Lunch Date at épicerie

So I have exciting news to share with you.  I’m not sure how you’ll feel about this, but Savor the Rainbow will have a new contributor starting today!  Who might it be, you ask?  If you’ve been following me, I’m sure you’ve already met this guy, Tim, my better half.

sorry hun..just had to use this picture ;)

sorry hun..just had to use this picture 😉

When he started his burger bucket list, he named himself the burgervore and captured his fond and meaty memories in his own blog (I may have nudged him a bit ;)).  In the process, he, too, got the blogging bug and enjoyed connecting with others who share the same passion as he.  Although he says he says he’s not good at it, I think he’s a tremendous writer (I’m afraid that he’ll outdo me…actually, I know he will).  Perhaps he’s just being modest.  Well, fast forward over 30 burgers scratched off his list and a wifey who’s begging to try other highly acclaimed non-burger places the city has to offer, he’s decided to give me a break and thus is at a loss for content for his blog.  So naturally I suggested, “hey how about you be the restaurant critic on my page?”  To which he happily (or so I say) obliged.   I’m so excited for this collaboration.  Teamwork, baby!  We go out to eat only once a week, so we are on a mission to try a different restaurant every time.  Please join us as we continue our foodie adventure!  So without further ado, take it away, babe!

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Tremendous writer??  Better half??  Hmm…I don’t about all that, but I do appreciate the kind words :).  And yes.  I’m the one who’s been dragging my healthy-living, nutrition-studying wife to all these burger joints over the past 6 months.  Now as much as I enjoy a good burger, I have a hearty appreciation for food in general.  About 4 years ago, my gluttonous ways had gotten me to a bad spot.  I was about 20 pounds overweight, and my cholesterol was so bad that my doctor was threatening to put me on a cholesterol-lowering agent…at the age of 30.  Sad, I know.  Thanks to the loving wife, though, in the course of a year, that all changed.  She helped me experience the life-changing power of food.  Sorry to get all infomercial on you, but it’s true!  Four years later the weight is still off, and my doctor praises the work my wife has done.

I’ll admit it – I’m spoiled.  The wife prepares healthful meals for me all throughout the week, making me quite the envy of my coworkers.  They’re always asking if I can get her to prepare meals for them as well.  As was mentioned earlier, we only go out to eat once a week.  Our schedules are such that we’re like ships passing in the night so it’s a really special time for us to reconnect and enjoy the company of one another.  I don’t have any culinary background, aside from being my mom’s official taste tester growing up, so you’ll have to forgive me if my observations are pedestrian.  I’m just your average guy with an above average passion for all things yummy food.

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This past weekend, we headed out to the recently opened épicerie Cafe & Grocery.  As we walked in the door, I instantly felt like I had been transported to the Hamptons and that at any moment I would see Ina Garten walk in to buy some cheese or maybe some charcuterie.  The wife’s big on atmosphere when eating out, so I knew this would be right up her alley.  And the fact that chef/owner Sarah McIntosh trained under renowned chef Thomas Keller didn’t hurt either.

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We perused the shelves of specialty grocery items and wines, but only briefly as we were both ready to bury our faces in some food.  The menu was filled with a variety of salads, sandwiches, and plates all under $15.  I have a pretty good feeling this is going to be a constantly evolving menu, utilizing in-season produce and fresh, local ingredients.

PicMonkey Collage2The wife ordered the quinoa salad with grapefruit, fennel, pistachio, and yogurt dressing on the side.  Being the fan of quinoa that I am (I’ve not always been), I just had to steal a couple of bites.  It was a perfect spring salad with the vibrant grapefruit and the distinct licorice flavor of the sliced fennel.  The yogurt dressing added to the freshness and rounded out the salad.

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My meal selection was a little more difficult as my eyes were instantly drawn to the cheeseburger with Vermont cheddar.  But with a desire to mix things up a bit, I ordered the roast chicken leg quarter with grilled brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, and crispy shallots.  Let me just start by saying, I have never eaten two pieces of chicken so beautifully butchered in all my life.  It was all so…pretty.  The potatoes were wonderfully creamy and the shallots contributed a nice crunch to each bite.  There was also some sort of acid or vinegar reduction that was drizzled on the dish that helped cut through richness  of the meat and potatoes.  Now back to the chicken…although we had to wait quite some time for the plate to come out, it was well worth it.  The leg and thigh were cooked to perfection.  The skin was golden brown and nicely peppered, and the meat was succulent.  I don’t know if this is possible, but the meat tasted clean and sinfully decadent at the same time.

Even though the portions were on the small side, the meal was still incredibly satisfying.  And did I mention they serve beignets ALL DAY?!  I’ll definitely be sinking my teeth into one of those fried pillows of goodness next time we’re there.  So if there was any question.  Yes.  We will be back.  The high quality of their ingredients and the skillful precision with which their dishes are executed are sure to keep patrons returning again and again.  And seriously…beignets?  All day??  Gotta love it.

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So I hope you enjoyed reading about our wonderful dining experience.  You can look forward to this new weekly feature, and since it’s def marvelous in our book, we thought it’d be perfect for Katie’s, MIMM link-up.  Until next time…

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Posted in Austin Eats, Dating, Food, MIMM | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Herbed Walnuts

Welcome to another edition of The Recipe Redux!  For this month, “Green with Herb Envy” was the name of the challenge.  Spring is officially upon us…although for some of you it may be hard to believe as you look out the window and see snow covered grounds.  Here in Texas, the temperature has been in the 80s lately.  I know…foreshadowing of another brutal summer to come.  While I’m not ready for the heat just yet, I am looking forward to all the greens sprouting up like nobody’s business.  I mean, I love you sweet potatoes, squash, and all you not so attractive root veggies, but I’m ready to see some fresh greens ;).

The challenge was to use a fresh green herb in a nontraditional way, which means sprinkling it on top of pastas or various dishes won’t work.  Eeks!  I was in trouble since that’s basically all I do with them.  Not to mention the only herbs that I really use are basil, cilantro…ummm basil (sheepishly).

I’ve heard that herbs are super easy to grow and bullet-proof…so then why do they all commit suicide under my care?  Is there really no hope for me?

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While I like to modify recipes to my liking, this was not the time to do so since I lack the knowledge pertaining to various herb food pairings, applications, flavor profiles, etc.  Hence, I searched high and low for a recipe that intrigued me.  After what seemed like an eternity, I finally found one…walnuts with rosemary and thyme!  I would never have thought of this combination.  Check it out!

IMG_9168-4 blogRosemary and Thyme Walnuts

from Epicurious

Ingredients:

  • 5 tsp olive oil
  • 5 tsp pure maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 cups walnut halves
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a bowl, whisk together: olive oil, maple syrup, cayenne pepper.  Stir in 1 Tbs of rosemary and 2 tsp of thyme.  Add walnut halves.  Toss well to coat.  Spread evenly on a baking sheet.  Bake until fragrant and crisp, 10-12 min.  As soon as it comes out of the oven, sprinkle with the remaining 1 tsp thyme and salt.  Cool completely.

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The only time rosemary and thyme make it into my food is at Thanksgiving.  Tim and I are not huge fans of these woody and fragrant herbs; granted we haven’t really given them a chance.  I remember being absolutely appalled by cilantro, but now it’s a staple at my house.  In any case, the aroma was such a delight..I can see myself sniffing them in times of great stress from now on ;).

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Nuts, in general, are nutrient-dense foods.  They are great sources of protein, healthy fat, fiber, a wide variety of nutrients (folic acid, niacin, vitamin E…), minerals (calcium, potassium, magnesium…), phenolic compounds, and phytoesterol (which has been shown to interfere with cholesterol absorption and help lower blood cholesterol).

While they are high in calories and fat, evidence from both epidemiological studies and clinical trials, shows that their regular consumption does not contribute to obesity nor increases the risk of developing diabetes.

According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we are encouraged to consume more good fats and plant-based protein sources in our diet.  Out of all the nuts, walnuts contain the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acid, specifically the alpha-linolenic acid (which gets converted to EPA and DHA).  They also provide 4 grams per ounce of protein and are naturally sodium and cholesterol free.  While I can suggest a ton of research articles for you to read if you’d like more information (this one I particularly liked), walnuts.org has some excellent information as well as delicious recipes and helpful tips.

So how many walnuts should you consume in a day?  About 1 to 1.5 ounces which is about a handful (14-21 halves).  However, don’t forget – everything in moderation!  Practice portion control and eat sensibly, keeping in mind that too much of a good thing can also cause harm.  I definitely have to be intentional about this.  Ask Tim who  believes I may have been a squirrel in my past life.

I normally purchase walnuts in bulk from Costco and freeze them for easy snacking.  While I usually enjoy them raw, this recipe inspired me to spice it up from time to time.

These walnuts looked and tasted quite fancy and made me feel sophisticated ;).  So I’ve learned… rosemary and thyme aren’t just for stuffing and pork.  Together with the spiciness from the cayenne pepper,  sweetness from the syrup, and the obvious nuttiness from the walnuts, this is one exquisite treat.  I actually had to stop Tim from munching on more than his allotted portion.  I immediately thought this would be a great complement to wine.  Of course, Tim thought beer.  I see a wine and beer night in our near future ;).

As always, check out how the other Reduxers did on this challenge!


– What are some unique ways you enjoy herbs?

Posted in Food, Nutrition-related, Recipe Redux, recipes | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

Chobani ATX

On Wednesday, I attended a dinner event at Parkside Austin sponsored by Chobani!  A 5 course Chobani-inspired menu?  You don’t have to ask me twice ;).  I left my house extra early in anticipation of the madness that is SXSW.  And of course… I got lost and arrived 30 minutes late.  In my brief moment of weakness, I considered giving up and just going back home, but my growling tummy and curious palate helped me stay the course.  Lucky for me, the dinner hadn’t started yet.  I had only missed the cocktail time, but there wasn’t any Chobani in the drinks so I was fine with that ;).

PicMonkey CollageThe chef at Parkside was given the challenge of creating a menu using  Chobani products.  Did he deliver?  You are about to see…

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(Photo via courtesy of Lindsay)

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To start, we had a chilled avocado soup with blood orange, smoked trout caviar, and calabrese chili (?).  Quiet fancy, eh?  I had no idea what calabrese chili was, and I didn’t want to ask anyone as I was in the presence of some amazing foodies.  Regardless, the soup was delicious!  So refreshing and creamy without feeling too heavy.  A beautiful way to start the meal.

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The soup was followed by a local beet salad which had celery root, mache (?), coriander, yogurt jerky (!), and puffed mustard seeds.  First of all, the presentation was gorgeous!  Well actually, all the dishes were quite the lookers, but this one especially, thanks to the vibrant red from the beets.  The first thought that crossed my mind was, “ooh this bottom layer looks like a fruit roll-up.”  I’m sure that was the last thing on everyone else’s minds…I probably should’ve eaten everything together, but I picked at the beets first and was left with the rest which, as a result, looked quite lonely.  Oh and the yogurt jerky was very fun to eat.  Tasted like cheese.

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For the second course…hello, grilled prawns!  They were served with caramelized yogurt, carrots, and Ras El Hanout (?? as you can see there was one component in every dish that was a head scratcher for me).  It’s been such a long time since I last had prawns so this was quite a treat.  They were cooked and seasoned perfectly!  What else was exceptional was the caramelized yogurt.  I absolutely loved the distinct citrus note.

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The last savory dish was braised beef short ribs with yogurt farina, morello cherries, and green garlic.  I couldn’t help but think of Tim and wish that he could’ve tasted it.  I contemplated taking it to go for him, but I didn’t think it’d be very classy to ask for a to go box at an event like this.  Sorry hun.  I’m not a huge fan of short ribs as they are a bit too rich for me.  However, the tartness from the cherries and a slight tanginess from the yogurt made the experience truly enjoyable.

Now, for the grand finale…what I’d been waiting for since the beginning (we, women, always have room for dessert, right?)… Yogurt custard served alongside Texas strawberries, compressed mango, almond, and basil ice cream.  I will have to say that my favorite from the whole entire meal was this yogurt custard.  It didn’t scream out, “eat me!” like the rest.  It looked like a white log that jiggled like…custard.  But with one bite, I was sold!  It just tasted… so smooth. light. clean. with just the right amount of sweetness.  The crushed almonds accompanied it nicely with their subtle saltiness.  Everything on that plate was remarkable, but I found myself longing for more of that custard.  So that concludes the 5 course meal.  So I ask again, did the chef deliver?  Heck Yea!

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The three lovely ladies from Chobani, Emily, Emily, and Hillary (who all flew in from New York and are returning with their bellies full of tacos and more tacos) did such an amazing job coordinating the event and making all of us feel comfortable and welcomed.  From the conversations we shared, their love for the company and the products was unmistakeable.  There were about 15 of us food bloggers who were invited, along with respected guests.  It was my first time meeting other Austin bloggers, and boy I tell you, I was in the presence of some seriously talented food bloggers!  Delicious recipes, gorgeous photography, eloquent writing…I have a lot to learn from all of them.  Everyone was so friendly and down-to-earth that I felt more and more at ease as the night progressed.  To be honest, I was quite nervous at the beginning.

Great company.  Exceptional food.  Unforgettable experience.

Posted in Austin Eats, Food, Fun | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Creamy Hamburger Bulgur Casserole

This past week was one of the toughest weeks I’ve ever had to face both emotionally and physically.  Seeing a loved one battling cancer is not only heart-wrenching, but it also puts into perspective how fragile we truly are.  There are no guarantees in this life, and I’m now determined more than ever to live everyday to the fullest (and I really mean it this time ;)) walking with the Lord.

Despite this sad, uncertain time, I’m so thankful that God has granted me yet another day.

Thank you, Katie, for the link up – Marvelous In My Monday.

Today, I want to share with you the amazing package I received two weeks ago (I’m a bit behind in posting) from one Marvelous company, Chobani!  They sure are generous, aren’t they?!

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I had tried all the flavors except for the Vanilla Chocolate Chunk so I was especially excited to try it!  The verdict?  It makes for a perfect, spoon-licking guiltless pleasure ;).  You can certainly enjoy Chobani as is or incorporate into both savory and sweet recipes to make them not only healthier but tastier.  Check out Chobani Kitchen for recipes, videos, a conversion chart, coupons, hometown happenings, and much more.  You are sure to find some inspiration!

Sometime last week, I looked the plain, non-fat yogurt container in the eye and decided to get playful.  Both Tim and I were in desperate need of some comfort food, more specifically some sort of casserole.  As I frantically searched through my what’s-supposed-to-be a recipe box and various recipe sites, my eyes fixated on 3 words – Hamburger Noodle Casserole.  Jackpot!  I did not want to follow the original recipe as it called for butter and cream of mushroom soup (not to mention the lack of vegetables).  So where would the creaminess come from?  Yup, you guessed it..Chobani.

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Creamy Hamburger Bulgur Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs EVOO
  • 1 Ib ground bison (or any ground lean meat)
  • 1 med zucchini, chopped
  • 1 med green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 med sweet potato, chopped
  • 2 Tbs garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • Handfuls of baby kale (I didn’t measure..add as much as you desire)
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup bulgur (can substitute with any whole grains)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 (10 oz) can Rotel (I used “lime and cilantro”)
  • 1 (6 oz) container Chobani
  • 1/8 tsp salt and pepper
  • 1 cup low-fat sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Coat a 2 qt baking dish with cooking spray.  Set aside.
  2. Cook ground meat in a large pan.  Transfer to a dish and wipe down the pan.  Chop vegetables.  Coat the same pan with 1 Tbs EVOO and cook vegetables on med-high heat, approx 5-7 min.  Add garlic and tomato paste.  Add bulgur.  Mix well and cook until bulgur gets slightly toasted and the veggies are softened, approx 3-5 min.
  3. Stir in baby kale, meat, water, tomato sauce, Rotel, and Chobani.  Bring to a simmer.  Cover and simmer until bulgur is tender and sauce is thickened, 15-20 min.  Season with 1/8 tsp salt and pepper.  Stir in cheese at the end.  Transfer to the baking dish.
  4. Bake until browned and cheese is bubbly, about 30-40 min.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

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As you may know, I am on a mission to try a variety of whole grains (hello, whole grain series).  Originally I had planned on using farro for this recipe, but to my disappointment, I couldn’t get my hands on any.  I went to Whole Foods, Sprouts, HEB…nothing.  I did find whole grain quick cooking bulgur, however, which is in the same wheat berry family.  Bulgur is basically parboiled wheat berries that are dried and ground.

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A bowl of this warm, spicy, sweet, earthy, meaty…(yup there’s a lot going on in this dish) comforted us.  I’m thinking next time, I may add some red wheat berries along with bulgur for a more toothsome texture.  Tim was a bit scared when he saw me dumping in the whole container of Chobani into the pot, but he was quite happy with the end product ;).  Hope you give this one a try and feel free to substitute with other vegetables and whole grains.

Posted in Food, MIMM, recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

6 Years? Already?

Happy Anniversary to my amazing husband, Tim!  6 years ago on this day, I married my best friend.  That meant I had to live with a boy! (shoutout to Monica from Friends).  It’s been quite a journey, and believe me when I say we’ve hit many.many bumps along the road, from tiny ones to ones requiring bulldozers.  But we’ve survived.

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If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s the importance of communication, and we sure have learned to communicate on a whole new level over the years.  It’s not just about words.  Learning to decipher each other’s body language, facial expression, tone of voice… did not come easy and not without our own mini “world wars,” as we like to call them.  However, over time, we got better at it.  It just takes practice and constant commitment from both ends.  Now we’re somewhat proficient at the face-to-face and shoulder-to-shoulder methods of communication.  Tim has learned to look me in the eye and talk for hours on end (still challenging but getting much better…can I generalize and say that guys’ attention spans don’t seem as long as ours?), and I’ve learned all there is to know about basketball and football from endless hours of sitting next to him and staring at the TV screen.

We’re not perfect, and we never will be as only God is perfect.  However, together, we strive to be more like Jesus.

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6 years…whew!  Time sure flies by.  I’m also glad that we picked an easy date to remember or else I’m sure I’d forget sometimes (I did forget on several occasions the year that we got married), seeing how crazy and fast-paced life gets as we age.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember time passing by this quickly in my youth.

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Snapshots from our honeymoon. Now that was paradise!

I feel so fortunate to have married such a Godly man who loves, respects, appreciates, and honors me.  We grow stronger and closer with each year.  We are two peas in a pod..oh wait, scratch that.  Three peas…sorry, Kones buddy.

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Don’t be mad.  We didn’t forget about you..

Now I wonder what surprise Tim has up his sleeve ;)!  Tim’s really generous with his gifts.  Yay me!  I actually didn’t even know about the anniversary gifts by year until he told me.  So sentimental, this guy is.  I’d have to say my favorite was the 3rd year.  A leather purse?  Now you’re speaking my language!! 😉  This year is candy/iron.  I do love me some Werther’s or peach gummy rings….iron?  Hmm… now that’s a thinker.  Anyway, it’s not about the presents, right ;)?  Now, we’re off to church and then we plan on spending a lazy Sunday together.  We’re the happiest in our PJs!

In case you wanna learn about how we met, you can read all about it here ;).

Posted in Family, Fun, Personal | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

Wheat Berry Hummus Spread

Today, the star in my “Whole Grains” series is wheat berry!  At first, I thought that this term simply referred to either the hard red or soft white wheat berries.  Duh!  Hence the name wheat berry.  However, I was floored upon learning that it’s the largest category of whole grains and includes the not so obvious whole-grain farro, spelt berries, kamut, and bulgur.

You better believe every single one of them will receive fair treatment from me, as I’m fully committed to experimenting and sharing healthy, delicious recipes with you.  Now, that doesn’t mean that my tastebuds will be unbiased.  I definitely prefer certain whole grains over others (I heart you, quinoa!), but there are also tons that I haven’t tried myself.  Take kamut and spelt berries, for instance.  I’m committed to eating a wider variety of whole grains so this series sure gets me pumped!  I hope you feel the same way and that you’ll be inspired to incorporate more of these nutritious and versatile delights into your everyday diet.

First up in the wheat berry category – hello, red wheat berries!  Now this one is a pantry staple at my house.  I really appreciate their chewy and hardy texture!  They are sometimes called “hard winter wheat berries” or simply “winter wheat berries” because as the names imply, they are planted during the winter months.

It is recommended that you presoak them.  This is to ensure more even cooking and better texture – chewy not mushy – which is a very important factor to me.  I don’t do mushy grains!  I usually presoak anywhere from 3-8 hours depending on whether or not I remember to do so.  Hey, life is crazy ;).

As for the yield, 1 cup raw = 2 3/4 cups cooked.  While it’s usually recommended that you cook them for about an hour, I actually do so for only about 30 minutes.  Again, it’s bc I like them really chewy (and it saves time).  You can experiment and see what you prefer.

For today, I have a really unique recipe to share!  Do you like hummus?  If so, how about adding some texture for a change?  Want to bump up the nutrient profile?  I’ve got the solution – add wheat berries…

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Chicken Sandwich with Wheat Berry Hummus Spread

Inspired by Grain Mains

Ingredients:

Spread

  • 1/2 cup red wheat berries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cooked dry chickpeas *
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbs tahini
  • 6-10 Tbs EVOO **
  • 1 Tsp ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp sriracha

* I always have them on hand.  I think they taste better than the canned ones.  I normally cook a huge batch every month and freeze them.

** Add according to your preference…whether you like it thicker or thinner.

Sandwich:

  • 2 grilled chicken breasts, seasoned with salt & pepper
  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread (or whole wheat sandwich wrap, tortilla, pita…).  More whole grains!
  • Green(s) of choice (spinach, kale, lettuce)
  • 1 Hass avocado, thinly sliced
  • Slices of roasted red bell pepper

Directions:

  1. Presoak wheat berries for 8 hours.  Drain wheat berries and pour  into a large saucepan.  Add water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until tender but with a chew, anywhere from 30 min to an hour. *  Drain thoroughly to get rid of excess moisture.
  2. In the meanwhile, grill the chicken.
  3. Roast red bell peppers:  Set oven on broil.  Wash peppers and pat dry.  Cut in half lengthwise.  Rub oil all over.  Lay them flat, skin side up on a baking sheet.  Place under broiler for 10-15 min, or until charred.  Let them sit until cool.  Peel the skin off.
  4. In a food processor, add the cooked wheat berries along with rest of the ingredients.  Process until everything’s blended. **  The mixture will be thicker than your typical hummus.
  5. Spread the wheat berry blend onto the bread.  Add chicken, green(s), avocado, and roasted red bell peppers.

*  I normally cook them for about 30 min.  I like them really chewy.  Cook for longer if you prefer a softer texture.

**  I tested two different consistencies:  1)  I processed everything to a fine puree.  2) I didn’t process the mixture as long and while everything was well-blended, some of the wheat berries were left whole and retained their bite.  Tim and I actually preferred the “chewy” second batch.  You be the judge.

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Slice the chicken in half so that it will cook faster and more evenly.  When roasting peppers, I normally do a whole batch and save the leftovers.  Great to throw into salads, pasta, rice dishes, etc..

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Can you see the wheat berries?  Hello, chewy hummus 😉

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IMG_8880-2blogI know the directions seem really long and time-consuming, but it was quite simple to make, and by the time the wheat berries were cooked, everything, except for the spread, was ready to be assembled.  There’s also room for tons of variations and creativity.  You can add whatever toppings you’d like.  You can turn it into a quesadilla, wrap, or just simply use it as a dip.  Personally, I just ate it by the spoonful.  That’s how I roll.  My “I like white rice and regular pasta” husband really enjoyed this recipe as well.  Perhaps you can use this to “sneak” in some whole grains into a loved one’s diet ;).

If you are in need of further inspiration, check out my recipe for Bison Wheat Berry Stroganoff.

Question:

Have you had wheat berries before?  If so, what are your favorite ways to enjoy them?  How long do you cook them for?

If not, have I inspired you?  I hope so. 😉

Posted in Food, recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Austin City Guide – Must Try Burgers

In an effort to capture a snapshot of the culinary adventure that is Austin, the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance is putting together a citywide dining guide.  From barbecue joint to Brazilian steakhouse, food truck to fine dining, Austin has it all, and the discerning palates of the AFBA are highlighting the best the city has to offer.  As luck would have it, I have been asked to tackle the iconic American classic – the hamburger.  If you are new here, Tim and I have been trying a new burger almost every week for several months now, thanks to his “I don’t know what to make of this” burger bucket list.  We go out to eat just once a week, so I don’t want to deprive him of his guilty pleasure ;).

Healthy living blogger making burger recommendations?  As odd as it may sound, I’ve been known to indulge in the occasional burger, and as I always say, no foods are off limits…it’s all about moderation 😉.  And I must say, that I no longer believe that burgers are just burgers and that they all taste the same.  I suppose you can say that I’m developing a shrewd taste for the American classic ;).

Drawing on personal experiences, polling my AFBA cohorts, and collaborating with my husband, the self-proclaimed burgervore, here is a list that is sure to get your mouth watering.

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Second Bar – One part of the Congress Austin trio, Second Bar + Kitchen provides its patrons with “Natural American” cuisine as well as an assortment of craft beers and artisan cocktails.  They only have one burger on their menu, but that’s all they really need.  The Bar Congress Burger is one of those burgers almost too pretty to eat.  Boasting a patty made of house ground brisket & chuck and grilled to perfection, this culinary specimen is served with shallot confit, gruyere, fresh veggies, horseradish pickles and house made condiments.  And if that weren’t enough, Second Bar offers additional toppings including seared foie gras, over easy egg and crisp pork belly.  A word of advice, though – rather than spending the extra coin dressing your burger (it’s really not necessary), upgrade to the black truffle pomme frites.  These fancy fries are coated with a fine dusting of Grana Padano and accompanied with a small tin vessel of truffle aioli for dipping.  Whether celebrating a special event or just fueling up before a night on the town, this is a burger perfect for any occasion.

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Second Bar + Kitchen:  200 Congress Avenue, Austin TX 78701; 512-827-2750; Open Sunday through Thursday 11a – Midnight, Friday & Saturday 11a – 2a

 24 Diner – Located on the bustling corner of 6th and Lamar, 24 Diner is breaking the typical diner mold.  Although its name may cause one to envision a seedy roadside eatery, it is anything but.  Its menu is filled with “chef-inspired comfort food”, and they’re incorporating some of the finest produce wherever they can squeeze it in.  If you can withstand the temptation to order their Chicken and Waffles, they’ve got a great selection of burgers from which to choose.  One of the highlights, without a doubt, would have to be their Bacon Avocado Burger.  Adorned with charred poblano & smoked aioli and served on a pain au lait bun, this burger beauty is a flavor spectacle.

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24 Diner:  600 North Lamar, Austin TX 78703; 512-472-5400; Open 24 hours daily (except Wednesday 1a – 6a)

 Hopdoddy – Established in 2010, Hopdoddy serves burgers made from the freshest, all-natural ingredients.  They craft a quality product and they’ve got the lines to prove it.  The folks at Hopdoddy are grinding their own meat, cutting their own fries and baking their own bread…pretty impressive if you ask me.  There is no “To-Go” option here.  To ensure you have the best experience possible, they only allow you to dine in.  You can never go wrong with The Classic (a cheeseburger with all the trimmings), but if options are what you’re looking for, they’ve got those, too.  Not only do they offer a multitude of gourmet toppings, but in addition to the traditional beef (grain fed OR grass fed) patty, you have your choice of buffalo, tuna, turkey, or veggie.  Really looking to splurge?  The Primetime with Texas Akaushi beef, Brie cheese and truffle aioli is not one to disappoint.  Be sure to get there early or prepare to be tortured by the tantalizing aromas of bread baking in the oven and meat sizzling on the griddle as you wait in line.

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FYI – their standard is medium rare. Order accordingly ;).

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They frequently have specials. This one was their fried mac & cheese hatch chile burger..not for the faint of heart.

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They also have a great veggie burger!

Hopdoddy Burger Bar (south):  1400 South Congress Avenue, Austin TX 78704; 512-243-7505; Open Sunday through Thursday 11a – 10p, Friday & Saturday 11a – 11p

Hopdoddy Burger Bar (north):  2438-A West Anderson Lane, Austin TX 78757; 512-467-2337; Open daily 11a – 10p

Counter Cafe – With a little help from Texas Monthly’s list of greatest hamburgers in Texas, this diminutive diner has developed quite the reputation.  It can be a tight squeeze sometimes when eating here, but the discomfort is quickly forgotten when the food arrives, regardless of whether you’ve ordered the renowned Counter Burger or one of their other delicious offerings ranging from homemade biscuits and gravy to grilled Texas quail.  The burger is cooked on a grill, finished under a broiler (to get the shredded cheese nice and melty), and served on a perfectly toasted sweet sourdough bun.  They prepare their burgers medium-rare so be sure to specify otherwise if the sight of pink ground beef gets you squeamish.  Counter Cafe isn’t doing some fancy, off-the-wall burger.  The Counter burger is familiar, yet exquisitely delicious.

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Counter Cafe:  626 North Lamar, Austin TX 78703; 512-708-8800; Open daily 7:30a – 4p

Mighty Fine – If simple is what you’re looking for, then look no further.  Burgers, fries, shakes, and a couple of hotdog options and you’ve got the entire menu at Mighty Fine.  The burgers are thick and meaty and assembled with skillful precision – a little bit of each component in every bite.  Gourmet toppings?  Fancy sauces?  You won’t find any of that here.  What you will find is a classic Texas burger prepared and delivered with world-class service.  Their hand-dipped shakes, made from Texas’ finest – Blue Bell ice cream, are rich and flavorful, and their strawberry lemonade is able to refresh even on the hottest of days.  There’s just something so comforting about these burgers that keeps me coming again and again.

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Mighty Fine Burgers, Fries & Shakes:  5601 Brodie Lane, Austin TX 78745; 512-735-2800; Open Sunday through Thursday 11a – 9p, Friday & Saturday 11a – 9:30p  (3 additional locations in the Austin area)

For other locations: visit here

Kerbey Lane Cafe – This is a place that’s dear to my heart, as it is the first restaurant I dined at upon making the move to Austin.  The eclectic, fun, and laid-back decor and ambience really embody what this city is all about.  Here you can order breakfast, lunch, or dinner 24 hours a day.  From buttermilk pancakes, omelettes, enchiladas, and burgers to various vegan and gluten-free options, there’s something for everyone.  While I normally order their pancake of the day, something came over me one day, and I did the unthinkable…  I deviated and ordered their hippy burger.  After that first bite, I knew I had found my favorite veggie burger.  At this point, I’ve had my share of horrendous to mediocre to pretty good veggie burgers.  There are many reasons that set this one apart from the others.  The ingredients taste fresh, and the flavors work together so harmoniously.  You get the heat, the smokiness, and even a slight sweetness, but what I truly loved is that it wasn’t overly salty as most veggie patties tend to be.  Of course, the curious inner chef in me just had to ask what the ingredients are so that I can try to recreate it at home.  It has poblano pepper, jalapeno pepper, red onion, tomato, garlic, textured vegetable protein, long grain rice, sliced mushrooms, and various spices.  Just look at the thickness of this patty….this is one amazing burger.

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Kerbey Lane Cafe:  check out their 5 locations here.

Contigo – For some reason or another, food always seems to taste better outdoors.  But I firmly believe that had I eaten this burger anywhere (inside or out), it still would’ve been delicious.  Somewhere between a peaceful ranch in the countryside and a modern day tavern, Contigo is serving their fresh take on bar food every night of the week as well as a Sunday brunch.  Although their burger may look small at first glance, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just another one of their small plates.  It is definitely filling and will be sure to satisfy any burger craving. Topped with premium ingredients, served on a housemade challah bun, and escorted by a perfectly cooked side of fries, this burger matches flawlessly with the rustic surroundings in which it is served.

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Contigo:  2027 Anchor Lane, Austin TX 78723; 512-613-2260; Open Sunday through Wednesday 5p – 11p, Thursday through Saturday 5p – Midnight; Sunday brunch from 10:30a – 2:30p

List of additional places that are on our radar:

  • Black Sheep Lodge
  • Justine’s
  • Casino El Camino
  • Snack Bar

And our burger journey continues…

Question:

Did I miss any?  How did I do? 😉  For fellow Austinites, what are some of your favorite burger spots?

For those of you not in the ATX, what’s the most memorable burger you’ve ever had?

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