Beer Camp Across America

The Mid-Atlantic Stop on the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America Tour

Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across America 2014 is an innovative new event that is happening nationwide this summer. It is a celebration put in motion by Sierra Nevada but what makes it special is that it’s for the entire craft beer community. The Beer Camp will begin on July 19th in Chico, CA, and pass through five other cities before culminating in Mills River, NC, where Sierra Nevada is opening their second facility this year {congratulations!}.

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp

Beer Camp Across America

 

Sierra Nevada has given all breweries an open invitation to showcase their craft at each Beer Camp location. In the Mid-Atlantic stop held at Penn Treaty Park in Philadelphia, local breweries will have the opportunity to pour beer beside breweries like Ninkasi, 3 Floyds, Ballast Point, and Firestone Walker. Proceeds from the Mid-Atlantic stop will go to Brewers of PA, an organization that exists to support the craft beer community in Pennsylvania and stay abreast of laws that affect the industry.

 

We have a saying in this industry that the craft brewing community is 99% asshole free.” – Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Brewery

Every Beer Camp location will offer five hours of beer sampling, entertainment provided by the March Fourth Marching Band, a commemorative sample glass, and a collection of food vendors (note: food is not included in the cost of your ticket).

There are 12 breweries creating collaboration beers with Sierra Nevada and they will be released in 12-packs, an adventurous and bold undertaking. These beers will be available at every Beer Camp stop as well as being packaged for resale. This is a video about the collaboration and it brought tears to my eyes to watch it and hear the passion and love that this industry has for its art and for each other. Please watch it and share with your friends!

Sierra Nevada had its start like many other breweries, right at home. It is always an inspiration to see homebrewers taste success through their art.

What Mid-Atlantic breweries will you see in Philadelphia?

This festival is open to any and all breweries in PA, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, DC, and New Jersey. If you’re a brewery and not representing yourself at this festival, why not!? I’m happy to see these local breweries among those who will be pouring at Philly’s Beer Camp:

Spring House Brewing Company

South County Brewing Company

Tröegs Brewing Company

Victory Brewing Company

Lancaster Brewing Company

Liquid Hero Brewing Company

St. Boniface Brewing Company

 

What other details should you know?

Beer Camp Across America
Photo courtesy of Sierra Nevada

The date for the Mid-Atlantic stop is Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 and runs from 12pm-5pm. 

This is a 21+ event, for obvious reasons. No one under the age of 21 will be admitted, even if it’s a fresh wee one snuggled close to you in a carrier. Leave your pets at home because no one wants feathers or fur in their beer (plus they’re just not allowed at the festival).

Tickets will cost you $65 unless you’re entering as a DD, in which case you’ll pay $30. An ID will be required at the door to verify your age. There is a nominal fee that is charged for your online ticket purchase ($2.95 for the full entry with beer and $1.90 for the DD entry) and you’ll get your tickets in the email you provide. Tickets are non-refundable. 

Use the hashtag #beercamptour for this event.

You can travel along with the Beer Camp! I couldn’t handle it but maybe you can. Tickets for that cost $400.

Penn Treaty Park is located at 1341 North Delaware Ave in Philadelphia. 

 

Head to the Beer Camp Across America website for more information on the Mid-Atlantic and all the other stops.

I would love to make it to the Beer Camp experience. How about you?

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.
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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.
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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.

 

Photo Essay of the Weirdly Wonderful "Uncommon Objects" in Austin, Texas

Photo Essay of the Weirdly Wonderful “Uncommon Objects” in Austin, Texas

South Congress in Austin, Texas, is home to a collection of vibrant art galleries, boutiques resplendent with vintage boots and Mom jeans cut off to a 90s-lovin’ length, happening eateries, and open-air markets. 

I’ll go more in-depth on the sights and sounds of South Congress in a later post.

This post is a photo essay of Uncommon Objects, located right in the South Congress mix. Interestingly enough, I didn’t notice the big sign on the door telling patrons that photography is not permitted.

Or did I?

Uncommon Objects is a curio shop full of unusual taxidermy, antlers and bones, medical equipment, creepy dolls, and a thousand other truly uncommon objects. There are over twenty sellers who have curated this gallery of antique amazingness and everyone is bound to find something they want to take home. I can’t think of a better Austin souvenir than a javelina, you know?

All photos were taken on my iPhone 5C using the Hipstamatic app and have not been altered in any way.

(click on the smaller gallery photographs to see them full-size)

Photo Essay of the Weirdly Wonderful "Uncommon Objects" in Austin, Texas

Photo Essay of the Weirdly Wonderful "Uncommon Objects" in Austin, Texas

Photo Essay of the Weirdly Wonderful "Uncommon Objects" in Austin, Texas

Photo Essay of the Weirdly Wonderful "Uncommon Objects" in Austin, Texas

Photo Essay of the Weirdly Wonderful "Uncommon Objects" in Austin, Texas

Photo Essay of the Weirdly Wonderful "Uncommon Objects" in Austin, Texas

Photo Essay of the Weirdly Wonderful "Uncommon Objects" in Austin, Texas

Photo Essay of the Weirdly Wonderful "Uncommon Objects" in Austin, Texas

Photo Essay of the Weirdly Wonderful "Uncommon Objects" in Austin, Texas

If you find yourself on South Congress, stop by Uncommon Objects but don’t tell them who sent you. Then they’ll know I took photographs of their business and put them online. I won’t ever be allowed on South Congress again. It was a fun and interesting store, a feast for the eyes!

Uncommon Objects is open daily and you can find them in the following places online:

Website

Pinterest

Instagram

Facebook

Twitter

{Disclaimer: I honestly didn’t notice the sign telling me to not photograph the store. I’m not that much of a rebel. Sorry, Uncommon Objects!}

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.
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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? 

Functional Fractals: Mathematical Art For Your Home

Functional Fractals: Mathematical Art For Your Home

I introduced my kids to fractals. We started out simply: drawing a triangle, locating the points, and repeating the pattern as far as we could on a sheet of paper. We drew a window and made a fractal by repeating the window smaller and smaller in the upper left quadrants.

Fractals are repeating patterns. They are found in nature in objects like bird feathers, tree branches, our lungs, ferns, and nautilus shells. They are found in music, of course, as music is mathematics we can hear and fractals are mathematical concepts. Until recently, the idea of fractal mathematics was thought to be too abstract to even think about too much. It wasn’t until Mandelbrot approached the subject and broke it all down that the world was able to embrace this seemingly complex study and view it as simply many small parts repeating and completing the whole. Fractal geometry is all around us and it is beautiful.

Interestingly enough, it appears that the Ancients may have had a better grasp of the fractal nature of life than what we did until Mandelbrot’s “discovery”. Hercules fought the Hydra, a mythical beast whose heads would split into two every time one was cut off. A legend about the inventor of chess portrays him creating this new game for a king and the king enjoying it so much he rewards the inventor with anything he wants. He chooses a grain of rice (or wheat, depending on the version) to be placed on the first square of the chess board, two grains on the next, four on the next, and eight on the next square, and so on and so forth, until the quantity and weight of the grains had become too large to measure. This exponential growth is a fractal concept.

There is quite an interesting video on TED, a talk by Ron Eglash on ‘The fractals at the heart of African designs’. It’s a short 16 or so minutes long and well worth your viewing time. He explains fractals much better than I just have (I’m not a mathematician!) and goes on to show photos and diagrams of fractals at play in African villages and artwork.

So with all this amazing fractal art around us, why not display some functional fractals in your own home? Here are just a few options available. Click through to the original pins that will take you to vendors selling these goods. These are not sponsored pins.

 

Functional Fractals: Mathematical Art For Your Home

Functional Fractals: Mathematical Art For Your Home
Functional Fractals: Mathematical Art For Your Home
Functional Fractals: Mathematical Art For Your Home
Functional Fractals: Mathematical Art For Your Home
Functional Fractals: Mathematical Art For Your Home
Functional Fractals: Mathematical Art For Your Home
Functional Fractals: Mathematical Art For Your Home
Functional Fractals: Mathematical Art For Your Home
Functional Fractals: Mathematical Art For Your Home
Functional Fractals: Mathematical Art For Your Home
Functional Fractals: Mathematical Art For Your Home
Fractal Foundation Online Course is an excellent website to teach you more about fractals. I highly recommend a visit to explore more because math is fun and beautiful!

This selection of functional fractal art and home goods is only scratching the surface of what’s available. Do you have any ideas to add to this list?


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.
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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/


Celebrating all that is finely crafted in life.