Thursday, January 29, 2015

30 of the Best Dip Recipes for the BIG GAME!

I grew up in New England, and I now live in Texas. While I've never been one to be super into sports, it'll be cool to be watching my "home team" compete in the Big Game* this Sunday! A little bit of home when I'm so far away... Go Pats!

I know this is us at a Sox game, I don't have a Pats shirt unfortunately :/

I wanted to make Deflated Football Nuggets but decided against it ;)

Granted, I'll probably end up where I was during the last game: in the corner, snuggling with the dogs, plate full of party food.

My prime seating location during the last game

The ultimate Big Game Party Food? Dips.

I am a huge fan of dips. Warm, cold, spicy, savory, sweet, gimme. The cheesier, the better.

In honor of "The Big Game" I've put together a list of the best dips from around the internet, from some really great food bloggers!

Without further ado, I bring you...

30 of the Best Dip Recipes for the BIG GAME!

Queso from Quarter Life (Crisis) Cuisine 

Pimento Cheese Spread from Quarter Life (Crisis) Cuisine 

South of the Border Bacon Dip from Kailley's Kitchen  

Skinny Chocolate Chip Cannoli Dip The Frugal Foodie Mamma 

Hot Corn Dip from The Kitchen is My Playground 

Cheesy Bourbon Horseradish Dip from What Jew Wanna Eat 

Even More Fantastic Dip Recipes for The Big Game!

*I kind of find it extremely dumb that unless you pay advertising fees, you can't call it what it is, and must refer to it as "the Big Game" or whatnot. Even little bitty blogs like me! Sigh...

Monday, January 26, 2015

What I've Been Eating - January Edition

FYI: These are all locations I have visited and enjoyed! I received no comped meals or discounts to mention any of these awesome places!

I need to get back into these regular "What I've Been Eating" posts. I also should probably figure out a different name, "What I've Been Eating" isn't really that interesting. 

As a Half-Assed Foodie (the love of food without the restrictions of what "good food" is/should be) I dine out. A lot. More than I should with all that student debt I keep bitching about. But, I always take pictures and I always throughly enjoy it so... there's that. Carpe Diem.

Without further ado, here are the places I've been exploring in Austin lately!

Pop: Pop is a champagne bar on West 6th. Far enough away from the craziness that is dirty, but close enough to get to easily and super fun. The decor is my dream bar--huge, fancy couch-type seating, pink accents, and a huge selection of drinks with a focus on champagne. But what most DON'T know is that they have a KILLER sliders menu! And, during Happy Hour they're all half off. I popped in (no pun intended) while waiting for a friend's comedy show to start next door, and treated myself to the Monte Cristo and the Belly, both incredible. I could eat at least five of the Cristos without stopping if I had no self control. They even do brunch! Next time you feel like a glass of bubbly and a snack, do yourself a favor and pop into Pop!

TNT: This is a favorite lunch spot of my coworkers and I--not only is it within walking distance of our office, but it has yet to disappoint on all the important factors: lunch, brunch, happy hour, and booze. I typically get the Taco Platter or Skewer Platter, which comes with three tacos/skewers, dipping sauces, and the street corn for $13. Mondays Happy Hour is all day with discounts on their famous drinks, and all week Happy hour begins at 4:00 and goes until 6:00, where you can get tacos at the taco bar for $1.50. I'm dyyying to go to brunch here (weekends 10am-3pm, $19.95) with all you can eat with the freshest tex-mex items up for grabs. I believe you are even provided a complimentary mimosa! 

Chi'lantro: I have been waiting for this brick and mortar to open for MONTHS, and I was NOT disappointed! Chi'lantro began as a food truck that roamed around Austin but tended to stop on 5th and Colorado, catering to those exiting 6th after a night of drinking (I credit those kimchi fries in keeping many a hangover at bay). I was surprised that in my enormous first order of kimchi fries, kimchi balls, churro tots, and bulgogi rice bowl, my favorite thing wasn't the kimchi fries--those came a close second!--but the kimchi balls! Deep fried spicy rice goodness, be still my heart. I can't wait to return and gobble down everything else. My only complaint is that the space is so small, and there are not nearly enough tables for how long the line is. But for takeout, it is just perfect.

Gourdough's: This is a donut. Can you tell that it is a donut? No? I think that's the point? Despite the fact I could feel the years being shaved off my life as I consumed this sugary monstrosity, it was absolute heaven on a plate. Or styrofoam clamshell, as it were. I got the "Puddin'" a donut covered in cream cheese frosting, vanilla pudding, bananas, and vanilla wafers. As someone perpetually struggling to lose a few pounds, this is a once-in-a-great-while treat, but if you want a solid dessert there really is nowhere better. It literally took me three sittings to finish.

Cover3: This is from their newest location, on West 6th Street. After reading that Cover3 had one of the best Frito Pies around, I had to check it out. And I was not disappointed! The homemade chili covered with spicy peppers and crunchy fritos was such a filling lunch, I hardly needed the parmesean fries on the side... but I ate them anyway. I've been to Cover3 a handful of times for lunch and am always extremely happy with my meals. The shrimp po'boy also deserves mention, and I've heard their sliders are pretty fantastic, too.

Winflo: I've tried to cut carbs and avoid temptations like this but sometimes you just have to say "YES!" to the duck ragu. It is hands-down the best pasta I've ever had in a restaurant, and their lunch menu portion is the only place I've ever found something with "duck" in the title for less than $20 (it's only $11!). The portion is generous for lunch, the sauce is rich and the duck is tender. I've also had their pizzas (both the regular and gluten free) and they are pretty fantastic. Their patio is gorgeous in the warmer weather, and the drink menu is decent. A bit pricier than I can typically afford, but well worth it every once in a while!

Anything from Postmates: My new favorite app. I can get all my favorite foods delivered to my door when I'm feeling lazy. It costs a $5 delivery fee, plus tip, but when it's gross outside or you don't want to deal with traffic, it's well worth it. I've gotten P.Terry's, Gourdough's, Clay Pit, Chick-fil-A, and Frank delivered to my office on busy days I can't get out for lunch. Totally worth it!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Something Like Winter - French Onion Soup

Winter in Austin, Texas is a strange thing. As a New Englander, I thought that up North we had the most haphazard weather (freezing one minute, hot the next, rain, sun, thunderstorms in the same day, winter too long and summer too short), but Austin is definitely giving it a run for its money.

The sun makes me happy,
and so does my favorite dress.

In the past week in Austin I've been able to wear a winter coat and a sun dress. It's been 30s and it's been near 70. I went from living in an endless winter to enjoying a sort-of winter with bits of summer in between.

Hey, I'm not complaining. That's why I moved here! I need the sun, I like it popping in to say hello like this. The days of the week I can bask in the sun like a cat are worth the days I have to turn up the heat and curl up WITH my cat (and dog) instead.

And if I have this soup, all the better.

Just look. at. that. CHEESE!

French Onion Soup has been on my culinary bucket list for years. My fiancé's mom makes the most amazing version of this, and it's what I request whenever we visit. She typically pairs it with homemade popovers (with butter and honey those are absolutely amazing) but I haven't had the guts to try that one yet.

This recipe is a combination of what she showed me over Christmas, and Alton Brown's dummy-proof recipe. The result was pretty fantastic, and I highly recommend you make this the next time a chill comes through. Bursting with flavor, paired with toasty bread and gooey cheese. Delicious.

French Onion Soup
(Loosely based on Alton Brown's recipe)

  • 5 yellow onions (or a combination of yellow and red), sliced to 1/4" thick
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups mild red wine
  • 5 cups beef broth
  • 2 chicken stock cubes
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried or fresh chopped parsley
  • 4 slices baguette, toasted and brushed with butter
  • 4 slices provolone cheese

-In a large dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once melted, add a layer of onions and sprinkle with salt. Continue until all onions are in the Dutch oven.

-Cover the dutch oven and let onions sweat for at least 15 minutes. After the onions look shiny and wet, gently stir. Add the pepper and sugar. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are deep caramel in color.

-Once onions have reduced to about two cups, pour in the wine. Turn heat to high. Let the wine reduce until thick, about 7 minutes or so.

-Add the broth, stock cubes, sherry vinegar, thyme, bay leaves, and parsley. Simmer for 20 minutes.

-Remove thyme and bay leaves. Heat oven to broil.

-Pour into four croques or heat-save bowls set on a cookie sheet. Place bread and a slice of provalone over each. Broil until cheese is bubbly. Serve hot.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Chemistry In the Kitchen - Coconut Mango Cake Deliciousness

I don't do a lot of baking. It's pretty much tasty chemistry, and due to a strange school policy that required gym class to graduate but not chem, I never took it.

So I was pretty stoked that with a few small changes, I turned a cupcake recipe into a moist, dense cake recipe. It's not rocket science (it's chem... remember?)  but I'm proud of myself. Plus the frosting is entirely of my own design, as is the filling.

Shout out to HEB* and their fan-freaking-tastic international section, I found mango pulp for $2. I suggest searching for this in an Indian grocery store, or pureeing a really ripe mango and going all-natural. It's up to you!

Next time, I'm going to double the recipe and make more layers. This cake is small, so I suggest making two batches if you're feeding more than a couple people.

It's a lovely little burst of summer in the middle of winter.

Coconut Mango Cake with Coconut Buttercream
(Adapted from Ming Makes Cupcakes)

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup dried coconut (if you omit this, reduce the water to 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp light olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cup mango pulp
  • 1/4 cup water


  • 1/4 cup mango pulp + 1 tbsp mango pulp
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar


  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp full fat coconut milk
  • 4-6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried, toasted coconut

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

-In a stand mixer, mix together all of the wet cake ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together all of the dry cake ingredients.

-Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet. Grease and flour two 8 inch circular cake pans. Pour the batter into the cake pans and bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely.

-Prepare the filling: Whip the cream, powdered sugar, and 1 tbsp mango pulp until soft peaks form. When cake is cool, spread remaining pulp in the center of one cake, top with whipped cream mixture and top cake piece.

-Prepare the buttercream: In a stand mixer, mix together the butter and coconut milk. Slowly add powdered sugar until desired frosting thickness is reached. Frost the cooled, assembled cake and sprinkle with toasted coconut.

*In case it needs disclosing, I've worked with HEB in the past on paid promotions. However, I was a huge fan of the grocery store before that, and any partnerships have just been a great bonus ;)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Can You Tell My Cat Does My Styling? - Spicy Shrimp Bake

This post was a long time coming. I'd like to thank my bloggy bestie, Sarah of Dash and a Pinch, for this absolutely amaze-balls recipe, which I have been building upon over the past few months. And I don't use that compliment lightly. Amaze-balls.

In order to describe to you how really, truly AMAZE-BALLS this shrimp bake is, I'm even going to admit something borderline embarrassing to you guys (or, y'all, if I'm talking Texas)... I literally drink the sauce when the shrimp is gone. It is THAT good.

In addition, I'd like to thank my cat for his help with food styling and props. I keep telling him he has to take up freelance styling full time but his heart is in his current position, as decorative pillow on the couch.

Who am I to push him away from all that?

In reality, when there is a new thing in the room that he can perch on,
he will perch.
Anyways. Do yourself a favor: next time shrimp is on sale, make this recipe. It's perfect. Spicy, lemony, buttery, and the sauce is perfect for sopping up with a crusty piece of bread. I even made homemade bread for this. Because that's what it DESERVES.

Spicy Shrimp Bake
(Adapted from Dash and a Pinch)
  • 1.5 lbs raw shrimp
  • 1.5 sticks butter
  • 3 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 lemons, one juiced one sliced
  • 2 tbsp cajun seasoning (more or less, depending on how spicy you like things)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

-Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

-In a glass baking dish, microwave the butter until melted. Whisk in the remaining ingredients, except for the shrimp. Taste, and adjust spice to your desired level. Toss in shrimp.

-Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until shrimp is pink. Serve over crusty bread with a generous ladle of sauce.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A New Englander Attempts Pimento Cheese Spread

So, here's the recipe I wanted to get up here before the holidays, because it makes an excellent side dish or appetizer, and it's super easy to put together! Aside from the pimentos, I typically have all these things in the house, too.

But... you all know how the holidays go. Craziness. I was able to get my HEB Joyville Progressive Holiday Dinner post up, and then with the preparations to drive across the country to be back in Massachusetts for the holidays, I wasn't able to do much else. Plus I lost the initial pictures I took of this deliciousness so I had to start from scratch.

Enough excuses. One of my many, many new year's resolutions is to focus more on the blog. Now that I FINALLY HAVE MY CAMERA BACK this should be easier to accomplish in the new year. New, better photos and recipes. Wait and see, should be a good time.

Anyways. Pimento cheese was something totally new to me, as a New Englander during her first year in Texas. When I first tested this recipe, I simply threw in the ingredients I found on the Wikipedia page (yes, pimento spread has it's own Wikipedia page) and hoped for the best. It was tasty... but did it pass the test? I brought in the results to my coworkers and my desk-mate, a true Texan, said it was the best Pimento cheese he's ever had!

So I guess I did it right the first time ;)

As I said, this is the perfect appetizer for any gathering. Add a bit more mayo and cream cheese to make a dip, or a bit more cheese to make a cheeseball, or leave as-is for a spreadable cracker snack. The possibilities are truly endless!

Pimento Cheese Spread
(Adapted loosely from Wikipedia)

  • 1 8oz bag sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 8oz bag colby jack cheese
  • 1 oz brick cream cheese (I used neufchantel)
  • 2/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 4oz jar pimento peppers, drained and diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced small
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

*keep a bit extra cheddar cheese on hand in case cheese mixture gets too soft*

-In a stand mixer fixed with a paddle attachment, combine all ingredients. Stir until well combined, adding more cheese or mayo to desired consistency (I like mine with a bit more cheese). Taste, adding more seasonings as desired

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Goose Island Holiday Barnstorm with Dinnerlab and Do512

Before the craziness of the holidays set in, I was lucky enough to be invited to Do512's Goose Island Holiday Barnstorm with bites by Dinnerlab! And for once, this was an event I knew the fiancé would enjoy--beer and Tex-Mex inspired cuisine? Such a win.

I'd actually never had Goose Island beer before, so I was excited to taste the holiday lineup and food pairings that the brewery had to offer for us. I came away with a full belly and a few new favorite brews.

My favorite was Sofie, the Belgian style Farmhouse Ale. Goose Island, though recently acquired by a larger company, has always had a commitment to craft beer. From their website, "Goose Island is an innovator and leader in the craft of brewing. Striving to create beers that define styles, win awards, and captivate the hearts, imaginations, and palates of beer drinkers." After tasting the incredible lineup, I can see why they win so many awards!

And the food truly was incredible. According to their website, "Dinner Lab is a consumer dining experience that brings together up and coming chefs and an exclusive membership interested in exploring innovative ideas in food to unique spaces that would never otherwise be known to the public." I can't wait to check out more of their events!

The menu went like this...

Pork Belly paired with the Belgian Style Pale Ale

Elotes paired with the Sofie Belgian Farmhouse Ale

Empanada paired with the India Pale Ale

Consomme de Caribito paired with the Festivity Brown Ale

And some sort of butternut squash deliciousness that wasn't on the menu nor had a pairing.

And for dessert--S'mores! Paired with the Bourbon Country Barleywine.

The venue chosen for the feast was the Rockin' Y Ranch, a private residence that's rented out for events. Had we not chosen to have our wedding back in MA, this would definitely be a contender. My pictures of the venue itself didn't come out too well because it was so dark, but the grounds were beautiful. Keeping Rockin' Y in mind for anything we might need it for in the future! 

 Overall, it was an awesome event and I was excited to be invited to it! Thanks Do512, Goose Island, and Dinnerlab for such a great kick off to the holidays!