Monday, December 30, 2013

Amaretto, a Digestif

Amaretto has always been one of my favorite after dinner drinks, or as the French may say, a good digestif.

Recently, the good folks at Twin Liquors introduced me to a new brand - Lazzaroni Amaretto. Sound familiar? Lazzaroni is famous for their almond macaron biscuits.  

The drink has just the right amount of sweet with a hint of cinnamon and of course that delicious almond flavor. 

Go ahead, give it a try... you can thank me later.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Poinsettias for the Holidays

Each year for the holidays my Mom would fill the house with Poinsettias. Then she'd also buy a few extras for my Dad to deliver to family, friends, and neighbors, spreading around good cheer. I helped one year on the delivery wagon, "Don't forget to wish them happy holidays!" my Mom would shout out as my Dad and I backed out of the driveway.

To this day, Poinsettias bring a smile to my face. I always know the holidays are approaching when these plotted plants start making their way into the local grocery markets.

The leaves are the perfect compliment to Christmas red and green with the plant usually plotted in a gold foil pot, no less

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Texas French Bread, a restaurant

It started with a man, a woman, a kitchen, and a darn good bread recipe. Pretty soon, word spread around, and Paul and Judy Willcott outgrew home operations with bread demands coming from all corners.

Texas French Bread has been a Willcott family success since 1981 and remains with the family to this day. For a while, Texas French Bread was a bakery and cafe solely serving up bakery items with daytime hours.

 Nowadays they're open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Menus change weekly based upon availability of fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Homemade Chex Mix or Texas "Trash"

Growing up I, like most people, thought Chex mix came in a chip-type plastic bag. Then, in walked holidays with my husband… Fresh Chex mix hot from the oven? Huh? 

Around Christmas time, his family would always make homemade Chex mix. I wasn't sure if it was a Texas thing, but either way, I was smitten in more ways than one. 

And the recipe is actually quite simple. It takes time, but just to bake, so you can kick back, relax and let the oven do all of the work!

Below is the original recipe, taken from the box of Chex cereal, in just 5 simple steps:

3 cups Corn Chex cereal
3 cups Rice Chex cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex cereal
1 cup Mixed Nuts
1 cup bite-size Pretzels
1 cup Rye chips
6 Tablespoons of Butter
2 Tablespoons of Worchestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons of seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
Aluminum Baking Tray

1) Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

2) Pour the Chex cereals, nuts, pretzels, and chips into the aluminum baking tray.

3) Melt the butter and stir in the worshestershire, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder until combined.

4) Pour the wet mixture over the dry mix and lightly stir to mix (trying not to break the chez).

5) Bake for 1 hour, stirring (carefully) every 15 minutes.

Serve it up in a pretty dish and you will have your guests squealing with delight as they scoop it up by the handful.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Frito Pie at Texas Chili Parlor

After moving down South I kept hearing about this thing they called a Frito Pie, cheese ontop of chili ontop of Frito corn chips. Sounds delicious, right? So I headed on over to where I knew they had to get it right - the Texas Chili Parlor.

The chili at Texas Chili Parlor comes in three different levels of heat: mild, hot, or spicy hot. The heat level is noted as one X, two XXs, or three XXXs. Now, I like to spice up my life, but I decided to just try the double XX, and let me tell you that it packed a punch! I'll stick with level 2 for now, thank you.

Apparently, a true Frito pie is served in the bag. I'll leave that to Anthony Bourdain

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Salted Caramels at Dean & Deluca

Okay, we all love the salted caramel trend that hit the nation a few years ago, but have you tried the salted caramels at Dean & Deluca yet?! They are truly out of this world.

Check out Bon Appetit's December 2013 Bourbon-Sea Salt Caramel recipe. My friend made some and they are divine.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

One of the best ways to get into the spirit of the season is to hop in the car and head on over to the tree farm where there are rows of green with the piney smell of winter.

This weekend we found our perfect tree:

And these reindeer were super cute:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

My mom always used to say, "Well, it was another Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving this year!" 

This was said sarcastically of course. She was poking fun at how we would eat too much, drink too much, and be way too merry. 

With family members passed out on different couches throughout the house, a third serving of that famous stuffing plated bedside, it wasn't a picture-perfect scene, but it was the best of times. All the family was together.

We have many stories from year to year, but isn't that what Thanksgiving is all about? I give thanks for the memories that have been and the memories of those to come.

Now eat your Turkey!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

24 Diner in Austin

Sometimes you just need a little comfort food. In comes 24 Diner...

Chili fries - awesome.

Corn fritters, basically big hush puppies.

The fried outside crust is similar to a thin batter of a corn dog carnival treat. It's amazing.

Friday, November 15, 2013

S'mores Happy Hour in DC

At the Ritz Carlton hotel in Georgetown of Washington, DC, they host an extra happy hour in the main lobby starting at 6:30 pm.

In the wintertime, they serve complimentary s'mores by the fireside.

And come summertime...

 they serve a delicious s'more smoothie!


Monday, November 4, 2013

Scrumpy's Cider

It's that time of year for all things Fall. 

And with that comes one of my favorite whistle wetters - CIDER!

J.K.'s Scrumpy has been made for over a century by the Koan family of Almar Orchards in my home state of Michigan.

The cider dates back to the 1850s, and this long running history is what makes the farm what it is. This was a time before pesticides, so to keep away the bugs and pests, they used guinea foul and pigs. It has worked this way for three generations, so why change a good thing.

And by doing things the old-fashioned way, it makes the product organic. The ingredients are simple - just apples and yeast, that's it. 

Scrumpy can be found at your local Whole Foods.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Here are some classic must-see scary movies, in no particular order:

The Shining

Rosemary's Baby

Texas Chainsaw Massacre



Monday, October 28, 2013

Pets and Babes in Costume

Halloween cracks me up. Yep, you read that right, I did not say Halloween scares me, but it makes me laugh. It's the one time of the year that it's okay to see masked faces walking the street without summoning concerns of a bank heist. A nurse and a werewolf holding hands? Totally normal.

On the metro, to your left is a guy dressed in khakis and a button down, while to your right there is someone dressed in all black, blood running down his face from the knife poking out of his head. No worries, it's totally chill. 

 So yes, Halloween makes me smile...

And it will make you smile too when you check out the links below (the following photos are courtesy of BuzzFeed):

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Apple Pie at Blue Duck Tavern

It's hard to beat a homemade apple pie, but Blue Duck Tavern in Washington, DC gives a homemade pie a run for the money. A-mazing.

And don't forget to get it a la mode!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Making the Bob Dip

Well folks, football season is upon us, along with all the accompanying snacks... hot wings, tater skins, pigs in a blanket, and of course all of the different chips and dips, my favorite being the Bob Armstrong dip.

Ingredients for the "Bob" dip:

2 lbs. Velveeta Cheese
1 10 oz. can of Rotel
1/4 lb ground beef
Taco seasoning*
1 cup of Guacamole

Prep Method:

Step 1) Mix together the Ground beef and Taco seasoning (I recommend getting your hands dirty).

Step 2) In a small saucepan, cook the meat over medium heat for about 8 minutes, or until fully cooked, breaking apart the meat as it cooks. Drain the fat and set aside.

Step 3) Melt the cheese... here you have two options:
   Option 1: In a medium pot, heat the cheese on the stovetop over low to medium heat. Stir continuously, and be sure to stir the bottom so as not to burn any of the cheese.
   Option 2: Place the cheese in a microwave-safe bowl and heat the cheese in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir, heat for another 30 seconds, stir, and continue this process until the cheese is melted.

Step 4) Open the can of Rotel, drain the liquid, and add to the cheese. Stir to combine. Add the meat to the cheese mixture and stir to combine.

Step 5) Plop the dollop of guacamole on top of the cheese mixture and serve. You may wish to mix in the guacamole, or allow guests to combine the ingredients as they dip.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Clark's Oyster Bar

With a name like Clark's Oyster Bar, you have to get some Oysters. We went all PEI, never disappoints.

We like to turn over the shells after sucking them down. Not only does it help you to know how many are left to be eaten, but also you get to marvel in the beauty of the shells, each one individually unique in design and color.

And when there are oysters, there has to be champagne...

The sourdough bread with chilled butter is a delight, but it's the flakey side of salt that had my taste buds in a constant state of delight. Salty dog.

For the main course, I always like to keep it nice and simple, so I went with the simply prepared catch of the day - Ocean Trout. It was perfectly cooked and crusted.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Make your own Bagels!

We were watching "Baking with Julia" the other day and she had a guest chef cooking up some homemade bagels, a New Yorker of course.

I wasn't too nervous to give it a try because the dough seemed similar to pizza dough and the process similar to that of making soft pretzels.

So, we gave it a try and - WOW! Talk about soft and fluffy and amazing. There is nothing that beats a fresh bagel. And if you can do it in the comfort of your own home, all the better.

I did make a few modifications to the process for simplification purposes and based upon my own preferences. Just a heads up - the dough can/should be made in advance because this can be a bit of a two-day process, so be sure to read through everything carefully before beginning. See my step by step below.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Brunch at Perla's

Perla's Seafood & Oyster Bar is just another sensation to add to the list of outstanding original wonders located on South Congress. We headed over to Perla's for brunch and sat outside on their of-so-welcoming porch deck, shaded by an oak tree aged older than the restaurant itself. Keepin' it real, folks, that's how we do in Austin.

Each table gets to start nibbling on the housemade hushpuppies before one can even inquire as to any specials of the day. I'm always thankful when I don't have to order on an empty stomach.

After eyeing it at a neighboring table, I had to give the Big Blue Banana & Bacon pancake a go, this was brunch after all. Griddled to perfection with a crispy crusted edge, but soft and fluffy on the inside, I was quite satisfied with my decision. Although as our friendly Vineyard Vines clad waiter said, only about 1 in 100 actually finish the whole thing, and as Adam Richman would say, "In the battle of man versus food, food won..."

The Breakfast Crab Cake featured an egg sunny side up atop a crab cake atop some arugula with an emulsion sauce. A little chive sprinkle always gives a dish a polished finishing look. 

And of course, there's always room for a shared plate of calamari. It was so fresh and well battered (very lightly) that we cleaned the plate, no problem.