Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chisos Grill

Today we had a celebratory lunch at Chisos Grill, in the Bee Cave Galleria. A bit of a trek for us, but we had a Groupon. We started off with a sampler of salsa, guacamole and queso.

The chips were sprinkled with chili powder and minced cilantro. A nice touch.

I had the spinach salad with candied walnuts, goat cheese, and strips of grilled pineapple.

I also ordered a side of grilled sweet corn. I was quite pleased with my lunch.

Since Tony is eating vegetarian this month, I can show his lunch, too. He had the veggie stuffed poblano peppers with sides of grilled sweet corn and mashed potatoes with green chile gravy. 

So what were we celebrating?

Our little man's graduation from pre-K!

Now, because of when Jackson's birthday falls, he will attend one more year of pre-K before starting kindergarten, so this wasn't truly goodbye to his wonderful preschool. I would be in tears while writing this, if that were the case! I admit I shed a few tears during the ceremony, when I saw him looking so grown up in his cap and gown. 

We are proud of you, big J! 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rainy Day Entertainment

Another gloomy day with rain in the forecast. We've had a lot of those this spring. Not that I'm complaining! We need it. And although entertaining the kids is a more of a challenge when playgrounds and splash pads are off the table, I think I'm up to it.

We had to venture out to H-E-B and do our weekly grocery shopping. Jackson and Olivia are getting to that age where they find grocery shopping to be, shall we say, not incredibly exciting. Buddy Bucks make it slightly more tolerable.

Came home and prepped tofu for dinner. I made Matthew's Delicious Tofu from The Garden of Vegan. My favorite way to prepare tofu for use in sandwiches.

Dinner was Vietnamese Seitan Baguettes with Savory Broth Dip from Veganomicon. My favorite meal ever. I changed it up this time, using the tofu in place of seitan. Along with the usual cucumber, cilantro, Veganaise, and sriracha, I also threw on some red bell pepper and red onion slices.

After dinner we turned the bathroom into a spa, as I treated the kids (and myself) to a foot scrub. This recipe is also found in The Garden of Vegan. Sarah Kramer's second cookbook came out about ten years ago and it's been sitting on my shelf, collecting dust, neglected in favor of shiny new cookbooks. Recently I was looking through it and I remembered how great it is. It's just so darn comprehensive! In addition to breakfast recipes, there are tons of smoothies and juices. There's a chapter on lunch-box friendly foods and even a bunch of recipes you can make in your microwave. And, in the back, there's a cool section on homemade bath items, such as this foot scrub, made with oats and cornmeal. The green food coloring was my addition, to enhance the kid appeal.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Flores and a Tofu Extravaganza

Today while Jackson was at school, Olivia and I met up with some friends for lunch at Flores. I had heard that the food was pretty decent and, most importantly, they have a playscape.

The patio overlooks the playscape, which is pretty far down below. You have to walk down a ramp to get there. But our waiter was cool with us constantly going back and forth from the table to the playscape.

Olivia and I shared a giant quesadilla. I don't like it when quesadillas are overstuffed and they get all soggy and floppy. This one was just right!

After our Tex-Mex lunch, I wanted a light dinner. I made a recipe I've been wanting to try for a very long time, Mama Mayhem's Tofu Extravaganza from La Dolce Vegan. It's not gorgeous to look at, but it will make your taste buds so happy, especially if you're a pickle lover! It can be served as a dip with tortilla chips.

As I'd eaten my fill of tortilla chips earlier in the day, I ate it on toast. I was in love after the first bite. And Tony loved it even more, if that's possible. He said it reminded him of a really good egg salad. His exact words were, "I've never liked egg salads, but if they tasted like this, I would!" I'm so glad I finally got around to making this!

Monday, May 27, 2013

When It Rains

Memorial Day weekend started off very...wet! It started raining Friday afternoon, with heavy storms that night. On Saturday, it rained all day, and continued into Sunday morning. I've never seen my backyard looking so lush and green!

We got so much rain that the kids' water table was completely filled up. Jackson and Olivia reacted to this discovery by stripping off their pajamas and "washing" them in the rainwater. 

Jackson caught a few raindrops on his tongue. Actually, it was raining so hard, I think he got a whole mouthful.

Austin drivers tend to freak out when it storms, so we stayed close to home for lunch. Taj Mahal is in a strip mall attached to an H-E-B, yet I'd say it's the best Indian buffet in Austin. The offerings rotate, but today, they had all my favorites: lentil soup, palak paneer, vegetable korma, dal makhni, biryani rice, and some kind of cauliflower curry that I didn't catch the name of.

Two desserts? Don't mind if I do. Rice pudding, and gulab jamun.

What's your favorite way to spend a rainy day?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pizza Bistro

A new place called Pizza Bistro recently opened in our hood. I snagged a Groupon for it and we went for lunch the other day.

We started off with a new appetizer that our awesome server recommended, burrata caprese. Burrata is like a softer, creamer mozzarella cheese. We had fun scooping the gooey cheese onto pieced of toasted bread, along with cherry tomatoes and fresh basil.

We also ordered the cherry peppers filled with ricotta and capers. I wished they weren't served doused in oil. Instead of tasting fresh, the cherry peppers seemed like they had been sitting in that oil for some time.

Pizza Bistro serves both deep-dish and New York-style pizza. We ordered a large West Coast New York-style, which is an oxymoron, but also delicious. It came topped with spinach, mushrooms, green pepper, olives, tomatoes, and thinly sliced avocado.

Often I am hesitant to order veggie pizzas because they tend to be overloaded with veggies and it makes the crust soggy, especially if the crust was thin to begin with. Not so here! This was one of the best veggie pizzas I've ever had. We thought we would take home leftovers, but we ended up eating it all!

When our check came, the server brought us a couple of giant chocolate brownies, on the house. So nice! They were awesome, too.

We will definitely go back, especially since we found out they sell $2 pints of beer, all day every day!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Eternal Love

Fear not, this is not a sappy romantic post. Tony and me's anniversary is not for another month. No, today I want to express my eternal love for Home Slice Pizza. They say they make authentic New York-style pizza, but here's the thing...their pizza is better than any I tasted when I lived in New York for a year and a half.

Home Slice, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

1. They give the kids dough balls to play with so the parents can dine in peace. 

2. I'm not a big salad eater, but I need their house salad with garlic knots. Need it.



4. Frank and Hova converse in a mural on the back of the building, and it makes me smile.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mango Cupcakes with Matcha Buttercream Frosting

We could all use a cupcake this week, right?

So I finally picked up some matcha, a finely ground green tea powder. It's a little on the pricey side, but it will last a long time and it's not only used for making tea. Years ago while vacationing in San Francisco, I tasted matcha gelato in Japantown. I still remember its pale green appearance and mild tea flavor.  

There's a recipe in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for matcha cupcakes, but since mangoes are so cheap right now and I love them, I decided to make mango cupcakes and use matcha in the frosting. I used cupcake and frosting recipes in VCTOtW for my template here.

Mango Cupcakes with Matcha Buttercream Frosting
Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

Flesh of 1 ripe mango, roughly chopped
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c nondairy milk
1/4 c canola oil
2 t vanilla
1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
2 T cornstarch
3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt

Preheat oven to 350F and get your cupcake tin ready with liners. In a blender, puree the mango, sugar, milk, oil, and vanilla. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Pour the mango mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Spoon batter into cupcake tin, filling the liners 3/4 full. Bake for 22 minutes and remove from cupcake tin, cooling on a wire rack.

For the frosting:

1/2 c vegetable shortening
1/2 c vegan margarine
3 1/2 c confectioner's sugar
1 T matcha green tea powder
1 1/2 t vanilla 
1/4 nondairy milk

Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature. Beat the shortening and margarine together until combined. Add confectioner's sugar and matcha powder and beat for 3 minutes. Add vanilla and milk, beat for 5-7 minutes until fluffy. When the cupcakes are completely cool, frost them. Please note, this frosting recipe assumes you are going to pipe fluffy heaps of frosting onto your cupcakes. If you are just going to frost them normally, halve the amounts.

The frosting looks a bit weird...I have a very small selection of cake decorating tips. I need some different ones. No complaints about the flavor though! I've always had a hard time making frostings. They've been the wrong consistency, too runny or not smooth enough. At last, success! 

Two keys to good frosting: have all your ingredients at room temperature, and make sure the cupcakes are completely cooled before frosting them. If you can't wait very long, stick 'em in the freezer for a few minutes!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

End of Season

My heart is breaking this morning for the residents of Moore, Oklahoma and surrounding towns hit by tornadoes during the past couple of days. Thank goodness, Tony's family and our friends in Oklahoma are safe and sound, but many people are not. If you would like to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts, please text REDCROSS to 90999.

Jackson's school year is nearly over, and his after-school soccer lessons came to an end this week. After practice, Coach gathered the kids around for one last time and told them how much fun he had with them all season. 

Jackson showing off his medal. Look at those little red cheeks! He plays hard! A teammate's mama brought chocolate-covered frozen bananas for a little celebration.

I'm finishing up testing for Tami and Celine's finger foods cookbook. Only a couple more recipes to try. Here are some recent testers.

Moroccan Snack Bars, made with couscous and roasted cauliflower, and topped with slivered almonds. Think of them as savory, boldly-spiced brownies.

Jerk Tempeh Sticks - tempeh is marinated in a rich, not-too-hot jerk sauce, then grilled with red peppers, onions and pineapple. The jerk marinade was so amazing, I used the leftover as a dipping sauce.

Monday, May 20, 2013

To Grandma's House We Go

We made a quick visit to see my mother-in-law in Oklahoma over the weekend. I had everything packed and ready to go when Tony got off work, and we stopped at Subway to pick up dinner, which we ate in the car. No veggie patties available at this particular Subway, so I had them load up my sandwich with vegetables (and spicy mustard.)

Grandma always loves to catch up with her little buddies. She hadn't seen them since Christmas and they have definitely grown since then. Olivia had a lot of stories to tell.

Jackson telling Grandma about his Power Ranger's awesome abilities.

On Saturday we went to Science Museum Oklahoma with our friends Michelle and Alan and their kids. I hadn't been there in a decade. It used to be called the Omniplex, which is a cooler-sounding name, but the museum itself is much more impressive these days. They've added a ton of new exhibits and it kept the kids busy for hours.

Olivia wasn't sure what to make of the old telephones. She'd never seen one before. Feeling old now? Me, too.

Jackson got to ride a Segway.


Afterwards, we had lunch at Iguana in Oklahoma City. The interesting thing about Iguana is that Tony and I had our wedding dinner there, nearly eleven years ago.  Not long after that, to our chagrin, it closed down. But then it reopened a few years ago in a different location, and apparently has been going strong ever since. 

We were seated and there were already chips and huge bowls of salsa on our table. Nice, Iguana! Now that's service.

Being salsa fiends, we also ordered the salsa sampler, with tomatillo, smoked tomato (served warm), citrus habanero, and "coral snake" salsas.  Those last two I mentioned are super hot! It's funny, after all this time, the salsas tasted just as we remembered them. I guess if you got a good recipe, there is no need to change it!

I had the spinach mushroom enchiladas, with red rice and grilled veggies on the side. Totally delish.

More Oklahoma love soon. We are going back in a few weeks. Grandma can't wait four months to see her buddies again.