Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cooking "In the Box"

When I grabbed the dogs to go walking this morning, I noticed a Greenling box sitting next to the door. I thought I had accidentally ordered something (I was looking at turkeys on their website earlier this week), but when I looked closer I realized Micah had ordered it as part of my Christmas gift!

I've been a Greenling customer for several years now but I haven't purchased a Local Box from them in a long while -- I guess because I started my own garden and I felt that I wasn't getting the best deal with the box. I still think what they offer is great but not good enough for me to order once a month -- maybe every few months.

Since it's the cold season, there were a lot of turnips, leafy greens, and a huge head of cauliflower.

Thankfully I didn't have a ton of veggies sitting in the fridge so I had enough space for all the delicious farm goodies. The biggest thing that's sitting in my fridg is a 15# turkey that is getting happy sipping on a delicious brine for Christmas Eve dinner (another post).

Micah spent most of the day brewing, so I decided I would make use of some of the Greenling veggies and make a healthy dinner.

After some googling, I came across these two recipes:

1. Watermelon radish salad
2. Cauliflower soup

If you've never used watermelon radish before, I suggest you try!

The color is gorgeous and it has a nice bitter/peppery bite that is common in radishes, but not as obvious as a regular red radish.

I already had everything else in the fridge for the salad (avocado, lettuce, cilantro, shallots) - it was meant to be.

The salad is tart but very well-balanced. The biggest thing is the presentation! It's such a pretty plate of food!

{coming to you in technicolor!}

When Micah plated his salad, he said, "It really looks like watermelon!"

{sauteeing leeks. make sure you clean them of all the grit before using!}

The cauliflower soup was just we needed on a fairly cold night. I had leeks leftover from last weekend's dinner of mussels and two bags of yukon gold potatoes in the pantry. I love it when I have most of items already in my house!

Look at this ginormous cauliflower head. The cauliflower even had a tinge of purple.

I also had homemade chicken broth in the freezer so I used that. After simmering the veggies for 20 minutes, I threw everything into a blender (in multiple batches) to make a smooth soup. 

After giving the soup a whir in the blender, I put everything back into the pot and added one extra pat of butter plus some extra salt and pepper.

The soup was simple but full of creamy goodness but without the heavy cream! I love the texture and richness that cooked and pureed cauliflower ends up being. While I love raw cauliflower, I like it in this form as well.

{final product}

The reason I started using Greenling's Local Box a few years ago was because I wanted to diversify my cooking. I wanted to use ingredients I wouldn't normally pick up at the store. I veered away from that for awhile, but I might be coming back around due to the surprise Christmas gift!

Thanks, Micah! I really think it's a gift for him too, since the food ends up in his belly.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rocky Mountain High

Last weekend I surprised Micah with a weekend trip to Colorado, because you know, recreational use of marijuana is totally legal there now. Kidding. While there was no toking up for us, we did partake in copious amounts of beer swilling.

We've been to Colorado several times before but all previous visits were during the Great American Beer Festival week, which you can read about here.While GABF is all sorts of awesome, I thought it would be fun to visit during an off-period and besides, last-minute flights were $140 roundtrip! Can't pass that folks.

Most of the trip revolved around visiting breweries that we haven't been to before but I did make Micah hike with me for a very short period of time. The mountains are so close, you have to!

Here's the eating and drinking recap!


We started off with an awesome creole breakfast at Lucile's in Fort Collins.

Then I abducted Micah and took him to Lory State Park. We didn't hike too far though, just enough to get a decent picture.

We had to hurry on the hike because I had booked us for a 1 p.m. tour at the New Belgium Brewery -- which we've been to before but it's such a fun tour and delicious samples.

Micah was really disappointed that they weren't serving La Folie. Apparently it's in such high demand that they didn't have enough for the tours, we got Frambozen instead. But all these new barrels should help with the sour beer output.

Right down the way from New Belgium is Odell. We've tried to to visit Odell the past two times but they were closed each time, that wasn't happening on our third trip!

{TX needs taprooms like this. Oh wait, breweries can't sell their own product at their own shop! Lame!}

{L: pilot tray at Odell Brewing, R: Equinox Brewing}


I booked us a room at the Edwards House B&B and it was a great choice! We got a free room upgrade and a fabulous breakfast!

Despite most of the clientele at the B&B being on the older side, we did have breakfast with a young couple that lo and behold, were homebrewers too! We said we were going to Funkwerks Brewery after we check-out and they were already planning to do the same thing! Small world. We ended up hanging out with them at Funkwerks for a couple of hours!

We actually did buy a bottle of Funkwerks' Mistral to take home! After leaving Funkwerks, we made a beeline straight down to Denver -- so little time, so many beer places! We actually drove straight from Ft. Collins to Crooked Stave. A friend told me about this place and they specialize in sours, so obviously we went there.

While we didn't love any of their beers (there were only 2 on tap), Micah did buy a small bottle that was $12 to take home. Hopefully it's delicious! The tap room is small and it gets packed, so come prepared!

For dinner that night, we visited Hops & Pie (highly recommended from the new b&b friends as well as our SA friends).

While they didn't have any Russian River on tap that day, Lost Abbey was and tons of other great beers. The pies are delicious too!

After dinner, we visited River North brewery. The beers here were decent but nothing to write home about and we definitely didn't buy any beer to go.


Since our flight was at 7 p.m., we pretty much had a full day in Denver and didn't want to waste any time!

To kick off my morning, I got this awesome sausage, spinach/artichoke bagel sammy at Hi Rise.

After eating breakfast, we walked over to Mr. B's Liquor store (the store came recommended from the b&b homebrewer folks we had just befriended). While the selection wasn't great, the service was friendly and Micah did pick up a bottle from Russian River. To check out a bigger beer selection, we went to Argonaut's on Colfax. We (and by we, I mean Micah) loaded up on 3 or 4 bottles here.

After our beer shopping, we headed over to a fairly new brewery called Renegade Brewing. They're open on Sundays! At 11 a.m.! I'm down with that and so were other patrons!

My favorite was the Cuban Missle Crisis -- a RIS aged in rum barrels.

Not only did humans like the bar, this pup wanted in on the action too! BEST.PICTURE.EVAR.

After Renegade, we visited Great Divide (we go there every time!) and Dry Dock Brewing on our way out!

I think I've had my fill of beer for the next few weeks! Until next time, CO, cheers!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Brunch for the Baby Bump!

One of my closest friends is going to be a mama in less than 3 months!

The idea of me throwing a baby shower for her 6 months ago would have been laughable! But it's funny how life works its magic!

My friend, Frida, is a vibrant, strong, and amazing woman -- I could not ask for a more awesome friend!

Frida has been documenting her pregnancy at her blog and giving readers a little glimpse into her world. Read it! :-)

Back to the shower. Frida was hesitant about a baby shower to being with -- too many baby things! But I told her it was happening either way! Frida made it very clear she didn't want the party to be too baby-ie. Thankfully, I couldn't agree more! I hate baby games! Why do people insist on melting candy in a diaper is beyond me. We just wanted an adult party with some bubbly!  Doing so would allow Frida to chat with all her friends without being forced to sit down to open gifts and have toilet paper wrapped around her belly.

After numerous emails, between Frida, Cris, and Ericka we managed to have a baby shower that was beautiful and FUN! Frida thought of the Dia de Los Muertos theme (not morbid!).We all chipped in and I think everyone had a fabulous time!

{the lovely ladies who helped make this happen!}

Thanks to Ericka for letting us host at your house. Thank you Houston weather for cooperating!

We decorated the backyard with fun pompoms, Frida's pics and colorful flowers. Frida had the genius idea of giving away her framed photos as raffle gifts. YES! I was able to get the tables for a good price via a man on craigslist. Double YES!

One of Frida's co-workers made this awesome centerpiece table! Love the pumpkin and the banner!

In lieu of games, I put together a "Decorate a Onesie/Bib" table! I went on ebay and got tons of iron-on appliques (so much cheaper than buying at a craft store). I also got some fabric markers and paint! I also bought various sizes in the onesies so the baby would have crafty clothes all year!

Now the food! Since it was a brunch, we had a mixture of delicious goodies!

I made: turkey sausage/cheese biscuits, fruit plate, blueberry muffins, and a berry lemonade punch
Cris made Mexican hot chocolate and pan de leche
Ericka supplied us with a bountiful supply of oj and champagne for mimosas!
Frida got awesome tamales from a lady in her neighborhood. I don't love tamales but these were kind of delicious. She also got platanos!
My sister didn't want to be left out so she made chicken salad croissant sandwiches. Thanks sis!

{awesome spread!}

Needless to say, no one left hungry! As the sun was shining and people were mingling I think we all came to the consensus that it was a successful baby shower for one of our favorite ladies!

I can't wait to meet baby Gael in 2013 and see him grow up! I know Frida will provide him with all the support and love a mom can give -- and it will be beautiful! I love you both!

P.S. I am offering to babysit every now and then... in Austin. :-)

Courtesy: all pics were taken by Ericka Hernandez

Monday, October 22, 2012

Supernatural Top Chef

No, I didn't meet a Top Chef that has supernatural powers... but some might say Paul Qui does indeed have special powers! 

Micah and I didn't go to ACL this year. We actually haven't been to ACL, ever. I know! We live in Austin, we should totes be going. We don't. So not ATX of us. Whatevs. Maybe next year? Maybe.

Even though we didn't go to ACL, we did make it down to the XBox ForzaHorizon party! Free drinks, fast cars (games, of course), and music! 

While we were there, I spotted an Asian that I thought looked familiar (we don't all look alike). 

When he turned around I realized that it was Top Chef Paul Qui! Paul's been to my station before but I didn't get a chance to say 'hi' so I made it a point to say hi to him at the event. 

He was absolutely lovely and totally nice! I wasn't expecting anything less!

Of course we both have water on our shirts. What a hot mess. We were both drinking Asahi - so Asian of us.

So obviously my night started off with a BANG! I was beyond thrilled that I chatted with Paul but then this happened.

Micah was facing the entryway when he said "Wouldn't it be funny if Jared from Supernatural showed up tonight?" I said "OMGeez, I would have a heart attack."

Five minutes later, I turned around and lo and behold JARED PADALECKI was talking to Paul Qui. I die. 

Micah recognized Jared early on and totally fooled me! 

We actually saw Jared Padalecki over the summer at Uncle Billy's Brew B Que on Barton Springs. I didn't approach him then because he was with his family. But I wasn't going to let another chance pass me by. 

When he walked by us, I stopped him and told him we are big fans of Supernatural! He was unbelievably nice and NORMAL. His wife was equally nice. They apparently have a home in Austin (hence the summer in Austin) and visit semi-regularly. YAY to seeing more of Jared in the ATX!

{It's almost like a ghost was in this picture}

{So I tracked him down and got another one. Rabid fan? Nah.}

When I left that night I had a grin from ear to ear. Seriously, BEST NIGHT EVER!
Don't watch Supernatural? You should. It's on the CW on Wednesday nights!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Top 10 Brewery Tours in America!

I like to use Yelp for businesses and restaurants but I mainly use TripAdvisor for when I need to do travel research. It's a lot of reading and parsing, but the users are usually really helpful and knowledgeable (especially if it's their hometown).

My travel itineraries can be pretty intense. Lots of lists, sometimes Excel sheets get involved, and lots of bookmarking. That's why I'm good at my job. Ha!

Nowadays when we travel, I always look up breweries they have in the area (for Micah, not for me!). We usually try to get to at least one brewery in the area. Hell, in Vietnam we went to almost half a dozen! In Vietnam!

On Wednesday, TripAdvisor®, released its top 10 brewery tours in the U.S., according to their TripAdvisor Popularity IndexTM.

After perusing the list, I've determined that I need to visit EVEN MORE breweries. Out of the list, we've only been to one... but at least it's THE #1 on the list! New Belgium rightly deserves this spot. Their brewery is large, pretty, and their beers are delicious. If you're in Ft. Collins, don't miss it!

{We visited the brewery during GABF week in 2010}

{New Belgium's tasting room!}

{Love, love, love NB's sour beer, La Folie. You get it on their tour! YES!}

I would like to go to Portland, Maine to visit Allagash (or is it the crabs that are calling my name?).

A lot of the breweries are the big boys but some are still considered "craft breweries."

Which ones have you been to?

1. New Belgium Brewing – Fort Collins, Colorado

Located 65 miles north of Denver, this sustainable wind powered brewery was the first of its kind in the United States. Beer lovers can enjoy one of their frothy beverages at the Liquid Center tasting room or take the 90-minute Tour de New Belgium where travelers will have the chance to learn about the brewing process and sip on some suds. Complimentary tours operate Tuesday through Saturday.

2. Allagash Brewery – Portland, Maine
Since 1995, this New England brewery has crafted Belgian inspired ales often using the finest wheat rather than barley, combined with a unique blend of spices. Thirsty travelers can take a free, hour long tour of this coastal brew house while enjoying a refreshing taste of their seasonal specialties or year-round brews. Free tours operate Monday through Saturday.

3. Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour – Saint Louis, Missouri

During this hour-long tour, travelers will see and learn about the iconic Clydesdale horses and explore the architecture and history of the oldest Anheuser-Busch brewery. Hop fanatics interested in learning more about the brewing process can check out the acclaimed Beermaster Tour. Complimentary tours operate seven days a week.

4. Samuel Adams Brewery – Boston, Massachusetts

Located in the Hub, hop-enthusiasts will learn about the brewing process from start to finish during this 60-minute tour. Guests will also taste the special malts used to brew the beer and smell the aroma of the Hallertau hops. Free tours operate Monday through Saturday; a $2 donation is suggested to benefit local charities.

5. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company – Chico, California

Known for its flagship pale ale, this northern California brewery offers a 90-minute tour offering travelers the inside scoop on how the ales and lagers are crafted using select malted barley, whole hop flowers, brewer’s yeast and pure water. Complimentary tours operate seven days a week.

6. Heinzelmannchen Brewery – Sylva, North Carolina
Travelers visiting the Great Smoky Mountains can enjoy tasty beverages at this microbrewery run by a German-born “brewmeister”. Guests are encouraged to stop in for a tour where they will sample a variety of Deutschland-style beers and non-alcoholic sodas including sweet and tasty root beer and red autumn birch beer. Free tours operate Monday through Saturday.

7. New South Brewing – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
This Myrtle Beach microbrewery offers travelers a tour through the entire brewing process and the chance to taste four frothy samples. Once a draught-only brew house, this beachside brewery now allows guests to purchase a six-pack of their favorite batch. Complimentary tours operate Tuesdays and Thursdays.

8. Boulevard Brewing Company – Kansas City, Missouri
With its 150-barrel brew house, this Kansas City company is the largest specialty brewer in the Midwest. During the 45-minute tour, beer lovers will learn about the brewery’s unique history and crafting processes and will finish the tour in the Tasting Room where they’ll sip some hoppy creations. Free tours operate seven days a week; the “Unfiltered Tour” is $20 and offered on Saturdays.

9. D.G. Yuengling and Son Brewery – Pottsville, Pennsylvania
Known as America’s oldest brewery, this Schuylkill County establishment has been brewing since 1829. Travelers can step back in time as they explore the hand-dug fermentation caves used to store beer before modern refrigeration. Thirsty travelers can also savor some samples in the basement tavern built under the former Pottsville city hall. Complimentary tours operate Monday through Saturday.

10. Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. – Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin
This Wisconsin brewery blends tradition with innovation to create a fascinating tour where travelers learn about five generations of the Leinenkugel family history while they’re guided through the bottling factory. To cap things off, travelers can quench their thirst with complimentary samples of award-winning beers at the recently opened Leinie Lodge. Free tours operate seven days a week.