Monday, September 29, 2014

Thai Curry Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup



I have a new love in my life; it's actually bordering on an obsession. It's my new Vitamix. I spent the longest time harboring a lingering curiosity about what could possibly warrant the outrageous cost of a blender, but I finally bit the bullet after doing a lot of research on everything this mighty little machine can do. Soups, smoothies, nut butters, nut milk, frappe coffees... and on and on and on. I was so excited to make my first soup that I actually had the ingredients ready and waiting for when UPS made their delivery. Needless to say, you'll be seeing a lot of crap thrown into a blender in the near future.

I've had a Thai curry twist on butternut squash soup before, but as I see myself making that a lot in the future, and sweet potatoes are perfectly in season, I decided to switch it up just a bit. This soup is crazy easy to make (even with a normal blender, I dare say), and was crazy delicious. Like, a new favorite delicious. It's spicy and sweet and rich and velvety... in other words, make a lot because it will go fast.

Me committing a crime against the rooster by using anything but real Sriracha. At least it's Trader Joe's though.


Thai Curry Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup

Ingredients

1 T. coconut oil
1 cup sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 jalapeno, chopped with seeds removed
3.5 T. Thai masaman curry paste (can also use red or panang curry paste)
1 large sweet potato (the bigger the better, or two mediums of course), peeled and chopped
3 cups low sodium chicken broth, divided
14 oz. can of coconut milk
1/2 t. salt
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
Cilantro for garnish, if desired
Sriracha for garnish, if desired

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan (one that has a lid) over medium heat. 
  2. Add the chopped onion and sauté until it begins to soften. Add curry paste and stir to coat onions.
  3. Add garlic and jalapeno, sauté for about a minute. 
  4. Add sweet potato, 2.5 cups of broth, the coconut milk, and salt. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  5. Add the soup to your blender (bit by bit if using a normal blender, all at once with Vitamix). Add the peanut butter and blend until smooth. Test the soup for texture, and blend in remaining broth if desired.
  6. Garnish with cilantro and Sriracha.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

PCH Road Trip Day Two {Napa}



Following a full day in San Fran, Adam and I headed up to Napa to tour a few wineries and drink some vino. Full disclosure for this part of our trip: I would not say we had a full Napa experience. Both of us decided that we would reserve a more luxurious trip through the wine country for its own separate weekend getaway, and that this day would be spent relaxing at a few small vineyards sampling wine and eating good food.

We booked the tour last minute and decided to keep it pretty low-cost, but I only have good things to say about the experience with Green Dream Tours. They picked up and dropped us off at our hotel, the guide was great, the stops were fun, and all tastings were included in the price. We also stopped at Oxbow Public Market for an awesome lunch. That being said, we didn't go to the large estate, luxurious vineyards with sweeping views of the valley. All in all, it was a great intro to the area, and we ate and "tasted" ourselves silly. It was an awesome day, and I look forward to joint Napa and Sonoma visit in the future.

Hagafen Winery had the cutest layout and decor
This maxi dress (Anthropologie) is a little manic, but I kind of love it.
Absolutely delicious tacos from Oxbow Public Market, even by Texas standards
Judd's Hill Winery - the point where my camera battery died, and I became even more thankful for my iPhone
Thank you, Mario Andretti and family for feeding the beast



Details

Green Dream Tours
Oxbow Public Market
Hagafen Cellars
Judd's Hill Winery
Andretti Winery


Monday, September 22, 2014

PCH Road Trip Day One {San Francisco}


The marine layer blanketing the entire coast, and that one bridge
Our first day in San Francisco was packed to the brim with exploring many different neighborhoods around the northern part of the city. We flew in Thursday night, so we were able to wake up comfortably early on Friday with a full day ahead of us. I wanted to tick a few tourist boxes on day one, such as Lombard Street and the Golden Gate Bridge, so that I was certain we'd get to them before departing. All in all, we traversed the neighborhoods of Nob Hill (gorgeous), Russian Hill, Fisherman's Wharf, Presidio, Marina, Chinatown and Telegraph Hill. Whew. There was a lot of walking, but also several cheap and oh-so-easy UberX rides along the way.

Morning walk to Lombard Street for an obligatory photo. We were semi-successful.
We took a short coffee tour of some places around San Francisco, including my favorite of the trip:  homemade almond milk lattes from The Brew, made with Contraband coffee.  This latte was so rich and delicious that even Adam, who won't touch a drop of almond milk, still talks about it.  Next stop: Contraband Coffee itself at their own location for a flat white.
Brunch at Brenda's French Soul Food:  Adam and I both agreed this was the best meal of our entire trip, and that this place absolutely cannot be missed!  Both Adam and I are not afraid to check out some borderline sketchy neighborhoods if there's a guaranteed gem hidden there; while the area around Brenda's was a bit on the fringe, as soon as we saw the adorable restaurant itself, we knew we were golden.
A flight of beignets, including plain, cinnamon apple, Ghirardelli chocolate, and a savory cheese and crawfish 
Pork belly cheddar cheese grits with a poached egg and spicy honey-tomato relish. (Adam had "the best shrimp po' boy" he has ever tasted.)
A stroll around Baker Beach and its nearby trails offered amazing, unobstructed views of the Golden Gate bridge.
We then did some walking around the Marina District neighborhoods, taking in the adorable SF architecture.
... and getting involved in some serious shopping in a cute boutique and retail-laden area of the Marina.  I had to show some serious restraint at the cutest (but pricey), boutique called Two Skirts on Chestnut Street. Obviously I didn't show complete restraint.
More cute buildings.

After covering a seriously impressive amount of the city, we decided to explore further into Chinatown for dinner.  We ate at a famous Chinese restaurant called House of Nanking, based on reviews and recommendations. Dinner was delicious, but admittedly not as memorable as we had hoped.

Blazer // Top // Booties
The Chinatown Gate
My Brit & Belle necklace that barely left my neck all trip.
Last but not least, we walked off our dinner by hiking up the steps to the Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill to check out some views of the city from above.

While the views of downtown itself were nice, you can see that California's famous marine layer struck again. Good view, bro.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Driving the PCH



Adam and I are so lucky to have just come home from an amazing vacation road tripping the PCH along the California coast from San Francisco to LA. I got a little insta-happy during the trip, but I just love (over)sharing such beautiful sights with anyone who might like to see them. I am a psychotic planner of travel, in that I put in hours of research beforehand to make sure we maximize the trip, balancing between lots of fun, new things and some ever-important downtime. These things combined prompted many people to ask me to post a trip itinerary. What a great idea!

I've decided that I'll post the trip exactly as we took it, separated day by day, with any helpful hints or recommendations of places we discovered along the way. With every day being so different, we were able to do a little of everything, from yurts to five-star resorts, craft breweries to Napa wineries, and city life to almost total isolation. And if this trip doesn't sound up your alley, at least there are some pretty pictures.

Next up, Day 1!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Best White Cake Ever with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting



Even though summer in Austin will thankfully last for a couple more months, it still feels somehow strange to make unabashedly summery foods after Labor Day. I know that sounds ridiculous, because it is, but I'm feeling the need to make a bunch of summer recipes really quickly and cram everything into the standard calendar. This meant finally making a dessert with brightly colored berries, so I settled on a layered cake.

While everything was from scratch, I definitely followed other people's recipes. This "best white cake ever" was exactly as described - buttery, moist, just sweet enough, and rich in flavor. I paired it with the same frosting as in this previous post, which is the perfect combo of cream cheese and delicate vanilla flavor. Simply make the cake as directed in round pans (note that the recipe makes three layers... well.. only two of mine made it out alive), spreading each layer with a generous helping of the frosting and top with fresh berries.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Birthday Dinner at Lamberts Downtown Barbecue



Friday night, Adam and I went to dinner at Lamberts Downtown Barbecue to celebrate my (errr.. 25th) birthday. In the land of BBQ, Lamberts stands out as offering upscale renditions of standard fare like brisket, ribs, and pulled pork as one part of an amazing, well-rounded menu. The location, just two blocks from our apartment, made it a great spot to waddle home from after several cocktails and pounds of delicious meat. The food was delicious, with the star being a Mustard and Brown Sugar Crusted Ribeye that the waiter appropriately described as being brûléed; the steak was a perfect medium rare, but topped with a caramelized sweet and mustardy coating. I am so looking forward to going back and trying basically every item on the menu (#ambition).

A view of the restaurant, in Austin's 2nd Street District (Photo credit)
Dress // Shoes
The daily special charcuterie and cheese board, complete with foie gras pate
Mustard and Brown Sugar Crusted Niman Ranch Ribeye
Black Angus Brisket with Brown Sugar and Coffee Rub

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

NYC: Murray's Cheese and a High Line Picnic



Adam and I will be heading off on our next big vacation in only two weeks, and I'm already chomping at the bit to plan another one. Nevermind the fact that we have trips planned almost every month for a year... I just can't stop. I'm beyond #blessed (insert praying hands) to be married to someone that goes along with all of my whims, including making a special trip across NYC just to sample from a famous cheese shop.

Murray's Cheese in New York is essentially a national treasure, and I would visit this shrine to cheese every day if I could. Adam was kind enough to accompany me to buy some cheese, crackers, and prosciutto and enjoy them via a picnic on at High Line Park. The cheese was to die for, and the view was almost as good.

This Challerhocker cheese was some of the best cheese I've ever had.

Our spread: so wishing I could remember the second cheese because it was just as fabulous.
Insert emoji with heart eyes here.
If you've never been to Bleecker Street, it's also known for it's fantastic shopping, which in and of itself makes it worth a visit.