Category Archives: Eat

Zucchini-Broccoli Hotcakes, aka What To Do With All Those Zucchinis

Zucchini-Broccoli Hotcakes, aka What To Do With All Those Zucchinis

It’s that time of year. The time when gardens are overflowing with inappropriately large zucchinis, vividly green and uncomfortably phallic if one gazes at them too long. I have been eating a lot of vegetables for breakfast lately thanks to a crisper that is fully stocked from our CSA. The zucchini was calling my name because I have quite a few and need to eat them before I’m forced to toss them in the compost. I did get several wonderful ideas of what to do with them when I asked this question on Twitter:

… and, as always, Twitter did not disappoint! These were a few responses I received:

Great ideas, right? Especially those muffins! – tasty. I went a completely different direction with these zucchini-broccoli hotcakes but will definitely be giving these two ideas a spin in the coming days.

As Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen says, “I guess if anyone could find a use for zucchini on my block, it would be me.” Boredom can be an excellent motivator.

Zucchinis (or courgettes, depending on what part of the world you live in) are vegetables (for eating) but actually considered fruits (in a botanical sense) and happen to be the ovaries of the plant that are swollen and heavy-laden with seeds. I bet some of you didn’t know that. Still hungry? Stay with me. It’ll be worth it. So while you’re (I’m) standing there thinking those zucchinis look all phallic and rated R, they’re actually the plant’s lady bits.

Zucchini-Broccoli Hotcakes, aka What To Do With All Those Zucchinis

I love how they ooze, don’t you? One time after peeling a squash, that slightly slimy goo made my hands go completely numb for hours. I panicked. I thought I was having an allergic reaction. It looked like my skin was peeling off and I couldn’t feel anything properly. It only happened that one time but man, I was terrified of making them for awhile after that. Has that happened to anyone else?

Oh, and remember that the next time you’re eating fruit. Fruits are ovaries.

Moving on.

You’re going to start this recipe by scrubbing the zucchini in cold water and trimming the ends. Then you’ll grate it – I used the coarse side on my box grater – and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. I just used my hands but you can use a dishtowel if you want. Toss the zucchini in a bowl and chop just the florets of broccoli, removing as much stem as possible. Add that to the bowl along with the other ingredients.

I used colby jack cheese but you can use whatever floats your boat. Sharp cheddar would taste nice in this dish. The seasoning I used was a rustic Italian herb blend with some salt mixed in. You could do 1/2 tsp. oregano and 1/2 tsp. basil or any other combination. If you don’t use a seasoning with salt in it, you’ll want to add some to taste. The same goes for pepper!

I used coconut oil as my fat but you could use others. Whatever you want. One thing I encourage when sharing recipes is experimenting with it and making it your own. Don’t be afraid to make substitutions! 

Zucchini-Broccoli Hotcakes, aka What To Do With All Those Zucchinis

I served my zucchini-broccoli hotcakes topped with Blue Isle Spicy Vegetable yogurt spread. Disclaimer: I was given a box of Blue Isle yogurt spreads to sample and share with my readers, if desired. After trying them, I did desire to tell you about the product! The spreads are made with milk from California dairy cows, use all-natural ingredients to create five flavors like honey and French onion, and are sourced from cattle that have not been treated with artificial hormones. It’s a spread you can feel good about! Plus, yogurt is full of good bugs for your gut so you’ll be dosing yourself with healthy strains of live cultures and probiotics. You can use it as a dip, a spread, or use it in place of cream cheese when cooking. Give it a try! You can find a coupon on their site and even more recipe ideas.

Zucchini-Broccoli Hotcakes, aka What To Do With All Those Zucchinis
Blue Isle Spicy Vegetable spread

I also drizzled on some Humboldt Hotsauce in their habanero-mango flavor because I’m a heat-seeker. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and heat. Disclaimer: Humboldt Hotsauce doesn’t know who I am and I discovered them through a hot sauce trade with a friend who lives in Santa Rosa.

Zucchini-Broccoli Hotcakes, aka What To Do With All Those Zucchinis

What are your favorite ways to use up all of those zucchinis in your garden?

Zucchini-Broccoli Hotcakes, aka What To Do With All Those Zucchinis

Zucchini-Broccoli Hotcakes, aka What To Do With All Those Zucchinis

 

Zucchini-Broccoli Hotcakes
Serves 2
These healthy zucchini-broccoli hotcakes are a quick and easy breakfast dish.
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 c. zucchini, grated and squeezed dry
  2. 1 c. broccoli florets, chopped
  3. 1/2 c. shredded cheese, your choice
  4. 1/4 c. panko breadcrumbs
  5. 1 tsp. dried herb seasoning of your choice
  6. 2 eggs, mixed
  7. Salt and pepper, to taste
  8. 2 T. coconut oil
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Heat coconut oil over moderate heat in a large skillet and scoop handfuls of vegetable mixture onto hot skillet. Press the mixture fairly flat, like a pancake.
  3. The egg may spread out a bit from the hotcakes and that's okay! Just press it back in with your spatula, if needed. These are eggy hotcakes.
  4. Let the hotcakes brown nicely on one side before flipping, about 5 minutes. Flip and brown the other side, 3-5 minutes.
  5. Serve topped with your choice of spread, hot sauce, syrup, or just eat it plain Jane.
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/
 

 

 

 

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin {Rainey Street Edition}

I will be the first person to tell you that this should not be taken as any sort of definitive guide of where to eat in Austin. I didn’t have nearly enough time to explore the city and eat all the food. That’s okay, it just means I’ll have to go back and eat drink explore some more.

Local Austinites, I’m sure, have about two dozen other places to eat and drink that they prefer over what is listed here. Are you from Austin? Travel there often? What else belongs on this non-definitive guide? I’ll add it to the growing list of where I need to go next time.

I was only in Austin for five meals, the other meals we had at Austin Psych Fest or at HausBar Farms and Guesthouse. This limited our exposure to the dining scene. The parameters for our search included but was not limited to: tacos, BBQ, craft beer, Texas craft beer, and Texas border cooking. 

Here is part one of a two-part series on where we ate food and drank beer and margaritas in Austin, Texas. I’ll call this the Rainey Street Edition.

Food, craft beer, and travel is a trifecta of happiness.

Rainey Street. Parking is a crooked and haphazard affair where sidewalks can’t be found, laughter is loud, and what appears to have once been a small community has evolved into a bustling enclave for bars and restaurants. 

Banger’s 

Banger’s is located on hip and chaotic Rainey Street in Austin.

 There is outside and inside seating at Banger’s, the former consisting of long family-style picnic tables piled into a large courtyard. Entry doors lead inside where porcine taxidermy overlooks additional family-style tables and a tap list of over 100 beers.

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin

Banger’s prides itself as having the largest selection of sausages in Austin and they offer meats like duck, antelope, venison, and more common varieties containing pork and chicken. 

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin
From left to right: Southern Anteleope & Venison Merguez, Dak Bulgogi

Of course I had to get the Southern Texas Antelope & Venison Merguez, because where else am I going to find Southern Texas Antelope in Pennsylvania? It was mildly spiced but not spicy and surprisingly moist inside a casing that popped with every bite. I’ll be honest, though, the Dak Bulgogi that my friend chose was amazing. From Banger’s menu, the Dak Bulgogi: 

Bulgogi Chicken Sausage topped with sriracha, kimchi, oyster sauce, cilantro, carrots, and jalapenos on a kolache bun with a side of soy caramel lime. Served with a house made kimchi salad and sun dried shrimp chips.

C’MON.

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin

With such a huge variety of craft beer, outstanding sausage and a poutine dish worth sharing with your friends, the laid-back atmosphere at Banger’s is definitely a place I’d go back to again and again.

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin
Poutine

They also offer menu items like fried cheese curds, currywurst, boiled peanuts, a michelada bar, and beer milkshakes.

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin

If you want to get a tattoo of the cute Banger’s logo, a hybrid cowboy boot/beer mug, talk to your server. Apparently they have a deal with a local tattoo shop and it’s free. 

I should have gotten one. Talk about awesome conversation-starting souvenirs. Banger’s, we’re talking about this tattoo the next time I’m in town, okay?

They have live music, many events, and are dog-friendly.

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin

The legends of their founder, Olaf Gufstafson Banger (OG Banger), are colorful. See their website to read all about him.

Now I want a sausage.

Banger's WebsiteBanger's Facebooktwitter

 

Craft Pride

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin

Craft Pride is also located on Rainey Street, close to Banger’s and wholly dedicated to all things Texan and craft. There is a small bottle and merch shop, inside seating that is decorated richly but simply, and outside seating areas.

The interior walls are black with an ornate pattern, the comfortably curved barstool-style seats at the pub tables are covered in black leather(ette) and heavily studded at the arms. On the ceiling is a large cut-out wooden plank relief of the Lone Star State, appropriately decorated with a single illuminated star.

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin

You will only find craft beer made in Texas at Craft Pride, with offerings from more than 20 breweries taking up 54 taps and 2 casks from breweries like Live Oak, Hops & Grain, and Saint Arnold. The staff is knowledgeable and happy to answer questions about the beer that is served there. If you don’t understand a style, just ask!

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin
Detroit-style Carnivore Pizza from Via 313

If you need something to nosh on while at Craft Pride, head out back to the courtyard and order one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had, an exotic Detroit-style pie. Via 313 is a food truck that is parked behind Craft Pride and sells pizza by pie, consisting of four corner slices. One pie was plenty of food for two people. 

But what is Detroit-style pizza?

For starters, it’s delicious. The crust is crunchy and full of cheesy grease-soaked flavor, the toppings are piled on the crust and the sauce gets spread on top. We chose the Carnivore pizza and it was truly memorable, what with its pepperoni, ham, sausage, and bacon. The menu also includes The 500 (with pepperoni, jalapeños and pineapple), the Continental (prosciutto, arugula, and parmesan), and the Omnivore (cremini mushrooms, sweet onions, green pepper, pepperoni, and hot Italian sausage). Order your pizza, sit back down with your beer and an order number placard, and have it delivered right to you.

Craft Pride has events like Flight Nights, release parties, and live music. When stepping out on Rainey Street, Craft Pride and Banger’s are great options for you.

Craft Pride: WebsiteBanger's Facebooktwitter

Via 313: WebsiteBanger's Facebooktwitter

I hope you enjoyed this first post in my Non-Definitive but Delicious Guide of Where to Eat in Austin, the Rainey Street edition! Check back next time for Guero’s Taco Bar and one or two more locations.

Texas Border Sides: Frijoles de Ollas and Calabacitas con Crema

Texas Border Sides: Frijoles de Olla and Calabacitas con Crema

Whenever I travel somewhere new, I enjoy recreating foods in my own kitchen that are common to or inspired by that location. A trip to Dublin inspires me to make lamb stew. Going to San Francisco has me craving cioppino. If I take a trip to any ocean destination, I have to make about half a dozen seafood dishes when I return home. After our recent travels to Texas, I’ve been making many border-style meals. 

Texas Border Sides: Frijoles de Ollas and Calabacitas con Crema
Irish lamb stew over colcannon

I love traveling and eating local foods is one of the experiences I enjoy best in any new or revisited place. Even foods like chicken pot pie differ greatly from region to region and those differences help shape one’s perception of that area.

These easy recipes make excellent side dishes for a summer cookout. The Frijoles de Olla, or pot beans, can be served two ways per the recipe below and they also create a base for all kinds of dips using ingredients like tomatoes, jalapeños, cream cheese, or salsa.

Texas Border Sides: Frijoles de Ollas and Calabacitas con Crema
My son makes an appearance!

The Calabacitos con Crema is a zucchini and roasted green chile dish finished with crema. The beauty of crema is that it doesn’t curdle or separate when cooked and the flavor and texture is like a thick and tangy heavy cream.

Both of these recipes will require some work the day before making but those steps will take you less than five minutes, I promise. When you actually get around to starting the dishes it’ll only take you about 30 minutes each of active work, if that.

Texas Border Sides: Frijoles de Ollas and Calabacitas con Crema
A mixed plate at Guero’s Taco Bar in Austin, TX

These beans remind me of ones we had at Guero’s Taco Bar in Austin. I can’t wait to get back to Austin just to eat more food.

Texas Border Sides: Frijoles de Ollas and Calabacitas con Crema
There are just a few ingredients in the frijoles de olla.

Serve the frijoles de olla straight out of the pot – although I think they taste better when they sit for a day or more in the refrigerator – or serve them mashed in a refried fashion (frijoles refrito).

Texas Border Sides: Frijoles de Ollas and Calabacitas con Crema
Frijoles de olla can be used to make frijoles refritos, or refried beans.

Eat them in a warm corn tortilla or use tortilla chips to scoop them into your mouth. If you’re like me, you’ll just eat it with a spoon when no one is looking. Either style of beans tastes excellent with some melted cheese and sour cream stirred in.

Texas Border Sides: Frijoles de Ollas and Calabacitas con Crema
Frijoles de olla served in a corn tortilla with pickled jalapeño and cheese.
Frijoles de Olla, Two Ways
This easy recipe for pot beans is full of flavor and takes minimal active work to make. Serve it two ways, straight from the pot or refried.
Write a review
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb. dried pinto beans, sorted and rinsed
  2. Water to cover
  3. 1/2 lb. bacon, sliced into 1/2" strips
  4. 1 medium onion, diced
  5. 3 dried red chiles, rinsed, stems and seeds removed, and chopped
  6. 4 garlic cloves, minced
  7. 2 tsp. salt, or to taste
Instructions
  1. The night before making frijoles de olla, rinse the dried pinto beans and remove any stones or other foreign objects that you may find. Place the beans in a bowl and cover with several inches of water. Cover the bowl and set on the counter overnight.
  2. When you're ready to start the beans, drain the soaked beans and give them a quick rinse under cold water.
  3. Place the beans in a stockpot and cover with 2" water. Stir in the bacon, onion, chiles, and garlic but not the salt. Don't add the salt yet! Bring the combination in the pot to a boil and then lower the temperature to a gentle simmer. Partially cover the pot and cook for 2 hours, giving it a stir every now and then.
  4. Now stir in the salt and simmer for another hour or so until the liquid has thickened.
  5. Add more salt as needed to the finished beans.
  6. Serve right away or refrigerate for later use.
Notes
  1. To make frijoles refritos, or refried beans, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium and add one cup of frijoles de olla. Mash the beans with a potato masher or whatever else you have that can crush them, and simmer a couple minutes until the beans have become thick. Then add another cup of beans and repeat the mashing and simmering process. If you want to make a larger amount of frijoles refritos, just add more olive oil at the beginning. Always mash one cup of beans at a time. Once you've added and mashed all you want to make, stir while cooking for a few minutes until creamy and thick. Adjust seasonings as needed. Grab a spoon and enjoy.
Adapted from The El Paso Chile Company's Texas Border Cookbook
Adapted from The El Paso Chile Company's Texas Border Cookbook
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/
Texas Border Sides: Frijoles de Ollas and Calabacitas con Crema
Calabacitas con crema

The calabacitas con crema is a spicy and vibrant vegetarian dish that works well as a side but we’re having it for dinner tonight served in tortillas with shredded cheese. Zucchini is such a versatile vegetable, don’t you think? I think this recipe would taste great mixed with pasta and sprinkled with cheese. There are so many ways to reinvent these simple dishes. What other ideas do you have?

Texas Border Sides: Frijoles de Ollas and Calabacitas con Crema
Calabacitas con crema

Both of these Texas Border side recipes are perfect options for #meatlessmonday meals, as long as you omit the bacon from the frijoles de olla. 

Calabacitas con Crema
This is a quick and spicy vegetarian side dish, perfect for any cookout as a side dish or served in warmed tortillas as a taco meal.
Write a review
Print
Ingredients
  1. 3 green chiles
  2. 3 T. butter
  3. 1/2 medium onion, diced
  4. 3 garlic cloves, minced
  5. 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  6. 2 medium zucchini, trimmed, cut in half, and sliced into 1/2" thick pieces
  7. 1/2 tsp. salt
  8. 1/2 c. crema (see note)
Instructions
  1. First you'll need to roast the peppers. Line a baking sheet with foil and place oven rack about 6" from broiler. Broil peppers on high for several minutes, turning occasionally and keeping a close eye on them. Remove the peppers when they are charred evenly and put them into a bowl, covering with a plate for 15 minutes until they cool enough to touch. Rub away the charred pepper skin, remove stem and seeds, and chop. DO NOT do anything else until you wash your hands thoroughly.
  2. Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onions, garlic, salt, and oregano, stirring occasionally for five minutes. Add the zucchini and cook while stirring for four minutes. Add the chiles and cook for another four minutes or until zucchini is soft and cooked through. Stir in the crema and lower the heat to lowest setting, cover and cook for five minutes for the sauce to thicken.
  3. Season to taste.
Notes
  1. Whenever you're cutting hot chiles, make sure to wash your hands well after you're done handling them before touching your eyes, nose, or any other sensitive spot. Believe me. It doesn't feel good.
  2. Make your crema the day before by thoroughly mixing 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt in 1 cup of heavy cream. Cover loosely with cloth or a paper towel and let set out at room temperature for 12 hours. Put the crema in the refrigerator after 12 hours and let cool. It will thicken the longer it is in the refrigerator. You can purchase it or crème fraîche as a substitute in most stores but it's so simple to make that you should do so.
Adapted from The El Paso Chile Company's Texas Border Cookbook
Adapted from The El Paso Chile Company's Texas Border Cookbook
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/
 Do you have a favorite regional style of cooking that you recreate at home?

 

Jester King Brewery, Where the Beer is Always Funky and Wild

Jester King Brewery, Where Every Beer is Funky and Wild

The day was bright and sunny with big puffy fair-weather clouds overhead that slid across a washed out Texas sky. This ranch land was the stuff of my dreams: patches of shading trees dotting a somewhat rolling landscape covered in an multicolored array of wildflowers. I’m sure I caught sight of zebras at one ranch we passed on the short drive out of Austin and into Texas Hill Country. It added to the magic I felt as soon as we exited the city and entered the wild.

Jester King Brewery, Where the Beer is Always Funky and Wild

We have been lucky enough to receive Jester King beer a few times in beer trades and having the opportunity to visit their brewery was a treat because their beer is not only finely crafted, it is uniquely their own. Their traditional farmhouse ales are brewed using wild yeasts captured and cultivated right on their 4-acre plot of ranch. While everything they create is done in the lambic-style, all is region-specific to Austin. Wild yeast in Austin is different than wild yeast in San Francisco and is different than wild yeast in Belgium. Yeast is everywhere, all around us, always hungry and searching for sugars to consume. In that respect, all yeasts are similar, but they differ from place to place in subtle ways. By using wild yeast, their own well water, and local grains, Jester King Brewery has created a product that is intrinsic to their own little corner of Texas Hill Country.

Every beer at Jester King is funky and wild.

Jester King Brewery was founded in 2010 by two brothers. The building in which they brew was once a machine shop and now houses a 30 bbl, or ~900 gallon, brewhouse. They are currently in the middle of an expansion and are excited about the future and their ability to create even more magic with the addition of a 30 bbl cool ship. A coolship looks like a giant shallow brownie pan and is used to hold the wort as it cools and becomes inoculated with the wild yeast in the air.

Jester King Brewery, Where the Beer is Always Funky and Wild
Coolship

The word coolship is an English version of koelschip, a Dutch word for this type of vessel. 

For their barrel-aged beers, Jester King uses a cool ship to cool the wort and become inoculated with wild yeast before racking it straight to a barrel after 24 hours. Some of their beers are fermented in stainless tanks but the same wild yeast that inoculates the cool ship wort is used to inoculate the beer in the stainless tanks. When they first started brewing, they set wort on the roof to attract and harvest wild yeasts. They sent that off to a laboratory where they were able to determine exactly what wild yeasts were present on the property and from there they were able to replicate and cultivate the native yeast composition. 

Jester King doesn’t use a brite tank to condition their ales like many other commercial breweries. A brite tank is the place where the process of refining and clarifying the product of yeast and other large particulates continues after primary fermentation. It is also used for carbonation, and storage before kegging or bottling. Some breweries serve beer on tap directly from the brite tank.

The process from start to finish on some beers at Jester King takes two to six months or more. Their goal is quality and one phrase I heard several times by our knowledgeable tour guide was that they use “sensory analysis” to determine when a beer is ready. They’re on the yeast and beer’s timetable, not their own.  

Bottles are conditioned at least one month. Barrels that once held mezcal and wine are used to age beer and some get blended or reintroduced to fruits for additional dryness as the yeasties receive another serving of sugar. Something I always wonder is how often infection occurs when using wild yeasts in previously-used barrels. Our tour guide addressed that question.

Jester King Brewery, Where the Beer is Always Funky and Wild

“Barreled beer is aged at least a year before we perform a sensory analysis on its progress. About 10% of barrels may be infected and in that case we dump the beer,” at this point there was an audible gasp from the tour group, “and leave the barrels exposed to the air to give them time to get rid of the bad bacteria.”

Barrels provide a happy environment for oxygen-scavenging bugs.

Barrel-aged beer is conditioned for a period of time ranging between three to five years. The brewers at Jester King are like mad scientists, mixing and blending these beers and tasting and mixing some more until the farmhouse potions are just right. I envy their job, don’t you?

Everything at Jester King is done by hand – the bottling, capping, labeling – it’s all a labor of love.

What can you expect when visiting Jester King Brewery?

Jester King is open and airy, with many picnic tables set along the slope behind the brewery and the adjacent building housing Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza shop. Guests can play cornhole, take part in a free brewery tour (author’s note: always take the brewery tour), order pizza and have it delivered to your picnic table, and sample the many beverages that are offered at Jester King. I enjoyed being able to purchase small quantities of each beer, allowing me to try more varieties than if I had a full pint of just one or two.

Not only can you purchase samples of ale Jester King ale, there is an impressively curated selection of other regional beer, mead, wine, kombucha, and even cold-brewed coffee. You’ll also find many rare beers from all around the world.

This is a dog-friendly environment, as we found most places in Austin, and there were at least half a dozen hounds hanging out with their owners. 

Buy a bottle or several while you’re at Jester King. Take one home for a beer-loving friend. There are also shirts available for purchase in both men’s and women’s sizes and styles. I got a shirt for La Vie en Rose, a farmhouse ale refermented with raspberries.

Visiting Jester King Brewery is a must when traveling to Austin, whether you’re into beer or not. It is located only about 15 minutes outside the city but feels like a completely different type of world. 

It’s the type of world I could definitely make home.

You can find Jester King brewery on the web, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

 

Mocha Frosting, Perfect for Cakes and Spoons

Quick and Easy Mocha Frosting, Perfect for Cakes and Spoons

I received the The Big Book of BBQ: Recipes and Revelations from the Barbecue Belt {affiliate link} as a Christmas gift from my parents. I’m pretty sure they got it for me so they could reap the benefits, seeing as I cook for them often or send leftovers home with them when they visit.

What a role reversal! Isn’t it usually parents who send food home with their kids?

So far I’ve made about half a dozen recipes and all of them have been outstanding. The bacon-wrapped barbecue chicken kebabs are another favorite in our house.

One of the recent highlights was this mocha frosting, used to top a chocolate marble sheet cake for a Memorial Day party. The cake turned out disappointingly dry but with this amazing frosting, who cares? It’s smooth and velvety, rich but not overly-sweet, and complex from the cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark) and coffee.

Mocha Frosting, Perfect for Cakes and Spoons

This frosting is tempting enough to eat with a spoon. Or with your finger. I made small sandwich cookies for the kids using Nilla wafers and a smear of mocha frosting in between. I can also picture this on dessert crepes with freshly whipped cream and some raspberries.

I have a few leftover slices of chocolate marble sheet cake with mocha frosting that I plan on chopping up and folding into homemade vanilla ice cream this week. That seems like a smart thing to do with dry cake and tasty frosting.

This is an outstanding frosting recipe that I’ll make over and over. It’s quick and easy to make, smooth and lump-less, and delicious.

If I was pairing this with a beer, I’d probably choose a Founder’s Breakfast Stout or Brasserie Ellezelloise La Biere des Collines Hercule Stout.

Quick and Easy Mocha Frosting, Perfect for Cakes and Spoons

Quick and Easy Mocha Frosting
This quick and easy mocha frosting recipe is rich but not overly-sweet and perfect on cakes, cupcakes, and your spoon.
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 cups powdered sugar
  2. 2/3 cups Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
  3. 3 tablespoons strong coffee
  4. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  5. 1/2 cup butter, softened
  6. 4 tablespoons half and half
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and cocoa until it's fully incorporated. In a separate small bowl, mix together the coffee and vanilla.
  2. In a stand-mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the softened butter on medium speed until it has lightened a bit in color and is creamy. Starting with the cocoa mixture, add a small amount to the butter and beat on low speed until it is fully incorporated. Add a splash of the coffee mixture to the butter and beat until it is fully incorporated. Alternate between the cocoa mixture and coffee mixture until it has all been combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Add the half and half, one tablespoon at a time and mix until combined.
Notes
  1. Recipe is attributed to "Big Book of BBQ".
Adapted from Big Book of BBQ
Adapted from Big Book of BBQ
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/
 Disclaimer: this post contains an affiliate link and has been labeled as such for full transparency. 

Where to Eat on "the Circle" in Waco, TX: Rudy's and Whataburger

Where to Eat on “the Circle” in Waco, TX: Rudy’s and Whataburger

Waco, TX, is a convenient near-halfway point when traveling on I-35 from Dallas to Austin. Rudy’s and Whataburger are located around what is sometimes appropriately called The Circle, a large roundabout with an open star-struck center and various restaurants and other buildings like mechanic shops,  all refusing to give up on  the glories of yesteryear.

Rudy’s was our first stop at The Circle. We saw signs for miles, teasing us with their “Country Store and Bar-B-Q”, and when we finally arrived we knew there was no other option. First meal in Texas at a Texan BBQ joint?

Yes, please.

More, please.

The first thing I noticed at Rudy’s wasn’t the gift shop with various branded sauces and rubs and it wasn’t the prolific collection of antique-looking signs and memorabilia on every wall.

It was the scent.

The scent of wood-smoked meats mouthwateringly and lasciviously wrapped its insistent tendrils around my face and made a home inside my nose-place.

The hostess inside the front doors must have seen the awe in my face as I froze in my tracks because she smiled and said, “Is this your first time at Rudy’s?”

I couldn’t respond. Didn’t respond.

“Yes, it’s our first time,” my husband responded, coming to my rescue.

“Great! Welcome! You can head up to the line,” she pointed toward the far right corner of the restaurant, “and choose what you’d like to order from the posted menus. Feel free to grab a beer or soda in the coolers and I hope you enjoy.”

“Thank you so much,” I mumbled with a small smile.

I broke my gaze from the food/menu/bottles/amazingness at the ordering line and saw colorful flags hanging from the ceiling, a main dining section with long picnic-style family tables, and perimeter tables in a sunroom-style setting.

All the while, the scent.

The queue wasn’t long when we arrived — there were quite a few cars parked in the drive-thru line outside {yes they have a drive-thru} — but the line went quickly. Choosing just a couple of items from the menu was challenging but we settled on 1/2 lb. of moist brisket, 1/2 lb. of smoked turkey, the standard sides of white sliced bread, jalapeños, raw onion slivers, pickles, and sauces, and a sweet tea and Squirt.

The Squirt was for me.

Where to Eat on "the Circle" in Waco, TX: Rudy's and Whataburger

In all? The best BBQ of our trip.

{Author’s note: we did not make it to The Salt Lick or Franklin Barbecue on this trip} 

After reading other reviews floating around the internet, the Waco location of Rudy’s seems to be particularly good. I haven’t eaten at any others but I’m going to concur.

On the trip back to Dallas and the airport and home, we stopped at The Circle again, this time for a roughly estimated breakfast. It was about 9:30am-ish and we were kind of taco’d out from two meals at Guero’s Taco Bar in Austin (more details on them in another post) so we didn’t want a gas station breakfast taco.

That is a thing.

After seeing a bazillion billboards for Whataburgers and passing at least half that many right off I-35, I put my backseat driving to use and suggested we check out Whataburger. It seemed like a local Texan deal, we’d never even heard of it before, and according to their billboards, their burgers were postcard-worthy.

Were they?

The atmosphere at Whataburger is old-school fast food/diner, with Dr. Pepper tables and antique Dr. Pepper bottles on display. We went up and placed an order at the counter like at any other fast food joint but we were given a plastic placard with our order number on it to set on our table.

And they served it to our table. What kind of fast food is this?!

I ordered a #4 meal, the jalapeño and cheese Whataburger, and added bacon. The girl taking my order changed my order to the #5 meal, the bacon and cheese Whataburger, and added jalapeños. I have no clue if that worked out in my favor. They should be the same, right? I didn’t care.

I was hangry at this point.

I took my massive styrofoam cup that must have held at least 3 gallons of liquid and filled it with sweet tea sans ice (I dislike ice machines…gross), sat down at our table and only waited a couple minutes before our food was delivered.

Am I the only person who always chooses the wrong size lid for my cup every single time?

When I unwrapped my sandwich, I was amazed at how huge it was. How could I possibly eat all of that?

I couldn’t, not ever.

Where to Eat on "the Circle" in Waco, TX: Rudy's and Whataburger
Before …

Still, the burger was pretty good and had a flame-grilled flavor, although it was a flat patty. The toppings were abundant and satisfying, the bun was warm and supple, and overall, the half-burger I ate was extremely enjoyable.

Where to Eat on "the Circle" in Waco, TX: Rudy's and Whataburger
… and after.

The fries? I was not a fan of the fries. Dense, hard, and sliced too thinly for my taste. I also noted that everything seemed overly salty but that could just be that I don’t eat at fast food restaurants often.

The meal was served with recyclable mini-tubs of ketchup and spicy ketchup.

Both establishments were clean, friendly, and convenient for our I-35 route. I would absolutely stop at both of them again, next time skipping fries at Whataburger. If you find yourself in Waco or are just passing through, make sure to check out these two Texas gems on The Circle.

Have you been to either of these chain restaurants? What are your thoughts on them? 

Meeting the Meat at Masonic Village Farm

Meeting the Meat at Masonic Village Farm

I recently had the opportunity to tour Masonic Village Farm in Elizabethtown, PA, with the PA Beef Council as part of their Beef Month May incentive. I jumped at the opportunity, as I am always interested in learning more about the industry. It’s important to know where our food comes from. Meat and vegetables don’t come from grocery stores, they come from farms.

Meeting the Meat at Masonic Village Farm

A friend asked what bent I had in touring Masonic Village Farm and honestly, I didn’t have one.  While I prefer purchasing pasture-raised and grass-finished meat that has not been treated with antibiotics and extra hormones, I don’t always do so. I do purchase the nondescript meat at the grocery store with no farm name on it because it is economical and some weeks are financially tighter than others.

Following is what I learned from the tour of Masonic Village Farm and from the following industry experts: Mathew Meals (Deputy Secretary of Animal Agriculture in PA), Frank Stoltzfus (farm manager at Masonic Village Farm), Darwin Nissley (farmer), Mike Smucker (butcher and processor at Smucker’s Meats), Jim Hogue (nutrition consultant for feedlots), Dr. Elizabeth Santini (veterinarian with PA Department of Agriculture).

Meeting the Meat at Masonic Village Farm
Wisdom guards.

Masonic Village was built in 1910 as a farm and community for those in the order of the Masons. The first building on the grounds was the Grand Lodge and today the campus has swelled to accommodating 1,400 residents in both long-term and continual care. The grounds are picturesque and well-manicured, orderly and peaceful. A stately tree-lined drive leads to the farm and passes many stone buildings dotted along fields. Elegant formal gardens with a cheerful fountain reminded me somewhat of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.

Meeting the Meat at Masonic Village Farm

1,000 acres of the land at Masonic Village Farm and Retirement Community is farmland. Because this is such a publicly visible place, the care and quality of animal life is transparent to both residents and visitors as they walk around, explore the grounds, and take part on tours.

Masonic Village Farm is a cow-calf operation, meaning that they aren’t just a feedlot. They don’t purchase calves to fatten them up before slaughter, the calves are born on the farm and are raised by their mothers in the pastures.

There are over 500 acres of grassland  and row crops like corn, barley, and hay at Masonic Village Farm and all of this is used to feed the cattle, which are a combination of purebred short-horn herd and a crossbred herd. They are one of the largest short-horn cattle producers with their 300-head finishing facility that finishes up to 600 cows per year but in terms of factory farms, this one is on the smaller size. Two key words I kept hearing over and over are efficiency and stewardship. The circle of life at Masonic Village Farm looks like this:

1. Heifers are artificially inseminated between 22-24 months and, “If she comes back without a calf or if she’s open, we’ll feed her for a bit on the line but she’ll be the best McDonald’s meal you’ll ever eat.” That struck me as harsh and cold but I assume this sort of pragmatism is common in the beef industry. Females are culled for reproductive issues but Paul Stoltzfus, farm manager, said that as time goes on, the fewer and fewer reproductive issues there are.

“Culling is a way of genetic self-healing in the herd,” says Paul Stoltzfus.

2. Calves are birthed in the early Spring when it is cool outside. It is healthier for the calves when it’s cold because there are fewer flies and less chance of illness and disease than in high humidity and heat. They calve 180 pairs and keep 20% of the calves. Right after birth, the calves are taken into a building for castration and tagging and in July they are given a double vaccination but other than those brief times inside they are raised entirely outside with their mothers in the pasture. Ground that is too rocky, steep, or wet to grow row crops is where the cattle feed on grass. Pastures are divided into sections called a 6-paddock rotation, where they’re fed for several days in one section before being moved to the next paddock. This allows the grass to fertilize and regrow and the ground to not become trampled. Cows don’t want to eat where they drop manure so they are always ready to move into the next paddock when it is time.

All of the grounds at Masonic Village Farm can be walked by the cattle. To conserve stream beds where cattle cross, concrete paths have been laid so the banks don’t erode and the ground doesn’t flatten. By using a combination of calf-fed and yearling-fed cattle, they are able to constantly have beef ready to go on the market even though the calves are all born at the same time.

3.  When calves are ready to be weaned in September, they are put into the finishing barn to plump up in preparation for the processing facility where they are butchered and sold. I wasn’t ready for the assault on my senses when I walked into the finishing barn. The cattle were in one area, deep manure sucking at their hoofs as they walked around. They did have room to walk and they were not crammed in but the scent and visual was overpowering for me. Some cows had manure caked to their bellies and sides, probably from lying in the muck.

The finishing barn at Masonic Village Farm is set up to be run by one person thanks to an automated chute system that drops the feed in front of the cows with the push of a button. Efficiency. Although water can get into the barn it can’t get out so there is no runoff or contamination of the land, which is an environmental concern with factory farms. All manure gets hauled to a different building two times per year and is used as fertilizer for crops as needed.

4. The heifers birth the calves, they all consume the pasture, corn and other grains are grown, cows eat the grains, and their manure fertilizes the crops. It’s a tidy little circle.

In 2013, 100% of the beef that came from Masonic Village Farm was graded choice or prime. Beef is sold on the grade and yield of each animal so their main goal is to produce a healthy cow who yields as much weight with as high a quality as possible. Efficiency. The finishing weight is usually in the high 1,300-pound range and each animal is weighed when they come into the facility and when they leave so they can monitor the efficiency of specific rations. There are very few pulls for treatment of illness because this is generally a healthy herd.

Meeting the Meat at Masonic Village Farm

Pennsylvania is a corn-deficit area, meaning that we consume more corn than we grow.  Masonic Village Farm grows what the cows eat so in that way they are self-sustaining. Cows in the feedlot are fed a ration containing fermented or pickled corn mash for roughage. Various grains are added for specific performance, as well as protein supplements. Every ration is filled to meet specific standards and specifications. Efficiency is key.

Meeting the Meat at Masonic Village Farm

Raising these cattle is a business. As such, their goal is to get more for less — less feed, less labor, less cost. Grass-fed finishing is not done at Masonic Village Farm because they want to produce as much weight as possible and corn produces 50% more weight in less time than grass. According to Masonic Village Farm, grass-fed beef is a niche market and cattle are inefficient feeders so they are unable to create enough beef to satisfy their own needs as a business by finishing the cattle on grass. Masonic Village Farm is filling a need that the public wants and they have found that the majority of consumers don’t care whether the beef is grass-finished or not, as long as it’s of a high quality and affordable.

“Grass-finished vs. feedlot finished: it’s not a good beef vs. bad beef scenario, it’s just different.” – Paul Stoltzfus

Masonic Village Farm has a PA Preferred certified farm market that’s open year-round where you can purchase meat raised right on the farm. One can find fruit like apples and berries that come directly from the farm’s orchard and there is a pick-your-own fruit option available. Thanks to cold storage, apples can be purchased throughout the year. This moderately-sized farm market also features local produce from seven major vegetable growers in the area, baked goods, fruit butters, sauces, and jams for sale.

The growing season is 5 days late when you look at a 30-year snapshot and 2-3 weeks late when you look at the 5-year snapshot.

Masonic Village Farms offers educational programs for groups ranging from pre-K to university to residents. They have an orchard to office program where customers can order fresh produce and have it delivered to the doorstep. This is a great opportunity for offices to eat healthily and support local agriculture. Of interest to social media marketers, the orchard manager has mainly been using Facebook advertising to target their main consumer group which is females, age 20s-30s, in the Elizabethtown area. He has found it more successful and less expensive than advertising in the newspaper. Buildings are recycled on the Masonic Village Farm grounds. For example, what was once the chicken barn is now the groundskeeping building and what was once the old dairy operations is now the maintenance building. Stewardship. Everything I saw was very clean and well-cared for throughout the campus.

Masonic Village Farm is the first farm in the Northeast to receive a National Environmental Stewardship award for their dedication to sustainable farming. The Conoy Creek Restoration Project is a legacy sediment project put together in conjunction with F&M and other groups to remove the sediment in the mill ponds and streams to recreate the natural banks, floodplain, and wetland that existed before dams were put in for mills. The DEP funded this project and it has been a great success both locally and the whole way down to the Chesapeake Bay.

My overall impression of Masonic Village Farm and Community is that it is an efficiently sustaining and transparent campus whose goal is to serve residents and raise beef cattle in an environmentally sound way to be good stewards of the land beneath their feet.

For more information on Masonic Village Farm, visit their website.

You can learn more about the PA Beef Council here.

I’ll be writing another post in the near future on specific questions and concerns that our group had for the panel of experts, like safety, antibiotics, and hormones. Stay tuned!

Disclaimer: I was invited on this tour by the PA Beef Council and they also provided the panel of experts. I was not compensated in any way for this tour (although Masonic Village Farm did provide a picnic-style lunch). All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Easy Weeknight Pasta and Sausage Skillet Recipe

Easy Weeknight Pasta and Sausage Skillet Recipe

Despite the fact that I enjoy slow cooking and think nothing of marinading pork adobo for three days, taking a week to cure a batch of bacon, or allowing a slow rise of dough in refrigerator before baking, sometimes a quick and easy meal is the way to go. We’re always busy here in our household doing something. School, field trips and outings, entertaining guests, the endless chores that come with owning a largish country house containing four humans and four four-legged animals, work and blogging, playing and having fun … rest assured that just because we are here all day long, it isn’t always easy to keep everything balanced!

Easy Weeknight Pasta and Sausage Skillet Recipe
Ingredients, clockwise from top left: olive oil, garlic, chorizo sausage, pipette pasta, broccolini

There are also my personal hobbies like eating reading books, cooking and baking, and current events.

Yes, I did list current events as a hobby. I have breaking news alerts set up on my phone on certain topics so I know the very latest about what’s happening in the great, big world out there. I’ve enjoyed current events since we regularly had to choose one to share with our class in high school and I’ve been hooked ever since. Right now I’m staying on top of MH370, the Ukraine situation, and a spreading Ebola virus. Oh, and did you hear that the Black Plague was pneumonic and not bubonic?! My world is rocked right now.

Seriously, you should read that article. Fleas didn’t cause it! Amazing! I am fascinated by viruses and have eaten read The Hot Zone about a dozen times, in case you were wondering.

Some days, all I have the energy to accomplish in terms of dinner is a quick and easy meal and this one fits the bill. It makes more than enough for this family of four to eat several times throughout the week. This base recipe stands well on its own but can be easily dressed up to add variety when eating it as leftovers. Add in your favorite seasonings, sauces, or dips to the leftovers for a new spin on a basic, yet satisfying meal. A friend suggested using meatless chorizo, a great idea for vegetarians!

Easy Weeknight Pasta and Sausage Skillet Recipe
Voilà! Dinner is served.

This is a great and easy weeknight pasta and sausage skillet recipe that shouldn’t take you any more than 30 minutes from start to finish. It’s a keeper!

Easy Weeknight Pasta and Sausage Skillet with Broccolini
This is a quick and easy meal to make on a Monday night and change up a few more times throughout the week as leftovers.
Write a review
Print
Total Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/4 c. olive oil
  2. 1 lb. sausage, your favorite kind
  3. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 bunch broccolini, washed and coarsely chopped
  5. 1 lb. pasta, your favorite kind
  6. 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  7. Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Boil a large pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
While pasta is cooking
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove sausage from casings (discard casings) and add sausage to the hot oil, breaking it apart as cooks through, about 5-6 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic to the sausage once it is no longer pink and cook, stirring constantly for one minute or until fragrant.
  3. Stir in prepared broccolini, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the skillet from heat and set aside.
  5. Combine pasta and sausage mixture in a serving bowl and stir in cheese.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Notes
  1. This recipe stands well on its own but it lends excellently to different sauces when served as leftovers.
  2. Stir-in ideas: cayenne pepper, spicy dip, white sauce, chive cream cheese, dijon mustard sauce, cilantro
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/


The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now

Pinterest is one of my favorite internet tools. If you’re a visual person who enjoys looking at organized lists of pretty pictures and you’re not on Pinterest, you should get on that. One of the best new-ish features on Pinterest is that there are unlimited “secret” boards so I can pin research for articles, gift ideas for friends and family, and all the exercise-oriented  stuff that I never use and no one is the wiser. 

Those are my secret boards. Guess they’re not so secret anymore!

Fine Craft Living
An all-around beautiful beer.

If you’re new to Pinterest, it can be daunting to get started. Where do you begin? What kind of boards should you create and who should you follow? For beginners, create whatever kind of boards make you happy! You can always edit them later and you really can’t go wrong. 

Pinterest will recommend boards and pinners for you to follow but if you’re looking for a few of my favorite pinners on Pinterest, here are some. And feel free to follow me, too. I recently passed 5,000 followers on Pinterest which is a huge milestone for me and I’m humbled and thrilled that so many people out there find my pins inspirational enough to feed their addiction along with me.

Because it is. Addicting. Pindiction?

I briefly tried to run two Pinterest boards, one for myself (Amber Roth De Grace) and one for Fine Craft Living. That was just too much, what with homeschooling two kids and freelance writing and running a household. I only have so many hours in the day, you guys! I’m just using my personal Pinterest now and have boards like Eat, Go, Drink, Hair, Self-Decoration, and Home.  As you can see, these already align well with what Fine Craft Living is all about. If you’re on Pinterest, check me out!  

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living
Amber Roth De Grace

Here are a few of my favorite boards and why you should follow them. There are many other fantastic ones out there but these are some whose content I re-pin most often.

Half Baked Harvest: food and recipes

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living
Half Baked Harvest

 

  PurePearls.com: pearls, gemstones, jewelry, travel, fashion

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living
PurePearls.com

 

 how sweet eats: food and recipes, home goods, arts and crafts, design, fashion

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living
how sweet eats

 

  one part gypsy: clothing, bohemian everything, home goods

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living
one part gypsy

 

 Plum Deluxe: travel, food, home goods, quotes, design

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living
Plum Deluxe

 

 Kathryn Meeker: travel

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living
Kathryn Meeker

 

 Bahamas Ministry of Tourism: all things Bahamas, food, travel, design, fashion

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living
Bahamas Ministry of Tourism

 

 Stone Brewing Co.: craft beer, homebrew, travel, design, food and recipes

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living
Stone Brewing Co.

 

 Heather Physioc: vegetarian food and recipes, design, fashion

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living
Heather Physioc

 

 Four Peaks Brewing Company: craft beer, homebrew, food and recipes, design

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living
Four Peaks Brewing Company

 

 Haiku Kwon: travel, food and recipes, quotes

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living
Haiku Kwon

 

 My Life’s A Trip: travel

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living
My Life’s A Trip

 

 Keegan Adriance: food and recipes, design, home goods, fashion

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living
Keegan Adriance

 

 Norrie Vladuchick: food and recipes, costuming, fashion, design, handcraft goods

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living
Norrie Vladuchick

 

 Megan Powell: craft beer, food and recipes, fashion, home goods, quotes

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living
Megan Powell

 

 Tabitha Phillips: food and recipes, childhood, home goods, fashion, handcraft goods

The 16 Best Pinterest Accounts To Follow Right Now | Fine Craft Living
Tabitha Phillips

 

  What are your favorite Pinterest accounts to follow?