Monday, April 18, 2016

Check out The Florida Keys and Key West! - #Sponsored Post by Honest Cooking

Hey guys, just a heads up: This is a fully sponsored post. I did not write the content, it was provided to me and posted through a partnership with Honest Cooking and The Florida Keys/Key West. Though this contains none of my own opinions, I think vacationing in Florida is great, this recipe is making me drool, and would not post content I did not agree with. 

A favorite destination for Ernest Hemingway, Jimmy Buffett, and many more, Key West is known for its palm lined streets and fish that is fresh enough to draw any committed culinary traveler. With a distinct mixture of cultures, the island is not only home to a strong seafood scene, but a tantalizing fusion of cuisines. At night, the street a lit up with vibrant sidewalk cafes that lure in passersby with delicious scents of their specialties. Live music and hopping bars are the perfect pairings to watch the sunset into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Florida Keys is home to five districts, each with their own personality and attractions that make visitors feel like they are a world away. The southernmost paradise, Key West, is just miles from Cuba and is home to an enviably temperate climate and a delicious array of fresh seafood set to a beautiful backdrop. Bringing together a multitude of cultures that have made Key West home during its history, Key West’s food scene has delicious flavors, like African and Cuban, that are difficult to find anywhere else in the US.
As a guide to the restaurant and seafood landscape, Paul Menta of Three Hands Fish gave us the lowdown. A professional chef and community advocate, with long locks and a chill attitude that makes him seem more like a pro kite surfer, which he also is, Paul is the perfect person to talk to to find out the secret dining spots of Key West. The Philly native began his culinary career in Spain and France and eventually came to Key West to continue his love for competitive kite surfing. An athlete, distiller, chef, and entrepreneur, Paul has made it his mission to tap into all Key West has to offer.
His most recent venture, Three Hands Fish is a community supported fish market in Key West. Its members, chefs and home-cooks, have access to the freshest fish, shrimp, stone crabs, and lobster that come in on the docks. As Paul describes it, the first hand is the hand of the fisherman, the second the market, and the third is when the fish makes it into the hands of the individual or restaurant. Paul is proud of his market as it brings local, traceable seafood to the people with plenty of variety to avoid over fishing a specific species.

Key West has seafood unlike anywhere in the world and the crucial ingredient is the water. The Gulf of Mexico mixes with the Atlantic ocean making a perfect nursery for a plethora of fish, crab, and lobster. Not to mention, the fishermen of the region have come together to create a sustainable plan for the future of their industry, naturally controlling over-producing populations that threaten to take over the ecosystem.
“Not only are visitors able to jump on the boat for themselves and go fishing in some of the clearest waters, but they are able to sit back and relax, knowing they can find the same fresh fish in local restaurants,” says Paul.
If you are looking for a taste of the freshest seafood right on the dock, Paul suggests visiting The Stoned Crab restaurant. This restaurant serves up some of the best of what Key West is known for, the stone crab, but they also do it in a stunning setting with an unbeatable view of the water. The moment you set foot in the restaurant you will feel as if you have traveled back in time to the 1950s. Housed in a resort built in 1956, the restaurant keeps alive the tradition of the fishermen bringing their catches straight to their dock, something that is no longer happening in other areas. And if you are looking for a place to stay, Paul recommends Ibis Bay Resort, which is home to The Stoned Crab and also has a retro feel. Stop in for fun cocktails and great seafood the restaurant catches themselves. Head here for stone crab, lobster, Key West shrimp, and more local fish. Be ready for a good time at The Stoned Crab!

For the die-hard cooks, go for a ride on a private charter to catch the freshest fish for yourself. Paul recommends Lucky Fleet, chartered by Captain Moe, to take you on this adventure and help guide you in hooking the best seasonable seafood. Moe has been fishing the waters around Key West for over 30 years and knows his way around. Whether you are an avid deep sea fisher or this is your first time, Captain Moe will take you on a great adventure not just a boat ride. From sailfish to tuna or grouper, they will lead you to the right spot.
To learn how to prepare the seafood you just caught, take a class at Isle Cook where Paul himself will teach you how to cook local recipes and healthy meals with seafood.
“Being a chef and commercial fisherman I can tell you there is no better teacher of how to use, care for, store, cook and eat a product than a fishermen. They have ideas and techniques that most chefs would die for….but they have to ask… we spread the word to them,” says Paul.
When visiting Key West, be sure to try fish you wouldn’t otherwise be able to. Considered local to Key West are the Hogfish, Mangrove Snapper, and as of late the Lion Fish. Paul’s favorite? The Hogfish. This fish is caught by spear fishing, which is a fun challenge to try. Speared yourself or not, Paul suggests serving the fish whole and affectionately calls it the Key West Turkey, stuffed with lobster, onions, and herbs.

While you may have heard of Key West’s conch fritters, which is fried conch meat that actually native to the Caribbean, Paul prefers to make grouper fritters. Fisherman of Key West are able to catch the grouper right off the coast, so this is a true local specialty.
Similar to the conch fritter, the grouper is mixed with onions carrots and a traditional Key West seafood seasoning by Key West Spice Company that is made of celery seed, salt, paprika, and red pepper. It is simple, but fresh grouper doesn’t need an overpowering of flavors. Once the batter is made, Paul fries the fish balls until golden and enjoys them inside of a sandwich or as an appetizer by the water.
Grouper Fritters

Author: Paul Menta
  • 1 pound Grouper
  • ½ cup Onions
  • ½ cup Carrots
  • 1½ Tablespoons Key West seafood seasoning
  • 1 Egg yolk
  • 2 Tablespoons Key lime juice
  • ½ cup Flour
  • Coconut oil, for frying

  1. Chop up, or use food processor, grouper.
  2. Fine dice, onions, carrots and mix with grouper.
  3. Add key west seafood seasoning, about 1½ tablespoon
  4. Mix all together with 1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of key lime juice.
  5. Add ½ cup of flour until mixture starts to form a batter.
  6. Use a spoon to make balls, fry in coconut oil till brown or bake in the oven on sheet tray.
  7. As a sandwich filling instead of an appetizer, make the rounds larger.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Taco Pie and #TexFestSweepstakes Primo Picks! #sponsored

I received free products and gift cards for the purpose of this review. Opinions are my own.

It's no secret I love HEB. So, so many reasons. But one of the things I love most is the monthly "primo picks" that often highlight Texas brand products. Considering TexFest is currently running at HEB in honor of Texas Independence Day, this month's Primo Picks box was chock full of amazing products!

I started by bringing my famous taco dip to work with a bag of the Texas Dippers and Texas Shaped Corn Tortilla Chips. We have a "treat yourself" corner that we take turns bringing snacks for. Since we usually fill it with sweet stuff, this little taste of Texas was a welcome treat.

Summer is nearly here, and I am hoarding my box of Sangria cane soda for my famous Summer Sangria. It'll be awesome in place of my usual lemon lime soda--after all, it's already sangria flavored!

And when I think of Texas, obviously I think of Tex Mex. So I knew I had to make a recipe with serious taco flavor. Inspired by Texas favorite Corn Chip Pie, I decided to take the rest of those Texas Dippers and make an actual pie! But with taco fillings. Not only did I use a homemade spice blend, but I added a hefty shake of 2 Gringos Chupacabra Rub for some extra heat.

This is a great blend of two favorites. Full of flavor, and you really can edit it however you want. Don't miss HEB TexFest and all of the great Texas products that are featured!

HEB Taco Pie

-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

-In a blender, combine the crushed HEB Texas Scoops with the melted butter and pulse until it just comes together. Press into a pie tin and put in the oven while you complete the next steps.

-Brown the beef. Drain the fat, and add in the taco seasoning and the 2 Gringos Chupacabra Rub. Add 1/4 cup of water and let simmer until thick.

-Pour meat into the pie crust. Top with HEB That's Salsa Bout Texas, cheese, and peppers. Bake until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.

-Remove from oven, top with sour cream, and serve!

Monday, March 14, 2016

30 Before 30 and Changes to QLCC

Hey guys. It's no surprise that I've been letting this blog linger quietly while I build up my new blog, Forking Up. I'm not letting QLCC die QUITE yet, but considering I'm going to be turning the big 3-0 in just 1.5 years (YIKES!) I figured it was time to start phasing out this blog and getting ready for a re-brand.

That said, I will probably keep this blog around. If nothing else, it's a tribute to my 20s and figuring myself out--as well as teaching myself to cook!

To make the countdown to my 30s more fun, I decided to make a 30-Before-30 list and use this blog to track my progress. I meant to post this on my 28th birthday, back in October, but I forgot. Since then I've actually accomplished some of these! Here's the original list:
  1. Go Skydiving
  2. Visit Asia
  3. Visit the Grand Canyon
  4. Cook a whole duck
  5. Take a cooking class
  6. Publish a book
  7. Publish an article in a magazine (did it once, want to do it again)
  8. Write a novel
  9. Submit short stories to lit mags (get one published?)
  10. Perform in a comedy festival
  11. Enter a karaoke/singing competition
  12. Do a boudoir photo shoot
  13. Take an adult swim lesson (reach goal: LEARN TO SWIM)
  14. Do a full Whole 30
  15. Go to the gym for more than one month
  16. Set (and stick to) a budget
  17. Dye hair a crazy color
  18. Take a vacation by myself
  19. Volunteer at an animal shelter
  20.  Run a 5k
  21.  Do a stand-up set
  22.  Cook a quail
  23.  Start a 401k
  24.  Take a guitar class
  25.  Attend an Austin music festival
  26.  Attend a blogging conference (preferably a national one)
  27.  Brew my own beer/mead/cider/something alcoholic
  28.  Have a legit spa day at a real spa
  29.  Create a painting (or other large piece of art) for my living room
  30.  Visit Berlin
And here's what I've accomplished so far:

  1. Go Skydiving
  2. Visit Asia
  3. Visit the Grand Canyon This past November I FINALLY visited the Grand Canyon!
  4. Cook a whole duck
  5. Take a cooking class I'd like to take another, but I recently took a cooking class all about Bacon at Central Market
  6. Publish a book (PENDING!)
  7. Publish an article in a magazine (did it once, want to do it again)
  8. Write a novel
  9. Submit short stories to lit mags (get one published?)
  10. Perform in a comedy festival
  11. Enter a karaoke/singing competition
  12. Do a boudoir photo shoot
  13. Take an adult swim lesson (reach goal: LEARN TO SWIM)
  14. Do a full Whole 30
  15. Go to the gym for more than one month
  16. Set (and stick to) a budget
  17. Dye hair a crazy color If you've seen my hair lately, there's a fun swatch of purple underneath
  18. Take a vacation by myself
  19. Volunteer at an animal shelter
  20.  Run a 5k
  21.  Do a stand-up set
  22.  Cook a quail
  23.  Start a 401k
  24.  Take a guitar class Currently taking lessons at Girl Guitar in Austin!
  25.  Attend an Austin music festival (SORT OF! I wandered around SXSW)
  26.  Attend a blogging conference (preferably a national one)
  27.  Brew my own beer/mead/cider/something alcoholic
  28.  Have a legit spa day at a real spa
  29.  Create a painting (or other large piece of art) for my living room
  30.  Visit Berlin (I should have done "get back to Europe" because I recently did visit Italy!)
I'll update my progress as I complete more. Keep checking back!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

New Blog! With Poutine!

Hey guys! So, as you know, "quarter life" more or less ends once you hit the big 3-0. Since I only have a YEAR AND A HALF left until that happens, I figured I should start building myself a new home.

Let me introduce... Forking Up!

Don't worry, I won't be abandoning this blog altogether (I've worked hard to build a following here, and I know it won't transfer overnight), but I may post slightly less frequently. The new blog will have recipes, but also some lifestyle-esque stuff.

Please please please add to your feed readers, follow it on Facebook, and show some support, I'd really appreciate it!

And go check out my recipe for some killer poutine... you won't be sorry!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Hot Buttered Rum - AKA Your New Favorite Drink

Nothing that has butter can be bad. Now, it can be bad FOR you, but it can't be bad. Which is why I'm now SO confused as to why I seemed so adverse to trying it. Butter and rum just didn't seem tasty to me.

How wrong I was.

Guys, trust me, this is going to be your new favorite beverage. You probably have MOST of the ingredients in your cupboard already, and if you don't have a heat-safe blender (I used my Ninja Blender and it worked perfectly) an immersion blender should work just fine.

Tiny kitten (Marceline!) wanted to try a sip. It's that good.

And... Christmas is like, tomorrow. How did that even happen? I'm so lazy and it's so warm out... sorry these pics aren't top quality, it's just not in me right now. You understand. any other bloggers end up just writing nothing so that they can break up the amount of pictures? Not that I'm doing that or anything... heh.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to all! See ya in the new year <3

Hot Buttered Rum

  • 1 stick salted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice)
  • 3 cups spiced rum
  • 1 shot butterscotch schnapps
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups boiling water

-In a heat-safe blender, blend together the butter, sugar, and spices. Add the cream and blend until smooth.

-Add the boiling water and blend until incorporated, then mix in the rum.

-Serve hot, whipped cream optional.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Homemade Peppermint "Oreos"

Uhhhh guys. Christmas is NEXT WEEK. Can you believe it? This is the first year I'm not going home for Christmas--though I WILL be home for New Years thanks to a voucher I had--and Austin is lovely and warm, so... honestly it doesn't feel too much like Christmas just yet.

Despite the fact that I've created a three foot tall booze advent calendar and decked my tiny halls (600 ft apartment) with everything the Target dollar bin has, hah.

My office's "ugly sweater party and cookie swap" is today, so although I've been back in Texas for about 40 hours after my Grand Canyon trip (pics to come!) not only did I make a full batch of these crazy-delicious cookies, I sewed some Christmas flotsam and jetsam onto a sweater for the occasion. You can kind of see the sweater being used as a backdrop, hah.

I take holidays seriously, guys.

These "oreos" are amazing. Even better than the store-bought holiday ones, because the filling is a marshmallow creme with candy canes in it. None of that dehydrated non-dairy nonsense. And they're bigger because everyone needs more cookie, always.

You'll need black cocoa, but other than that you'll probably have everything on hand that you need. You can find black cocoa at specialty cake stores and on Amazon. I have a small bag I bought at Make It Sweet last year and it was SO worth it.

Homemade Peppermint "Oreos"
For the cookies
(recipe via Make It Sweet in Austin)

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup black cocoa powder*
  • 1/2 tsp salt
For the filling:

  • 3 candy canes, pulverized
  • 1 cup marshmallow creme
  • 1/8 cup milk or whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 and 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

-Sift together the dry ingredients for the cookies, making sure the black cocoa is fully incorporated.

-In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla.

-Pour in all of the flour mixture and mix until just combined. The dough will be crumbly but stick together when pressed.

-Roll out the dough to 1/4" thickness between two pieces of parchment paper and place in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

-While dough is chilling, prepare the filling: In a stand or hand mixer, blend together the butter and marshmallow creme. Slowly pour in the confectioner's sugar. Use the milk/cream to get the filling to the proper consistency. Fold in the crushed candy canes. The filling should be soft and sticky, but hold together and not have a drippy liquid consistency. It will be slightly thicker than royal icing. Set aside.

-Cut out 2" circles and place on a cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees F for ten minutes each.

-Let cookies cool for about 15 minutes or more. Divide cookies in half (each sandwich = 2 cookies) and scoop (or pipe) about 1 tbsp of filling onto the top of each cookie. Let sit for ten minutes, until filling has dried slightly. Top with second cookie.

-If you're feeling fancy--brush the tops of the sandwiches with sugar water, and sprinkle any remaining candy cane powder or sprinkles on top. Let dry overnight.

*If you don't have black coca, regular cocoa or dark chocolate cocoa WILL work, but the color won't be as deep.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Heat Miser and Snow Miser Baked North Poles - FFFBs Holiday Movie Challenge!

For the Fuckin Fab Food Bloggers' December Challenge, we had to make a recipe based on our favorite holiday movie. Here's mine.

This is how I remember it, but I was probably about five, so it's likely I have it wrong. I remember sitting on the floor of the first home I can remember--an apartment on the West side of town. I was looking up, wide-eyed at the tv, because my very favorite Christmas movie, Rudolf, was on. One of the classic Rankin Bass holiday movies with the stop motion.

My mom and dad were on the couch (or perhaps mom was cleaning up dinner, I can't remember) and my dad says, "Lesa, isn't this your favorite too?" My mom, who hated cartoons, surprisingly replied  "oh, no, my favorite is the one with Snow Miser. They never play it." And then she began humming the song.

That tune quickly became stuck in all our heads. My little kid mind was in awe--not only did my mom like a CARTOON, but my mom's favorite Christmas movie wasn't Rudolf?? But Rudolf was the BEST Christmas movie! Better than that dumb one with the redheaded Santa, that one had hardly any animals in it. So my Dad, in these days before Google, wracked his brain trying to figure it out. and I forget who remembered in the end (it very well could have been Nana), but I do remember finding the coveted VHS tape at CVS soon after. It wasn't called Snow Miser, it was called The Year Without a Santa Claus, but the Miser brothers had the catchiest number in the whole movie.

Image via Cartoon Lagoon

Seriously, listen to it. I dare you not to get it stuck in your head.

Obviously because I was five, and thought my parents were the coolest and wanted to be just like my mom, I decided this, too was my favorite movie. I must have played that tape until it broke. Even in the summer. I think I played it so much that even my mom got sick of it. Eventually it got put back into the rotation for Christmas movies on tv, with a live action adaptation, but the old claymation one will always be my favorite.

Christmases are the most magical when you're that small. Those are the Christmases you remember.

In the movie, the Miser Brothers (who control the Sun and the Snow respectively) make a bargain: If Heat Miser will let it snow in SouthTown, thus allowing the mayor to declare Santa being able to take a year off, then Snow Miser would allow a spring day at the North Pole.

I thought little Baked Alaskas would be the perfect way to honor them both. I mean, Baked North Poles. Crispy on the outside, frozen on the inside.

Don't forget to check out the other Fuckin Fab Food Bloggers' recipes!

Baked North Poles a la Heat Miser & Snow Miser
  • 6 peppermint sandwich cookies (holiday Oreos)
  • 6 small scoops peppermint stick ice cream
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3 drops red food coloring
  • 1 pinch salt

-In a six-cup muffin tin, place a cookie in each well. Top with a small scoop of ice cream (I used a cookie scoop for this, it was the PERFECT size) and put in freezer for an hour, until firm.

-In a stand or hand mixer, whip the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar until they hold soft peaks. Stream in the sugar and alternate drops of food coloring until the whites hold stiff peaks.

-Turn the oven to BROIL. Remove the cookies with ice cream and cover liberally with the egg whites, being sure there are no holes for the ice cream to seep through.

-Place on a cookie sheet and put in the oven. WATCH CLOSELY. As soon as the tips begin to brown, take the sheet out of the oven. Serve immediately.