Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wine 101 & A Cocktail Recipe #HEBJoyville #sponsored

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received compensation in the form of products and a gift card from H-E-B for my time and participation in the H-E-B Virtual Progressive Dinner. Although we have material connection to H-E-B, any publicly stated opinions of H-E-B and their brands remain my own.

Welcome to Day 2 of HEB's Holiday Virtual Progressive Dinner! Today is Drinks & Wine Day, hosted by ME, Ashley! Be sure to post your favorite holiday libations on Instagram and tag @HEB and #HEBJoyvilleSweeps for your chance to win an HEB gift card!

Alright, so, keep up with me here: The recipe on this post is for a cocktail, but the information in the post is about wine. Because as talented as I may be in the bar and kitchen, I'm not quite at the level where I can help you bottle your own wine. Not yet, anyway. Got it? Okay. Cool. (Plus, why would you need to when HEB carries such a kickin' selection?)

TL; DR: Read on for a wine lesson, scroll down for a cocktail recipe.

As some of you may know, I attended a tiny artsy-fartsy college in Boston. In order to pay the exorbitant rent while I studied, I worked nearly full time at a busy Italian restaurant outside of Fenway park. One of the things they were big on was wine suggestions. During my time there I learned some quick and dirty tricks that will help you pair wine like a pro... or at least enough that your guests will THINK you're a pro ;)

Thanks for the swag, HEB!

The 5 S's
This was how we learned the proper way to taste wine. If you see any errors, forgive me (and let me know in the comments!) it's been a little while...
1. See - First step is obviously to LOOK at the wine. Notice the colors--is it a full, deep red? A light, rose color? 
2. Swirl - This technique is twofold. Gently swirl the wine and notice how the liquid slides down the inside of the glass. Fuller wines will slide slower, lighter wines will slide quicker. Swirling also aerates the wine a bit, releasing the aromatics.
3. Smell - Now that those aromas are swirling up in the glass, stick your nose in there and take a whiff. What do you smell? Fruit, oak, caramel, vanilla... see if you can pick up the different flavors before you even taste it. 
4. Sip - Take a sip and, if you're like me, resist the urge to gulp it down. Let it settle on your tongue. Are you tasting the flavors you smelled before? Roll it around a bit.
5. Savor - This may look funny, but now you need to get some air in there. Take a small breath and move the wine around as you do so--like a little kid blowing bubbles, but backwards. The flavors should be popping now.

There you go! Now you can taste wine like a pro, and impress your wine guests with a demonstration when you serve your selection of holiday wines!

And now... for pairing. We all know this simple rule: Red Meat = Red Wine. White Meat = White Wine. Right? Well... kind of. In reality, you pair wines by body, not by color. So heavier whites are going to pair with anything from chicken to veal, while lighter reds can pair with beef or chicken.

A Few Wine Pairing Tips
(I am by NO MEANS a sommelier, these are my personal rules I go by, and they might help you, too!)
  • Pair by body: heavier wine = heavier meat
  • Pair by sauce: red with red and white with white applies better to pastas. Pasta with red sauce pairs better with a red wine, same for white.
  • How do you pair smokey or spicy dishes? Lighter, sweeter wines, like a Rosé or White Zinfendel, OR look for wines that have spicy notes in them which will complement the flavors.
  • Dessert Wine: If you're drinking a sweet wine with dessert, make sure it is as sweet or sweeter than the dessert you're enjoying, or else it will make your dessert taste bitter.
  • Red with red, white with white is fine... only if you can't remember anything else.
  • Not brave enough for fancy wine? Sangria is a lovely cocktail-wine hybrid that is tasty no matter what your entree. 

Ashley tip: drink whatever wine you want! If you HATE reds or can't stand Chardonnay, the fact that someone's telling you it'll go nicer with your entree then what you really want to order isn't going to do much for you. 

And now... for the cocktail recipe!


A good rule of thumb is to offer one signature cocktail at your party, and leave a few basics out for those who just want to do a rum and coke. I typically make a big batch of sangria, but if you want a more personal, holiday-themed cocktail to make for guests, I'd go with this. I call it my Cranberry "Texan" Mule, a take on a Moscow Mule. Spicy ginger beer and tangy cranberries combine with vodka for a lovely holiday drink!

Cranberry Texan Mule
  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • .5 oz fresh lime juice
  • .5 oz cranberry simple syrup (see below)
  • 1/2 cup ginger beer
  • ice
  • lime wedge, for garnish

For the Cranberry Simple Syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
-Prepare the simple syrup: Over medium heat, mix together the water and sugar until sugar has just dissolved. Add cranberries and zest, and stir lightly. Bring heat down to low, and leave on heat for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into a jar (berries and all!) and refrigerate until cold, or overnight.

-Fill a glass with ice (if you have a copper cup, go for it!) and pour vodka, lime juice, and simple syrup over the top. Top with ginger beer, and stir gently. Serve with lime wedge, and extra cranberries for garnish.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Story of This Turkey - How to brine and cook a turkey!

Due to leaving my camera in Massachusetts, it's been kind of tough to pull recipes together. Thankfully I FINALLY have it back, woo! Major props to the fiancé for lending me his camera for turkey day though. It's a little older and harder for me to work with, so forgive me if the pics aren't top quality... moreso my lack of skill than his camera.

So this is from Thanksgiving, but I've been dying to share it with you. Considering tomorrow starts the HEB Virtual Progressive Dinner, I thought it'd fit in nicely to kick off the week.

If you need a reminder... Here's the Lineup for the Week:

Monday 12/8: Table Décor by Handmade Mood

Tuesday 12/9: Drinks/Wine by yours truly ;)

Wednesday 12/10: Appetizers by Confections of a Foodie Bride

Thursday 12/11: Main Course by A Zesty Bite

Friday 12/12: Desserts by The Baking Fairy

And don't forget about the Instagram Contest! Check my previous post for more details.

Now, for this turkey... I went back to Massachusetts for my mom's birthday over Thanksgiving, and the fiancé was working the actual holiday. We were a little sad at the idea of not having Thanksgiving leftovers, so I made an entire Thanksgiving dinner five days early with a few close friends.

I'd never in my life cooked a turkey before, and I was very excited to take on the process of making THE. PERFECT. TURKEY. I consulted the expert, Alton Brown, and some family know-how, and the results (as you can see) are pretty dang perfect!

Juicy, flavorful, and a good blend of new and old techniques. I even made homemade gravy to smother it with. All in all, my first turkey was a success!

Tips: Don't stuff the turkey with stuffing! Cook stuffing separately to ensure a juicy bird. Save the giblets to make THE BEST GRAVY EVER! Save the bones (and any veggie trimmings you have leftover) to make stock.

The Perfect Turkey
(Recipe based largely on Alton Brown's Good Eats)

  • 1 turkey, ~12 lbs
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 gallon stock (I used a combo of veg and chicken)
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 1 ginger knob, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 gallon of water

For Inside the Turkey

  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 apple, sliced in half
  • 1 onion, sliced in half
  • 1 cup water

Herbed Butter

  • 2 sticks room temp butter
  • 2 tablespoons herbs de provance
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil

-In a large stock pot, combine the salt, brown sugar, apple cider, stock, peppercorns, allspice berries, and cinnamon stick. Heat over medium-high heat, until salt and sugar have dissolved. Bring to a boil, then take off heat and cool to room temp.

-Combine the ingredients for the herbed butter, stirring so that all ingredients are well combined, and place in fridge until ready to roast turkey.

-In a 5 gallon pot, place turkey and cover with brine and 1 gallon of cold water. Let sit in fridge overnight.

-When ready to roast, pat turkey dry and place on a roasting rack. Combine cinnamon stick, apple, onion, and 1 cup water in a microwave safe dish and microwave for 30 seconds. Drain water off, and place in the cavity of the turkey.

-Gently make cuts in the turkey's skin, and take cubes of the herbed butter and place under skin. Do this over the entire bird.

-Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Cut a piece of tinfoil that will cover the breast of the bird. Spray lightly with cooking spray, and set aside. Roast bird for 30 minutes at this heat.

-Remove from oven and place apron over breast. Bring heat down to 350 degrees F and roast for 2 and a half hours, or until internal temperature reaches 161 degrees F.* Let rest outside the oven, covered, for 15 minutes before carving.

*Alton suggests a fancy-pants thermometer-alarm here, but I don't have that. So I just checked periodically with a regular meat thermometer.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

#HEBJoyville Holiday Virtual Progressive Dinner #sponsored

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received compensation in the form of products and a gift card from H-E-B for my time and participation in the H-E-B Virtual Progressive Dinner. Although we have material connection to H-E-B, any publicly stated opinions of H-E-B and their brands remain my own.

Hello again, friends! I know it's been a while, but I have some good news: 1. I FINALLY GOT MY CAMERA BACK! Let's all breathe a sigh of relief that my usual recipe posts will be back, full force. And 2...

I am joining up with HEB and 4 other bloggers (Handmade Mood,  Confections of a Foodie BrideA Zesty Bite, and The Baking Fairy) to bring you HEB's Holiday Virtual Progressive Dinner! For the week of December 8th, we'll be posting all the components you'll need to have a kicking holiday gathering. If you've heard me gush about the amazingness of HEB, you know how thrilled I am for this. I'll be providing the booze in this virtual dinner party, and I couldn't be more excited!

Y'all know how much I love the booze.

Here's the Lineup for the Week:

Monday 12/8: Table Décor by Handmade Mood

Tuesday 12/9: Drinks/Wine by yours truly ;)

Wednesday 12/10: Appetizers by Confections of a Foodie Bride

Thursday 12/11: Main Course by A Zesty Bite

Friday 12/12: Desserts by The Baking Fairy

In addition to these amazing holiday tidbits, EVERY DAY next week you have the chance to win a $100 HEB gift card just by instagramming your favorite holiday dish/drink/décor in the theme of the day with the hashtag #HEBJoyvilleSweeps and tag @HEB (so, on my day, post your favorite holiday drink!) and you're entered to win. You can enter each day of the dinner, so that's five chances to win!

So there you go. Check back here for my drink recipe on Tuesday, and be sure you're following us all on the usual social media channels so you don't miss a single piece of this dinner party. Can't wait to see you there!

And oh yeah, here's a sneak peek of Tuesday ;)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Brooklyn Brewery Mash - Dinner on the Farm

Full disclosure: I was invited to this event on behalf of Porter Novelli.

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Brooklyn Brewery Mash's Dinner on the Farm event. It was rainy, chilly, and very uncharacteristic weather for Austin, but the good food definitely made up for it and the bonfire kept us warm.

As we all know, my camera situation is dire. Please forgive the shoddy iPhone 4S pictures.

According to the website, the Brooklyn Brewery Mash is "America's largest traveling food and arts festival. The Mash is a week of parties, comedy, concerts, pop-up supperclubs and readings, all featuring humanity’s favorite beverage in 12 American and European cities."

Food was provided by Odd Duck (one of my favorite new restaurants in town!) with bites from Blackbird Bakery and Yeti Custard, plus more deliciousness from Cuvee Coffee, Treaty Oak Distilling Co and Liber and Co and cool leather goods from Stowe Provisions.

Did I mention the Brooklyn Brewery beers? They were all pretty fantastic: Brooklyn Beers
1/2 Ale, Winter Ale, AMA Bionda, Post Road Pumpkin Ale, Lager 

Waterloo gin might also be my new favorite.

Hayrides took visitors on a tour of the farm. From livestock to crops, the Simmons Family Farm is a family owned and operated farm located just outside Austin. The farm produces both livestock and vegetables on its 131 acres.

Our dinner, cooked by Odd Duck, was actually made using produce from the farm! Here's the amazing menu... Passed Appetizers: Coddled quail egg, smoked trout roe, shiso.
Stone crab salad, seafood crackling, green papaya and Meyer lemon ​Dinner: Turkey steamship: shishito and giblet gravy, mushroom. Texas boil: Yukon potatoes, sweet corn, fermented chilies.
Simmons Farm Greens: swiss chard, spinach, lightly charred, vinaigrette. Grilled broccoli, cabbage, Texas apples, radish, aerated scrambled eggs. Jalapeno and cheddar cornbread: Richardson corn meal, fresh masa, house cultured butter Dessert: Sweet potato pie: gingered crust, sweet potato marshmallow.

The Brooklyn Brewery Mash Tour is going through major cities and celebrating everything that makes those cities great! Since urban farming is so important to Austin culture, the Simmons Family Farm was the perfect place to kick off the week of fun events.

There are still tons of events happening in Austin this week, you won't want to miss this! And if you're not in Austin, check the website to see when the tour is coming to you.

Spicy Turkey Meatloaf with Yellowbird Sauce

 Full Disclosure: I got a bottle of Yellowbird sauce as a gift for attending Byte of Texas. I loved it so much, I decided to do a recipe with it! I also got to meet one of the founders of the company. Opinions are my own.

I wish I had more to say than "hey I finally found these pictures but I am too exhausted to think of something witty" but I don't. But it's a recipe, so there's that! I apologize for the pictures, I'm still using Cory's camera and I am just not used to it.

During Byte of Texas I discovered Yellowbird sauce. It's deliciously spicy, and locally made in Austin. I immediately decided to make a spicy meatloaf with it, it's that good.

This meatloaf is gluten-free and paleo friendly. Protein-packed and so full of flavor. Enjoy!

Spicy Turkey Meatloaf with Yellowbird Sauce

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup diced mushrooms
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 diced onion
  • 1 tsp diced garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • optional: grated parmesan cheese

For the Sauce

  • 1/2 cup Yellowbird sauce (or hot sauce of choice)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

-Over medium heat, toss the olive oil with the onion, garlic, and mushrooms. Cook until onions are translucent and let cool.

-In a small bowl, mix together sauce ingredients. Set aside.

-In a large bowl, combine the rest of meatloaf ingredients, being careful not to over-work the meat. Press meat into a greased loaf pan. Top with half of the sauce.

-Cook for 1 hour and 20 minutes, until firm and cooked through. Finish with the rest of the sauce.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Blog Gods Hate Me.

It's November. I've yet to post a single Thanksgiving recipe. Let me tell you my sad, sad tale.

So my Canon Rebel T3 is lost in the mail. Officially. The post office has even suggested we file the insurance claim.

Anyone know how long those take? My guess is: a long. ass. time.

Camera, memory card with 4 years of photos, and lens: poof. Lost in the abyss that is the Austin Postal System.

So I have fiancé's camera. It's older, bulkier, and less user-friendly for people like me who guess and check and hope for the best.

But the enormous memory card it takes, with the last 3 recipes I've created and saved, is MIA. No idea where that is.

We're getting a new card for the recipes/pictures I need to take for an upcoming campaign (fingers crossed we can find one, I haven't seen one of those dinosaurs in years), but seriously.

Did I mention my iPhone 4S took a bath last summer and the camera has never been the same? I can't even fudge it in the meantime with PHONE PICTURES, ugh!

W.T.F, Blog Gods??

Send some good vibes my way. Specifically camera-finding good vibes.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Scary Story of Halloween Woes - Candy Corn Treats

Here's a scary story, titled Why You Should Always Shop Local Because Big Halloween Retailers Suck And Here Are Some Pictures of My Recipe That Is At the Bottom of the Post. If you know me at ALL, you know Halloween is my favorite holiday. Every year I spend way too much money on not only my costume, but decking out my apartment in cool decorations, and buying a ton of food for a Halloween party with friends to show off our costumes. I always do MULTIPLE events and wear my costume numerous times, so I don't mind spending a bit more than usual for it.

So, my grand plan for Halloween was this: dress up like a character from my favorite show (Adventure Time!) and fiancé would also dress up like a character, and it'd be awesome. Due to not having time or resources to put the costume together myself, I ordered from massive Halloween retailer Spirit Halloween, which seemed to be the only place that had the costume with all components. Huge banners advertising 3 DAY SHIPPING! Great! I would get my costume with enough time to wear it multiple times and be worth the steep $50 price tag!

Big. Friggin. Mistake.

My order should have come in on the 23rd, with plenty of time to wear the costume at least three times, if not more. However, the 23rd came and went, and no costume. I emailed customer support, and they told me it'd be there by the 25th--the day of my Halloween party. Halloween party came and went, no costume. I asked if, at this point, I could buy a new one in-store and return the one that came in the mail... nope, their return policy does not allow this. Also turns out my order was "lost in transit" even though in a previous email the customer service rep said she "saw the costume on the dock waiting for pickup." Customer service refunded my shipping and upgraded to overnight, but the next day, still no costume.

I wrote a heated complaint on the Facebook wall, which got deleted, and then I re-posted and they told me to message them privately, and they just told me to email support, which I'd already been doing.

At this point, I tried to cancel my order. I got an email about a refund, and I assumed this was the costume. I went out, bought an entirely NEW costume, wore it to Event #2 that I needed a costume for, and then I get a notice that my order has shipped. There is nothing I can do, I cannot cancel, and now I'm out $50 because I can't return this damn thing.

New Costume.

Not to mention, fiancé's costume now makes no sense since we're no longer a couple's costume. The best Spirit Halloween can do is offer me a $25 rebate (only half the price of the costume and they still keep half my money, assholes) and 20% off a future purchase. Nope, I am NEVER shopping there AGAIN so that's pointless. I can also send the order back for a full refund, but with how messed up their shipping system clearly is, I am not going to risk it.

I guess he's going as a Hipster?
...like every day?

Awful, awful. I don't use my blog to bitch about bad reviews often, but in this case it was so warranted. Don't shop at Spirit Halloween. They don't give a crap about their customers, and their promise of 3 day shipping is an utter lie.

Shout out to Saver's and Costume World of Austin for saving my Halloween with the items to make my backup costume.

In other news, these are basically just Crispy Rice Treats but with a Halloweeny flare. Check them out, they're a great way to use up all that extra candy corn!

Candy Corn Treats

  • 2/3 bag candy corn flavored marshmallows (or regular mini marshmallows with a drop of orange food coloring, if you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 5 cups rice cereal
  • 1/2 cup candy corn

-Line a 9x13 baking sheet with tin foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

-In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter by heating in 30 second increments.

-Pour marshmallows into the bowl and toss with the butter. Microwave in 1 minute increments, stirring in between, until smooth.

-Add rice cereal and mix well. Press into baking sheet with oiled fingers. Sprinkle candy corn on top and press lightly. Let set for 30 minutes before slicing and eating.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloweeny Spirits - Caramel Apple Martini

Once upon a time,  years ago, when I may or may not have been underage at a party, an older friend handed me the most amazing drink. I was barely in college and so far my alcohol experiences had been "whatever is sweet and doesn't taste like booze." Needless to say, I always had quite the hangover, but that's besides the point. 

The drink handed to me tasted EXACTLY like a caramel apple--my favorite circus treat. At the next party I requested this drink again, but it didn't come out quite the same (though he did create a cotton-candy drink that tasted DIVINE so that helped). For years, I've been searching for the perfect caramel apple martini recipe. And I think I finally found it.

The secret ingredient? Apple cider. It helps tone down the apple pucker and bump up the real apple taste. With the vanilla and butterscotch flavors, it gives the unmistakable flavor of biting into a caramel apple. One that may get you drunk if you continue to indulge.

While this cocktail is perfect for Halloween, it's equally great all autumn long.

Caramel Apple Martini

  • 2 oz Sour Apple Pucker
  • 2 oz Buttershots
  • 2 oz vanilla vodka
  • splash of apple cider
  • caramel sauce, for the rim

-Dip a chilled martini glass in caramel sauce, set aside.

-In a shaker filled with ice, shake together the rest of the ingredients.

-Serve cold.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Eerie Alien Eggs - Halloween Deviled Eggs

Guys. It's the Sunday before Halloween and my costume STILL has not come in the mail. I am freaking out. I've even been to one costume party so far WITHOUT A COSTUME... alright, I threw together a "vampire/girl-going-through-a-Hot-Topic-stage" ensemble, but it's just not the same. When you're a Halloween fanatic like I am, this is a BIG DEAL.

Note to self: Spirit Halloween's online ordering is a bit off when they say "two day shipping"--it's really "week-and-a-half" shipping. Grr.

Anyway, I'm finding myself in the Halloweeny spirit regardless of the mail goblins eating all my mail lately (MY CAMERA STILL HAS NOT ARRIVED). I thought I'd re-do these awesome Alien Eggs I made last year. Remember them?

Yeah, my photography skills have improved just a wee bit.

These are basically just deviled eggs, with a twist. The twist is that they're slightly pickled with beet juice, making for a super-tasty and funky looking egg. A bit of food coloring in the yolk, and you've got a Halloween hors d'ovre that everyone will love to look at... AND eat!

Eerie Alien Eggs

  • 12 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 can beet liquid
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp Sriacha sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • smoked paprika
  • 3 drops green food coloring

-Arrange whole eggs in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Cover with beet juice, water, and vinegar, making sure they are completely covered. Let soak in the fridge overnight or for a few hours until eggs are purple.

-Carefully slice eggs in half and scoop yolks out into a small bowl. Mix with remaining ingredients, being careful not to over-mix. Add food coloring until egg yolks are desired color. Pipe or spoon mixture into eggs and chill until ready to serve.