Pumpkin Picks


It may still be warm in Texas, but it’s still pumpkin season. With Halloween tomorrow, I thought I’d share some of my favorite pumpkin treats I’ve found at Trader Joe’s this year.

I’ve been starting my mornings with the Pumpkin Spice coffee, which is seriously delicious. Lots and lots of flavor and I don’t have to add my own spices. I typically add cardamon, cinnamon and nutmeg to most coffees, but this one is so good as is. I drop in some of the organic half and half from Trader Joe’s as well.

I was not so sure about the honey roasted pumpkin ravioli, but—wow—was it delicious. I thought it would pair well with a nice brown butter sage sauce, but since I didn’t have sage on hand and I did have some tomato sauce and veggie Italian sausage I needed to use up, I decided to go against my better judgment and use a red sauce. Luckily, it turned out so good. I also added a few basil leaves from my indoor plant and some burrata cheese (like mozzarella, but scrumptious, creamy goodness inside.) for good measure. I really truly loved every bite.

And then there’s the Pumpkin O’s. These are more subtle if the full-on pumpkin flavors are not for you. They remind me of Apple Jacks a little bit, with more of a fall taste. Very simple and tasty for a quick breakfast.

If you have any pumpkin favorites of your own, please pass them along.

Happy Halloween!

A Pescetarian in Texas

IMG_0133Living in Austin makes me think vegetarianism is normal. You can hardly find a restaurant that doesn’t have some type of vegetarian menu items, and many cater to the veggie-only crowd. So when I venture from home, to say, see my parents in a smallish town in Texas, I’m always amazed.

On a recent trip home, I stopped in at a large bakery that has a few locations off the highways of Texas. On the breakfast menu, it had:

  • biscuit $1
  • biscuit with egg and sausage $1.95
  • biscuit with egg and bacon $1.85
  • biscuit with egg $1.50
  • add cheese .50

When the young lady at the cash register asked if she could help me, I asked for a large coffee and a biscuit with egg and cheese.

“Just egg and cheese?” she asked. “No bacon or sausage?”

“No bacon or sausage, just egg and cheese biscuit,” I repeated my order back to her.

“Well, I’m not sure we have that,” she said peering into the case.

When she finally found the one egg biscuit in the bunch, she said, “Oh, I didn’t think we had that. I’ve never had anyone order that before.”

I failed to point out that it was on the menu, since I was tired and ready to get back on the road.

As she grabbed some cheese and microwaved the biscuit and egg, I heard her say to another employee, “I don’t know how to ring this up. Do I just ring it up like the others? Is it the same price?”

Meanwhile, a poor soul who just wanted a refill on his coffee continued to wait for her to come back.

I patiently waited, knowing that by pointing out the price on the menu would likely not hurry things along.

Another employee explained how to ring the meal up and when the cashier came back she reminded me again, “Sorry, but no one had ever ordered it without bacon or sausage before.”

As she told me the total (I’m pretty sure she still charged me for meat), I realized she had been so focused on the fact that she couldn’t believe someone would eat an egg and cheese biscuit without meat that she forgot about the coffee. 

After a few more minutes, I awkwardly took my microwaved egg and cheese biscuit and coffee out to the car to eat, scared that she would gawk at me as I ate this “non-meat” (I mean, egg is a meat, right?) meal if I ate inside. When things like this happen, I just have to laugh.

Now, I’m aware that it seems I’m harshly judging most of my state over one incident, but believe me, this happens pretty much any time I leave the Lone Star state’s capitol.

On another trip, I stopped at the same bakery, but in another part of the state (about three hours southwest of the other location). It was lunchtime and there was a bit of a line. I looked at my options. Just tuna fish and a veggie sandwich.

“Yes! They have a veggie sandwich,” I thought. I love tuna, but it’s a frequent option, so it gets a little old.

When it came my turn, I put in my order.

The young woman asked, “A veggie sandwich?”

“Yes, please,” I responded.

“Ok, well, All we’ve got is lettuce, pickles, onions, tomatoes, onions, olives and jalepeños,” she listed the ingredients out for me.

The “all we’ve got” did not really get me excited.

“Oh. Um. In that case, I’ll take the tuna sandwich.”

Keep in mind that the veggie sandwich cost just as much as the meat sandwiches that came with a meat, cheese AND all the toppings she just listed out to me. No hummus, no cream cheese, no sauteed veggies were available. And yet, the sandwich was about $10.

When I first became pescetarian, I’d go home to visit my parents and say I was vegetarian, because growing up in this semi-small city, I knew it was unlikely people understood vegetarianism, much less pescetarianism.

Sure enough I’d tell people I didn’t eat meat and they’d respond, “That’s OK. We have chicken.”

Interested in learning more about pescetarianism? Here’s a Huffington Post article I recommend: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chloe-spencer/pescetarianism_b_956965.html


San Francisco: Brenda’s French Soul Food

Brenda's storefrontOff Polk Street, in San Francisco, I found the most delightful surprise. I had passed numerous diners—usually a favorite of mine, those diners are—but they seemed to lack life in the Union area of San Francisco. And so I began
looking up restaurants nearby and came across Brenda’s French Soul Food. It had good reviews, so I wandered around the extra 1/2 mile until I finally came upon the unassuming outside. Just a sandwich board, the name and a door with black metal decorative grating around the door and windows.

A man was cleaning the door as I went to open it, but he quickly opened it and led me to an empty table near the front. The inside was fresh and new, though imitating the old in that way restaurants do: A mural on the right of a crawfish with Bon Voyage Shipping Co. on top of old brick, silverware held in Cafe de Monde empty coffee canisters.

Brenda's wallI ordered coffee and water right away and then was left to familiarize myself with the menu. Everything looked and sounded delicious, but the beignet flight ($10) held my interest. I knew I couldn’t eat four beignets even before I saw how large they were, but the chance to try all four flavors was too strong: crawfish, apple, chocolate and plain.

When they arrived, after a neighbor and I realized we didn’t have spoons and so conspired to use our knives to swirl our coffees, I was very, very pleased. Three of the four were dusted in confectioner’s sugar, with the fourth—the only savory beignet—dusted in cayenne.



I started with the savory crawfishcrawfish beignet beignet, which was creamy inside with scallions and cheese. I enjoyed every bite, which reminded me of my time in New Orleans.

I then moved on to the sweets. Not remembering which of the beignets were which, I dove into the one just after the crawfish. It turned out to be Granny Smith apple, which tasted like a sweet apple pie with its cinnamon and honey butter filling.

Savoring each bite, I thought I could go on when the waitress came by to see if I needed a box. “Oh no,” I said naively. “I think I’ll just have a little more.”

But by the end of the second beignet I had to admit she was right. I needed a box—I could not take another bite.

I later shared the chocolate beignet at lunch, filled with molten Ghiradelli chocolate filling with my brother and his friend Mary. And the next day I finished off the plain for breakfast. Essentially the four beignets lasted me three meals over two days for ten dollars. Amazing.

I’ve already added Brenda’s French Soul Food to the list of recommendations for friends visiting San Francisco, so you know it must have made an impression.

The specials also looked amazing, with Creole pot pie with cheddar biscuits and green salad. I can’t wait to go back and try their lunch or dinner menu, but until then, I have my memories.


The Flying Cucumber

In the world of food blogging, you get a lot of press releases. Some are strange. Some sound fun. But rarely do you get one that sounds as grand as a Flying Cucumber.

The one thing we love about Hendricks is that they know how to throw a party!

And this go ’round was no different. Setting off in L.A. on April 13, and traveling across the U.S. over the next 13 weeks, you can see this exquisite airship wrapped as a beautiful cucumber! Side note: There are more astronauts in the world than airship pilots.

You might be wondering if anyone got to ride in the airship. Sadly, the wind was not in our favor. But being a 9 a.m. call time on a workday, Hendrick’s poured libations and kept true to their personality.

Regardless of the weather, we got a splendid cocktail – Lady Grace Drummond-Hay. Two things to note. 1. Over the last year, I have noticed that I have enjoyed wine cocktails. And this one is pretty grand since I am not a Chardonnay fan. Or maybe this is the best use of Chardonnay yet – Just add gin. 2. Lady Grace Drummond-Hay was the first woman to travel the world by airship.

Lady Grace Drummond-Hay

1 1/2 Parts Hendrick’s Gin
1 Part Chardonnay
1/4 Part Citric Acid
1/4 Part Simple Syrup
1 Dash Orange Bitters

Combine ingredients over ice. Stir and strain. Serve Chilled. 

All you need to do know, is build the cocktail and browse the pictures of the unusual!


North Shoal Creek: Verts Kebap


I was recently introduced to Verts Kebap in North Shoal Creek and its close proximity to my house means I’m likely to go back again and again. In the same shopping center as Hopdoddy’s, it’s a nice option if Hopdoddy’s ends up having a crazy long line (as it usually does).

The first go ’round I tried the veggie patty, but it was a bit mushy. So I went back and tried what I should have gotten the first time: a falafel. The falafel passed the test. It was crispy and hot and came with lots of vegetables and a variety of sauce options. There’s also a snack size, which is perfect for me, as it seems more like normal sized to me. If you like crispy, salty fries, definitely grab a side order, as they are really good hot and fresh.

Now it’s not going to replace Kebabalicious, but it is nice to have an option close to home that’s very reasonable and quick.The house and spicy red sauces really round out the falafel.

Try it for a quick dinner when you’re too tired to cook.

Love: How cheap and quick it is.


Everybody Eats

photo(1)Food is a part of our lives whether we want it to be or not. Some of us embrace it, making it a big part of our lives. Others begrudgingly do what they have to do to survive. And others see it as a transaction: x calories in means I must work out x hours per day. i.e. What gives me the best bang for the buck?

Personally, I’m the first one. A big portion of my day is filled with thinking about, preparing and eating food. My first thought of the day usually centers around … mmm … coffee. I don’t always eat breakfast, but already I’m thinking about the possibilities for lunch and dinner and snacks and dessert. Should I bring lunch to work? Of course, I should. But are those leftovers really going to sound appetizing after I’m stressed or will I just say, “Screw it,” anyway and go to lunch with coworkers?

When I get home, I think about whether I’m going to try the recipe that I tore out of that magazine and bought the ingredients for a few days ago. Or is my hunger going to win and make me eat some non-memorable meal thrown together in desperation.

I also have this weird game that I continually play with myself. I’ll call it Use Up. As in I like to see if I can use up all of some ingredient. I see a can of corn that’s been in the pantry for way too long, so I scour Pinterest to find a recipe to use up this fine ingredient that will never be used if I don’t specifically go out of my way. I then buy several items in order to use up this one item. More often than not, this game leaves me with yet another item (or two or three) to use up. The items I find hardest to use up before they’ve gone all wilty? Celery, scallions, cilantro. It’s not that there aren’t plenty of things to use them in. Of course, there are millions of recipes that use these ingredients. But I rarely use as much as they call for, since they’re not my favorite ingredients; And I live alone, so my recipes aren’t usually the sort that make massive amounts of food. Why do recipes call for just one stalk of celery, anyway?

If I’m not actually eating or cooking or baking, there’s a good chance I’m looking through recipes: magazines, Pinterest, cookbooks, the recipes that come on food containers. Yes, I look at those. I read them and think, “I will make that some day,” and cut them out. Sometimes I even make them. The thing is … those recipes are good. We tend to forget about them, since they are always there, but they are really, truly, almost always really good. Because those recipes have been tried. Over and over again they were tried and when it seemed like, yes, this recipe was easy enough for the average person—and yes, this recipe would make people want to buy our product—only then would the company slap this recipe on the bag that goes to the homes of millions of people.

I remember telling an ex-boyfriend, “You’d be proud of me. I cook now. I’m really good at it.” And he said, “I’m not surprised. You were always cutting out recipes and reading those magazines about food.”

I guess sometimes you’re more surprised by where your life is heading than those around you. They see where you are headed before you even realize it. That hobby you have that seems inconsequential to you is obvious passion to others. I’m always annoyed when people say you’ll know it’s a passion when you find yourself doing it all the time, but really, when it feels like puttering around your house, you figure everyone is doing the same thing. Sometimes, it’s hard to see what’s right in front of your eyes.

Moved: The Omelettry



This has been a long time coming, but it’s still sad to see a business that is so iconic closing down shop. The good news is, it will still be in Austin, but the cute little muraled building (above) at 4811 Burnet Road will no longer be its home.

The Omelettry is moving a little further north (and closer to me!) to 4631 Airport Blvd. (right). Yes, it will be in a shopping center and yes, it seems it is keeping with its cash only policy. I am hoping that in its new location I’ll think of it more often.

I’ve always loved the bright oilcloth tables, the laid-back atmosphere and the old-timey feel and I can’t wait to try the new restaurant, which opens this month. The menu includes lots of omelettes of course, but also, pancakes, oatmeal, granola, French toast, huevos rancheros and more.

I wish I had gotten to say goodbye to the old location, but alas, it was not meant to be. See you on the flip side, The Omelettry!

Stock Your Bar: Liquor Cabinet


04182015_Tiffany_sHouse_OhSpooning_0009I first started drinking after I turned 21, so I was way behind the majority of people in knowing how the whole thing worked. Since I didn’t know what I liked or didn’t like, I’d end up just ordering whatever the person next to me ordered and hope for the best. Needless to say, stocking my bar did not come easily either.

To make it a little easier for others looking to have a well-stocked bar for quick cocktails, we’ve made a video of the five liquors you should have on hand for quick, easy cocktails regardless of whether you’re throwing a party or just have a few friends dropping by.

Our recommendations include:

  • Tequila
  • Gin
  • Vodka
  • Rum
  • Whiskey

This is a part of a video series on liquors and cocktails. Look out for our videos coming up on tools of the trade, pouring a neat drink and how to make your own simple syrups!


Mueller: Xian

Located in the Mueller development near the H-E-B gas station, Xian is a quiet little restaurant to grab a quick bite to eat. Whether on the run with coworkers, or meeting a friend for lunch, stop in here.

The ambiance is nice and casual, with black granite tables and a bar almost the length of the small restaurant. I especially like that there are mostly booths, as it feels more intimate. I loved the  black and white mural all along the opposite wall from the bar. xiang muralMy instinct was to get sushi, but with my coworkers both getting noodles, I decided to go with the pack. I got the fried noodles from the lunch menu ($7.95), which comes with miso soup. Allison got the vegetable noodle soup from the regular menu, which also looked delicious ($8.50). The noodles are hand pulled and you get to choose from six different kinds: Vermicelli, Spaghetti, Thick Spaghetti, Fettuccine, Pappardelle and Triangle.

xiang fried noodles

The waitress informed us that the only difference is the texture. I got vermicelli, which is a very thin pasta. If you like spice, you’re definitely going to have to add your own, but the homemade chili oil provided is delicious.

The only drawback is parking—we definitely had to go round and round for parking, but if you park on the street side, you may have better luck.xiang noodle bowl

Love: Fresh noodles and great lunch and happy hour specials.

1801 E 51st St, Austin, TX 78723
(512) 469-7878

Mon.–Sat. Lunch 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.; Dinner 5 p.m.–10 p.m.
Sun. noon-9 p.m.

If you’re in northwest Austin, Xian recently opened a location near 620 and US 183 behind the IHOP: