Sunday, June 28, 2009

Celery Salad

We had a bunch of celery that I didn't know what to do with, so I searched the interwebs and came up with the celery salad. I tweaked it by also adding the cucumber, onion and dill since I had it on hand. It was light and crunchy exactly what I wanted! Jim wasn't in love with it, but I thought it would make a nice summer salad (and one that isn't heavy with mayo or calories!)

Celery Salad
(Salade de CĂ©leri)
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar

1 tsp. dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 bunch celery

1 cucumber, cut in cubes

1/2 of a med size onion, sliced thin

1 Tablespoon of fresh dill

1. Whisk together vinegar, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste in a large salad bowl. Drizzle in olive oil while whisking constantly, to form a smooth and tart dressing. Set aside.
2. Pluck all the leaves from celery; set aside. Remove the outer ribs of the celery. (Save the innermost ribs from the core of the bunch for another use.) Roughly chop the celery ribs into 1⁄2"–3⁄4" pieces. Add celery, cucumber, onion and dill to bowl with dressing and toss well to coat. Adjust the seasonings.
I have found a new place to enjoy my iced coffees and bagels... Pacha! They are a locally run coffee shop on Burnet road. I originally went there because they have Rockstar bagels. Rockstar bagels is run buy a New Yorker (transplanted to Austin) that uses a recipe he used in New York to make bagels. Austin has been lacking in good bagels, so having Rockstar bagels here has been nice. The lattes are quite tasty, and they are good size for the money. Pacha also has other food, but I haven't tried it yet. I'm sure one day I'll get around to it :o) Pacha also has free Wifi, so I have gone in to play around on the computer while I was enjoying my latte and bagel!

Barton Springs

Jim and I realized that we have not been to Barton Springs together. I used to go when I first moved to Austin, but Jim has never been. The experience is a little different than I remember... now you have to pay for parking ($3), parking was packed (it was over 100 degrees yesterday so I understand the draw to the water for people), and there was a line of about 30 people to get in. When we first walked up we were surprised at the line and worried that there wouldn't be enough space. But the line moved at a decent rate and there was plenty of space for us.

We found a nice little spot that was kind of shaded because Jim didn't want to be in the sun. I wanted a little sun so once I applied my 30SPF, I sat in the sun to roast a bit while reading a book. My stomach needed a little color to match my farmers tan... 4th of July weekend is coming up and I didn't want to blind everybody on the boat :o). We ventured over to the water to get in but we didn't exactly stay in the water... it was COLD! I knew it would be but it was still a shock. We hung out in an area that was fairly shallow but then got out after about 10 minutes. We had a nice relaxing few hours at the natural pool. Good choice for such a hot day!

This area is just to the North of the pool. It is an open area where you don't have to pay to get in and you can take your dogs to swim! This is where Taylor learned how to swim many many years ago.

Another batch of good cookies!!

I saw this recipe and I knew I had to try it. I haven't had a cookie before with dried apricots and pine nuts. The cookie is fairly easy to make, the dough just takes a bit to chill before you bake it. I left the dough over night, and it came out okay! Thanks Giada for another wonderful recipe!

Apricot and Nut Cookies with Amaretto Icing
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis, 2008

Prep Time:
4 min

Inactive Prep Time:
2 hr 30 min

Cook Time:
15 min
2 to 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
5 to 7 tablespoons almond flavored liqueur (recommended: Amaretto)


For the Cookies: In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg. Stir in the flour until just blended. Mix in the apricots, almonds, and pine nuts.

Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a log, about 12-inches long and 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Wrap the dough in the plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cut the dough log crosswise into 1/4 to 1/2 inch-thick slices. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets, spacing evenly apart. Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges, about 15 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.
For the Icing: Place the confectioners' sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Gradually whisk in the almond flavored liqueur, until the mixture is of drizzling consistency.

Place the wire rack over a baking sheet. Using a spoon or fork, drizzle the cookies with the icing, allowing any excess icing to drip onto the baking sheet. Allow the icing to set before serving, about 30 minutes.
Toasting nuts

Dried apricots... yummy by themselves but super yummy in cookies

Slicing the chilled dough

This icing really made the cookies... I'll have to try this icing over cinnamon buns

Taylor doing her best to try to charm a cookie away from me

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cherries are in season!! YUM! Stop what you are doing, run out and spend way to much on some fruit to enjoy :o)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Grilled Tuna

Yesterday while I was at Central Market buying trout for dinner I noticed that they had a small piece of yellow fin tuna hanging out in their fish display. I decided to get it to try it out. I haven't made it before and I think I have only really had cooked tuna once before. So I didn't know what to expect. I used the Bobby Flay marinade below for the tuna, but I didn't think it had much flavor. I marinated it for at least 20 minutes, but I guess next time I'll either up the spices or just marinade it for longer. I'm also not a pro at cooking tuna because I know it is better when it is practically rare, and you can see from the pictures mine was more of a medium rare. While this time wasn't a total success, I will be trying it again!

Marinated Tuna Steaks

2 ancho chilies, soaked, seeded and pureed (I didn't have ancho chilies so I used jalapenos that were in adobe sauce)
4 cloves chopped garlic
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, toasted- didn't use, I don't care for fennel
2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 sprigs Mexican oregano -- store didn't have Mexican Oregano, so I used regular organic oregano
4 tuna steaks, 6 ounces each -- just had our tiny tuna steak
Salt and pepper

Whisk together ancho puree, garlic, fennel, orange juice, honey, olive oil, and oregano in a medium-baking dish. Add the tuna and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, covered.
Heat grill pan over high heat. Remove tuna from marinade and season with salt and pepper to taste on both sides. Sear on 1 side until golden brown, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Turn over and cook for 1 minute for medium-rare doneness.

I love this time of the year because we are visited by frogs!! We haven't seen as many as we have in the past, not sure if that has to do with the lack of rain or I just haven't seen them. I hear them almost every night croaking away in the back yard. I should check my potted plants because they usually like to create a home in the dirt.

Chewie is very interested in the frogs. He can't figure them out and is always surprised when they try to jump away. He tries to paw at them, but he doesn't realize that with one swipe he could potentially smoosh the little guys.

He slowly put his paw out and scratched at the ground around the frog. I think he probably would have tried more if I hadn't told him just to look. I'm sure he had no clue what I said but he understood the tone.
A couple of years ago our next door neighbor dogs got a frog and attempted to eat it, but he started to foam at the mouth. I guess the frogs have some type of defense mechanism that makes them taste really bad and makes the dogs (or whatever tries to eat it) foam at the mouth. Poor little Oscar had continuous foam coming out of his mouth for at least 5 minutes. Looked sooooooo gross, but my neighbor (who witnessed everything) didn't seem to think it was a big deal. I would have been FREAKING out. :o)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Charlie and Jens Wedding

Last night a couple of our friends were married at the Oasis. The Oasis is a beautiful venue for a wedding since it overlooks Lake Travis. There were quite a few people (a little over 200 peeps) at the wedding, and we were able to hang out with some friends that we only see once or twice a year since they don't live in Austin. Of course, then we hung with our friends and probably embarrassed each other quite a few times. Ahh.... good times!

Jennifer and her dad walking down the isle. I didn't get many pictures of the ceremony because the sun was shining right into our eyes and there was a pole in my way. I feel really bad for the entire wedding party because it was around 100 degrees and they were in the sun during the ceremony. Jennifer and her bridesmaids

The hubster and I. My dress is actually dark green, but because the layer below the green fabric is gold it shined through in all of the pictures

Lindsey, Ashley and I

Sunset over Lake Travis

John, Tammy and JimAshley, me, Lindsey and Vanessa
You'll notice that the photos all start to look the same... couples with the lake and the sunset behind them. I ended up taking peoples pictures right and left, directing them and making them look pretty :o)
Ashley and Jason

Matt and Vanessa

Jim and greasy face... I mean, me.

Joe, Nick, John, Jason, Jim and Chris

Vanessa and I

Our dear friends... the normal picture
Our friends.... the freaky picture. As you can see the ladies new how to jazz up a photo, but the boys didn't really know what to do.
Seriously... this is the most women I have seen go for the bouquet. You know they are all freakin young and giddy to get the bouquet. I know I had some friends who were standing to the side hoping that they would not catch it.

Hanging out around the bar

us with the happy couple

Jen and Charlie's farewell

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Free Food + Free Drinks + Kick Ass Friends = One Hell of a Night

Last Tuesday night we attended another Yelp Elite Event. is a kick ass website that has helped me find restaurants and bars to visit. I'll use them any time I have to do research on various companies in Austin, or if I'm travelling and need to find a restaurant! I eventually started to write reviews on the places that I was visiting and then I became an elite member. Elite members get the opportunity to attend events full of free booze and food. Hells yeah! I apologize because I have stopped writing restaurant/bar reviews on my blog because I have been putting them directly onto Yelp.

The last event was held at Finn and Porter, which is in the Hilton downtown on 4th. The hotel is pretty snazzy and the restaurant is decorated with a modern flair. I was impressed, and I'm glad that we dressed up. Not sure when we'll be back to eat a regular dinner at Finn and Porter, but I'll recommend them to anybody because the food we ate was very nom, nom, nom!

Orly, Sarah and Jim

Jimmy and I... we look so grown up in our big boy and big girl clothes. Please don't notice the 3 glasses of wine that we are holding. Then waiter with the glasses of wine had just walked by so we grabbed a glass and didn't think to put them down before we took the picture.
Jim was being a brat and didn't want to take the picture, so I improvised

Sarah and I

Sarah and Orly

Matt, Anthony, Jim and Orly

Yelp party

Sarah, Dawn, Lindsey and I
Elevator picture

This little appetizer was the best thing ever. Seriously. It had a tiny potato pancake on the bottom, a hunk of beef (perhaps prime rib?), and topped with a Bearnaise sauce. Oh. My. God. I don't even know how many of these I ate... the waiters just kept coming around with full plates for us. It got so bad that one waitress would smile every time she came around because she knew we would take a couple to eat.

This was an interesting tomato soup with a grilled shrimp. The shrimp was cooked perfectly, but a little under seasoned. The soup itself was watery and wasn't something that I cared for. Perhaps it was because I still yearning for another one of those potato and steak bites

They had a self serve display that had several type of one bite appetizers. I believed they had a cherry chutney with ground pecans on a very tiny piece of bread, a lobster salad on a fried pasta sheet and a heirloom tomato, fresh mozzarella and balsamic vinegar on a cracker. Fin and Porter really went out of their way to impress us.. and it worked.

Tough Jim
Makers Mark was one of the vendors at the party, so there was free Makers Mark drinks. I'm not a fan, but I did try their Mark Palmer which is a mix of lemon aid, tea and Makers Mark. I gave it the ol college try, but I still didn't like it. Thankfully the also had free wine!
There was also a sushi counter. Now as I have mentioned, Jim and I are novices when it comes to sushi. We have dabbled here and there but have been pretty tame. This night gave us 3 choices to try and we tried each one, and surprisingly really liked two of them.

Our favorite roll (didn't get a close up picture) was the Fire roll. Here is the description off of their online menu: Shrimp tempura, avocado, topped with spicy assorted fish, tempura flakes, tobiko (flying fish eggs), green onion and spicy mayo. For those of you that don't eat sushi, I'm sure that sounds like a horrible combination, but we really liked it.
The picture below is their Spicy Tuna roll... also very good!

Playing with the mirrors in the parking garage