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SXSW con Queso: Picks & Minimal Recommendations From A Local

March 11, 2016

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We’ve seen an extraordinarily large number of unnecessarily complicated guides to Austin and SXSW this year…so so many write ups on the must-dos, must-sees, must-drinks, ad nauseam…most from people who don’t live in Austin. Most from people trying to be as “cool and as real as it gets”  and give you a list of 200 things YOU MUST DO in the 27 waking hours you are in town.

On the other hand, here’s a really short list adapted from a post we did a couple of years ago. Not much has changed but some things have…including our picks for SXSW 2016. Enjoy!

A few friends have asked what to expect from SXSW this year, what to do, who to see. And I say you’ll for sure see these people.   You should also get far away from that and go to our pick for Best Maker Event: SX CREATE presented by Dremel. And Best Empowerment Event: The #SpeakBeautiful Effect with Dove and Twitter. 

In addition, an exhaustive list of other official free events is right here. 

Beyond that, I don’t really care. But while you’re here, I would suggest that you look into a few, more localized activities. Things like this:

1. Get Some of The Best Queso in Austin. Here are my suggestions. I could talk more about this and I’m happy to. But you can’t really go wrong with most places in town so you’re probably fine no matter what. You’ll be especially pleased if you get your cheese from somewhere where there are no lines and whose name you can’t really pronounce.


2. Go See My Cousin’s Band. I’m not even kidding. That’s him right in the middle there. They are called Chasca, they are local, and they are awesome + beyond entertaining. Trust me. You won’t be sure what you are watching, but you won’t be disappointed.

There are two Chasca shows this first WEEKEND! Friday they play with girling at Hard Luck Lounge from 9-10 pm. Saturday they play with Alien Knife Fight at The Highball Austin at 11:30 pm. No cover. Have fun.

Photo of (from left) Keith Schmidt, Susie Schmidt-Franks, Chad Franks and John Fullilove courtesy of Rodolfo Gonzalez/American-Statesman.

3. Go To My Favorite BBQ Spot In Town. Don’t wait in a six-hour line for meat.  Schmidt Family Barbecue  is the cousin child of the legendary Kreuz Market and Smitty’s BBQ in Lockhart. Here’s more. To sum up, the new joint is from the next generation of cousins from the ultimate BBQ family of Texas. It’s closer to town, in Bee Cave. And it’s worth the drive from downtown. Go. (Also, PS, I’m not sure what you’ve heard, but The Salt Lick is in no way the best BBQ in town. Not even close. And Franklin’s is worth the wait normally…but not the wait this week.)

4. Go Outside. This is especially important if you are from anywhere north of Waco. But wherever you come from, get away from downtown. Go to Barton Springs. Or Deep Eddy. Or the Kite Festival. Or Mount Bonnell. Or just really anywhere that’s not a line flowing into a parking lot.

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5. Go to Mozart’s for Coffee.  Go to Hula Hut for chips, salsa and margs on the deck. Go to Taco Deli for tacos and to Matt’s El Rancho for enchiladas and to Maudie’s for anything else. If you want fancy food, go to Counter 3. Five. VII. or Lenoir or Uchi (or, even better, Uchiko). If you don’t want fancy food, go to Ramen Fukuya. Catch a movie at Alamo Draft House. Don’t go to any of those ridiculous donut places. If you need donuts, go to KC Donuts. And go to Lick for ice cream. You won’t be disappointed. An none of those places will have SXSW lines.

Enjoy our town. It gets better the further away you move from the convention center. Trust us on this.

Soundtrack: That’s Right. By this smart guy with really great hair from Klein, Texas. 

How To Make Limoncello

January 1, 2016

We travelled to Italy a few years ago, and were lucky enough to stay in the beautiful town of Positano very near Pompeii.  It is a town built on a cliff above a few beaches.  I think it was something like 250,000 steps from our hotel to the beach.  Ok, not really, but it felt like it.  We learned a little late in the game that you can take the local bus for very little and avoid all of the steps.  I highly recommend the bus. 

Everywhere we went in Positano, the lovely pottery for sale was covered in lemons. Every restaurant featured lemon sauces, lemon desserts, etc. all followed with little glasses of limoncello.  If you have ever had it before, at first taste it reminds you of lemon-flavored cough syrup with a kick.  It is meant to be a digestif after all of the pasta and such.  At first, we were not fans, but by the third or so we loved it.

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I asked a local about why everyone serves limoncello.  He said that most of the families there have lemon trees.  After the tourist season ends in October or so, they head home to harvest their lemons with their families.  They get whole grain alcohol from the government, and use the rind from the lemons for the limoncello.  It takes 95 days from start to finish, which means it is ready when the weather starts to warm up.  They use the juice from the lemons for their sauces throughout the summer as well.  It turns out that making limoncello is mostly just waiting and a little bit of making.  I can totally do that!  I found a recipe that included a vanilla bean, which really does soften it just enough.  If you drink limoncello, then be sure you are just serving it in little shot glasses.  Beware, it can get really easy to drink, and before you know it, you have passed the point of no return…and you are desperately needing a nap!  If drinking it intimidates you, I have also served it poured over a lemon sorbet topped with raspberries.  It makes for a really refreshing dessert.  The texture of the drink is syrupy and viscous, so it is best served very cold.  I keep my bottle ready to go in the freezer.  It gets more aggressive the warmer it gets.  Why do I bring up limoncello now?  Well, it is citrus season!  Hooray!  My Meyer Lemons are almost ready to pluck, but they don’t make for good limoncello.  That said, you can run to the grocery store, and grab big lemons right now.  Just be sure that you are only removing the yellow rind- leave the white pith behind.  I used my lemon “innards” in my juicer so that my 10 year old could make his lip-puckering homemade lemonade.  Enjoy!

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Limoncello

(this is a double batch)

What you’ll need:

One liter of Everclear

10-15 really nice lemons (the rind matters, friends)

5 cups of sugar

4 cups of water

1 vanilla bean

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What you’ll do:

First, after you have washed those lemons, you will zest them.  You can use the five whole zester, the microplaner or the carrot peeler.  Put all of the zest in the large sealable jar with the liter of booze.  Don’t do vodka- it’s not the same.  Let it sit for 45 days in a cool dark place.

After 45 days, you will need to make the syrup, and remove the peels.  You can simply pour the mixture through a fine mesh to remove the peels.  Put the lemony goodness back in the jar with one vanilla bean.  This will mellow it out just enough to make it irresistible.  Bring the four cups of water to a boil, and dissolve the 5 cups of sugar into the water.  Allow it all to cool, before you add it to the limoncello.  Once combined, store it back in the cool, dark place.  

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After the second 45 days, take your mesh, and line it with two coffee filters.  Put it over a bowl, and filter your limoncello into the bowl.  This will take a while as it should be thick and syrupy.  You can filter again if you want it to be more clear.  Finally, use a funnel to fill up the bottle or bottles of your choice.  Store in the freezer until you are ready to use.

Salute!

Not Sure What To Leave for Santa? (Here’s a Tip: Leave Him Christmas Cookies.)

December 24, 2015

I don’t know about you, but I am struggling a little bit when I think of how little time I have before Christmas and how much I have yet to do.  How does this happen to me every year?!!!  I mean, I know it is coming and yet I am always pressed for time.  Ugh.  Baking helps me settle the voices, but I know that is not true for everyone.  Lucky for you, these two cookie recipes are easy to manage, and they freeze really well.  The first is an Oatmeal Cookie with Golden Raisins and Dried Cranberries.  I know…I know…you don’t like raisins.  I will tell you this- these cookies are such a hit that the teachers who receive them every year won’t let me make anything else.  I have to share this recipe with someone every year as they can’t get over how much they love them.  But, if you insist that you will not like the oatmeal cookies then I submit to you the Chocolate Chocolate Chip with Peppermint Cookies.  Chocoholics can rejoice, and they look nice and festive as well.  The best part about both of these cookies is that you can use a small ice cream scoop to drop them onto your baking sheet.  Seriously, you can finish one batch in less than one hour.  Heat up your ovens, don your aprons, and don’t forget the holiday music and a glass of wine while you cook.  After all, you deserve it!  Let’s do this!

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Oatmeal Cookies with Golden Raisins and Dried Cranberries
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What you’ll need:

2 ½ sticks of butter, unsalted, room temp

1 cup light brown sugar

1 1/8 cup of regular sugar

1 large egg

1 ½ tsp vanilla

3 cups old fashioned oats

1 ½ cup all purpose flour

¾ tsp salt

2 ½ tsp baking soda

1 ½ cup combo of golden raisins, cranberries, cherries, etc.

(I like the golden raisins and cranberries)

Cinnamon

(I think I use about ½ teaspoon, but honestly I just shake it out over the flower and oat mixture until I can smell it)

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What you’ll do:

Preheat oven to 350.  Cream butter and sugars in a stand mixer with paddle attachment until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla- mix until combined.  In separate bowl, stir together oats, flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.  Add the flour mix to the butter mix (half first and then the rest) until combined.  Finally, add the dried fruit.  Use the scoop to portion onto the cookie sheets, and bake 8-10 minutes depending on your oven.  They should be golden brown and a little underdone in the center as they will continue to cook some once removed.

And then try these…

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Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies with Peppermint

ingredients

What you’ll need:

12 oz package of dark chocolate chips (go as dark or semi as you prefer)

2 TBS water

6 TBS unsalted butter, room temp

¾ cup sugar

½ tsp salt

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 ¼ cups all purpose flour

½ tsp baking soda

peppermint chips or crushed peppermint candies

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What you’ll do:

Heat oven to 375.  Set up double boiler with 1 cup of the chips and the water- melt together and let cool some.  Meanwhile, in mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt.  Add eggs and vanilla until combined.  Add melted chocolate until combined.  In bowl, combine flour, baking soda and the last cup of chocolate chips.  Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.  Here you can add the peppermint chips into the batter.  Or, as I did this time, I scooped my dough, and then sprinkled or dipped the tops into the crushed candies.  Bake for 10-12 minutes depending on your oven.

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BTW, both of these cookies go great with a glass of milk!  Also, they’re total Santa pleasers. Proven.

Bon Apetit!

Kristin Paull is a baker who makes the best cookies I’ve ever consumed in my life. They are like little works of art. Like better than wine. With more traces of lemon zest and cardamom.  Read more about Kristin here.

TBT: Winter Solstice Dinner

December 17, 2015

Winter Solstice has many associated traditions…Sadly, they’re all pretty bleak. Like the bleak midwinter they honor. But a few years ago we had a Winter Solstice Dinner and it was quite lovely. Here’s a Throwback to some a few of our Winter Solstice Dinner Feast and some of our favorite Winter Solstice treats.

Winter Solstice Pumpkin Soup

Yuletide Yule Wreath

Peppered Guinness Roast Beast with Parsnips and Figs

Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce

All these work great for a Winter Solstice meal, or I think I’ll be making a few of them for Christmas this year.

Merry Yuletide!

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Gingerbread Pumpkin Trifle

December 8, 2015

My friend Allison gave me this recipe. I made it for Thanksgiving and it was swell. I think it works really well for any December gathering. Check it.

December Gingerbread Pumpkin Trifle

 1 – 14 oz. package gingerbread mix
1 – 5.1 oz. box “cook and serve” vanilla pudding mix
1 – 30 oz. can pumpkin pie filling
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 – 12 oz. container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1/2 cup gingersnaps

Bake the gingerbread according to the package directions; cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare the pudding and set aside to cool. Stir the pumpkin pie filling, sugar, and cinnamon in to the pudding. Crumble one batch of gingerbread into the bottom of the trifle bowl. Pour 1/2 of the pudding mixture over the gingerbread, then add a layer of whipped topping. Repeat with the remaining gingerbread, pudding, and whipped topping. Sprinkle the top with crushed gingersnaps. Refrigerate overnight.

IMG_3812 (1)That’s it. It’s super easy, looks great and tastes so good. File it under EASY. Enjoy.

TBT: The Recipes of Thanksgivings Past

November 19, 2015

Over the past few Thanksgivings, I’ve been channeling the ghosts of Thanksgivings past…specifically their recipes. And while I’m living in the house where enormous Thanksgivings were held, I feel like I need to live up to the traditions. The awesome food traditions. Most especially the awesome old-school Texas Thanksgiving food traditions.

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This is a bit tricky for me because I’m not an awesome cook at all, but I can follow directions, and I have a few, different yet simple Thanksgivingish recipes. So I’m going to throw down a few throw backs that have worked well in fairly recent Thanksgivings past, and maybe you’ll find them catchy.

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Pumpkin, barley and sage soup with green apple garnish. I like the idea of having soup at Thanksgiving. We never did this as I was growing up, but I think it’s a solid start. I’m bringing this soup this year.

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Kale, quinoa salad with grapes. I’m also bringing this salad. So I can then eat more pie. That’s just math.

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Ancho chilis stuffed with sweet potatoes, pecans and garlic. This is so Texas Thanksgiving. Like the traditional UT/A&M game, oh wait…except these chilis still happen.

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Pork tenderloin with pumpkin seed sauce. If you’re over the other other white meat, try the other white meat.

Photo Credit: Pork Be Inspired

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Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes. This photo does not do these justice. Trust me. It’s like mashed potatoes’ cool Texas cousin that you really want to watch the UT/A&M Baylor/TCU game with.

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Butternut squash and blue cheese risotto (whoa). This is my favorite. It’s like mashed potatoes’ cool New York cousin that won’t shut up about Hamilton.

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My Great Grandmother’s Cornbread Dressing Recipe. This is the quintessential Texas Thanksgiving must have. Also, it’s so so simple.

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Sweet potato pie with marshmallow meringue. This is like Charlie and the Chocolate factory Thanksgiving dessert without the chocolate and all the whimsy. Just trust me on this.

And finally…no Texas Thanksgiving would be complete without…

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A Simple Pecan Pie. You just have to have it.

So Happy Cooking! And Happy Thanksgiving!

Boxed Set: Coterie Sampler

November 18, 2015

We love this new trend involving things being sold in boxes. After all, anytime you can pay a little less for something to be delivered straight to you, I’m in. Add in the idea of not having to shop for anything and/or make any decisions at all, SOLD!

Now I get this concept is not for everyone. A ton of people are not into surprises, and not interested in paying for things that they didn’t have any say in selecting. And for those people, I say this is not for you. But it might be for someone you are wanting to gift something…and ’tis the season after all. So in our Boxed Set series over the next weeks, we are going to profile some different boxes that we think are well done. And we’re going to start close to home with Coterie Sampler, an Austin-made surprise package, delivered monthly.

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Coterie Sampler is the brainchild Chelsea Staires Sun, who founded Coteire Market to make it easier to buy locally in Austin. The market features products from business owned and operated in the Austin area, most handmade with locally-sourced materials. It delivers around Austin, but if you’re not in the delivery area, then you were sort of out of luck. But no more, now they have these monthly box of single-run, chef-made food options. And it comes to you in a white box, stamped with their logo that reminds me of old school stuff my grandparents used to get delivered. It has a vintage dairy or butcher shop quality to it. Plus, great fonts.

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There are two options. The Mark, has 6-8 items and goes for $60 and The Standard, 4-6 items for $40. I get the Standard.

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This is what it looks like when it comes in the mail.

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The first month featured fancy finishing salts from Lenoir, elaborate kale chips, lavender mosquito spray (which totally worked AND smelled good), posh rosemary gin & juice tea biscuits (I loved these), ginger pear preservers (seriously yes) and fruit-infused Sway water (that was really, really, really good).  $60+ worth of stuff that I would have never heard of or tried for $40. Not bad at all.

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I want to say it was almost worth it for the Lenoir Finishing Salt.

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Or the ginger pear preserves, which start a day (on toast) in such a good way. 

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The next month brought natural soap,  salted butter caramels (whoa), seasoned feta, chai latte mix, Gardner hot sauce and chili powder. So five items, $52+ for $40. Not bad.

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This month featured gingerbread meringue cookies (what?!), nutty autumn granola (yum), toasted almond and pecan breading (I have no idea what to do with this, but I’m looking forward to discovering the what what), Austin Honey Company candles, and togarashi caramel sauce & sprinkles. None of these are listed on the site yet, so the only way you can get them is through the box and I’m not sure how much these five items are worth.

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But I’m exceptionally excited about the togarashi caramel sauce from Counter 3. Five. VII. Because despite it’s ridiculously overcomplicated name, it is my newest favorite restaurant…the food and the whole experience is exceptional, more on that later. But this sauce is from its pastry chef Sarah Prito, who as far as I can tell is a freaking genius.

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Each month, the whole bit comes with an overview. For instance, the info they give on the Togarashi Caramel Sauce & Sprinkles: “Sarah’s Togarashi (Japanese 7 Spice) Caramel Sauce has flavors and infusions of orange peel, red chili, sansyo, and ginger, along with miso. The Sprinkles feature nori, black sesame, and white sesame. With warm, bright flavor that leaves just a hint of heat, this sauce is the perfect pairing with rich, fall desserts.

I don’t even know what most of that means, but I feel fancy just typing it.

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Besides the monthly subscription option, they have specific, singular boxes that you can purchase for singular, specific things and occasions. Check it. Or you can buy specific items as well (in case you fall in love with one specific thing and/or just want that.)

This is obviously the ultimate gift for the ultimate foodie. On the other hand, I love it and I don’t consider myself a foodie at all. I mean, I like food, yes, but I don’t even know what most of this stuff is when I get it. However, it opens my mind and my perspectives and it gives me a really good excuse to try new things. And that is worth $40 to me. It’s a nice treat for yourself or someone you love…Austin delicacies straight to you. Check it out. 

The Butcher’s Daughter: New York

November 10, 2015

Photo Credit: Alison Piepmeyer

If you are ever in New York City, in the NoLita area, and hungry, you should check out The Butcher’s Daughter Juice Bar & Cafe. If only to meet this guy. I mean. How cool is he?

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It’s small, it’s mostly outdoor and the vibe is great.

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But also, the food is good. We went for breakfast a few weeks ago for eggs and requisite trendy avocado toast…have you noticed that everyone is now serving avocado toast?…and thank God for that. The schtick is they “treat fruits and vegetables as a butcher would meat.” And they are good at their job.

You can see the whole menu here, which is swell beyond brunch with salads, soups, sandwiches, charcuterie, plates & boards. They also have a lot (like a lot) of juice offerings, including cleanse & wellness packages for local pick up. But we just came for the food and stayed for the great coffee, atmosphere and company.

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Like this gal. She’s the reason that Laurie White and I stopped in here. Our pal Jordan Ferney (who is usually in San Francisco) was in town for some work (a photoshoot for Martha Stewart) and the night before, she had invited us to stand in line with her for tickets to The Comedy Cellar…even though I was staying about two blocks away from The Comedy Cellar, we declined because we are lame…and then Louis C. K. totally showed up and treated them to a set of new material. I’m not even kidding. Because of course he did! (The moral of this story is always go where Jordan and/or New York City beckon and/or invite you.) So we for sure met her at The Butcher’s Daughter the next morning to hear all about it.

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I am a sucker for dippy eggs and soldiers. Even if their soldiers are actually just triangles.

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So if you are in the area, stop in.  You won’t be disappointed.

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Honestly, it’s worth it just to hang with this guy.

He’s our favorite.

Three Tips for Getting Back-To-Schedule Organized + A Gin & Tonic Recipe. To Celebrate Getting Back-To-Schedule Organized.

October 6, 2015

This photo has nothing to do with being organized. But it is salt water taffy…and that’s fun, plus it’s organized into nice little bins. And this post was written by Kristin Paull. And she’s fun and organized. And it’s her birthday. Happy Birthday Kristin! We would like to give you a cake made out of salt-water taffy. And a gin and tonic. 

We have one more Back To School Night to go, and then we are officially back in the swing.  It doesn’t always feel that way though.  I have to say that each year I feel like the year starts faster- like I am jumping on the treadmill that is already going at top speed.  Sundays are the nights I get organized for the week and use the tricks that help me feel like I am taming some of the chaos.  Maybe these can help you manage your circus.  Our current circus involves an ongoing leak repair from a bathroom remodel combined with the arrival of a puppy.  We officially live in Crazy Town right now, and I am the mayor.  Here is what is keeping me from losing it.

Every year I have  a monthly calendar where I enter all of the big things- school holidays, late starts and early dismissals, practices and games, tests and quizzes.  Now, I don’t use this to helicopter my kids, though I know that can be tempting sometimes.  I do use this to know what they have coming up that week.  I want to see if my 10th grader is really prepping for that Chem test, my 8th grader is studying for a few days leading up to the Geometry test or my 4th grader is preparing for that History project.  I check in with them after it is done- “How was your test today?  Did you feel prepared?  How did you prepare?”  I grew tired of feeling surprised that they had tests and quizzes, because they never talked about it or stressed over it.  This makes me feel more connected to what they are doing rather than just relying on watching for the grades as they roll in.  If I am more concerned about the work ethic and effort going into school, then I need to put my money where my mouth is.  This helps me focus on the process and not just the result.

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I also sit down to go over my calendar for the week.  I break it up into AM and PM sections for each day, and I write down all of the appointments or practices that have a start time.  Then, I work in all of the other things I am hoping to tackle- exercise, working in the yard, organizing projects, etc. It’s a lot. But it helps.

This leads me to my next big help- my menu board.  This is a chalkboard sticker I found at a shop in Austin, but I have seen them on Amazon as well.  I love to cook, but I don’t always have the time.  And, my kids don’t always want to try new things.  The Sunday night discussion of what we will eat for the week allows them to put any requests out there, and usually leaves me with a couple of nights where I can cook something new and fun.  

My kids complain far less now that they feel like they are heard or at least had the chance to be heard.  Also, I know can make my grocery list, and grab ingredients for two nights at a time.  I waste so much less this way, and I only have ingredients for two nights in case we have to pick up dinner unexpectedly.  I can always just push it to the next night.  If it is going to be a truly tight night, then I can do a slow cooker meal or a dinner like nachos or breakfast for dinner that I know I can execute in 20 minutes (the time it takes for them to run through the shower- two birds one 20 minute block).  This has been a huge game changer for us all!

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We have a few responsibilities that the kids assume at certain ages.  By 3rd grade, we are packing our own backpack.  In 4th grade, we are managing our own workload, signing of papers or assignments, remembering to get our stuff ready for activities the night before, etc.  In 7th grade, the kids take over making their own lunches and managing their lunch accounts.  I deposit a certain amount in their lunch accounts, enough to cover two lunches a week, at the beginning of the month.  They can blow it all in the first week passing cookies out to friends in the lunchroom, or they can use those days when they are just over making lunches.  I do prepare four vegetables and four fruits in containers that we can all use to make the process so much faster.  Bonus- I can use the left overs to pack as snacks for my 4th grader!  

I HATE making lunches, and this has made it all so very tolerable and lightning fast.  Making the same lunches day in and day out (as my kids won’t eat leftovers) makes me want to poke a fork in my eye.  Instead, I prep on Sunday nights while I am having a glass of wine or gin and tonic.  Everything is better with a cocktail!

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Oh yes, Cocktails!!!  Speaking of cocktails, my family spent six fabulous weeks in Spain this summer.  There will be more on that later (specifics on Spain as well as traveling with kids).  One of the most interesting and delicious discoveries was the Gin and Tonic.  

To say they have taken this drink to a new level does not even come close to the reality.  It would often take at least 10 minutes to order!  You start by either picking a garnish or a gin, and then they have some sort of complex algorithm that they follow to craft your perfect drink.  Certain gins call for certain tonics which lead to specific garnishes.  

I am going to share my very favorite combo with you- fast, easy and so refreshing.  It is the perfect Sunday drink while I look at the week ahead.  I love Hendrick’s Gin- if you want refreshing cucumber taste then this is the gin they would always bring me.  Turns out, I already loved it and had a bottle at home.  You will also need tonic water.  I love Fever Tree Light (less sugar), but you can also do any of the other flavors or Schweppes.  Lastly you need ice cubes and garnishes.  I have a great little silicone ice tray- they don’t melt too fast, but help to mellow it all together nicely.  The garnishes I love are two slices of cucumber, a twist of lemon and half of a dried cinnamon stick.  Here we go!  

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Kristin’s Favorite Gin & Tonic from Spain

Here’s What You’ll Need:

Gin (Hendrick’s recommended)

Tonic water (Fever Tree Light recommended)

A small cucumber

A lemon

Half of a dried cinnamon stick

Here’s What You’ll Do:

Grab a big balloon wine glass if you have one or at least a glass that is big enough to accommodate the ice cubes.  Place the cucumber slices, lemon and cinnamon stick in the bottom of the glass.  Add about 2oz of the gin, and stir with a spoon.  Add the ice, and stir again.  Lastly, you will add the tonic.  If you have a gin spoon (I hunted high and low for one), you are supposed to pour the tonic down the swizzle of the gin spoon.  Allegedly, this adds more bubbles to the drink.  I doubt it, but it is fun anyway!  You should have a 2:1 ratio of tonic to gin.  I usually have enough for two drinks from each small bottle of Fever Tree.  In Texas, where we are still enduring the 95 plus degree heat, we will be enjoying this cocktail for many weeks to come.  

Enjoy! 

Kristin Paull is one of the most thoughtful, fun (and organized!) people that we know. Plus today is her birthday! And she gave us a gin & tonic recipe (how thoughtful and fun of her on her own birthday!) You can read more about Kristin here. 

Best of Houston: El Bolillo Baker & Canino Market

September 16, 2015

Last year, since both my husband Marcus and our friend Carl enjoy cooking, Carl’s wife, Trish, and I sprang for a culinary tour of Houston for the two of them.  (Houston is, by the way, the best city in the country for foodies.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at this.)  The tour was led by Chef Hugo Ortega, a multiple James Beard award nominee and one of the most renowned of Houston’s chefs, and included a tour of various restaurants focused specifically on authentic Mexican food (Chef Hugo’s eponymous restaurant is one of the best in town).  And while the food (and tequila) were great, what Marcus came home raving about the most was the Mexican market where they started their tour.

“I really need to take you there,” Marcus gushed.  “It’s where Chef Hugo gets all of his ingredients.  It’s amazing.  And it’s huge.  And there’s this bakery that has … well, everything.  It’s a photographer’s dream.  We have to go.”

It took almost a year for me to make it there, but late lasts month, Marcus finally took our daughterAlex and me to see it.  First, we stopped at the bakery to pick up a couple of pastries for breakfast.

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El Bolillo Bakery is one of those places that smells like what I’m sure heaven smells like.  Everything is fresh, made right on the property (one of the employees told me that they have a team who bakes all night before opening at 5 a.m. every morning), and it’s sort of difficult not to be paralyzed with indecision, everything looks so amazing.  But I chose a fresh bread roll stuffed with cheese and jalapeños, and Marcus and Alex chose something equally delicious, and once we paid, we headed across the street to the market, while we munched on our very delicious breakfast.

Canino Market opens up into a gigantic (and immaculate) produce hall, with just about every fruit and vegetable that you can imagine — both locally grown, and clearly shipped in from more tropical climes.  The variety was astounding.

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And then

… once we made it through the produce hall, we entered the real market.  This area was full of the more exotic fruits, as well as kitchenware, medicinal herbs, dried peppers, children’s toys, handmade pottery, piñatas, Mexican and Latin American candies — everything.  And while the clientele was clearly predominantly Mexican and Central American, I couldn’t help but be strongly reminded of my homeland of Trinidad, especially the open-air markets that we have there.  There were fruits I haven’t seen in years:  green — green! — avocados the size of my head (as opposed to the small black wrinkly ones that are more popular here in America), and we bought the most delicious mangos I’ve ever had in the United States.  Biting into it, I was instantly transported back to my grandmother’s garden behind her house.

I was kicking myself for not having visited this place sooner.  It was amazing.

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Both the bakery and the market have been in Houston for decades, and I can’t imagine how I missed visiting these places earlier.  So if you’re in Houston, don’t make my mistake — go see them both. But be sure to take cash — some of the stalls don’t take credit cards.

This post was written by Karen Walrond an all-around swell human who will always choose the fresh bread roll stuffed with cheese and jalapeños. Read more about Karen right here.