Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tea for Two (or Ten)

A friend of mine in Houston hosts an awesome tea party every year for her friends.  We gather together, and eat too many sweets while our husbands go off and do manly things.  Last year they went to see THOR and then oogled women had lunch at Hooters - whatev.)

This year, finally being a Texas resident, I hit the kitchen to whip something up to take with me.  I made Old Fashioned Ginger Bread and lemon curd from scratch.  [I love Ina Garten's recipes!)

No photo of the lemon curd, as Hubby said "It just looks like yellow goo."

Then I did my usual "consult multiple recipes, then make up my own" and came up with Blackberry Tiramisu Trifle.

We'll see how the trifle tastes.  My kitchen experiments usually come out pretty tasty, but there have been blunders too.  I am also super excited that I finally got to use my Pampered Chef trifle bowl!  It is a little pricey, but it is made of thick, tempered glass, it doesn't "sink" in the middle, so the layers stay even and it has a removable stand and fitted plastic cover for easy storage and transport!  (Sheesh, you would think I was getting a commission.)

Completely aside:  Notice the Kitchenaid mixer in the background. These two items alone were worth getting married for! (Also, I'm madly in love with Hubby, so that works out.)  I am a super sucker for kitchen gadgets.  I may be the only one I know who swoons over immersion mixers and milk frothers.  After Hubby proposed my first thought was, "I get to spend the rest of my life with this wonderful man!!"  My second thought was, "I get to REGISTER!"

So that's your dose of sweet for now.  Enjoy the holiday weekend folks!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Going to the Country .. Gonna Eat a lot of Peaches

I am happy to report that Hubby harvested four wee little peaches from our tree today.  The birds were starting to go at them, so it was time.  But let me tell you, what they lacked in size they more than made up for in taste!  They were juicy and sweet like I could not believe!  I have rarely, if ever, had a store bought peach like that.

I suspect that they were small because the tree is small.  We bought it this spring and re-potted it into a larger pot, but we are not putting it in the ground until we move, some time within the next year.

This is our wee little tree a couple weeks ago.
In other garden news, aggressive weeding has killed my squash plants.  (I should have picked those blossoms and filled them with goat cheese when I had the chance!)  The tomatoes are coming along, and finally have buds!  The herbs are growing well.  The dill is going like gangbusters, but the cilantro is only just thriving and not in a way where I can really use much.  The lavender never even sprouted! *pout*  The basil is doing well, and Hubby has been adding cigar ashes to them to see if that brightens them up a bit.  They are doing well, but I generally don't count them as they were not grown from seed.

My dreams of buckets of green squash are dashed, but I am hoping for boatloads of tomatoes to make delicious recipes!!  If that happens, of course I will be posting them here!  This weekend I am going to a formal high tea.  I will post pictures of my homemade clotted cream and lemon curd (if I remember).

Everyone enjoy your holiday weekend!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

While I was visiting my parents last month in New Jersey, my father tipped me off to a restaurant that he read about in The Week Magazine that just happens to be in my city.  The mouth watering Lucy's Fried Chicken sounded like someplace I needed to check out.  The review, for those who don't subscribe says:
Austin’s hottest new picnic-style joint “announces itself boldly” with a unique, flashing neon sign, said Matthew Odam in The Austin American-Statesman. “A leggy dame holding a chicken leg” beckons passing drivers to pull in beneath her glow for a piping-hot meal that, taste-wise, “has few rivals.” The fried chicken originated at chef James Holmes’s more upscale Olivia, but was too popular to remain just a weekly special there. Holmes couldn’t resist broadening Lucy’s menu to Gulf oysters, Texas chili, and daily-special sausages, but the chicken and sides are the reasons to visit. The birds served at Lucy’s are raised on vegetarian diets, and the parts are soaked for 24 hours in a buttermilk brine before cooking. Once the chicken has been fried to “rust-colored perfection,” the “knobby skin enshrines tangy, buttery meat made salty by a dash of soy sauce and piqued by cayenne and paprika.” Enjoy your bucket with some sides of smashed grilled potatoes and a few cold beers, but be sure to leave room for a slice of the oat-streusel shoofly pie.
So, a few weeks ago Hubby and I grabbed our friend Mouse and set out to find "Lucy".  First off, I love a place where I get the back story, so right off the bat from reading the above blurb I was IN.  It turns out that College Ave is a little side street, almost a back alley running in between Oltorf and S. Congress.  We almost missed it, but then you see the "leggy dame" and you know you are in the right place.  Parking is minimal at best and there are signs EVERYWHERE telling you NOT to park at the gas station across the street or you will be towed.  We parked down the street about a block.  It was not a big deal.

When you walk up there is a big picnic area outside and a small indoor seating area.  In being an uncharacteristically cool day in Texas, we opted for outside.  The staff is wonderfully attentive without being intrusive.  They are also friendly and a little chatty, which I enjoy.

We crack the menus, and first off I notice that this is more than fried chicken, much more.  They have deep fried deviled eggs, fried chicken livers (I'm a big fan of chicken liver) and a bunch of other interesting things.  They also have some serious down-home southern sides.  Right away we HAVE to order the calf fries because, to be blunt, testicles have been on my foodie bucket list for years.

They come fried with a panko-esque coating and a creamy ranch dressing. They were tasty, as almost anything deep fried would be.  I thought they would be chewy, but they were almost mealy inside.  The taste was excellent, but the texture put me off a bit.  I was SHOCKED that Hubby tried a couple.  I thought for sure there would be some machismo comment about not putting balls in his mouth, or some such juvenile man-boy shenanigans.  But no, he popped one in his mouth with aplomb and pronounced them decent noms.  Mouse declined to sample them.

We ordered a basket of chicken to split, and several sides.  The chicken is amazing!  The skin is crisp and golden, but not greasy.  The meat is incredibly moist.  They serve all their chicken with pickles and jalapeƱos on top. [Side note: They add jalapeƱos to EVERYTHING in Texas, so if you don't like spicy be on guard!]  In the future I will ask them to leave the peppers off.  For sides we ordered collards (another food I have always wanted to try), Mexi-coke mashed sweet potatoes and smashed, grilled potatoes.  I would order all three again in a heart beat.  To be honest, MY sweet potatoes are better (because what isn't better with whiskey?) but I only make them once a year, so there is that caveat.  The grilled potatoes were delicious, as only something swimming in butter can be.  The collards were tasty.  Having never had them before, I don't know if they were good, as compared to others; but they were delicious.  They were much more vinegary than I anticipated, but that bite went well with the succulent chicken.

The piece de resistance of the meal HAD to be the dessert.  Mouse, Hubby and I each ordered a different type of pie, and then we all shared.  We got the Sweet Tea pie, S'Mores pie and Shoofly pie.  The S'Mores pie was delicious, but very rich.  The chocolate layer was akin to a solid hunk of ganache and too sweet for more than just a couple of bites.  The Shoofly pie was lovely, with a strong molasses flavor.  It was not like the syrupy, sweet shoofly pie you get in Pennsylvania, but more like a moist oatmeal cake with molasses mixed in.  The shoofly was Hubby's favorite, and Mouse tucked into the S'mores pie with delight.  This worked out for me, because in my estimation the best thing on the entire Lucy's menu is the Sweet Tea pie!

The menu describes it as a chess pie with lemon and tea added.  I just call it heaven!  I was kind of glad that neither Hubby nor Mouse chose it as their favorite - more for me!  You can buy whole pies to take home, but they were a bit pricey.  I was very tempted though.  In fact, the overall pricing was decent and the food was certainly worth it, but if you decide to order a bunch of things in order to taste a variety (as I am prone to do) it will get expensive fast, but you will end up with yummy leftovers!  Again, our friendly waiter was happy to chat with us and provide a myriad of little cups and containers to stow our chicken bounty for the trip home.

Our experience was so enjoyable, that a little over a week later when my friends from And That is What He/She Said called and said they were passing through Austin, we suggested meeting up at Lucy's for some chow. (Any excuse for more of that pie!)  You can read their review of Lucy's HERE.

This time we sat inside.  This is good, because I learned upon leaving after our first visit that the blackboard specials are only listed inside.  Make sure to stick your head in even if you are "picnicking" or you might miss out on some gourmet salads or frog legs!  However, while the outside is laid back and pleasant, the inside is ... LOUD.  We had trouble even carrying on a conversation.  Again, the waiter (a different one) was awesome.  He got brownie points for not needing an explanation of what goes into an Arnold Palmer. [Another side note: They brew their own tea and make their own lemonade.  The lemonade is TART, so even though I drink my iced tea with nothing in it, I mix lemonade with "sweet tea" at Lucy's to get more sugar in the cup.]

Hubby and I skipped the chicken and decided to nosh on fried chicken livers and fried chicken gizzards.  The waiter offered us a basket of half each, which we immediately dubbed as "fried lizzards".  They were both so awesome that we ordered a second basket!  They come with a spicy sauce, so I exhibited my north-east plumage and asked for the ranch sauce I enjoyed on the calf fries on our first visit.  I was adamant about ordering more sweet tea pie, and I sampled the apple pie that our friends ordered.  It was nice, but (again) not to be vain, but mine is better.  I do have to give them props on their pie crust.  The sweet tea pie and the apple pie have the same type of crust, and it is out of this world.  When you run out of filling you still want to eat every last bite of that yummy crust!  I wonder if I can wheedle the recipe out of them ...

So Lucy's seductive leg wave drew me in.  The pie alone will keep me going back.  Check it out at 2218 College Ave., (512) 297-2423.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cooking for a Picky Eater

by Adrienne McGuire of

My seven-year-old son is an extremely picky eater, and has been since the age of two. For five years, we have tried many techniques to get him to eat a variety of foods, and they all failed miserably. First, we demanded that he eat a certain number of bites of each food on his plate. That ended with him in tears and me completely frustrated and yelling. Next, we attempted to let him decide what and how much he would consume. We had to put a stop to that tactic after he became so weak and lethargic that he was not functioning properly. We then started to feed him only the foods that he likes, feeling good that at least he was eating something with calories. This option landed us in the hospital, with him dehydrated and an almost emergency bowel obstruction. To say that his food choices are not balanced would be putting it mildly.

After the hospital incident, my husband and I decided we really needed to include Ethan in the planning process so that he could take ownership over his own health and food. We begin by sitting down with him and reminding him about the extreme stomach pain and hospital stay, and we explained that the only way to avoid that in the future is by making healthier food choices. He agreed, and we proceeded to create a weekly food schedule wherein the entire family eats the same food, and if it is something that he does not enjoy, he just has to try it and preferably, take a few bites. He is now adding a variety of fruits into his diet voluntarily and has been drinking a ton more water and juice. He seems to be developing healthier eating habits that work for him.

At his suggestion, we switched to drinking soymilk, which seems to really help his digestive system. What he doesn't know is that when my husband and I cook dinners, we rely on the book The Sneaky Chef to add covert vegetables into every meal. Neither Ethan nor his nine-year-old brother has ever noticed a difference in the taste, and on many occasions, they have actually complimented meals that contain our special vegetable additions.

What we learned through this process is that you cannot force a child to eat, and it really isn't a good idea to let a child younger than seven years old be totally in charge of his diet. For the best chance of success, you should work as a family to create an eating lifestyle that works for everyone. It helps everyone get the foods that they need to remain healthy, and it can bring you closer together during the planning and creating phase. If you have a picky eater, what are some of the things you tried that were successful? I am always looking for new ideas to make my life easier!

Adrienne McGuire is a writer, website consultant and wellness enthusiast who abandoned the corporate ladder to create the life she really wanted.  Her journey down the road less traveled took her to, where she is now an integral part of the writing team.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Home Cookin' - Pollo Boracho

Hubby and I made Pollo Boracho (i.e. drunken chicken) for the first time on Sunday.  It is ridiculously simple, but usually requires a special beer can holder for the grill, unless you want a pain in the butt trying to keep the chicken upright and you want to spill boiling beer on yourself when the chicken is done.  As luck would have it, they had some of these holders in the supermarket when hubby went on a grocery run recently.  Understanding the correlation between buying me kitchen gadgets and eating tasty food, he picked one up!

I just rinsed the chicken, salted it inside and out (kosher salt ONLY, what am I? A barbarian?), stuffed a peeled onion and some garlic cloves in the cavity and stuffed it onto a partially emptied can of beer on the holder.  You need to empty between a quarter and half of the liquid from the can, so there is room for it to boil.  I gave my husband the excess beer to drink.  He was heartbroken, as you can imagine, but he took one for team chicken!

The beer heats and steams and flavors the inside of the chicken.  It also slowly roasts the onions and garlic to sweet and tender perfection.  I can tell you the chicken was awesome after slow roasting for about 90 minutes.  I would love to show you the finished product but my husband someone carved them before I had the chance.  We also grilled some corn and baked some potatoes on the grill in foil packets with salt and butter.

I am looking forward to playing with this recipe and using other things besides beer as my cooking liquid.  I really want to try cranberry juice next!  Has anyone out there in cyberspace done this with anything besides beer?  Tequila?  Cola?

UPDATE: Our friends who were over for dinner the night of the Pollo Boracho caught our finished birds on camera!