Tomato Sammiches

Tomato Sammiches

It’s a little bit late in the season for this post, but I took the photos in early summer and it got me craving one of my favoritest, easiest lunches.

Anyone else love tomato sandwiches?

All you need is the juiciest, freshest tomatoes you can find. Two slices of white bread smothered in mayo. Slice the tomatoes into thick pieces and lay on top of the smothered bread. Sprinkle salt and pepper and, if preferred, add a few fresh basil leaves. That’s it! Enjoy! So yummy and tasty and an easy way to use all those fresh tomatoes from your (or someone you know’s) garden.

tomatoes

No Bake Pastries

No Bake Pastries

I got this idea from a Rachel Ray magazine that focused on breakfast and it was so simple, I’m going to share it with you.

Directions:

Toast English muffins.

Use a cookie cutter to form a shape in one side of each muffin.

Coat the muffin without the cutout with cream cheese and a jam or jelly.

Top it with the cutout piece.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Drizzle with a syrup made of powdered sugar and water or lemon/lime juice.

Enjoy

Warning: Only make as many as you need as these do NOT refrigerate DSC_3946  well.

The Balvenie: A Rare Whisky Tasting

The Balvenie: A Rare Whisky Tasting

Setting it’s whisky apart from other tastings, the Balvenie (Bal-vaynee) created a unique event in cities across the U.S., bringing together rare pieces of craftsmanship to remind its guests of the craftsmanship offered in its whisky.

Items on display at Austin’s 2014 Rare Craft Collection were hand selected by Dario Franchitti, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner. Housed in the Brazos Hall, these rare finds were made mostly of wood, complimenting the old dance hall feel of the place. Not jam-packed like many downtown soirees, there were clumps of people milling about.

At the tasting, I was shocked to see so many hands raised when ambassador Jonathan Wingo asked who all had done a tasting with the Balvenie before, and then again how many people had been to Scotland as well.

Clearly I was sitting among some serious whiskey drinkers.

We were given three tastes to start with, beginning with a 12-year-old single barrel, followed by a DoubleWood* aged 17 years and finally a PortWood**, aged 21 years.

The 12-year-old single barrel was much lighter in color than the others, as well as to a certain extent lighter in taste. It has a floral, sweet taste and smell to it. Drown in water—the alcohol content is a whopping 47%.

My personal favorite was the Portwood aged 17 years—the flavor overwhelmed the senses, leaving a nice aftertaste.

As a treat, the tasting ended with a whisky aged in a sherry cask. Each taster got to dip a metal flask, for lack of a better word, into a cask and draw out their own swig, much like people used to use for stealing whisky (Watch how it was done here).

We’ve taken you to Glenfiddich’s tasting before. The Balvenie, opened in 1892, is it’s sister distillery. Both were opened by William Grant, are housed in Dufftown, Scotland, and are still owned by the Grant family.

The event continues this evening. Details at https://us.thebalvenie.com/collection.

*DoubleWood means it was aged in two barrels.

**PortWood means it was aged in a port cask.

 

Second Annual Balvenie Rare Craft Collection

Tomorrow, the second annual Balvenie Rare Craft Collection, a gallery-style exhibition featuring original works from some of America’s finest craftspeople, is coming to Austin.

Curated by three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and native Scotsman Dario Franchitti, who will make an appearance on the 16th between 5:30–6:30 p.m., each of the 20 pieces in The Balvenie Rare Craft Collection stands as an expression of craftsmanship. From a hand-woven, hand-dyed merino wool hat and ornate bagpipe to a shuffleboard table constructed from ex-Bourbon barrels and a Baxendale Harwood guitar, this collection represents rare crafts from every corner of America, including Texas represented by western wear maker M. L. Leddy’s that has been fitting presidents, royalty and rock stars for leather boots and saddles for the past four generations.

The event will be co-hosted by Texas native Jonathan Wingo, The Balvenie Brand Ambassador. Wingo was recognized in 2012 by Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” in the Food and Wine category for his dedication to curating a collection of craft and obscure whiskies distilled from all over the world at a boutique liquor store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, called The Whiskey Shop.

The Balvenie Rare Craft Collection is Sept. 16 & 17 from 5:30–9 p.m. at Brazos Hall, 204 E. 4th St.  The gallery-style exhibit is free to the public (21+) and includes complimentary tastings of the world’s most hand-crafted single malt Scotch whisky, The Balvenie and light hors d’oeuvre. RSVP is a must: www.thebalvenie.com/collection.

I’m planning on being there Wednesday, so I hope to see you there!

Chocolat: Means making a lot of chocolate!

Chocolat: Means making a lot of chocolate!

Having been reading “Chocolat”* for about a week now, I knew it was time to actually make some to eat while reading. You can only read about someone opening a chocolate shop for so long before you’re going to get a craving.

*Yes—Like the movie!

I happened to have a stash of chocolate flavored bark coating* (you know, for emergencies), so I decided to make a chocolate bark. I had pistachios and dried cranberries on hand, but you could use plenty of other things in this, such as peanuts, raisins, walnuts, seasonings, orange or lemon rind, crushed peppermint—get crazy!

*I definitely plan to use solid chocolate next time, but this is what I had on hand.

Chocolat Cranberry-Pistachio Bark

8 oz. chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup dried cranberries1/4 cup dried pistachios
Kosher salt

Melt 8 ounces chocolate in a double boiler*. Add butter and melt to thin out the chocolate if needed (never water). Pour into a small baking dish, lightly coated with Pam and cover with parchment, cut to fit. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup whole or crushed pistachios and about 1/4 cup dried cranberries. Sprinkle with Kosher salt. Cool in fridge or freezer until solid. Use the tip of a knife to pry the chocolate from the baking sheet and peel off parchment if it’s stuck. Break into pieces with your hands.

Takes about 15 minutes, plus about 30 minutes to harden.

Tips:

I used my finger to push the pistachios and cranberries into the chocolate a bit so it won’t fall off as much when you are breaking it apart. Use the biggest salt crystals you have on hand for the prettiest look (Which is why I didn’t use sea salt. My sea salt is fine instead of big.)

*I have never owned a double boiler, so the method I’ve always used is to place a pot inside a slightly larger pot. Add a couple inches of water to the bigger pan and bring to a light boil, place smaller pot inside. If the water tries to boil over the side just bring the smaller pot up until the water settles down and turn down the heat. Stir frequently. The double boiler (and self-made double boiler) keeps the chocolate from burning. You could melt in the microwave if you need to, but make sure to only melt for 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time to avoid burning the chocolate.

Now it’s time to curl up with my book and chocolate!

Review: The Hundred-Foot Journey

If you love cooking or eating, then the movie “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is for you.

Set in France, an Indian family embarks from London to France in search of tasty vegetables. Not knowing where they might settle in France, fate decides for them when their car crashes in a small town with wonderfully grown tomatoes and mushrooms. The family finds a restaurant for purchase, but it happens to be right across the street from a Michelin-starred restaurant.

The father, who has a bit of a stubborn side, does not listen to his children’s protests and purchases the restaurant. The French woman who owns the restaurant across the street tries to sabotage the new restaurant, but when someone goes beyond competition and tries to hurt the family out of bigotry, the woman shows a caring act that begins to thaw the two sides.

Meanwhile, one of the Indian sons has an unusual gift for cooking and is determined to impress the very particular French restaurant owner by perfecting French dishes, in addition to the cultural dishes he brings to France with him.

See the trailer here.

Lump Crab Migas and Bloody Marias

Lump Crab Migas and Bloody Marias

On a quest for the perfect brunch, we have found quite the forerunner: Lump crab migas paired with a bloody maria.

What’s a Bloody Maria, you ask?

A Bloody Maria is a Bloody Mary subbing tequila for the vodka. Seeing that we had recently acquired a free bottle of Real Gusto Blanco Tequila for testing, it just made sense that we’d try this new twist. We did two trials to find the perfect recipe and we’re happy with the final recipe below.

Try this combo for your next brunch with friends.

Bloody Maria

Here’s the basic Bloody Maria recipe. Pour all ingredients into a blender (or Nutribullet) and blend.

  • 2 oz of Real Gusto Tequila Blanco (USDA Organic!)
  • 3 Dashes of Worcesterchire Sauce
  • 3 Dashes of Pepper
  • 3 Dashes of Celery Seeds
  • 3 Dashes of Makrut Lime Sea Salt [Savory Spice]
  • (How to pronounce Worcestershire https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylP_iQvOuaM)
  • 1 Teaspoon Horseradish
  • 6 ounces tomato juice or tomato-vegetable juice cocktail
  • [5 oz of organic strained tamato / tamato sauce plain + 1 oz of water]
  • 1 oz of lime juice or Half a Lime
  • 3 Dashes of Hot Sauce

Rim a pint glass with Makrut Lime Sea Salt. Garnish with Habanero Smoked 16/20 Shrimp, a slice of avocado and a sprig of cilantro.

Migas are one of my favorite things in the world. Other favorites: crab and avocado. So, this recipe has pretty much everything beloved in my life. The seafood migas compliments the Bloody Maria perfectly so that I can’t imagine one without the other.

If you’re not from Austin, let me explain to you the wonderful world of migas. Originally stolen from Mexico and Spain, this Tex Mex favorite has become an Austin staple.

Migas by definition, means crumb—basically made from leftovers, such as tortillas or tortas. In the Tex Mex version, onions, tomatoes and jalapenos are diced and thrown in along with fried tortilla strips and generally served with guacomole, avocados or salsa and smothered with queso or cheese.

Lump Crab with Migas

  • Deshelled Lump Crab ($20/lb.)
  • Pico De Gallo*
  • Scrabbled Eggs
  • Fried tortilla strips
  • Salt + Pepper to Liking

To cook, pour a thin layer of olive oil in a medium-sized pan. Heat on medium high. When hot, add a layer of pico de gallo (about 1/3 cup) to the pan until heated throughout. Meanwhile, whisk five eggs seasoned to liking with pepper and salt, in a bowl. Pour eggs into pan and pour crab and fried tortilla strips over eggs as it begins to settle. Scramble eggs. Under cook eggs by about 2 minutes, add pepper jack cheese slices across the eggs and cover and let melt for 2 minutes.

Garnish with fresh cilantro, avocado and lime.

*We should note that pico de gallo is not the same thing as salsa. Salsa is generally chunky and blended, where as pico de gallo consists of tomato, onion and jalapeños only—very finely chopped. No seasonings, no fanciness, but it’s good stuff.

 

 

This is the perfect end to a long weekend!

AFBA Happy Hour: The Hightower

AFBA Happy Hour: The Hightower

The Hightower in East Austin is hard to classify.

Outside the patio is nice and large, perfect for grabbing a drink before heading home. In July, that did not seem like the best option, so we asked to be moved inside, which they so kindly obliged. Inside is a bit dark (and very hard to take good pictures in :) ) but the atmosphere is relaxed for a nice after work happy hour.

About 15-20 people showed up to July’s happy hour—whether that’s because we didn’t have a happy hour in June or because there was free food is hard to say. We each got two free drink tickets. The drinks were fairly strong, so I gave away my second ticket. I would have liked my drink, the Deep Eddy Splash, to have been a tad bit sweeter, but it was refreshing none-the-less.

The rugged, small bar has surprisingly good food, which ranges from classic-with-a-twist American food to traditionally ethnic dishes.

At The Hightower, the chef takes the always-popular Brussels sprouts ($5) and adds peanut butter and golden raisins, to create something different than you’ll find elsewhere. The fried chickpeas ($4) were a nice, crunchy pre-dinner treat. But the real favorite seemed to be the roasted pork jowl with rice, egg yolk, burnt avocado, cucumber, pickled shallots and house sriracha ($14). I tried a bite before the bowl got stirred up with all the roasted pork jowel and it seemed top notch!

I’ll definitely recommend this place to coworkers for a future happy hour. Thanks for hosting us!

Condo update: Kitchen needs

Condo update: Kitchen needs

I’m finally settling into my new condo. I’ve been in it about a month and have already begun baking and cooking again! Just this morning I woke up at 4 a.m. and baked cinnamon rolls for my monthly book club meeting (and then went back to bed for much-needed sleep!).

Now that most of my kitchen supplies have found a home, I’m evaluating what I don’t have. I already made a trip to Crate and Barrel to pick up some plain white bowls for cereal and soup, etc. (4 large, 2 small).

The list of things I’ve come up with that I’m missing in my kitchen (although I’m sure the list will grow) are:

  • wooden spoons
  • cookie sheets (Bought one, could use another)
  • serving spoons
  • turner spatula (for pancakes, etc)
  • colander
  • pie plates (There’s a cute one at Target for $12 I am thinking about)
  • trivets
  • bread basket
  • vase
  • food processor (There’s a nice turquoise Kitchen Aid at Target)
  • cookie jar
  • table cloth
  • pasta maker
  • ramekins
  • pizza pan

I’m trying to keep the list somewhat minimal since I only have so much space, but some things are necessary: like cookie sheets. How can I make people cookies without these?

If there’s something not on the list that you can’t live without in your kitchen, add it in the comments. I may or may not already have it. For instance, I already have the coveted kitchen aid mixer, a wine rack, plenty of bar glasses, and many mixing bowls passed down from my mother.

Also, if you know of a place I should check out to purchase any of the above, please let me know. I typically go to Crate and Barrel or Sur la Table, but am open to places with unique selections. I used to love the kitschy place on Anderson Lane, but am not sure where it moved to.

To new kitchen experiences!

 

 

Pin it. Make it. Eat it.: Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

Pin it. Make it. Eat it.: Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

Sometimes you just want a cinnamon roll, but you don’t want it to take all day long to make. Insert this recipe from Crazy for Crust that I found on Pinterest: www.crazyforcrust.com/2014/03/quick-cinnamon-rolls-small-batch/.

In just 45 minutes you can have some yummy to your tummy cinnamon rolls. I love that it only serves six rolls—Just the amount to not get too carried away.

When I went to Texarkana for the week of July 4th, my mom and I were craving a sweet, so we ventured online for a quick recipe. This was the one I thought worked well with our timeframe and the amount we wanted to make. Not to mention a delicious cream cheese frosting recipe! The only thing we changed was adding raisins—you’ve got to add plump raisins!

Although my mom and I took the rolls out just a tad too early at first, we quickly put them back in for a few minutes and enjoyed this recipe so much! So quick, so easy and so delicious!

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