Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Trailer Food Tuesdays

The trailer food culture is alive and well in Austin, and tonight marks the first of another great event to celebrate our amazing food trucks- Trailer Food Tuesdays! Tiffany Harelik (of the famed Trailer Food Diaries) is helping kick off this fun event that will run every last Tuesday of the month until the end of November.

If you don't already have plans for this evening, head down to the north terrace of the Long Center from 5-9, and enjoy some great food from these popular trailers. It's a great way to try out several of our best food trucks, all in one place. If you already have plans, then go ahead and mark your calendars for August 28th. It might be hot, but I can guarantee that all the cool kids will be there.

The Peached Tortilla
Yume Burger
The Seedling Truck
Be More Pacific
Dock & Roll
Hey Cupcake!
The Evil Wiener
The Flying Carpet

Monday, July 30, 2012

Lunch in a Box: Chickpea Lettuce Wraps

After a weekend of indulgent eating, it's back to basics M-F. I scribbled out a quick weekly meal plan yesterday morning and am excited about some new dishes we'll be trying out. I looked to the Happy Herbivore website for inspiration since we'll do our best to eat plant strong this week. Her recipes are low fat, easy to make, and totally plant strong. The few exceptions I'm making will be for cottage cheese and non-fat greek yogurt. I just can't seem to make it without a little bit of dairy!

This lunch box has 2 chickpea lettuce wraps, homemade roasted corn and jalapeño hummus with a whole grain cracker and carrots for dipping, and 1% cottage cheese. I also brought a side of cantaloupe for dessert later. Totally calorie count for this meal is about 500. Since I ran this morning, I'll probably have a snack later today just so I'm not too hungry before dinner- most likely an apple with a little almond butter.

Chickpea filling:

1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 cup corn (I use frozen- cheap and easy)
1 can Rotel (pick whatever flavor works best for you)
seasoning (I used cumin and Mexican oregano, but the Rotel might be enough)
romaine lettuce leaves
garnishes (diced bell peppers, pickled onions, cilantro...whatever sounds good to you)

**I avoid adding salt when I use this many canned items- I don't think it needs anymore.

Throw everything but the lettuce into a medium saucepan and heat through. Store in a container until ready to use. I should be able to get at least 6-8 wraps out of this (depending on how much I fill them with). When you're ready to serve, cut a romaine leaf in half and spoon the filling in. I topped it with some diced red bell peppers, but cilantro would have been really nice too.

Roasted corn and jalapeño hummus:

1 cup corn
1 jalapeño (seeded and sliced)
1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
lemon juice
1/2-1 cup vegetable broth

Roast the corn and jalapeño for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Toss them in a food processor with the chickpeas, and add about 1-2 T of lemon juice and 1/2 cup of broth. I add liquid as I go to get the consistency I like. You can also season with a little salt and pepper if necessary.

Let me know what you think, and if posting lunches is even helpful. I know I get tired of eating the same old things, so hopefully seeing these ideas help.

Weekend Review

Weekends always seem to go too fast! This past one was fun, and I really wasn't looking forward to the alarm going off this morning. Below is just a summary of some of the things I did over the weekend. Why is it that 2 days never feels like enough time?!

Olympics- Who didn't enjoy the opening ceremonies? I thought it was a fantastic representation of all things British. Yes, it was quirky- and there were a few things that left me scratching my head. But I loved the references to music and literature, and the drum music as they transitioned to the Industrial Era was nothing short of jaw dropping. I had some Facebook friends who just didn't get it, but I enjoyed it and thought it was well done.

Moving- Ater my early Saturday run, I had to go back to my old apartment one last time to finish up the final cleaning. I turn in my keys this week, and I couldn't be more excited about starting this next chapter in my life. It felt a little "Carrie Bradshaw-esque", as there have been so many memories tied to the place I lived for 4 years. (Random fact- that is the longest I have stayed in one place in my adult life.) But I know there are many more great memories to be made as I move on.

Movies and Mexican Food- Saturday afternoon we met up with friends to see Batman. I've seen the first two in the trilogy, and I think this one might have been my favorite. The movie was long, but it was phenomenal. There was plenty of action, along with a lot of twists and turns. It kept my attention the whole time! After the movie we stuffed our faces at Lupe Tortilla. I wrote about it once before, and this was our second visit. The beef fajitas are still utterly amazing. And this coming from a girl who really doesn't eat meat at all.

Cooking marathon- In preparation for my Cookbook Club get together (and trying to prepare healthy lunches for the week), I spent a good part of Sunday in the kitchen. My contribution for the meal was Bacon Blue Cheese eggs, and the piece de resistance- Savory Bread Pudding with Caramelized Onions (from the Egg chapter of the Rhulman's Twenty book.) While egg might have been the focus, the real showcase of the dish were the caramelized onions. Done correctly, you can expect them to take a minimum of 6 hours. I got in just over 4 hours of cooking time, but had to finish putting my dish together. The key is to keep them on low heat, and just let them do their thing. I wish I had taken pictures of the process, but this was all I got....the little bit that was leftover. Had I had a few more hours, they would have been the darker brown color I was shooting for. If you're looking for a impressive brunch dish, I think this one is a winner.

Country french bread, gruyere cheese and caramelized onions make for one wicked dish!!

Decorating- We have lots of plans for things to do with the house, but we're trying to find some small ways to make a big impact for starters. At the suggestion of my talented sister, Hunk painted two niches over the weekend, and I love how they turned out. The mirror is temporary for now, but at least it gives that space a little more "umph". It's hard to tell the color in the picture, but it's a really pretty deep blue. We're looking for a piece of reclaimed wood to use for the mantel (though ultimately we'd like to replace the stone around the fireplace and do it all the way up the wall.)

Kitty entertaining- Katie the formerly feral cat has really been coming out of her shell lately. Now we've got 4 animals all vying for our attention!  Last night she was all about getting up on the couch with us. I had my iPad with me, and decided to pull up a few of the cat games I had recently downloaded (after a recent conversation with a co-worker about how to entertain her new kitten.) My older cat could really care less, but Katie LOVES the iPad games. Last night she scored a game-high 700 points on the Jitterbug game. I might need one of those bumper stickers...  "My cat is smarter than your honor-roll student" (or something like that.) At risk of being the crazy cat lady, I entertained us all by having that available for her. You can check out her youtube video in this link: Katie and the iPad

So there you have it. How I fit all that in just 2 days is beyond me, but that's just how it goes sometimes! Anyone do anything fun this weekend?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Diet and Exercise Tips for Healthy Skin

It's been awhile since I've written much about healthy habits. That's mainly because I've been walking a fine line on keeping up a healthy lifestyle myself. I've been doing just enough to get by, but I could be doing so much better. So I'll take the fact that this was the first article I saw this morning as a sign that I need to step it up a bit.

I've mentioned before how I'm much more aware of the wrinkles on my face. I have not been the best about taking preventive measures to delay the inevitable, but I try. This Yahoo article provides some really great information about how we exercise and what we eat affects our skin. We all know that doughnuts have no benefits, period. But I've never really thought about how the type of exercise you do benefits skin.

Right now I run 3-4 times a week, and am trying to do 2 days of strength training. We don't eat much dessert, but I know I could cut out a little more sugar from my diet. I'd love to add a day of yoga, if anything just to have one whole hour to de-stress. I like to think I get plenty of sleep, but I often feel tired in the afternoons. What I like best about reading articles such as this is that it really makes you evaluate your daily choices, and think about small changes you could make for the better. Read it if you have a few minutes, and let me know what you're already doing, or could do, to keep that skin healthy!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sunday in the Kitchen- Corn and Green Bean Salad

I've gotten in the habit recently of spending a few hours in the kitchen each Sunday. Our routine is usually a lazy morning with coffee, walking the dogs, a trip to HEB and an evening watching some TV. In the few spare hours between, I like to make a few things for lunches for the week, and cook an occasional Sunday supper. It's a good chance for me to make something that is usually too labor intensive for a weeknight, and also try some dishes from my Cookbook Club book so that I can actually contribute during out get togethers.

I'm still enjoying Ruhlman's Twenty and am working my way through the 20 cooking techniques. The theory being that if you know how to properly do X, Y, or Z, then you can cook just about anything. Since we eat pretty healthy during the week, Sunday is also a good time to cook a good splurge meal, too.

Yesterday I decided to make a Corn, Onion and Green Bean Salad with a Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette, and also Butter Poached Shrimp and Grits. It was a doozy, for sure!! The two recipes spanned several cooking techniques though, so I thought the time I invested in the dishes was worth it.

All my ingredients gathered to make the salad. Marley is ready to help, as always. 

The salad was from the technique chapter Onion. It's basically ways to cook onion to enhance dishes. In this particular dish, you boil the vegetables separately in salted water, cool them off in an ice bath, and then drain them. One thing I learned is that salting water (either for vegetables or pasta) means more than just a dash or two of salt. You should actually TASTE the water before you start cooking, and make sure that you can really taste the salt. For a large pot of water, that means nearly a cup of salt. I'll admit- the vegetables turned out crisp and tasty!

For boiling vegetables, heavily salt the water, and use a basket to pull them out easily.

Once they're out of the boiling water, put them in an ice bath for a few minutes, and then drain on a towel.

Final product was one really pretty salad!

The roasted shallot vinaigrette was to die for. It took time to roast, but otherwise was pretty easy. Just wrap up a few shallots (unpeeled, with ends cut off) in a foil packet with a tablespoon of butter and some salt and pepper, and roast for an hour at 400. Let them cool, then dump them in a blender with red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Blend, and then stream in olive oil to your liking. I try to use minimal oil, so I used equal parts vinegar and oil (about 1/4 cup each).

Roasted shallots made the house smell phenomenal. 

After the salad was done, Hunk helped me with the Poached Shrimp and Grits from the Poach chapter of the book. The grits included onion and bacon, and we also added some blue cheese that I needed to use up. I would make these again, but would leave out the bacon and seriously reduce the amount of onion. I liked the poaching technique used for the shrimp, but have to say that I have entirely lost my appetite for all things fish. I rarely eat meat these days (with the few exceptions for bacon) and the shrimp just did not taste good to me. I think Hunk enjoyed them, but it's not something I would make again. I'll just have to find something else to poach in butter....

Sunday Supper

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Home for Millie

Yesterday was a bittersweet day. Millie met her potential future family, and they decided that she is a perfect fit for their home. (I agree!) That was the sweet part. The bitter was when I had to take her to the shelter to spend the night so that she could have her spay surgery this morning. It was pure torture kissing that little face goodbye, knowing that she would be scared to death in a kennel overnight.

Luckily, the amazing staff at the shelter scooped her right up and promised that they would hold on to her until they had to leave for the day. At least she would get a little extra attention before going into a kennel for the night. I get to pick her up after work, love on her like crazy tonight, and then take her to her new home tomorrow. Hunk is going with me so that we can say goodbye together, and I know it won't be easy. We have really loved taking care of her this week, but this is what fostering is all about.

A good foster family shows love and attention, teaches the dog new things, and helps socialize them and build their confidence. They also work to find the most perfect home for the dog, and then they have to say goodbye. It's not easy, but I feel really good about giving her a great home instead of having to sit at the shelter until someone decided to adopt her. At least this way I have control over where she goes, and I can rest easy knowing that she's in the best hands.

Her new family includes a co-worker and friend of mine, so we will get updates on how she is doing. They also have two dogs, so Millie will have friends to play with (something that was very important to me). I know once she recovers from her surgery and settles into her new home, she will be more than happy. So goodbye sweet Millie. We'll miss your adorable face and hilarious growly barks, and are so happy that we got to spend a little bit of time with you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Out and About: Takoba

Saturday night I had a much needed date night with Hunk. We've had so much going on lately, that there just hasn't been much time for us to do something together, just the two of us. After dragging Millie around with me all day, she got a much needed nap in her crate while we went out for dinner and a little party. We had to transport some kittens back to the shelter from an adoption event first, so we decided to eat somewhere on the East side of town while we were over there. There are more than plenty great restaurants to choose from and we just don't make it to that part of town often enough.

I was in the mood for chips and salsa, so we decided to go to Takoba. I've been there before, but it was Hunk's first time. The meal (and restaurant in general) did not disappoint. They have such a great covered outside area, and then another outside lounging area with adirondack chairs in a big sand box, called the backyard. When the weather cools off, it really is the perfect place to sit outside for drinks. It was a little bit warm to be outside on Saturday, but we just liked the ambience of it much better. Luckily we ended up at a table in front of a mister, so it was a little more comfortable.

Our server was very attentive and nice- service is huge for me and it's always been constant at Takoba. We ordered guacamole and chips for starters, and Hunk got a beer while I ordered the Mango Habanero Margarita. Hands down, one of the best margaritas I have ever tasted. It's fresh and fruity without being too sweet, and just as it's going down, you get a little bit of kick from the habanero. If you go to this restaurant, you MUST try this margarita. It's fantastic.

For dinner, I stuck with the veggie tacos. It's easy to find a vegetarian meal here, and these tacos are delicious. The plate also comes with 2 sides, so I got a house salad and refried beans. For $8.50, it was a total bargain for that much food. Hunk got the carnitas tacos. He said they were tasty, and gave them a thumbs up. I know he was just excited to get a little meat for once, since we never really cook it at home.

House salad with a delicious vinaigrette.

Veggie tacos

If you're looking for a new Mexican restaurant to try (that isn't the same old Tex-Mex), then you must make a stop at Takoba.

(Photo from Little Mule Studio)

(Photo from Jonathan Garza)

Monday, July 16, 2012

July Birchbox

I still look forward to that one day each month when something FUN graces my mailbox. No bills, no junk mail, just a cute little box with goodies inside. This month's Birchbox is fantastic! They teamed up with Glamour magazine to put together a "multi-sensory" box of samples, and there are a few winners this time around.

In the box:

Harvey Prince "Hello" perfume ($55 for 50 ml)- It's the perfect summer scent! Just the right blend of citrus and flower, it smells great without being too over powering. I'm ordering some next week.

Klorane Shampoo with Chamomile ($18 for 3.4 oz)- I used it this morning and loved the smell and the thick lather. I also like that fact that it's targeted to blonde hair and brightening highlights, and is supposed to leave hair smoother and shinier after each use. It's only a few dollars more than the shampoo I get at the salon, so it might be worth a whole bottle.

Ada Cosmetics Bronzer in "Bronze Peach" ($12.45 for 3 grams)- Made with only 3 skin-safe minerals, this coppery pink bronzer can be used just about anywhere. I've never really mastered the art of bronzer, so this will be a fun (low cost) way to experiment. Since I try to stay out of the sun, at least I can have a little bit of a sun-kissed glow this way.

blinc Mascara ($26 for .21 oz)- I haven't tried this one yet, but the price alone might prevent me from buying it. I'm pretty happy with my $5 tube of Maybelline. But the "high tech tubing formula sounds intriguing, and you're supposed to be able to remove it with just water and a little pressure. We'll see. I'm due for a new mascara, and this generous sized-tube will work for now.

Larabar Apple Turnover Health Bar ($12.69 for 5)- Lost me on the flavor (I love apple, just not apple-flavored things), but I'm sure Hunk will taste test it for me. The price also seems a little steep. I can make my own bars for much less than this.

Birchbox Exclusive Earbuds (not for sale)- The colors are super fun, but I haven't tested out the quality of the earbuds yet. The description says they're "super durable and super comfy". I'm hard on earbuds, so I'll see if they hold up. They look great with my silver Shuffle, so I'll have to put them to use for my morning run tomorrow.

Millie the Magnificent

If you follow me on Facebook, you often see desperate pleas for help regarding the overcrowding at the city animal shelter where I volunteer. I always encourage friends (and strangers who will listen) to adopt before they shop. We have some really great animals at the shelter who so desperately need homes, and Facebook has been one of the ways I have been able to spread the word about adoption.

Well, on Friday I had to put my money where my mouth is. It didn't seem right to ask everyone else to help if I wasn't doing all that I could. When Hunk and I first started discussing moving in together, the subject of fostering was one of the things we had to talk about. Combining households meant that we would have 2 dogs and 2 cats, and that seemed like quite enough. So I said that I would save fostering for emergency situations only.

With the recent storms in Austin, the shelter has reached intake levels that we never dreamed could happen. I got a message that on Thursday we had started the day with negative 27 kennels for dogs, and 28 more had come in that day. Dogs were literally everywhere, and a round of euthanizing had to take place. Typically, only dogs with severe medical or behavior issues are the ones to go, but when we're that overcrowded, they have to make space however they can. It's a tough pill to swallow, but that's just the hard reality of public shelters at times. We've worked miracles every month this year just to maintain a 90% or higher live outcome rate.

Knowing that Friday would bring more of the same, I chatted Hunk that it was emergency time. We discussed what we could take that would make sense for our already crazy animal kingdom, and decided that taking a more highly adoptable dog would be best for us. It would mean a shorter foster time (hopefully), but it would also clear out a kennel. Ultimately, that was our goal! I felt a little guilty about taking the easy way out, but knew we were still making a difference. We both looked at the available dogs online, weighing options for size and sex. Having all girls at home, a female dog (who could fit through the doggie door) seemed like the best fit. And then Hunk sent me this:

I'll be honest- I wasn't really looking at puppies. Puppies=potty training, and I just wasn't sure I was up to the task. But then I saw that little bitty face, and thought about how scary it must be for her in a noisy shelter. I read her information and it said that she had just been brought in that day. I didn't know if she was owner surrender or stray, so I emailed the foster coordinator to find out. Turns out she had been picked up by animal control that morning in a not so great neighborhood. No one knows if she had been in a home, or wandered off from her mom and litter. But she was little (5 pounds) and young (barely 2 months old) and had no business being in the shelter by herself.

Typically all dogs must complete a 4 day stray hold before they are available for adoption, in case their owner comes to reclaim them. The foster coordinator made an exception for us and said we could take her home. BUT....if someone called to reclaim- we had to give her back no questions asked. 

Once we got to the shelter and saw her in person (shivering like crazy), we just knew that we could not leave her there. Even if she went back home the next day, we knew we could make her comfortable for that short time. So we got her checked out and made it to the car. It took all of 3 minutes for her to fall in love with her foster dad. We had to give her a name, and wanted to stick with the "M" theme of the current dogs (Marley and Maddie). Something a little old fashioned seemed just perfect. Meet Millie the Magnificent rescue pup. 

She's a blue merle Daschund/Beagle mix, and is the cutest thing I have ever laid eyes on. She has those big Beagle ears, and beautiful coloring. Plus tons of personality. It just doesn't get much better than this! We got her home, briefly introduced her to the other pups (everyone seemed fine), bathed her, and then hit the road for a house warming party. If Millie was going to stay at our house for a bit, she was going to learn very quickly that we lead busy, social lives!

I had called my friend on the way home just to let her know our sudden change in plans, and she said it would be fine to bring Millie to the party. We wrapped her up in a blanket and took her carrier just in case. She was a big hit at the party, and we hardly ever had to watch her (except for potty breaks). Everyone else there wanted to hold her. She did great, and seemed to enjoy the attention. But the crazy day wore her out, and this was how she was on the ride home.

We put her in her carrier for the night (potty training begins) and though she whined for about 15 minutes, she slept through the night. I took her with me for errands most of Saturday and I think that wore her out again. We met a friend for breakfast at Whole Foods, where she charmed anyone who spotted her. We went back to the shelter to help with kitty transport for an adoption event, and finally made our way home that afternoon. Hunk was happy to see her, and she was happy to get in a good nap.

She is officially available for adoption starting Tuesday, and I will work on finding the best home placement that I can. In the meantime though, I'm happy to have her staying with us. She seems to fit in just fine. Stayed tuned for more on Millie's story.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A day of Georgia

I have been begging my sister for some Auntie time with my adorable niece Georgia. It seems like the only time I get to see her is when the whole family is together. That usually means we're all fighting over her, and I just couldn't take it any longer. Luckily, they had a day of engagements and asked if Hunk and I would be interested in watching her from 9am- 11pm. Uh, sure. No problem!!!

Some of you might not know that I am actually pretty experienced when it comes to kids. I was a nanny for two different families while I was in college (for kids ages newborn-2), and I was an elementary teacher (kinder and first grade) for 7.5 years. But it has been a pretty long time since I've needed to be responsible for THAT long of a time period. We rested up though, and felt ready for the challenge.

Saturday morning started with our usual early morning run. We grabbed tacos and coffee afterwards and then made our way down to San Marcos. G was waiting at the door for us and screamed her giddy scream when she saw us walking up. We immediately started playing with hula hoops that she had out, and then headed down to the pool to beat the heat. Her parents said their goodbyes when we were already in the pool. I didn't really think anything of it when they did, but as I was getting out of the water (and ready to go inside), I noticed that the back door was locked. Awesome. Hunk tried every other door/window/chimney....with no luck! We were locked out.

Neither one of us had our phones on us. I only had my bathing suit (no shoes), and G had a wet suit and a wet swim diaper. Double awesome. But thankfully, Hunk had a shirt, the car key and his wallet that he had taken out of his swim suit just before hopping in the pool. After thinking of every other possible way to get ourselves back inside, he finally drove over to the church where my sis and husband were, and tracked them down to get a key. It put an hour or so dent in our day, but thankfully it turned out fine.

We sat down for some lunch and I did my best attempt at putting Georgia down for a nap. I knew she would need a good one if we were to make it through the rest of the afternoon. I also knew that Hunk and I would need one too!!! We occupied both couches downstairs and were just dozing off when I could hear G on the monitor. "Aaaaaammmmmmyyyyyy......are you there?!" Over. And over. And over again. I tried so hard not to go see her, but finally I couldn't take it. I went up to ask her to lay down and close her eyes. She said ok and complied, but only for about 20ish more minutes. No nap.

So, I got her dressed and off we went to do some "shop, shop". We made a quick stop at Core Running   Company in downtown San Marcos, where Georgia charmed everyone in sight. She has all her toys packed in that purse, and insisted on carrying it around with her. She cracks me up.

Next up was the outlet mall, where everyone else had decided to go too. G likes to play on the different rides there, and I needed to look for some cheap work out clothes. I could tell she was tired, but she was such a champ!!! She stayed in her stroller for most of the time, and we sandwiched quick looks in stores with a snow cone and several rides.

Going fast in the car- her favorite.

After the outlet mall, I knew we had maybe a 30 minute window if we were actually going to grab food at a restaurant for dinner. I could already see her rubbing her eyes, but we decided to push it. We ordered her food as soon as we sat down, and got her set up with some crayons and a menu. She drew some pictures for Hunk and we were able to keep her entertained for the most part. But when the food came, she just wasn't interested in eating. She didn't eat a huge lunch either, which always makes me worry. She kept asking to play Hello Kitty on my phone, and I kept telling her that she needed to eat some of her dinner before she could play. She kept shaking her head at me, so I said that we would just have to go home if she wasn't going to eat. And then the meltdown started.

The mere mention of "going home" started the tears, and I had to hold her for a bit to get her to calm down. She was exhausted, and really was doing her best to behave, but that just set her off. Hunk played with her a little bit longer so we could finish our dinner, and then we headed home. She recovered pretty quickly- for a 2.5 year old, she really is a fantastic child!!! She also didn't have any accidents while in our care (go me for remembering to take her as often as I could.)

G saying "cheese"!! Sadly, I never got a picture with her.

When we got home, I gave her a bath and she picked out some books for Hunk to read to her (she LOVES her Hunk). I put her down and she was asleep barely 10 minutes later. It was such a super fun day, and I hope we get to go back again. My sister called on Sunday morning and said that G was asking for us when she woke up. I really loved getting to have that time with her, and look forward to doing it again.

Summer Birthday Celebrations

My lack of blogging recently should tell you how crazy busy things are at work. I'm feeling the pressure of the final quarter, and I actually have a decent shot at making my number and winning a trip to the Four Seasons in Nevis. I'm sure you'll understand where my priorities are right now...

Despite some of the unpleasantness in my family recently, we were all able to wave the white flag and get together to celebrate my mom and sister-in-law's birthdays recently. They are barely two weeks apart (their actual birthdays, not ages), so it was fun to get to have everyone together for dinner, cake and presents. We ate dinner at Matt's El Rancho (a family favorite) and then everyone stayed the night at my parent's after opening presents and eating cake. It's always nice to get that little extra bit of niece time, so we ate it up as much as possible. She was a great helper in handing out (and opening) presents, and entertained us all with her very own special bedtime story. That kid is a trip!!

Helping her GiGi.
Checking out Mer Mer's new shoes.

Last year I made cupcakes for them, so I wanted to do something a little bit different. I found this really cool mini-cake pan on Amazon, and just had to order it. They both requested entirely different flavors (lemon and chocolate) and I wanted to make them their very own cakes. I love the pans, but the actual cakes were a little hard to decorate. Not my best work, but they still turned out cute.

Meredith's chocolate cake with chocolate sour cream frosting.
Mom's lemon cake with classic buttercream icing.

The cupcakes on the side are mini-cupcakes, if that gives you any reference to the actual size of the cakes. They were big enough to cut into fourths for sharing. The chocolate sour cream frosting was to die for. I had some fresh cut strawberries when I was making it, and couldn't help but dip the strawberries in it while decorating. Yum!! I also tried out a new decorating technique that was really pretty easy, but I'm sure it would turn out much better with a larger surface area to work on. I can't find the original link I used, but you basically pipe a column of dots, and then using the tip of a spreader, press into the dot and then drag it to the side. Repeat with another column of dots about half and inch away, and spread. I'm right handed, so mine go to the right. Really pretty easy, just not so much when your cake layer is 1.5 inches tall.

Overall, I think everyone had a great time!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Make it Sweet: Rolled Buttercream Class

This past Saturday I met my friend Shelly at the Make it Sweet baking supply shop for a Rolled Buttercream class. You might be wondering what in the heck rolled buttercream is. I did too, until I started doing a little googling to get to the bottom of it. If you've ever had a cake with fondant, you know what a rolled icing looks like. It's hard, and doesn't really taste that great. Rolled buttercream is the same idea (decorating the top of a cake with one big sheet of icing), but the taste is better and it's supposed to be easier to work with.

I have never worked with fondant before (other than making some flowers), so I really didn't have a point of reference going into this class. I have, however, tasted it. That stuff is nasty, and leaves me with NO desire to spend the time decorating a cake with something that just doesn't taste good. I don't care how great the final product looks. When Shelly and I decided to take a class, we both wanted to try something that was new to us both, so this seemed like the perfect fit.

The class was a lot of fun (especially doing it with a friend) and I learned a lot. While my cake might not be the prettiest (I had a minor malfunction while outlining a piece of cardboard on the top), I think I can replicate the buttercream at home and give it another go. I like the shininess of the icing, and the taste was so much better! If you've ever wanted to learn more about cake decorating, Make it Sweet has a ton of great classes to choose from. I'll be going back again soon, for sure.

Got all my supplies ready...



The final product after a few 4th of July inspired decorations

Laughing with Shelly right after she smashed icing on her apron, and just before her cake slid off the plate.
Good times!

Out and About: Annie's Cafe & Bar

This post is about a week late, but last week was end of quarter and there was just no time for blogging.  My sister and a few friends hosted a baby shower for our friend Becky a week ago Saturday. While brunch is a popular meal in Austin, very few places actually serve it on Saturdays. Annie's Cafe & Bar is a rare (yet wonderful) exception. They actually open at 8:30 AM and serve an amazing breakfast/brunch menu, with plenty of sweet and savory options to choose from. I had barely eaten that day and was starving, so I went with the Fried Egg Sandwich, an indulgent combination of fried egg, bacon and white cheddar served on the most delicious sourdough bread. Not the least bit "plant-based" friendly, but absolute heaven in my mouth. I didn't regret one single bite. I think the other girls were pleased with their choices too.

I have been there before for dinner and happy hour, and have really enjoyed both visits. The space is well thought out, and perfect for a social get together, or a romantic date. It has a French Bistro feel to it (minus the squished together banquettes), and I love the simple and elegant design of the space.

On to the shower part of our brunch. Becky has chosen not to find out the sex of her baby (that is control I could never have), but the hostesses chose to play around with the big surprise. Each guest wore either blue or pink depending on what we think she is having. They also made some cute little props for pictures (of which I cannot post until Shanna sends me those pictures, Ahem!) The table decorations were adorable, and I think the whole event turned out perfectly understated (but memorable), just like the hostesses wanted.

Table setting. 

My sister made the little pom poms and fabric pinwheels. They matched the colors from the invitation.

Bunting my sister found on Etsy for the lemon cake I made. 

No games at this shower- just sweet sentiments for the new mom, and a little take home goody for the guests. 

Present pile and baby name options.