Travel: A weekend in New Orleans

cornerAfter Christmas, my mom, brother and I decided to head to New Orleans for a quick trip away. My brother and I hadn’t been since we were little bitty and barely remembered anything about the trip we had made then. And my mom has great memories of New Orleans from when she was a child, visiting with her father.

We arrived on a rainy, dreary day. After at least six hours of driving, we pulled up to the swank Dauphine Orleans Hotel.

75We headed out into the evening, turning onto Bourbon Street, as I followed the crowd. My mom, who has been saying for ages she wants to go to Mardi Gras quickly changed round to my point of view as she saw just how trashy Bourbon Street actually is—and that on a non-party-hardy night. We enjoy a drink or two, but are definitely not the party-hardy crowd.

We found our way to Acme Oyster House, where we stood in line outside (thankfully it had stopped raining!) for about an hour. Acme and Felix’s across the street seem to be the busiest restaurants around, but know that pretty much anywhere you go in New Orleans includes standing in line. This wasn’t a huge deal for my brother and I, but my mom’s feet have been hurting, so keep this in mind if you’re traveling to NOLA.

Acme could be a post in and of itself, but I’ll try and keep it short. Sit at the bar, if possible, to see them shucking oysters. They said each of the workers shucks about 1,700 oysters a day. That’s incredible. The older man who was working at the bar entertained us with stories as he chipped at them with a knife? Pick? An instrument that shucks oysters! He said the hand he held the oyster with was numb from the cold and the other one was beginning to lock up with pain. I have no idea how he was able to open the things day in and day out.

There was a couple to our right who ordered a dozen oysters and found a pearl in one of the shells. My mom said when she was a girl she had found and kept many pearls, but once, after she moved, they were never found again.

We ordered a dozen raw oysters to share and mom and I split the Fried Peacemaker Poboy, while my brother enjoyed a whole one. The peacemaker combines fried shrimp and oysters complete with Tabasco-infused mayo. All of it was delicious.

It amused me how relaxed everyone was when you got inside, while the whole time waves of people are outside lined up waiting to come in. The place is small but homey and the waitstaff were nice and welcoming, cracking jokes with one another and some of the customers as they went about their jobs.Cafe de mondeThe next morning, we went to Café de Monde, because, well, duh! Everyone else was there, of course and we waited in line again, though the line moves fairly quickly. When you get under the big tent, know that the staff is going to tell you to find your own seat. Essentially they send people in waves, you sit down, a waitress attends to you and then this repeats continually throughout the day and night. Again, we had a great waitstaff both times we went. Yes, it’s hard not to go there each morning, though you know your arteries are not the better for the fried dough, sprinkled, no DOUSED, with powdered sugar and the hot cafe au laits.

We then went to French market, which is nearby, but I would advise you to wait until later in the day when more people are milling about for a more festive walk-through. Also, be hungry! They have lots of food vendors, from bread to cheeses, and of course, seafood.

We then headed to the Aquarium, which is just about 1/2 a mile down the road. We took the trolley, but it’s a quick walk, so save your $3 unless you just want to have the experience (and a bit of a wait).seahorses

The aquarium was fun, but gosh … so many kids. If you’re the one with kids, it’s probably perfect, though. We had a good time, but somehow could not figure out how to get to the parakeets.

churchOne of the things on my list was to see the St. Louis church. When we got near the steps my brother was appalled at a sign on the steps that said $6. “In Italy we saw tons of churches for free,” he complained. My mom, mom that she is, led us in there after asking repeatedly, “Are you sure you want to see the church?” Keep in mind, I never said, “Hey, here’s the church. Let’s go in.” Essentially, they led us into a museum next door to the church (it is hard to tell the difference even though the buildings are HUGE, because you’re under the awning near the steps), which we paid $6 a piece to go into and did not realize until after we left that, “Hey, that wasn’t the church. Here’s the church!” Needless to say, the church was free and indeed pretty cool. Not to say the Louisiana State Museum was bad. We just didn’t know that it wasn’t a church (despite not having pews and all that stuff). museum 2

We’re blaming the mishap on the jazz band in front of the square that had everyone paying attention to them (and not where we were going).

bandjazz

This is already a lot longer than I had planned on posting, so I’ll sum up the other places of interest I’d recommend:

The Audubon Zoo is on your way out of town, so hit it up also. This would have been more fun in the spring, but they still have lots to see. You can get a pass for the aquarium and the zoo for a discounted price.

Gorilla

Cooter Brown’s Tavern in Uptown New Orleans has great poboys and cheese fries. A very fun and quirky bar with tasty food. (Ranked 3rd for Best Bar Food of New Orleans by Gambit Magazine.)

Deanie’s Seafood is where all the locals told us to go and it did not let us down! Try the barbecued shrimp and the seafood platter and enjoy boiled potatoes in butter instead of bread before the meal.

Named “Best Seafood Restaurant”  by the Times Picayune and “Best Place for Crawfish”  for Tops of the Town 2014, New Orleans magazine.

Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter has the best bread pudding and it’s gumbo is pretty good to boot. It has won the Best Gumbo category in the Best of New Orleans poll every year since 1999. So, you should probably order gumbo. They have a vegetarian option, so don’t let not eating meat keep you away!

bread puddingPat O’Briens is famous for its hurricane drinks. There are several bars rolled into one, so whether you want to hang out on a patio, or karaoke, it has a little bit of everything. Just know that if you don’t want to keep the glass, you can get $3 back. I know most people probably want the glass at the time, but remember: You’re going to have to carry it around all night and then when you get home, you’ll probably think, “Why did this seem like a good idea?”

me mom and bobThat’s the highlights of the trip. Don’t forget to sample hot sauces and pralines at all the shops, listen to music and enjoy the art galleries along the way!orchestra

 

Nat’l Hot Toddy Day

photo(1)Happy National Hot Toddy Day!

This is likely the first time in history Austin has been cold enough to partake in this important holiday. With that in mind, I leave you with a hot toddy recipe that’s easy, yummy and quick to enjoy.

Red Hot Toddy

  • 1 c hot water
  • Shot of Brandy
  • 1 tbsp red hots
  • 1 package spiced apple cider (unsweetened)
  • Optional: cinnamon stick and orange slice

Add a package of spiced apple cider and a tablespoon of red hots into a glass of hot water. Stir. Add brandy. Using cinnamon stick, stir brandy in. Slide slice of orange onto the cinnamon stick for decoration. Enjoy the hot, delicious drink with your choice of Netflix shows or a good book.

 

Looking Back at 2014

YearinReviewIn an attempt to see where we’re at with OhSpooning and what we’ve been up to this past year, I have categorized all our posts. Sometimes it’s hard to answer that seemingly easy question, “And what exactly do you blog about?” we get repeatedly asked at food blogging events and in general.

We typically go into a long drawn out monologue about how we mainly focus on cocktails. Or we do a quick murmur about how it’s a little bit of everything.

But, if we’re honest, we don’t really have a great explanation. So, here’s my attempt at grasping what we’ve written to see where we’ve been and what we want to focus on a little more this year. We’ll be taking a look to see what interested our readers most, so if you have any ideas about what you’d like to see more of, please leave a comment below. We’d love your feedback!

Note: Some are repeats because they fell into two categories.

Recipes

All About Cocktails and Drinks

Events

Cooking & Baking

Food Adventures

Reviews

Food News

Childhood Memories Series

The most surprising thing I found in all of this? That we posted so much! In 2013, we were struggling to get any posts up, but this year, we rocked it. We’re looking forward to bringing you more food adventures in 2015. Cheers!

Recipe: Crockpot Italian Chili for Cold Days and Nights

This recipe I came up with by mistake. I was planning on making plain old vegetarian chili, but after I got back from the store I realized I was missing the main ingredient: Chili powder. How did I not have chili powder? Have you seen my spice drawer??

spice drawer

Anyway, I did not want to go back out in the cold—it’s too cold in Austin right now. I know. I know. Us Southerners can’t take the cold. That’s why we live here!

So, I decided to take the recipe I had and use the seasoning I had on hand, which were mainly Italian spices and it turned out really well.

So, here you go: Crockpot Italian Chili for Cold Days and Nights

Crockpot Italian ChiliCrockpot Italian Chili for Cold Days and Nights

  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 large can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 packet of Grill Mates tomato, garlic and basil marinade (or make your own seasoning with  a mix of basil, oregano and garlic powder)
  • Salt to taste

Pasta (optional): Choose a pasta, such as angel hair, and cook according to directions just before serving chili.

Optional toppings:

  • Grated cheese
  • Sour cream

Throw in all ingredients in a crockpot, except toppings, and mix well. Leave in for 3 hours to do its thing. Serve in bowl over pasta and serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and grated cheese (if using). Serve with crackers, cornbread or your bread of choice.

Notes: You can saute the onions in garlic before adding if you want, but I found the onions turned out well without this extra step.

I ate the chili with and without the pasta and loved it both ways, so it just depends on whether you want it to feel like a spaghetti sauce or more of an nontraditional chili.

This recipe is sure to warm your spirits on a cold day and the smell in your home as go you about your chores is wonderful. Enjoy!

How to Keep Your Foodie Resolutions

NewYearsGoalsandResolutionsUs foodophiles love to add things like “cook more” and “bake more” to our list of things to do more of in the New Year. Or maybe you just want to try some new foods in 2015. Whatever your goals, they’re probably totally doable. The hard part is putting an action plan in place.

This is how to go about making your goals, resolutions, whatever you want to do, come true this year.

1. Make it specific. Do you want to go through the whole Joy the Baker Cookbook? Do you want to eat five new fruits? Do you want to visit every gastropub in Austin? The choice is yours, but you have to know exactly what you are wanting to do or it will be very difficult to accomplish your goal.

2. Now that you know what you want to do, figure out how to do it. Say you do want to make every recipe in a book. Count how many recipes are in the cookbook and divide by the numbers of months or the number of weeks to determine how many recipes you should make each week or month depending on whether you want a very strict plan or more of a guideline. You know yourself better than I do, so you’ll be able to figure out which is needed on your own (Trial and error helps).

3. Share your goal. This really helps with follow through. Maybe start a blog to show your progress and let friends follow along. Maybe start a Twitter account for your resolutions or goals.

I know I’ve been using goals and resolutions interchangeably, but here’s the difference:

Goals are something you want to accomplish and have a beginning and an end.

Resolutions are something you want to start doing or quit doing. More like a habit.

I think it’s great to have both.

Take a little time today to think about what you’d like to accomplish in 2015. To get you started, here are a few ideas:

  • Take a foodie trip.
  • Try an exotic dish you’ve never tried before.
  • Eat the required amount of fruits and veggies per day.
  • Stop eating milk, cheese, meat or grains.
  • Read 12 foodie books.
  • Watch the all-time top 10 foodie movies according to epicurious.

Happy New Year. I hope you all have the tastiest, sweetest, juiciest year ever!

 

Last-minute Greek Dip

photo-3Need a last minute appetizer for dinner? This dip takes no time to put together and easily goes with a fish, pasta or veggie heavy dinner.

Last-Minute Greek Dip

  • 8 oz. Greek Gods Greek yogurt
  • 4 oz. Organic Valley Feta cheese (crumbled)
  • 1 tbsp. Greek seasoning (homemade or store bought)
  • 1 tbsp. Olive oil
  • Parsley (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Garnish with parsley. Serve with Ritz crackers.

How to use leftover veggies

photo-1I like to try to use up all of my food as soon as possible. This can be hard when you’re cooking for one. Especially those recipes that uses a ton of veggies, because you never need them all!

The key, I’ve found, is to make one “main” dish once a week, with several smaller side dishes to fill in throughout the week. I know this won’t work for everyone, but it works pretty well for me.

I’ll use this week as an example:

On Monday night I made the best veggie curry pot pie. I mean delicious. But I had cauliflower left over as well as some carrots and onions.

With the cauliflower, I made a curry coconut side dish (above).

Mine looked nothing like theirs! No clue why. It tasted good, though, with a spicy kick. I like curry a lot, so this wasn’t too much curry in one week for me, but you could do a quick Pinterest search and find something totally different—like cauliflower mac-n-cheese. Yum!

Next up I’ll be making these spicy maple roasted carrots.

Then I’ll just have to figure out something to do with the onions and the extra pie crust. I’m thinking a berry pie for the crust and adding the onions to the leftover dressing I have in the freezer.

Basically, my advice is get creative and try to use everything in your fridge each week. Occasionally, I’ll have a Sunday night where I try to use up all my leftovers in a soup or casserole.

So many options, so few meals!

 

 

 

Holiday Madness: Pomegranate-cranberry sauce

Editor’s note: Sorry about posting this late. As you can see, this was written BEFORE Thanksgiving :).

The holiday potlucks are well under way, what with Thanksgiving only a few days away.

My work potluck is tomorrow and I said I’d bring the cranberry sauce.

I found a recipe for pomegranate cranberry sauce on Pinterest that looked yummy and since pomegranates are supposed to be chock full of antioxidants, I figured that was the way to go.

I’ve never opened a pomegranate, so I searched the interwebs for a how to. This one worked well.

The actual cooking/prep part only takes 15-20 minutes, but factor in 2 hours of cooling off.

It came out super scrumptious. If you enjoy your cranberry more tart than sweet, cut down the sugar by half. I happen to love sweet, so I kept the full two cups of sugar. I hope there is still some cranberry sauce left over for tomorrow’s potluck—it’s so good!

While you’re cooking the cranberries, make a drink with the leftovers:

Pomegranate Holiday Mimosa

  • ¾ c Pom Pomegranate juice
  • ¼ c champagne
  • Handful of cranberries

Mix in a pretty glass over ice and enjoy.

photo(21)

Cool As Ice

Cool As Ice

If you’ve never made your own flavored ice, you’re in for a real treat. Whether you’re looking to spice up your next tequila-based drink or just looking for some more refreshing water, this will take your drinks to the next level! It’s also a very easy way to make an impression if you’re hosting guests.

Here we were working on some easy paloma recipes and we wanted to infuse a little cilantro, lime and jalapenos. Not to mention, we had all of those things in abundance and didn’t want it to go bad.

The process is as simple as you’d think: just slice, cut and dice to fit into the ice tray, add water and freeze.

After we made these for the tequila and gin drinks, I couldn’t stop using the flavored ice for my water, either. While this was made during the summer, there are a lot of ideas for winter drinks as well.

Here are some ideas to try:

  • Cranberries and orange slices
  • Pomegranates
  • Green Apples
  • Frozen berries
  • Pears

There are apparently now a lot of apparatuses for making clear ice, because, you know… you don’t want to have imperfect ice, do you? We haven’t gone that far yet, but it is fun to experiment. I’ve also frozen coffee for when I want iced coffee and don’t want it watered down. Pinterest has also been showing frozen almond milk to use in smoothies. So many options!

Let us know how you use flavored ice!

 

A Sunday Walk Through East Austin

A Sunday Walk Through East Austin

Recently, Cuvee coffee had an open invite for free coffee as part of the POP Austin International Art Show 2014. I invited my friend Grace along since we tend to hang out on Sunday mornings. After we stopped by for a can of coffee (yes, drinking coffee out of a can does feel a little weird) and checked out the Black & Blue Pop Mural, which you can see being made here, we decided to take a tour around the area to see the great sights of East Austin.

DSC_4086This is Grace.

DSC_4088This is me.

DSC_4082This is Cuvee.

DSC_4093This is a mural.

DSC_4092This says who made the mural.

If you didn’t know, the City of Austin has added bike rentals in a few spots downtown. We weren’t planning on going very far, so we didn’t try it out this time around, but it could be useful, especially during SXSW! Find bike locations.

DSC_4096

DSC_4097Next we stopped by the Pop International Show, but the cost, at $30, was a bit steep for a last-minute idea, so we took some pics of the entrance and moved along.

DSC_4099

DSC_4105

DSC_4101The Pop International Art Show was across the street from the Pine Street Station, which used to house the farmers market.  DSC_4107

 

 

DSC_4108It’s got cute murals on the side of the building.

Then we headed over to the HOPE Farmers Market at Plaza Saltillo to smell teas, listen to music and check out the wares.

And on the way back to my car, I couldn’t help but take pics of everything along the way. Like Grace pointing out to what made the plant below a boy… You can probably figure that one out yourself…

Thanks for going on this tour with me!