Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Kiss Cookies - Falling Into Fall with Lackluster photos


So, the picture quality is awfully yellowy and definitely not the best. This is due to me not having my own camera, as it's still looping around Austin with the wrong address (my fault, oops). Hopefully I have it soon.


However, it's been too long without a recipe, so I figured crappy pictures would suffice for now. I will swallow my pride and accept that while they're not my best, they surely aren't my worst either.

Anyway, I can't think of a more perfect fall cookie than these little chai pumpkin spice thumbprints. Since Austin weather is still "early summer/late spring" temperatures to me (~70 degrees!) I've had a hard time getting into the season. However, my kitchen's been doing a great job at allowing me to experience fall flavors despite it all.

Apple picking during a quick jaunt back to Massachusetts


Also, I am a Pumpkin Spice lover and I AM NOT ASHAMED. Seriously, what next, criticizing me for my leggings with Ugg boots and a Northface jacket while I loiter outside Urban Outfitters taking selfies? C'mon.



You can't deny that pumpkin = fall. And pumpkin without its accompanying spices is just squash. So shuttup.

I adapted this recipe because I haven't been able to track down the chai concentrate that every recipe requires. HOWEVER, I discovered recently that Trader Joe's is the freaking MECCA of Pumpkin Spice, so I made some substitutions.


This recipe requires very specific items: namely Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte powder and Hershey's Kisses. If you do not have access to these items, namely the powder, please see the original recipe for the chai-from-concentrate option. But it's mid-October... you'll find them.

Happy Fall, everyone!



Pumpkin Spice Chai Kisses
(adapted from Pass the Sushi)

  • 1 stick butter, room temp
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbs strongly brewed chai tea
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (~1 scoop) Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea
  • 1 and 1/4 cup flour (I used Bob's Red Mill gluten free 1-for-1)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ~25 Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kiss 


In a large bowl, combine chai tea powder, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir well.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg, pumpkin puree, vanilla, and tea.

Slowly add the dry to the wet, using a spatula to scrape down the sides of the mixer often. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F, and unwrap all the kisses while it preheats. Place cookies by the rounded tablespoonfull onto a parchment paper or silpat lined cookie sheet. If desired, sprinkle cookies with extra pumpkin spice mix mixed with sugar.

Bake for 15 minutes. Immediately upon removing from the oven, push kisses into center of each cookie. Do not touch or the chocolate will drip. Let cool completely.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Influenster Review: #VSSportBra #Sponsored


I received promotional items from Influenster and Victoria's Secret to facilitate this review and blog post. All opinions are my own.

Not a food post! But related to my constant struggle to become healthy again and drop some extra pounds I've been carrying around...

If you've been around here for any sort of length of time, you may have realized something: the gym is my mortal enemy. I hate it. I went from being effortlessly skinny as a 0 to 25 year old, to now gaining about 10 lbs a year if I do nothing about it. That's... kind of scary to me.

This is my Going to the Gym Face.

So, recently I've put at least a little bit of effort into going to the gym. Though in the past month I've been down 5 lbs and then up again to my usual (bigger) weight, then back down 5 again, at least it feels good to know I'm doing SOMETHING about it, and that hopefully soon I'll see real results.


One of the things I'd been putting off was getting new workout clothes. I always feel a little bit better if I have a specific gym outfit that keeps all the jiggly bits in, while looking decently cute in the process.

Can I just say that I am LOVING my Victoria's Secret Sport Bra? It's adorable and pink, but also keeps everything supported while I toil away at the elliptical. And the slight cup is great so I don't feel totally smooshed.

This is my Going to the Gym at the Ass Crack of Dawn Face

The provided leggings are also a dream--so comfortable! I think these will find their way into my regular fall outfits as leggings under dresses and such. Not only do they keep the jiggle under control, they're soft and stretchy and I've actually spent the entire day lounging about in them.

I'm never going to be one of those girls who LOOOOVES running, or yoga, or hangs out at the gym on the regular. But here's hoping I can at least find the gym tolerable enough to reach my goals and maintain them. And cute gym clothes always help ;)


I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Oops!

I left my camera in Massachusetts... regular blogging will resume once one of the following occurs:

-I figure out how to properly use my fiancé's camera
or
-I get my camera back

Sadly my iPhone took a swim last year, and my picture quality on there has been mush ever since.

Hopefully I'll have a review of Byte of Texas soon, along with some other cool posts!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Light Drizzle - Guest Post at Cravings of a Lunatic


Here's my low-cal take on a Dark & Stormy cocktail, with homemade ginger simple syrup. It's up at Cravings of a Lunatic, take a peek!

Monday, September 15, 2014

End of Summer Musings - Heirloom Cherry Tomato Galette

September is always a bit of a transitional month. Summer slowly, then all at once, shifts into autumn. The harvest comes in, and the bright summer flavors are replaced with the deep, earthy winter ones.  Cold soups to hot ones, tree fruits to root vegetables. With some corn and squash in between.


This is my first autumn away from New England. I know it's September, and it's still summer weather outside in my new home of Austin, Texas, but there's still a shift in the air somehow. My New England skin will still find summer temps here in November, when the rest of Texas is beginning to bundle up--last year I was outside in a bikini top sunning myself only to see jackets on the streets. But there's still a coolness beginning, a stirring in the seasons. New England is already getting cold, and I'm being advised to bring warm clothes for my quick jaunt back this week.


I've yet again embarked on a weight loss journey, and as I've said before, cutting carbs seems to work better for me than cutting calories but I'm trying a hybrid of both. I'm diligently tracking my food and imputing it into an app, working out regularly in the early hours... if you know me, you know this is a struggle.


So, to say goodbye to summer, and my last big dose of carbs before buckling down, I made this galette. My first galette ever, with dough made from scratch WITHOUT a food processor. The fresh burst of heirloom cherry tomatoes with the creamy ricotta and flaky, buttery crust... it's a complete marriage of summer and fall, bright flavors with a warm presentation. The recipe is long, but trust me... it's worth it, and honestly not as involved as it looks.


Heirloom Grape Tomato Galette with Ricotta Filling
(Crust based on instructions Food52)
Dough:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1.5 sticks of COLD butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup of ICE water
  • 1 tbs garlic powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg (for glaze)

Filling
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (I used Heirloom)
  • 1 tbs corn starch
  • 1 heaping tbs herbs de provance
  • salt
  • ~1/4 cup ricotta cheese


-Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

-Mix together flour, garlic powder, and salt. With your hands, a pastry cutter, or a food processor, mix together the flour mixture and the cold butter. If using your hands: pinch together the butter into the flour until the biggest bits left are the size of peas. If using a food processor: Pulse until the biggest bits are pea-size.

-Sprinkle the ice water over the dough, folding gently and making sure the ice cubes don't fall in. With your hands, gently press the dough together until smooth. If too crumbly, use a tablespoon more water at a time.

-Spread some plastic wrap on the counter, and press dough into a disc. Wrap up, and put in fridge for at least 1 hour.

-Prepare filling: Mix together tomatoes, corn starch, herbs, salt. (A splash of red wine vinegar or balsamic might be nice here too!) Let sit for 5 minutes.

-Back to the dough... Pull it out of the fridge and gently roll into a circular, flat disc (Ideal thickness is about 1/3", but I think mine was closer to 1/2", oops). Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silpat.

-Spread ricotta cheese in the middle of the disc, leaving about 3 inches or so around the edge. Pile tomatoes on top of the ricotta.

-Carefully fold the edges of the pastry up and around the tomatoes. Pinch lightly to make sure it stays closed.

-Whisk egg and use a pastry brush or your fingers to "paint" the edges of the crust. Sprinkle with more garlic powder, salt, or herbs if you'd like.

-Bake for 1 hour OR until the crust is golden brown. (mine took 35 mins)

-Transfer, GENTLY, to a cooling rack and cool completely before serving. Serve with slices of fresh basil.

Fork + Taco Austin - New Restaurant on Burnet Rd

Note: I was invited to the soft open of Fork + Taco and received complimentary tacos to try. Opinions are all my own. Also I apologize for low-ish photo quality, I forgot my camera at home!

Tacos, in Austin, have a high standard to live up to. This is because 1. They're EVERYWHERE and 2. Because they're everywhere, you really need to have an unforgettable taco if you want to stand out among the rest. However, when you have experts like Jeff McCoy and Uchi alum Casey Fannin, at the helm, there's no doubt these tacos will be giving others a run for their money!


Fork + Taco accomplishes this, times ten. Guys, I seriously have a new favorite taco place in Austin!
I was lucky enough to be invited to the soft opening on Thursday by my foodie coworker, so the four of us had a lovely little break from office life to get some incredible tacos on our lunch hour. We were able to try 3 items each (and were handed dessert on top of that!), and I made a mental note to come back and tip double since I didn't have any cash on me to put in the jars for the friendly counterstaff. 


The decor is gorgeous, and "so Austin," hah. Modern, with a combination of wood panels and brightly colored walls, with funky art (I LOVED the painting in the women's room, I wish I'd taken a picture). There is seating inside and outside, and it's counter service with a number system.


The menu has an excellent combination of traditional and unique offerings. All three main meats are present and accounted for, as well as some veggie-only options. The tortillas taste homemade, and the fillings are fresh and flavorful. And in a bonus for me, it's on Burnet, which isn't too far from my super-North-Austin living space while still being only a slightly far drive for lunch hour at work.


I opted for the 24 Hour Flank Steak, Asian Pear & Chicken, and Ahi Tuna tacos. Every one of them was a perfect mini-meal in a tortilla. My favorite, by far, was the Ahi Tuna. The tuna was the freshest I've had in Austin, and the sauce, orange bits, and avocado all blended together perfectly for a delicious fusion taco.


My coworkers had similar choices and everyone was ooh-ing and ahh-ing about how delicious it all was. The only item we all were on the fence about was the dessert: Maple Soy soft serv. I loved it, it was totally unami and a good palate cleanser at the end of the meal. But it definitely tasted like soy sauce, so it wasn't everyone's jam.


While the tacos are on the pricier side (~$5 per taco, depending on what's in it), it's more than worth it. We all agreed that this was our new lunch spot, putting it in the rotation with our other favorites: TNT, the Garbo's truck, Hula Hut, and the Whole Foods Hot Bar. It's definitely in good company.

Today is their official opening! Go give them some love and check out all the amazingly delicious tacos they have to offer. Bonus points: they also have beer!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

#TBT Zucchini Leek Soup, Redux.

I've been on a #TBT kick, can you tell? If you're unaware of Twitter/Instagram hashtags, #TBT means Throwback Thursday. Internet People across the US (and probably beyond) post pictures of themselves from years past. Sometimes many, many years past. 



I've begun doing my own culinary #TBT by re-doing old recipes with new photos. Check out last week's posts: A roundup of a bunch of fellow bloggers' before and after, and my own recipe for Shakshuka that I re-did! This week we have Zucchini Leek Soup:


Look at the difference! Before: Using flash inside (FOR SHAME!), on my parents' kitchen table, and a simple sprinkling of parsley is my only attempt at "styling." And the new pictures: at least an attempt at styling, with a bit better lighting--though not PERFECT since I was taking these as the sun was setting and I was running out of light--and a bit more garnish.



 This is the perfect recipe to transition from summer to fall, in my opinion. The "summer squash" of zucchini is still in abundance, but the warm comforting soup is great as the nights get a little chillier... though in Texas they're still pretty warm! Plus, bacon.


If there's any life lesson you can learn from me it's this: You can never go wrong with bacon.

Zucchini Leek Soup with Bacon

  • 1 package thick-sliced bacon 
  • 2 lbs zucchini, thinly sliced (about 2 large)
  • 
1 lb red potatoes (about 3 large)
  • 
2 medium leeks, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 cup celery, diced small

  • 2 tbs garlic, chopped
  • 8 cups chicken stock 
  • 2 cups half & half
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
  • Olive oil or truffle oil, for drizzling on top

-Cook bacon in a soup pot until done to your liking (I prefer a little chewy). Remove from pot and set aside on paper towels to dry a bit. Do not clean out pot.

-Add the zucchini, potatoes, leeks, celery, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook until the veggies are translucent.

-Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender

-Add the cream and parsley to soup. In batches, puree soup with immersion blender or in batches on a tabletop blender. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of bacon and oil of choice or chill and serve cold.