Sunday, February 22, 2015

EASY No-Knead Crusty Bread

Can you tell from this blog that I am NOT a baker? It might be hard to recognize, but my best recipes tend to be dinner recipes, or drinks. Because that's what I can do pretty well on a regular basis. Honestly, baking scares me.

Why? Because baking = chemistry. And guess what necessary high school class Ashley ended up not taking? Yep. Chem. Here's the short story: I went to a TINY school in New England. This meant we didn't have very many "fun" classes. When I decided I wanted to go to Art school, I decided I needed to take an extra year of art to build my portfolio. Unfortunately, the only art class was opposite chem. I was told I totally could take chem senior year... until senior year happened and chem was opposite gym. That's right, chem was not a graduation requirement, but gym class was.

Luckily, my college didn't require I take chem. Even more luckily, one of my best friends, John, was a baking fanatic and was able to teach me the basics. For a while John and I met weekly for Foodie Friends Night where he'd make the baking portion of the meal--everything from bread to cakes to cookies--and I'd make the rest. One day I got a call from John at 4am with a serious plan to open our own bakery/restaurant. If we both weren't drowning in student debt, I may have joined.

Our baking nights are one of the things I miss most about New England. John's bread skills are way more advanced than this super easy recipe, but it does the trick.

With a little planning ahead I can whip this up for dinner. The slices are narrow, so they make excellent dinner bread slathered with butter, or great cafe sandwiches.

If I can make this, so can you!

Easy, No-Knead Crusty Bread
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast (1 package)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 1/4 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • Herbs or mix-ins (I like using roasted garlic!)
  • cornmeal for dusting stone

-In a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment (or just a bowl + spoon + elbow grease) combine water, yeast, and salt and stir until combined. Wait about 10 minutes, until mixture has begun to froth. This is how you'll know the yeast is "proofed" and ready to go!

-Add the flour and gently stir until incorporated. Add in any herbs or mix-ins you'd like. Mix on low speed until dough is smooth and elastic.

-Place a clean dishtowel or plastic wrap over the bowl and set in a warm spot for 2 hours. I like to set the oven to 200 degrees, then turn it off and put the bowl in there.

-Pre-heat oven to 450 F. Place your bread cooking pan of choice (pizza stone is preferred, but I do fine with a silicone baking mat on a cookie sheet.  

-Add 2 cups of water in an oven-safe dish and position in the bottom rack of the oven. The steam from the water will help ensure a crispy, crusty crust!

-Gently form dough into a ball (or any other shape you desire!) and brush with the egg if you'd like a shiny crust. Make two or three shallow slices on top of the bread.

-Sprinkle your baking sheet with corn meal and set the dough ball on top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

Creativity, Inspiration, and Wine with Art & Soul #sponsored

You've seen those painting and wine nights in your newsfeed, I know you have. They're the ultimate girls night out, and I've even seen a few good-natured boyfriends getting in on the fun. So I was thrilled when my friend Vanessa, owner of Art & Soul in Austin offered me a ticket to check it out!

What makes Art & Soul's painting nights different is twofold: for one, you're sitting in a restaurant and ordering wine and nibbles as you go. Or, you can do the wine and app add-on and have the vino waiting for you when you begin to paint! (as I did here!)

Second, Art & Soul's Creativity, Inspiration, and Wine nights show you step-by-step how to make a masterpiece inspired by famous artists. I've seen Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, and other favorites in her lineup. Check out the calendar!

For my wine night we checked out Flour and Vine, a wine stop on South Lamar that I'd been interested in trying for a while. After this delicious plate and awesome wine I know I'll be back for their happy hour sometime. The menu just looks too good to pass up!

That night we were being inspired by George Rodrigue's Blue Dog. Our instructor, Andrea, explained that George gained most of his recent success painting his dog, Tiffany, after she passed away. Andrea showed us how to set up a grid and paint the outline of the dog, then let us do whatever we wanted for the background.

Overall, it was a great night! I got to snack on some amazing wine and cheese, sip great wine, and go home with a unique piece of art.

Art & Soul is currently holding Creativity, Inspiration, and Wine on Tuesdays at Flour and Vine, and Saturday afternoons at House Wine. She's in the works to add more places (perhaps even a brewery!) so check the calendar often!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Lettuce Wraps - Updates to an Old Favorite

Nothing like a stomach bug to kick off your weight loss, eh? Seriously, I know it's gross, and it's all water weight, but whenever I finally am able to pull myself out of bed I can't help but step onto the scale and see the damage that's been done. And then I decide to try to keep it off by slowly nudging myself back to the gym, and eating healthier. Sometimes it lasts.

As I've said before, low carb is so much easier for me than low cal. I feel like I can get way more satisfying meals that are protein and plant based, rather than trying to calculate calories in my head, but that's just me!

And the epitome of a low carb meal is definitely the lettuce wrap.

If you've been around here for a (long) while, you may remember this recipe. It makes a regular appearance on my kitchen table, and I decided it was time for an update, since those photos are pretty awful...

The sauce is to DIE for, though. Use it on these wraps, or as a dressing, in a sandwich, by the spoonful... you'll want to, trust me.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

  • 1 lb Chicken tenders, cut into bite sized cubes
  • 1 head Romaine Lettuce
  • 1 cup Chicken Broth
  • 2 tbsp coconut aminos (or soy sauce) 
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced
  • 1/4 cup mushrooms, diced
  • 1 tbsp green onion, sliced
  • Optional: 1/4 cup water chestnuts and/or bamboo shoots, diced
  • Pine Nuts (or nuts of choice) for topping

-Mix broth, garlic, coconut aminos, lemon juice and ginger and pour over chicken. Marinade for 30 mins to 1 hour. Shorter is fine, but the longer the better for the flavors to really seep in.

-Heat oil in medium skillet or wok to medium-high heat. Add marinated chicken and stir-fry until browned and cooked through.

-Toss in all veggies and cook until desired texture is reached. Drain excess water, or use a slurry of 1 tbsp water with 1 tbsp corn starch and mix in to form a sauce.

-Sprinkle with Pine Nuts and serve with rice and Sriracha Sunbutter sauce.

Sriracha Sunbutter Sauce

  • 1/4 cup sunbutter (or peanut butter)
  • 3 tbsp chicken broth
  • 1 tsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 tbsp coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp Sriracha Sauce

-Combine sunbutter and broth with honey in small sauce pan over medium heat.  Mix until honey and sunbutter are well blended. Remove from heat, add lemon juice, garlic, Sriracha and coconut aminos. If too thick, add a bit more broth. Mix well and set aside to cool.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Valentine's Week, Things I Love! (sort of #sponsored)

Disclaimer: I received a number of these products for review purposes. Where necessary, I have stated which were sent for review. However, I would never share something that I didn't love and believe in!

Happy Valentine's Day Week, everybody! Valentine's Day was always in my Top 3 Favorite Holidays--first being Halloween, second being Christmas--growing up. Every year I'd hand-make Valentines for my entire class... even the years when I didn't quite get many in return (I was NOT a popular kid). But that never seemed to deter me the following year. I guess I just like spreading the love! 

For the occasion, I thought I'd give y'alls* a list of things I've been loving lately. Perhaps it will spark some inspiration when you're out trying to find that special gift for that special someone or need a date night suggestion in Austin ;) It's very close to Vday, but I'm sure most of these places will rush an order/make reservations if need be!

Disclosure: I received the chocolate and tea for review purposes, and am advising Millcreek promotion strategies.

First up, Millcreek Cacao Roasters. I had no idea what "farm-to-bar" meant before Millcreek, but basically it's exactly what the name implies: chocolate made from cacao sourced directly from the farmer. Millcreek uses single-source Arriba Nacional cacao beans from a farm in Ecuador. Arriba Nacional is grown in shaded cacao farms in Ecuador's coastal low lands where the climate and soil conditions occur exclusively. Not to mention, the flavor is incredible! I am typically not a dark chocolate eater, but the smooth, luxurious taste of Millcreek Cacao chocolate bars has me hooked. The raspberry is definitely my favorite! And to add a bit of quirk to their typical offerings, they even have cacao TEA. Now you can sip your chocolate, without all the calories and sugar of hot cocoa. I'm in love. Check out their full line of chocolate and tea (!!) on their website, and learn more about "farm to bar"! 

 Disclosure: Matt, of Full Throttle Bottles, is a friend of mine and sent me this lamp as a gift.

Doesn't this look like the perfect gift for your guy's "man cave"?? Full Throttle Bottles creates handmade liquor bottle lamps. I'm loving the look of the lights behind my favorite vodka's frosted glass, but Matt also makes traditional lamps with a liquor bottle base, and he's experimenting with remote-controlled LED light bases (which look KICK ASS if I do say so myself). This little lamp keeps making the rounds from being an accent on my bar cart, to hanging with my cookbooks. It's a great conversation piece and I love supporting handmade goods! Check out the Etsy shop now! P.S. he also takes requests.

I think the Universe just doesn't want me to go low carb just yet. Why else would it tempt me with RED VELVET OREOS? These things are not urban legend, they're legit. And they are actually the fanciest Oreos I've ever encountered. The cookie seems slightly softer than usual, with a light cocoa taste. The cream cheese icing is sweet, very soft, and tastes exactly like the traditional red velvet cake companion of choice. Thank goodness the sweetness becomes a bit overwhelming after the second cookie, it means that I can happily stop my snacking and savor these over a longer period of time. Strangely enough, I didn't really like them dunked in milk. These are best eaten on their own, slowly, and enjoyed.

Disclosure: I received the bag and mix as a promotional item from HEB

I've been working on a list of reasons why HEB is my favorite supermarket, ever, and one of the entries in that list is BEST STORE BRAND PRODUCTS EVER. I was lucky enough to receive a lovely bag of this month's HEB Promo Picks for February and this is my absolute favorite item. As a food blogger, I typically make from-scratch cakes, but I'll admit that when time is short I've been known to make a box cake. They've taken instant cake mix to the next level here, now you just have to pour this packet into a pan and cook! Great for a chocolate craving in a pinch. I am SO excited to have a chocolate cake instantly at my disposal, I plan on using a heart-shaped pan to cook one up for Valentine's Day! (don't live in Texas? Order the cake mix here!)

Disclosure: I received Yellowbird Sauce's new line of sauces for review.

You all know my love for Yellowbird, but I feel like I just have to give them the shout out again. Spicy goodness with three different levels of spice (my favorite is the habanero!). They go beyond typical chili sauces--you know the one--and they're a small family-owned company from Austin, Texas. The sauces are made from nine all-natural ingredients. Seriously, check the label, there's nothing you won't recognize! You can see some recipes I made with the sauces here and here, and I cannot WAIT to dig into that Habanero Hot Salt. See full line of products and purchase here.

Cory's aunt who we lived with our first few months in Austin is a true foodie, and Hudson's on the Bend is one of her favorite restaurants in the city. Though the restaurant tends to specialize in game (next time we're totally trying the rattlesnake sausage!) we had snagged a Groupon to get a 2-for-1 deal on the Chef's Tasting Menu. The three course meal, plus amuse bouche, was a great way to get a sampling of what Hudson's on the Bend has to offer! And, thanks to the Groupon, I could afford the $25 wine pairing add-on, which was a great way to really make the flavors of each course pop. I can safely say that the prime rib was the most tender, most delicious cut I've ever eaten, and paired with the homemade hollandaise it was just incredible. My squash-hating fiance even enjoyed the Browned Butter Butternut Squash soup, though he let me finish it as he was saving room for his Turtle Pie! I got the Pumpkin Creme Brulee, since if a restaurant has creme brulee I MUST get it. Overall, it was a FANTASTIC meal, and we're going to save up to treat ourselves again sometime soon!

Shiner Beer is big in Texas. Obviously because it's a Texas beer! I love their summer brew, Ruby Redbird, because fruit flavored beers are my favorite, but typically I'll opt for a cider over a beer when I'm hanging with friends or out at a bar. However, I took a chance at grabbing a Shiner Birthday Beer for the BYOB show at Coldtowne Theater, and I am SO glad I did! This is a beer that tastes like cake. Delicious chocolate cake that gives you a buzz. I'm going to be scooping up all the birthday beers I see until they run out. It's limited edition, so get it while you can!

New England Austinites: are you struggling to find a decent lobster roll? Did you visit the Gulf expecting to find one, only to be bombarded with nothing but shrimp? Do you miss the fresh, sweet, delicious lobster meat of home? Well, Dock & Roll Diner will be your hero. I've sampled nearly every lobster item I can find in town and while some are perfectly acceptable to curb a craving, none of them has had the fresh, sweet meat of the Northeast... Until I tried Dock & Roll Diner! The lobster was fresh and delicious. If I closed my eyes I felt like I was home again, perhaps enjoying a summer day on the Cape (Cape Cod, that is). I opted for the Massachusetts roll (duh) and was not disappointed. I prefer the "Maine" version to the "Connecticut"--Maine=mayo, CT=butter--but luckily, they offer both! Plus a ton of unique variations. My ONE wish is that they'd use a toasted buttered roll, but

Finally, I am LOVING the weather in Austin. While my friends back home are getting buried under snow (stay safe, guys!!) I am sipping a Cool as a Cucumber cocktail at Uncle Billy's BBQ wearing a springy backless shirt and enjoying the sunlight from the wide open patio area. 75 degrees in February? I'll take it. I love it here!

*I still feel weird saying "y'all" even though I've always used it in conversational writing... I feel like native Texans know I'm an impostor! :P

What are your favorite Valentine's Day goodies? And who is looking forward to February 15th, aka HALF PRICE CHOCOLATE DAY??

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Paleo/Gluten Free Scallion Pancakes and Yellowbird Sauce (sponsored)

Disclosure: I received promotional products to facilitate this post.

Every year, around this time, I flirt with the idea of a Paleo diet. Out of all the diets, it's the one I've seen my friends have the most success with, and the one that seems easiest to follow.

Not to mention, the tastiest. I don't know about you, but I'd rather nom on bacon and veggies and feel full and happy rather than count my calories and have a bland fake-sugar cookie that's only 2 points or 50 calories or whatever.

But... I often do succumb to sugar and carbs and whatnot a few weeks after making this decision, unfortunately. I think this bout lasted about a week or so.

However, my new job gave me a free gym membership. So who knows, maybe once I actually get my ever-increasing derriere over to the magical machines of the shiny gym I'll be inspired to try this again.

If I do end up sticking to this, products like Yellowbird make it easy! All natural ingredients, and a spicy kick that makes just about anything taste awesome. Now in three flavors (Serrano, Jalapeno, and Habanero) and Habanero salt, you can really get your heat on with this stuff.

I met one of the business owners at the Byte of Texas and she was nice enough to send me over the new product line. It goes perfectly on everything--ESPECIALLY these scallion pancakes, which I am now obsessed with.

Fun fact: I adapted this recipe further to make a sweet version. Stay tuned!

Paleo Scallion Pancakes
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour 
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 3/4 tsp Yellowbird Habanero Salt (or sea salt)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • ghee or butter
  • Yellowbird sauce, for dipping

-Mix together dry ingredients until well combined. Sprinkle in chopped scallions

-In a separate bowl, mix together egg and coconut milk. Slowly add wet ingredients to dry, mixing well with a wire whisk.

-Heat a skillet to medium high. Melt butter, and immediately pour about 1/8 cup of batter into the pan. Cook until edges begin to set, then flip.

-Serve with coconut aminos (or soy sauce if you eat that) and Yellowbird sauce.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Glazed Raspberry Cheesecake Hand Pies - Valentine's Day Recipe!

Despite a crazy month at my old job, beginning a brand new job, starting preparations for moving into a new apartment, and being down to one computer... I got a recipe up.

Get this: it's even Valentine's Day themed.

I mean, kind of. It's heart-shaped. That counts, right?

After only kind of posting Thanksgiving recipes and pretty much missing Christmas season entirely, I'm pretty proud of myself for getting a heart shaped something-or-other up on the blog, with TWELVE DAYS to spare before the holiday, woo!

These remind me of the little glazed Hostess pies my dad used to eat for breakfast on long car rides that started early. Definitely not the healthiest breakfast, since I believe those pies were fried in lard and contained so. much. sugar.

Not gonna lie, these aren't really suitable for breakfast either, despite being baked rather than fried. But a tasty little dessert? Sure.

I've been hitting my Fitbit goal at least four times a week, bring it.

Raspberry Cheesecake Hand Pies

  • 1 package refrigerated pie dough
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 12oz package cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp raspberry jam
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup water

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Set a baking rack in a cookie sheet and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

-Sprinkle flour over a clean, smooth surface, and use a rolling pin or floured glass to gently roll the dough to 1/8" thickness.

-Use a cookie cutter (heart shaped!) to cut out an even number of shapes. Set aside.

-In a stand mixer, mix together the cream cheese, sugar, jam, and vanilla.

-Drop cheesecake mixture by the rounded tablespoon into the center of half of the hearts. Place the other half of the hearts on top, and seal the edges with the tines of a fork. Repeat until all hearts are used. Using a fork, prick holes in the top of the heart pies.

-Gently place each pie on the wire rack in the cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pies are golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.

-In a small bowl, mix together the powdered sugar and water. The mixture should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Adjust sugar or water amount, if needed.

-Using a pastry brush, brush the sugar mixture over the cooled pies and let dry.

-Serve that day, or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.