  I got the best stone ground bread, a juicy tomato and some really sour green apples.
  2. Matt’s Big Breakfast– I read about MBB a few months ago and have been waiting to check it out.  It was good  to a good business on a corner that could really use some TLC.  It was a little busy and the place only holds about 30 people, so just go when you have some time and aren’t in a rush.
  3. PB Loco– again. I’m obsessed, really, but it’s just so good.  I get the Nutella-Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich.  What about that doesn’t sound good.

*Did you catch that? Tree(s).  Here’s the deal, I love to decorate for the Holidays and in the desert, there’s no hedges.  Which means there is no place to put Christmas lights. I have to do something with all those lights, right?

Oatmeal Cranberry Pecan Cookies

To say that I’ve been a little busy would be an understatement.  Not with any one thing either, I’ve just been busy.  It’s hard when you’re popular. :P

I’ve even been sneaking blog reading in at work when I need a little break and I’m jealous of all the good baking that’s been going on.  The other day while on African Kelli, she mentioned that she was going to bake Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies and I knew that I had to find time to whip up a batch from this great recipe I found at Central Market in Dallas.  I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit, but you could add raisins, dates or walnuts.

Oatmeal Cranberry Pecan Cookies

2 c all purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

3/4 c unsalted butter
1/4 c vegetable shortening
1 c sugar
1 c dark brown sugar
1/4 c honey
2 large eggs
1 T vanilla extract
3 c old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 c cranberries
1 1/2 c pecans

Preheat oven to 350F. Use a Pam on the cookie sheet. Blend the first five ingredients in medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter, vegetable shortening and both sugars in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in honey, eggs and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats, cranberries and pecans. Drop batter by the table-spoonfuls onto the prepared sheet. Space them about 2 inches apart and flatten cookies slightly.

Bake cookies about 10-15 minutes. Cool completely. Makes about 4 dozen.

On another note, Hubby is on his way to France.  Not that I care.  I mean what’s the big deal.  I mean what’s so great about France.  I bet the weather is going to be crap.

Ok, so the weather is going to be perfect, but there will be something.  I better get a good trip gift.

Baby Environmentalism

Did your high school have Channel One News? Our’s did and it was big deal, we could watch TV in class, it was so cool.  I remember watching one newscast on the plastic rings that come on six packs of soda and how ducks and other wildlife were getting caught in the plastic rings.  The reporter, it was John Norris I think before he became a MTV Veejay, told us to “always cut the rings before tossing them.

Here I am, umpteen years later and I’m still cutting the rings on my six packs.  One day hubby saw me doing that and asked me what I was doing.  I told him I was protecting the ducks and that I cared about the environment.  He laughed.

Why did he laugh?  I never watched him do anything that was halfway conscience when it came to the environment. I was really proud of my meticulous ring cutting.  Think of all those ducks whose lives I was saving.

That’s when I became really “aware” of the crap I was mindlessly just tossing away.  I was embarrassed.

I’m not saying that I’m hugging any trees (come on, I’m from Texas, we have to adhere to some stereotypes) but I am making an effort. Here are some easy things I’ve started doing:

  1. Separating my newspapers/catalogues/flyers
  2. Taking a canvas bag to the grocery store
  3. Not individually bagging my fruit and veggies if possible
  4. Returning plastic grocery store bags when I forget the canvas one

I also printed out this handy sheet from the City of Phoenix web site, Recycle List.  Do you do anything simple you’d like to share?

M Streets in the House

It’s so funny, the neighborhood we lived in Dallas was called the M Streets, but tucked into these streets was one that stood alone; Kenwood.

Why would city planners put a K street in the middle of the M Streets?  Not being from Dallas, when hubby and I started looking for houses, we didn’t realize that it was a big deal to live on an actual M street, not a K street in the middle of all these M’s.  People on the M Streets had freakin bumper stickers that looked like those Euro-stickers with the country code on them, but they simply had a M on it.  So, feeling like the drama/band/goth/math club outsiders, we started calling ourselves the M-ish street crew.  But like a lot of outsiders, we were never organized enough to get a bumper sticker.

I went back to Big D this weekend to meet up with the girls to start shopping for Carey’s wedding dress.  Do you want a peek?

Ha! Ha! Too bad.  This is all you’ll get.

But if you go to Dallas and you’re staying in the Uptown/Highland Park/Ross Avenue area, here’s the places I recommend:

  1. Gloria’s on Greenville Ave
  2. Cafe Izmir on Greenville
  3. Mi Conzuelas on Main
  4. Bread Winners on Hall
  5. Times Ten on Skillman
  6. Aw Shucks on Greenville
  7. Luby’s on Mockingbird
  8. Campisi’s on Mockingbird
  9. Central Market on Lovers
  10. Cafe Brazil on Central Expressway

Summertime Indian Chow Down

It’s nights like this that make me want to shout, “My kitchen smells better than yours!” I’ve really been craving Indian food lately, and we’ve found a few spots in the metro area that have great food, but nothing really within our bubble. So, I’ve taken matters into my own hands.

Tonight we’re having Chicken Masala with Rice, Peach Lassies and Vanilla-spice ice cream. My staple Indian item is usually a vindaloo, but I’m having personal issues with peppers lately, so we’re on a bit of a time-out.

I learned some new things with this dinner, I found that Chicken Tiki Masala differs from Chicken Masala mainly with ginger being the main contributor to that. Cooking methods other than that are the same. For the masala I’m using a recipe from Sandra Lee:

  • 4 chicken breast halves without skin
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala seasoning, plus 2 teaspoons
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup cream of chicken soup,condensed
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Cooked white rice, to serve

Place chicken breasts and flour in zip-top bag. Shake until chicken is coated with flour. Remove from bag, shaking off excess flour and set aside. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add the chicken breasts and fry until golden brown on both sides. You can also use a deep fryer to cook the chicken. I own Cool Daddy one but for this recepie, I decided to go with a pan.

Remove chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook until soft. Add the garam masala, tomatoes, soup, coconut milk, and salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and return the chicken breasts to the pan. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add the frozen peas. Return to a simmer and cook for an addition 10 minutes. Serve hot with white rice.

While all this is cooking, my husband has whipped up a cool Peach Lassie. He’s been to India for business and has never heard of this drink, but here’s what Wikipedia had to say about it,

Lassi is a traditional South Asian beverage, originally from Punjab, India/Pakistan, made by blending yogurt with water, salt, and spices until frothy. Yogurt is mentioned in ancient Indian texts, and so is buttermilk. Yogurt sweetened with honey is used in Hindu rituals. Lassi, the salted watery version, was probably introduced by the Turks in India, (lassi is similar to Ayran). Traditional lassi is sometimes flavored with ground roasted cumin. The Lassi of the Punjab sometimes uses a little milk and is topped with a thin layer of ‘Malai’ — a clotted cream — also known as Devonshire Cream. Lassis are enjoyed chilled as a hot-weather refreshment. With a little turmeric powder mixed in, it is also used as a treatment of gastroenteritis.
Dessert was different. How’s that for a description? It’s sorta like seeing someone’s prized (insert strange collection here) and saying, “wow, that’s nice.” I don’t know what to name it other than a Chai-vanilla ice cream.

I whipped up a basic vanilla ice cream recipe, from my Krump’s user’s guide and added these ingredients,

  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup brewed Chai tea, chilled
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Sliced almonds for garnish

I like the idea of rich, multi-flavored, savory ice cream, and I bet my friends over at Ice Cream Ireland, would be happy with my experimenting. It just didn’t give that finish that I was looking for, I think I wanted the savory with a sweet finish.

Left overs are going to be so good.