Tuesday, October 7, 2014

ROASTED EGGPLANT BABA GHANOUSH


Mom, you'll like this one. I'll make you so more for your weekend visit! My husband and I started a Whole30 on Sunday. This is our second one, and I had forgotten how hard it is! AArghh. I'm grumpily longing for wine, cheese, gluten-free crackers and chocolate. So when snack time rolls around, I wanted to make sure we were well prepared. I fell into an abundance of eggplant last week. Wait what? She "fell into" eggplant? Yes, this shit happens to me. Didn't you read my post about the life of a food blogger


Baba Ghanoush is not only fun to say, but its a very satisfying snack to help get you through the day. You can serve baba ghanoush with a variety of crudités. My favorites are sugar snap peas, sliced mushrooms, carrots and cucumber slices. My boys like it with bell peppers and carrot slices. 


Baba Ghanoush
makes 2 cups
4 cups (or 2 medium) chopped eggplant (any color works)
3 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons Tahini
Juice of 1/2 lemon (2 Tablespoons)
1 teaspoon dried parsley

Preheat your oven to 450º and line a cookie sheet with foil. Toss the cubed eggplant and unpeeled garlic with the olive oil and salt. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, until the flesh is soft. When cool enough to handle, peel the garlic and place into a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and pureé until smooth. Serve warm or cold with crudités. 


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    Happy Whole30 snacking!


    Song of the Day: Give me the Beat -- Ghostland Observatory

    Wednesday, October 1, 2014

    PALEO CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN MUFFINS



    Holy October it's here: Pumpkin season. They are everywhere and in everything. But how can you enjoy this sweet fall favorite with out feeling like you gained a pumpkin? Try this lovely chocolate pumpkin muffin recipe.



    When they came out of the oven, I swear to god they smelled like chocolate cake donuts. I can't wait to dunk these suckers in my morning coffee.



    Homemade Pumpkin Puree


    I made these into muffins and mini breakfast breads. It is a versatile, moist batter that can be whatever you want it to be: muffins, bread, pancakes, cake. You call it.

    Either way, its delicious. I added 5 chocolate chips to each muffin and some pecans to the bread. This is totally optional. I also made my own pumpkin puree. Also optional. Use canned if you want! You will see butter in this recipe. You can always substitute coconut oil for butter in my recipes. It works just fine.



    Paleo Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins
    makes 18 muffins or 1 loaf of bread
    1 cup almond flour
    1 Tablespoon coconut flour
    1 Tablespoon flax meal
    1/4 cup cocoa powder
    1 Tablespoon cinnamon
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 Tablespoons butter
    1 cup pumpkin pureé
    1/4 cup honey
    4 eggs
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract


    Preheat the oven to 350º. Line 18 muffin tins with paper liners or 1 loaf pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, coconut flour, flax meal, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder, soda and salt. In another bowl, melt the butter. Add the remaining wet ingredients to the butter, whisking well to combine.  Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring well to combine. Divide the batter into your muffin tins or loaf pan. Bake muffins 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean; 40-50 minutes for a loaf of bread. 





    Tuesday, September 30, 2014

    THE LIFE OF A FOOD BLOGGER: BYTE OF TEXAS, COCHON

    If you've ever wanted a sneak peek into the life of a food blogger, here is a good one. This weekend was the first annual Byte of Texas Conference. Hosted by my dearly beloved Austin Food Blogger Alliance, It was a whirlwind of food, blogger education and so much fun. After the conference, I attended the most amazing event that I think has ever been, Austin's stop on the US Cochon 555 World Tour. So that means: After mimosas & breakfast tacos, a cheese and beer class, a cupcake break, and a lamb-butchering demo, THEN I went to a BBQ and Bourbon extravaganza. My body hates me. My wedding ring doesn't fit and neither do my yoga pants. I can't tell you how difficult it is to recap this weekend. I shall never eat again. 


    Friday night happy hour at Snack Bar

    We started this weekend off with an incredible happy hour hosted by Snack Bar on Friday night. Besides the incredible Rosé and nibbles at Snack Bar, I was most amazed by the story behind this Austin icon. I was shocked to find out that Snack Bar is relatively new to the South Congress scene. It was opened 5 years ago by a precious couple who had no restaurant experience at all. They loved to entertain and had a passion for food. That alone gives me so much home in pursuing my own ambitions! Snack bar focuses on quality in all their ingredients, especially when sourcing their organic meats and produce. This attention to quality nutrients is very important to me and the paleo lifestyle I follow. 


    It turns out, the best chicken liver mousse I've ever tasted is right here in Austin. It was unbelievable.  Enhanced with a layer of local Texas olive oil, the pate is served with house made whole grain mustard and pickled vegetables. To keep it paleo, I spread it on their zucchini crudités. Pretty huh? I can't wait to go back for it. 



    The caramelized roasted brussels sprouts with herb aioli have always been my favorite thing to eat at Snack Bar.  


     BYTE OF TEXAS HOSTED BY 

    THE AUSTIN FOOD BLOGGER ALLIANCE
     

    The terrible photo I took during a photography presentation...
    The Bullock could not have been a more beautiful setting for the conference!
    Saturday kicked off at the Bob Bullock museum with We had several panels on food photography and styling. I learned about consistency in style, which makes me want to completely revamp my entire blog--yikes. But, I did start a pinterest board of food photos I love for inspiration. Melissa Skorpil left me with some good tips on composition and lighting. 

    Keynote Speaker : The Homesick Texan

     I was able to  listen to one of my biggest culinary inspirations, blogger and cookbook Author Lisa Fain of The Homesick Texan. As you may know from my background, I learned how to cook when I was desperately missing the traditional flavors of Texas. Lisa's blog was the first place I turned when looking for inspiration. Her beautiful cookbook inspired my cookbook style as well. It was really cool to meet her and have her sign a copy of her newest book, "The Homesick Texan's Family Table." 


    Saturday night dinner at the Salty Sow

    Saturday night featured an incredible spread at the Salty Sow. From perfect deviled eggs,  roasted beets, sweet pork terrine, smooth chicken liver mousse, a brussels sprout caesar salad and a whole roasted hog, it was truly a wonderful evening. It was a great night of recapping the day's events and connecting as bloggers and friends. 

    Sunday Brunch Sponsored by the Texas Beef Council and Chef Carlos Crusco


    We started Sunday off bleary eyed with brunch. I posted and reposted my paleo hangover cure on my social media outlets for those who were suffering with me, but I'll admit it now: I'm a fraud. My hangover cure was just the hair of the dog that bit me. Mimosas and beef breakfast tacos brought me back to life. Chef Carlos Crusco and the Texas Beef Council provided the amazing tacos, the highlight of which were these amazing salsas Crusco made. My favorite was the roasted roma tomato salsa, and he gave us recipe cards to make them at home! Speaking of Chef Crusco, he is once again collaborating with the Austin Winery on another fabulous backyard dinner series under the stars at the beautiful Sanctuary. The theme will be one of my favorite themes ever: Dia de los Muertos. 

    Mousetrap: Beer, Cheese and Preserve Pairing Class

    What an incredible collaboration. Tiffany Cunningham of Whole Foods hosted the Texas beer; Michele Haram of Vermont Creamery toured us through incredible cheeses, and Stephanie McLenny of Confituras led the creative preserves. What does one learn in a cheese, preserve and beer class? Well, I learned that goat cheese is always white because it lacks the beta carotene in cow's milk cheese. In fact, the darker yellow cow's milk cheeses contain more beta carotene, and grassfed cow's milk contains significantly more than non-grassfed cow's milk. In beer, I learned that growler's keep for up to 6 days at home. Good to know.


    The flavor combinations in the Confituras Preserves were unexpectedly inspiring and will end up in some of my recipes. For example:
    ·     Apple butter spiced with cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon
    ·      Fig preserves simmered with bay leaves, honey and white balsamic vinegar
    ·      Ginger jam with lime zest
    ·      Apple jam cooked with rosemary (It made me want to eat a pork chop)
    ·      Finally, The Belle Helene Jam, aka "a little flavor bomb," according to owner Stephanie McLenny, was made with pears simmered in chocolate. It was paired with a smokey, coffee flavored Pecan Porter from 512. It was most certainly a grand finale. 

    What else happens at a food blogger conference? A 2:00 Cupcake Break, of course. This is why I  gain weight-- damn this free food! And there is swag: Check out the beautiful "Byte of Texas" swag bags we got! Full of everything from cookbooks to marketing books, food samples, hot sauces etc etc. It's like being a kid at a birthday party, and getting the best favor ever. 


     Lamb Butchering

     After cheese, beer and a cupcake break, we learned about the ins and outs of the lamb business. Yep, the lamb business. We heard from representatives of the American Lamb Board, lamb ranchers and the butcher and chef from Dai Due. I was most fascinated with the neck of the lamb. I have never heard of a dish that includes lamb neck, but, according to this particular butcher (who happens to be a beautiful young woman named Julia--which is totally cool), it is one of the most flavorful cuts of the animal. 

    Thank you! 

    Before I move on the the second food fiesta of the weekend, I want to give a huge thanks to our AFBA Vice President, Megan Myers, President Kathryn Hutchison and all the volunteers who put this amazing conference together. Our sponsors were incredible and made this weekend a huge success. Byte of Texas only solidified my pride in being a part of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance. I am so excited to continue on as a board member for the next two years!

    And now, Cochon555 Heritage BBQ

    At 4:00 the conference ended. I packed up my laptop, slung it around my shoulder and made the long, hot walk from the Bob Bullock Museum to the W Hotel. A little tipsy from the beer class, I arrived at the W in a great mood, albeit suffering from a slight cheese coma. So you can understand that I felt like I may have actually died on my way there. I imagine this is the way God would welcome me to everlasting life. I was greeted with this. You see that right. Welcome ribs. 

    Welcome Ribs from Stiles Switch
    I've said it before and I'll say it again: Barbeque lovers are the happiest people on earth, and I'm proud to be one of them. I have never seen so much bourbon, meat and smiling faces in my life. Not only was it a free-for-all sampling of gourmet nose-to-tail preparations of heritage pigs, bourbon, wine and beer tastings, turkey-baster punches and perfect manhattans, there was more. The most incredible live-butchering demonstration commenced with a meat auction and then a dance contest. It was like that opening party scene in the Great Gatsby -- an absolute circus of carnivorous hedonism. Sunday could have been the best day of my life. 




    After a big hug from Daniel Vaughn, a.k.a. @BBQsnob, a.k.a. the BBQ editor of Texas Monthly Magazine, I was standing tall. I have made some awesome friends in high places in this food world! My second welcome was from Ronnie Killen himself. We have been become twitter friends-- yes I said it-- and he handed me this:

    Yet again, the best food at the fair. I took home 4 of them at the end of the night.
    My rib was served with his legendary coffee sauce and a side of my new favorite Rye, Templeton. (Breaking the 4th wall: I'm writing this two days later and literally drooling on my laptop while I try to suck in my stomach.) My resilience and gastronomic endurance at its ultimate test, I moved on to the cutest chef in the house, Dustin Harvey of East Side King. He served this succulent pork confit with a delicate quail egg and pickled chili pepper on top, which was another of my favorite dishes of the night. He also shared the most complex and exciting charcuterie plate that included a mustard made with pork liver. It sounds weird, but it was stimulating to every sense-- absolutely foodgasmic. 

    Dustin won Cochon555 that night, and he had some fierce competition.  Congrats!


    This little blood sausage from a new restaurant in Houston called Dosi was INCREDIBLE. I don't know what was in it, but it was rich and soft and everything it should have been. I will be paying a visit to them next time I go home. 
    Blood Sausage at Dosi 
    Ah! Another favorite. Okay, I know I said Dustin Harvey was the cutest chef, but Ben Runkle from Salt and Time was the cutest butcher. And he made this gorgeous roulade called a Matambre Relleno. It was beef, mortadella, swiss cheese, greens, egg and chimichurri. Holy Smack. I die. 


    As if the matambre wasn't perfect enough, Salt and Time put on a spectacular live butchering show and auction. This heritage pig was gorgeous, and I took home much of its skin for chicharonnes. Have you been to a pork auction? No? Put it on your bucket list right now. 


    My friend Chris Perez of Citygram Magazine cradled his pig baby all night. It was a ham or a shank or something? Anyway,  it looks like he has an imminent dinner party ahead!

     

    I'm exhausted from writing this post. I'm exhausted from this unbelievable weekend. It was so much fun and I hope you enjoyed reading about what its like to be a food blogger in Austin. 
    Best. Life. Ever. YOLO. 

    Song of the Day:
    Bang Bang Will.i.am

    Saturday, September 27, 2014

    WHY REAL FOOD MATTERS


    My son just entered Kindergarten. I am now, literally, a soccer mom. At a recent game, I overheard a conversation between two moms that made me want to scream. The moms were talking about how special Happy Meals are. They joked about how there must be something in the burgers and fries that make them so darn addictive. Well, ladies, there is. There is a lot of crap in your food and you need to know what it is doing to your body and your children's bodies.

    I came across this infographic from Mercola that really freaked me out. I wanted to share it with you all. Please repost this if you have a social media platform.


    10 Banned Foods to Avoid
    Also, check out this wonderful strategy from Whole 9 Life on handling the Halloween Candy struggle: http://whole30.com/2013/10/halloween-candy-special/ 


    Are you eating food that's already banned in other countries but is still allowed to poison and kill Americans? Learn these pernicious ingredients and common foods through this infographic. Use the embed code to share it on your website.
    <img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/banned-foods-infographic.jpg" alt="10 Banned Foods to Avoid" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;"><p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;">Are you eating <a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/10-banned-foods.htm"><strong>"food that's already banned"</strong></a> in other countries but is still allowed to poison and kill Americans? Learn these pernicious ingredients and common foods through this infographic. Use the embed code to share it on your website.</p>

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014

    THE BEST BARBECUE IN TEXAS IN 2014 IS...



    ... at the Texas Monthly Barbeque Festival. And there is TONS of it. If you missed it this year, you really screwed yourself. This was the best yet. I never realized I could take eating so seriously until I saw these two pictures of myself from yesterday: 


    I should be embarrassed by this one, but the only regret I have is that I wasted my time trying to use a napkin to keep my hands clean... oh and the Killen guy laughed at me the whole time. And gave me a round of applause when I went in for my second beef rib. 


    What is the Texas Monthly BBQ Fest? Each year, Texas Monthly Magazine invites restaurants in their Top 50 BBQ Joints list to a round up of the best barbeque sampling event in Texas. Held on the lawn of the Long Center in Austin, the event allows BBQ lovers to sample the showcased offerings of Texas' best. The event features live music, games, excellent sponsorship and cold drinks. Keep reading for my rankings of the best of the fest and my expert strategy for approaching this wonderfully protein-packed Sunday Funday. 
    The Long Center lawn smells like heaven on TMBBQ fest day.
    I destroyed more barbecue than should be legal to eat in one day.


    Oh that beef rib. 
    That said, before I fall into my meat coma and these Crown Royal cocktails really catch up with me, I'll highlight what I can, after the whirlwind of meatopia I just experienced at the Texas Monthly Barbecue Festival.



    First of all, this year was the best yet. I was thoroughly satisfied and impressed at the meaty showings at this annual gathering. There were quite a few new contenders, familiar names that have returned, and tried-and-true favorites that took on a seasonal approach and became even better than in years past.



    5% minimum spandex required. 



    My rankings for the Best of the 
    Texas Monthly Barbeque Festival 2014 are: 

    Meat:
    Best overall: Killen's BBQ. The most generous offerings included a beautiful bounty of brisket, sausage and beef ribs. Their coffee sauce was exquisite.
    Best Sausage: Miller's -- Soft texture jalapeño cheese sausage literally melts in your mouth. Also worth mentioning is their dry rub on the ribs. I am a crust-lover, and Miller's is doing it right!
    Best Seasonal: Original Black's BBQ hatch chile sausage. They had great brisket and a fabulous attitude as well. 
    Best Ribs: Stanley's. Thick, fall off the bone, tender ribs. Not overly smoked or crusted, their ribs are "world famous" for a reason. 
    Best Smoke Ring: Snow's BBQ from Lexington, Texas. The visible smoke ring (photo below) was on each piece of perfectly cooked meat: the rib, brisket and sausage sported the best in show. 
    Best Brisket: Pecan Lodge from Dallas. For the third year in a row, I give the highest award to Pecan Lodge. The flavor is all in the juice of this perfectly textured meat. It has a good amount of smoke, but not too much to dry out the juicy brisket. 
    Most unique: Lamb Chops from Louis Mueller. It was served with a really spicy jalapeño chutney and deliciously balanced, slightly sweet barbecue sauce.

    Sauces, etc:
    Most Unique and delicious: Coffee Sauce from Killen's. Coffee-based barbeque sauce is a hard novelty to make, but Killen's nailed it. 
    Best Spicy Sauce: Tyler's barbecue features decent, slightly dry brisket, but their sauce does its job of masking any unpleasantries with the meat. I absolutely loved their spicy pepper sauce. The viscosity landed somewhere between thick and thin, just right for sticking to ribs. It had a great amount of pepper and a hint of sweet to balance it all out.
    Best Sweet Sauce: Hatfield's. They replied with a sly smile when I asked them if their sauce was made with maple syrup. Whatever the secret is, they are doing it right. The subtle smokey maple flavor adds something extra special to the sauce. It is not overly ketchuped, either. It is thin enough to comply with Texas-style standards. It was wonderful.
    Best Coleslaw: Opie's. With sweet dried cranberries, crunchy almond slivers and creamy mayo, this claw is a perfect accompaniment to the smokey, fatty, meaty fare of the event.



    Look at the smoke ring on the Snow's offerings! It was perfect on every piece of meat. 



    Killen's of Pearland lived up to the hype and then some. They killed it this year.
    Honorable Mentions
    Hutchin's BBQ: Salty, fall off the bone ribs. Very "snappy" sausage. Definitely worth revisiting on a road trip out to McKinney.
    Lockhart Smokehouse: I thought their brisket had the best texture. Sometimes moist cuts can be too fatty on one side, but the marbling on both the lean and moist cuts at Lockhart are well distributed.  Their thin, crispy crust crunches in your mouth like the burnt skin of a marshmallow. I loved it.
    Lambert's: You have to love their "outside of the box" approach to barbeque. It's not traditional BBQ, but it's always delicious. I think its gourmet-cowboy cooking. 



    Hey Barrett Black. I'll take the fatty brisket, thank you very much. 
    Disappointments:
    The Granary's Pork Belly. It was way too fatty and not at all tender. The sauce would have done a good job masking this sadly smoked pork but it was spicy beyond tolerance. With a reputation of culinary diversity and BBQ expertise, I was looking forward to and expected a variety of samplings from the Granary. Maybe they'll bring more next year!
    Hay's County BBQ was sadly dry. Tyler's brisket was dry as well, but I forgave them for having such a delightful peppery sauce.
    City Meat Market: It wasn't surprising that their brisket was characteristically dry, but their ribs were leathery and unpleasant as well. If you like a course grind on your sausage, you would probably enjoy their signature links with their thick, snappy casings.


    The sad pork belly-- I need to get to the bottom of this. I had heard wonderful reviews of The Granary. 
    What is your BBQ fest strategy? 

    Just so you know, judging at a barbeque festival of this magnitude is incredibly difficult. With 25 participating restaurants, there are a lot of factors to consider. Not only that, but it doesn't take long for the meat coma to kick in and your ability to actually discern taste becomes cloudy. Fortunately, I learned this over the last three years of attending this festival, and I came armed and ready to taste with expertise and palate clarity. This is my strategy: 

    1. Wear something you don't mind staining, throwing away or expecting to ever smell like anything other than fat and smoke ever again. This outfit should contain at least 5% spandex as well. 

    2. Pre-game with one beer or bloody mary made with Canandian Whiskey while you wait in line. Trust me. The trashier the drink, the better. You are warming up into BBQ Bubba Mode. This shit is about to get highly stressful, so loosen up a bit. 

    3. What to bring: 30 sandwich baggies, 2 permanent markers, 2 large durable grocery bags (the paper ones provided won't cut it), 3-4 mini tupperware containers for sauce. 

    4. Plan of attack: You are going to split this experience in half. 10-12 BBQ joints at a time. Pick the first 12 and you and your partner split them. Leave your kid at a picnic table or agree to meet at a "home base." Each of you gathers 6 sampling trays from different joints and returns to the home base table. DON'T forget the restaurant's card in your tray so that you are able to identify them while you are eating. Spread out all the labeled trays and take small bites of everything. Each of you works on your own score card. Do not eat too much. Seriously. Be careful. Pack up leftovers like the picture below, making sure everything is labeled. You will revisit this later on. Step 2. Get another drink. Step 3. Repeat with the remaining 10-12 BBQ joints. 



    We won a cooler in a heated Crown Royal-sponsored game of corn hole. How perfect was that for our bounty of BBQ?



    This is what it looks like when it gets home. After you take a nap and chill out for a little while, revisit the meat. You'll need your own second opinions. Your tastes and overall BBQ expertise has changed in the last few hours. 




    There is more fun to be had besides eating meat. Dale Watson played, there were games and drinks and photo booths, too. It was a lot of fun. And this happened when I wasn't looking: 









    Song of the Day: Wildest Moments Jessie Ware

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