Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bourbon Vanilla Cupcakes with Peach Buttercream

I never was one to enjoy hard liquor or beers, back in my early days of being a social drinker. If it didn't taste like fruit and ten different kinds of sugar, I was not interested. Bring on the Pina Coladas and Kamikaze shots! And bring me ALL YOUR SMIRNOFF ICES, STAT.

College. Amirite?

Not surprisingly, this lead to many a hangover and a rainbow of different colors of vomit. (Sorry, that probably doesn't get you excited for food, does it?) Thankfully, these days not only is my regular intake of liquor at least half what it used to be, but my palate has evolved.

Recently, I've been kind of into bourbon. Nothing too fancy, just what I can afford on sale at Specs, the best liquor superstore I've ever encountered THANK YOU TEXAS, but still. I drink it on the rocks with a bit of ice and sip it on my porch while facing the Texas heat at the end of a long day.

However, sugar tooths die hard. And that's why I decided bourbon cupcakes would be pretty dang amazing. And peach, because Texas peaches are some of the best.

Vanilla Bourbon Cupcakes with Peach Buttercream
(cupcake recipe adapted from Wonky Wonderful)
For the Cupcakes

  • 11/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (vanilla bourbon if you have it!)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
For the Glaze

  • 1/2 cup peach flavored bourbon (OR 1/4 cup bourbon + 1/4 cup peach nectar)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar

For the Frosting
(note: there will be a LOT, reserve the extra to put on fruit)

  • 1 stick butter, room temp
  • 1/2 ripe peach
  • 2 tsp peach vodka
  • 2-4 cups confectioner's sugar

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

-In a medium bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients for cupcakes. Set aside.

I-n the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Once light and fluffy, add the rest of the wet ingredients and mix until well combined.

-Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix together until there are no lumps. Fill cupcake wells (lined with liners or greased) 2/3 full.

-Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on a cooling rack.

-While cupcakes are baking, prepare glaze: mix together all glaze ingredients and simmer over high heat until reduced by half and syrupy.

-Use a fork to prick holes in the top of each cupcake. Pour glaze over warm cupcakes, about a tablespoon each. Let cool before frosting.

-While cupcakes are cooling, prepare frosting. In a stand mixer on high, mix the peach until it is pureed. Add butter and vodka, then slowly add the confectioner's sugar until desired consistency is reached.

Note: I ran out of sugar before the frosting was stiff enough to pipe, but the drippy frosting ended up looking fun and rustic and worked just fine.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Healthy Solution Spice Blends Review

 I've been on a shrimp kick lately. Though it's kind of pricey this far from the shore, it's still a perfect summer food. Light, tasty, and versatile.

That's why, when I was asked to try a Healthy Solutions Spice Blend, Shrimp Scampi was a no-brainer.

Most Healthy Solutions Spice Blends are no salt, no sugar spice blends that are meant to kick up your family recipes and keep them tasty AND healthy. Not to mention, the blends are a lot less expensive than buying each individual herb and spice to make your own.

So far, I've tried two of the Healthy Solutions Spice Blends that I was sent, and both were a hit at my little household. First, the Ultimate Burger blend. I used this to jazz up our Memorial Day "cook in" burgers, and they were delicious. Simply mix the seasonings into the burger (I also used a bread and milk mix to ensure a moist burger!) and grill. Or, in my case, use your cast iron grill pan because it's raining outside, heh.

Next up, the scampi. This one involved just a few other ingredients in addition to the spice blend and shrimp: wine, olive oil, noodles, and diced tomatoes. I also added a hefty shake or two of red pepper flakes, as I like my shrimp with a little bit of spice. Instead of noodles, I used spaghetti squash that I tossed with butter and truffle oil with a bit of parm.

Overall, the spice blends are great to have on hand to jazz up your family favorites, or to ensure your meals are healthy while still being tasty (and most no added salt or sugar is a bonus!). I'm not one to cook a lot with spice blends, as I typically have the herbs and spices in my pantry to make my own, but these are great for home cooks to have in their arsenal who are just starting out.

Check out their full offering on their website.

Please note: I was given free samples to facilitate this review. However, all opinions are my own, and I would never back a product I did not believe in.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Frustrations and Such - Paleo Sweet Potato Hash Brown Patties

 Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get frustrated? Seriously, it's the easiest thing. Something doesn't go your way, or you take a misstep or make a mistake, and it is SO easy to just fall into a rut and feel the pressure all around.

I've noticed that feeling a lot lately. Frustration. Things not going according to plan. Not having time, or money, or energy to do things that I feel like I want to do, or should do.

"When all else fails... pet the dog."

Like this blog, for example. I've been slacking so hard, and I know it. I get frustrated. Why don't I have the skills to make amazing recipes and take amazing photos? Why do I feel like I'm talking to an empty room? Why have I been doing this for four years when it costs me more money than it makes? And then I remember the answer: because I need to PUT time, and sometimes money, into it to make it work and get it to the place I want it to be. Do the good work and good things will follow.

At least it doesn't look like this anymore...
This was a REAL RECIPE POST circa 2011, yikes.

It's easy to get frustrated, and then it's easy to get envious. Don't get me wrong, I am SO happy for blogs I love to "go viral" or get a book deal or even hit the 5k, 10k, 20k marks on followers. But I do get jealous. I think the two can go hand in hand.

Also, all the frustration feelings (not just blog-related, but this is my blog, so that's the example I gave) could totally be PMS. It happens.

And often, the frustrating feelings often subside, and I am able to focus on the positive again. I love what I do. I love where I live. And I love the rush of creating a recipe totally from my own head. I love this blog, and while I knowww it needs a lot of help design-wise and my photography could be better, it's mine.

Another thing I get frustrated about? My diet. I haven't lost the weight I keep saying I want to, keep making excuses. So I made brunch. And I made it Paleo because that's the diet I feel like I can stick to the best. One that is still filling and satisfying. The exercise will come, once I can find a plan I'll actually stick to.

These hash browns are gluten free, paleo, and delicious. I use them as a vehicle for drippy, gooey eggs and avocado. With a splash of salsa they make the perfect brunch.

Sweet Potato Hash Brown Patties
1-2 large sweet potatoes, shredded (squeeze out excess moisture with a paper towel or cheesecloth)
1 egg
2 tbs almond flour
1 tsp coconut flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp Cajun seasoning or cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
cooking oil of your choice (I used coconut)

-Heat cooking oil over medium-high heat. If doing a large batch, turn on oven to 250 degrees F to keep hash browns warm in between batches.

-While oil is heating, mix together the shredded hashbrowns and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together dry ingredients.

-With a fork or your hands, mix the dry ingredients into the wet. Form mixture into patties and press together firmly.

-In small batches, fry in oil until crispy on both sides--about 2 minutes per side. Serve on their own or as a base for a delicious eggy brunch.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Plated Review - Bloody Mary Shrimp and Flank Steak Gyros

Before we begin: I LOVE how the pictures of the shrimp came out... the steak, not so much. Just goes to show how important natural lighting is!

So, if you're here on my blog, I can deduce one thing: you like food. Either you're a food blogger who's checking out the competition/making friends/expanding your network OR you're a home cook who's trying to learn the ropes and are hopeful I can help you out.

If either of these things are true, and you have a Facebook account, you have definitely seen this deal going around: Four Free Meals for New Members! Sounds too good to be true, right?


Look at this deliciousness.

For the cost of shipping (~$20) you'll get enough ingredients and instructions to make four meals. For me, that meant two recipes with two plates each. It looked like an amazing deal to me, and I'd been wanting to try the service, so I jumped at the opportunity to check it out. I didn't know what to expect, I knew the company was legit so I wasn't too worried about the "too good to be true" aspect.

Lately, I've been coming home from work not wanting to cook–crazy, right??–but since the box came delivered to my office and the stuff was obviously perishable, I poured myself a glass of wine and got to work. I was pleasantly surprised.

All the ingredients were fresh, and the instructions were super easy to follow. Plus, the recipes were SUPER tasty and very unique. I chose the Flank Steak Gyros with Pesto and the Bloody Mary Shrimp. Both were absolutely fantastic. I wish I'd made the gyros earlier in the day, unfortunately the pictures came out kind of gross due to artificial light. Oh well!

I would do this every week if I could, but unfortunately the price point is way out of my budget. Before the intro offer, the whole she-bang (4 meals, 2 recipes) would have been $70 or more. It comes out to $12-$15 per meal, and $20 for shipping. However, this is a GREAT way to learn new recipes (I'm keeping both in my stash to re-make again for sure!) and would be a fun date night or girls night in activity.

I can see myself doing this in the future if I'm feeling uncreative in the kitchen and want to jazz it up a bit. If I had the money though, I'd totally do it more often.

Check out Plated!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Little Late -- Trace Food Porn

I am beyond thrilled that I was able to attend TWO events in the past month that focused on the wonderful food of Trace, at the W Hotel in downtown Austin.

Hotel restaurants can be hit or miss for me, but Trace is one of those rare "hits" that is more than worth it. In all honesty, it's probably not a restaurant I can afford regularly, but the bites I had are proof enough that it's well worth the price.

Plus now with their Happy Hour and excellent brunch, there really is no reason not to check out their amazing lineup.

First, I went to the Austin Food Blogger Alliance Monthly Happy Hour in May. It was incredible. Both a mini buffet of their summer menu and servers bringing bite after bite to the table. There was not a weak piece here at all. From the rabbit gnocchi to the lump crab meat over squid ink pasta to the amazing strawberry dessert sampler, it was all perfect.

There seriously was not one bad bite in the lineup!

Oh and their spicy lemonade was INCREDIBLE. This MIGHT be my new favorite drink.

Next event was a fundraiser and popup pig roast. 

A totally different crowd, but also a ton of fun to attend! Pork tacos, fish tacos, and oysters. Delish.

Now I'm dreaming of going back for that happy hour or a fancy date night with the boy. I took a ton of pictures, enjoy!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Startup Life and Paleo Vanilla Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

Working at a startup is unlike anything else. The environment is always fast-paced, and things are always changing. Last week was a huge week for TabbedOut, and I felt that baked goods were in order.

Being that this was my first time making food for my coworkers, I didn't want to mess it up. They know I'm a food blogger, so I felt things would be held to higher standards. I played it safe with Chocolate Stout Cupcakes (if you've never poured Guinness in your cupcake batter, you're missing out) and then remembered a few food allergies. An egg-free coworker got a batch of eggless brownies topped with Reese's Oreos and peanut butter drops.

Since my boss is on a mostly Paleo diet (as am I, kind of, in a really half-assed kind of way) I decided to make a batch of these. I wasn't going to make baked goods for everyone BUT my boss!

And he wasn't in that day. Oops.

Somehow, despite the little sign saying "gluten-free/paleo friendly," which typically deters most, these suckers didn't last the day either. I can see why--they're actually really good! It's a great, quick recipe to have on hand when you need a sweet treat that won't ruin your diet. I keep it in my arsenal for weeks such as this.

Oh yeah, I made the company a birthday cake, too! – it was from a box, to save time, but with special tricks like subbing the oil out for butter, and using milk instead of water, to make it less box-cakey.

Paleo Vanilla Coconut Cupcakes with Paleo Ganache Frosting
(Adapted from Elena's Pantry)

  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 3 tbs coconut flakes
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda (I used baking powder and lemon juice as a sub, since I was out!)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tbs honey (I used an additional heaping tbs of maple syrup, too)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Frosting

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate
  • 3 tbs butter or ghee

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix together dry ingredients in a small bowl.

-Slowly stir in eggs, coconut oil, honey, and vanilla extract until a thick batter forms. Pour into cupcake wells, 3/4 full.

-While baking, prepare the frosting: melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler or in the microwave. Let cool to room temp to a thick consistency.

-Let cupcakes cool completely, then frost.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Poptails II: Watermelon Strawberry Poptail Coolers

In a total burst of coincidence, it's midnight and I have what I call Sunday Insomnia – which occurs when a weekend of staying up late and sleeping in makes it impossible fall asleep at a reasonable hour in order to be bright-eyed-and-busy-tailed for Monday morning– and I decide to edit the photos for this recipe you see here.

And, being a 20-something, I obviously need to be doing no fewer than 12 things at once when I'm on my computer. So in addition to editing photos, I'm stalking random people I went to high school with on Facebook, Instagramming too many pictures of my pets, frosting some cupcakes, catching up on Under the Dome, writing out the instructions for this recipe, and perusing Buzzfeed. And I come across this:

Poptails, totally right up my alley. Actually, EXACTLY what I'm preparing to blog about while I wait for this Tylenol PM to settle in. After all, it's getting hot here in Texas, and what better way to chill out than with a delicious popsicle that has a hint of booze? I pull it open and read it in between doing all the other things.

Then, I see THIS:

THAT IS MY RECIPE. MY RECIPE IS ON BUZZFEED.* And it actually links to my blog, not some recipe-share site. Woo hoo!

I've joked with fellow bloggers that I "Haven't Made It Until I've Been Mentioned on a Buzzfeed Article" so... does this mean I've "made it"? Eh, I guess I'm skeptical, but it's still pretty damn cool!

Watermelon Strawberry Poptail Coolers
(Note: these are small popsicle molds, use more or less if you have bigger or smaller molds, taste frequently!)

  • 1/2 bottle watermelon malt beverage (I used HEB Hibiscus Watermelon Tregos Frescos, but use whatever you can find that is similar!)
  • 4 large strawberries, pureed with a pinch of sugar
  • 1 tbs strawberry vodka
  • 1/4 cup lemonade
-Mix together ingredients, taste. Add more or less of each until desired taste is reached. (Be sure your ratio of booze and more watery liquids is in favor of the water type, or else they won't freeze completely)

-Pour carefully into pop molds, freeze overnight or until solid.

-Remove carefully by rolling molds in your hands and gently pinching until popsicle is easily removed.

*Fellow bloggers have asked if Buzzfeed asked permission to use my photos. The short answer, is no. However, they did the universally ok'd practice of "One Photo with Link to Recipe" which I much prefer to posting the entire recipe verbatim or using a ton of pictures. Had they not done this, I'd be a little angry that they didn't ask my permission. BUT I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt that they had the best of intentions (as I would with anyone who simply shares a picture and a link to my blog), and getting on a Buzzfeed list has been somewhat of a rite of passage for food blogs, so s'all good with me.