Thursday, May 30, 2013

52 weeks of baking: 22 - Snickerdoodle cookies

My two favorite things, Brendon and butter! Man, this boy. He is in Temple and I miss him. He will be home tomorrow night and mine for the rest of the summer. Counting down the seconds.

I think I've talked before about how fortunate we are to have people in our lives who treat us like family. Well, we are spoiled. In your second year of pharmacy school, you have the option to be a mentor to a first year pharmacy student. Of course Brendon signed up. His mentee is a really sweet and awesome guy who just so happens to be from Temple. And he and his family were sweet enough to welcome Brendon into their home for the past couple weeks while he's been doing his rotations at the VA hospital there. They are the kindest folks and we are so grateful. So so grateful. So, as a wee thank you (although this is not enough at all!), we baked snickerdoodle cookies for their family as well as for the pharmacists that Brendon has been working with. Because everyone loves snickerdoodles and it's extra fun to say.

Attempting to figure out why my butter, sugar, and egg mixture looks a bit like jello pudding. I know I have mentioned how Brendon being in the kitchen with me usually ends badly. This time, he was in charge of measuring out the sugar for the cookies. I thought nothing of it, this was a small task. However, he measured out the amount of sugar for the coating and not for the cookies, so instead of 1 1/2 cups of sugar, we just had 1/3. I noticed something was odd when I added the eggs, but it wasn't until I tasted the dough that I realized what was wrong. Thankfully I am a cookie dough fiend and connoisseur, so we just added more sugar and the cookies were saved. Though I just might have to kick Mr. Hogan out of the kitchen for a while.

This recipe I have for these snickerdoodles is amazing. It's so easy and has never failed me. It's long though, so I'm not typing it out unless someone is in serious need. These are phenomenal right out of the oven, delicious three days later, and reeeeally good dipped in coffee. Kudos to Brendon for discovering that last one. And I leave you with a creepy shot of me, because you need a laugh:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Great Austin Burger Quest - Mighty Fine

Our most recent stop on the Burger Quest: Mighty Fine. Mighty Fine is a fast food style joint, I believe started by the folks that own the Austin franchise of Rudy's Bar-B-Q (or so I over heard the cashier telling the guests in front of us). I love me some Rudy's and this place is pretty dang good too! I don't know how we stumbled upon this place, I think someone recommended it to us. We frequent the one in South Austin, but there are a few up north as well.

They write your order on the bag your burger will come in and they always ask for your first name and last initial. We like to give fun names. This time I was too slow to think of something clever, but we had just watched the new Star Trek (this deserves it's own paragraph), so Brendon was Captain James Tiberius Kirk. We've been all sorts of people, but we tend to stick to HP; recently we've been Percy Weasley and Penelope Clearwater, James and Lilly Potter, and one time Brendon was Voldemort. Although they wouldn't call out Voldemort, I guess they were just scared of saying the Dark Lord's name out loud.

It's a pretty good basic burger. Their menu is simple, either a half or quarter pound burger with or without cheese. Then you pick red (ketchup), yeller (mustard), or white (mayo) and your standard burger toppings. I got my go-to plain jane burger, cheese, mayo, and pickles. Brendon got some lettuce on his. Have I told you that I hate lettuce? Especially shredded lettuce? Oh dear lord, shredded lettuce is the nastiest. Off topic! These burgers are good. I would liken them to Five Guys. They're grilled fresh and they make the patties in the store. You can actually see them make them! There's a cool little window into their prep area and their kitchen is open as well. They're flavorful and juicy and although the bun is a little plain, as far as fast food burgers go, this place is fancy.

I do not like their fries. Just putting that out there now. I am not really a reliable judge though because I'm not nuts about fries in general, but they're crinkle cut and I hate me some crinkle cut fries. Brendon loves them. They don't really have a whole lot of options as far as sides go, but they do have a "locals" menu that offers Frito pie. I love Frito pie. So American. I've never tried it (seems a little too American to get a burger and a Frito pie), but it's nice to know it's there.

Have you ever been to Rudy's? The set up here is basically the same. Big long tables with lots of chairs. Very casual. The building itself isn't anything special (very much an existing space in a shopping center), but the place is clean and organized. The customer service here is on point. These are probably the nicest cashiers you'll find. They always ask how your day is and they're always so cheerful. I think they're better than the folks at Chick-Fil-A and that's saying something. Kudos to the team and management running this place, they have got customer service down.

It's on the high end of fast food prices, but it's definitely a good deal. It's a quality product for sure, and you're only paying about $5 for a good burger. As seems to be tradition, the burgers don't come anything, your sides and drinks are extra. But for excellent service and yummy food, I think it's a great deal.

Blue. Bell. Milkshakes. I generally hate ice cream. The only exception is Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla. I LOVE that stuff, and that's what Mighty Fine uses to make their shakes. Oh their shakes. We have only eaten burgers at Mighty Fine a couple times, but we have been a gazillion times to get shakes. Like an embarrassing number of times. I was ecstatic when I found out they have Blue Bell ice cream. A chocolate shake with Blue Bell vanilla is my happy place. It's what my mom made us growing up and it's the only kind of shake I'll consume. They have multiple flavors, including the local flavor and Brendon's usual, lemon. They have seasonal flavors as well, the most recent was banana cream pie, Brendon loved it. I always stick to chocolate.

Also they have a chandelier in the woman's bathroom. It's the nicest bathroom ever for a burger joint. ALSO, they have a hand washing machine. Brendon uses it every time we go. Because he's 8 years old.

Forgive the quality of the photos, we went on this burger quest spontaneously so I had to use the ol' iPhone camera. But it takes pretty dang good pictures!

OH, and go see Star Trek. Seriously. It's so good and so cute and endlessly entertaining. I may have enjoyed it more than Iron Man 3, but don't tell Tony Stark. The effects are wonderful. I love the sparkly blue trail that the ships leave when going into warp. It's the little things you guys. And of course, Spock, I love you.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Autism Speaks 8k

Sunday, Brendon and I ran the Autism Speaks 8k at Camp Mabry here in Austin. This is the reason I started running again, actually, I registered for this race to force myself to start running again. Coffee Bean was the major sponsor, so a few of my fellow caffeine dealers ran it as well. Autism is something Brendon and I care a lot about and have personal experience with, so it was cool to be there for this and to work with this organization.

8k is about 5 miles, which is the farthest I think I've ever run. Woo, for some that may not be impressive, but for me, it's something. This was actually my first real race. I've run 5k obstacle courses before (I don't think that counts) but never just a straight up run. And I loved it! I love the positive energy everyone has and I even loved the competitive aspect of it. I did alright, about how I expected. I was basically right in the middle placement-wise, 134 out of like 260 runners and 17 out of 34 in my age group. Brendon would have kicked butt fosho, but he hung back to run with me. I'll get faster babe I promise!

The weather for this bad boy was gross. It was POURING when we left and raining when we got there, but luckily it stopped just in time for the race. However, it was humid beyond belief. Like running through soup. And phewwww, the course at Camp Mabry is hilly! It's a loop you do twice and the first half of the loop is easy peasy, but the second is full of hills. Cray cray hills. It was a lot tougher than our usual run at Town Lake, but it was fun. Also there were boy scouts cheering us on and giving high fives so that was motivating. Can't stop running in front of some 10 year olds!

Duane and Whitney, two of my team members representing our little store in the hills! Duane got 7th overall (!!) and 1st in his age group. He's a pro fosho.

It was a lot of fun and I look forward to running more races! And doing better! One day I'll place and get one of those cool medals. And by cool I mean cheapo, but still, I want one.

And in case you missed this face on instagram, here's my boo:

Scary. Looks a bit like a demonic Joseph Gordon Levitt. On crack. Run on, y'all!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

52 weeks of baking: 21 - apple crumble

Sometimes, you're alone for a week so you have to bake for one. WHOMP WHOMP. But really, Brendon eats a lot of what I bake and I just wanted something small this week. I also was feeling extra lazy and didn't want to visit ye olde grocery. So I took stock of what I had in my kitchen and settled on a little personal apple crumble. I googled them briefly to make sure that someone else had done this before me, saw how simple the recipes were, and said to myself, "I need dessert within the hour. Let's do this." So I did.

Guided by what I found on my brief google exploration, I made it up as I went. So here's what I threw together:

1 peeled apple, sliced into thin slices
A couple generous squirts of lemon juice
2 tbs flour
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs butter plus more for greasing baking dish
2 tbs of oats
A few generous dashes of pumpkin pie spice
Heavy cream and powdered sugar, whipped for serving

These are guesstimates, although I did use a tablespoon to dole out my ingredients, I really just flung them into a bowl. Nothing exact about it. I tossed my apple slices in the lemon juice and then laid them in my greased baking dish, I used a half quart Pyrex (surprise!). Then I mixed up my flour and brown sugar, then chopped my butter in with my new found love, the pastry blender. Added the oats and spices to my mixture and then sprinkled it on top of my apple slices. Popped it in the oven for 35 minutes at 325 degrees (although my oven is strange, it's probably 350). While it was baking I whipped up some very slightly sweetened whipped cream. Because whipped cream on everything, okay?

This was supposed to be a single serving type deal, but I cut mine in half and it was more than enough for me and I have leftovers! Also, it is GOOD. And I'm not real crazy about cooked apples either. But this business is yummy. And fast. It took me maybe 10 minutes to throw together. I love me a quick dessert. And actually, this would probably make a great breakfast. I know what I'm having tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Baby Sophie and things

This picture is real old. It's from December of 2007, right after little baby Sophie came into our lives. She still lays like that, she's just exponentially heavier.

Brendon is in Temple for his first hospital rotation and it sucks. He'll be back Friday and then gone again from Tuesday to Friday. I know I am a huge wuss and spouses have to spend much longer amounts of time away from each other, but I shesh hate being away from Brendon. I miss him so much it hurts. But he is having fun and learning all sorts of things, so I am happy for this opportunity. I just miss him. A lot. And it's only Tuesday.

Luckily today I had good entertainment! My little sister come up from San Marcos to hang. We went on a run and had some delicious lunch (btw, Blue Dahlia Bistro is where it's at). Sister time is always bueno! Especially when you're feeling lonely!

Brendon and I are running our 8k in less than a week! Sunday's the big day. We did a practice run this past Sunday and it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. We added almost two miles to our usual run and it was very doable. It was my best run to date and I think I finally found my happy place while running. My lungs and legs weren't all that happy, but they were working together and it felt good. My previous two runs were real bad, so it was rewarding to have a good one, especially added those two miles! Feeling myself get stronger is the best. Although I am still sore and my poor left calf is a mess. Get it together, calf!

Now, back to the random old picture of a cat (not really that random when you consider it's me). I love animals. Seriously. Possibly more than I love humans most of the time. I have this thing, where animals, all animals, make me cry. I don't know why, but pictures and videos and actual animals make me tear up like a baby. Especially when they are not okay, or need to be adopted. It's a thing and it's silly, but it's who I am I guess. This video made me lose my cool of course. The weather is wild and it is scary. I have too many loved ones up north (in Moore, Oklahoma specifically, so glad they're okay!), those tornadoes need to chill out. There are more storms coming and it's stressing me out. Rain, rain, go away! Actually, just come to South Texas, we need you! Tornadoes, y'all can just disappear though. My thoughts go out to all the people affected as well as their four legged friends. Watching that video made me happy, but it also made me think of all those that may not have had that luck. BUH, don't think like that, don't think like that.

I don't know where I'm going with this. I miss my husband, I love all the animals, and I want everyone up north to be safe. Please be safe. I need to bake something.

And for smiles, how'd she get so fat?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

52 weeks of baking: 20 - maple cream pie

Let me forward this by stating, this pie was a bit of a failure. But only a bit and mostly just cosmetically. I was in the mood for pie so I went to my go-to, Smitten Kitchen, and found this recipe for Nutmeg Maple Cream Pie. It had simple ingredients and featured the best pie crust recipe ever (seriously, get with this pie crust. It's stupid easy and stupid delish).

I had a helper this week. My handsome husband has had most of the week off so he was home to play in the kitchen. This is where we went wrong. Both of us in the kitchen is fun, it's how we usually make dinner, but fun = you don't have your baking game face on. We tend to giggle and throw spatulas at each other, not the best environment for serious cooking.

Our downfall was when we were reducing the maple syrup. Brendon was stirring it and I was grinding nutmeg and definitely not paying attention and we waited a little too long and it started caramelizing. So when I added the cold cream, BOOM, all that maple syrup just jumped up and went quickly from liquid to stringy bits to a big ball of caramelized maple syrup (thinking back now, I bet it would have been yummy) floating in half and half. Not quite the smooth mixture we were looking for. I thought it was done for, but I took our hunk of maple and melted it down into another pot while warming the cream and then mixed the two together. And it worked! A tad more toasty than it ought to have been, but it worked.

Our next mistake, well, my mistake, was forgetting that our oven apparently runs a little hot and not setting it 25 degrees lower. So we had a little burn-age on the top of our pie. The top and edges were festively blackened (the crust maaaay have been par-baked a bit too long too, oops. Also, ugliest pie crust everrrr, finishing edges is not my thing apparently). 

I got this pastry blender for my birthday! Welcome to my life pastry blender, I love you.

Par-bakin' with beans! Now thanks to this pie and Amazon, I have real ceramic pie weights!

Did you know what an actual... nut of nutmeg looks like? It's so neat! I had no idea!

Even screwing up as much as we did, this pie tastes amazing. The ugliest pie I've ever made, yes, but it is freaking delicious. I can't imagine how good it would be without the errors. And yes, it has liver spots. SO APPETIZING. On the real though, it is GOOD. We had three pieces last night.

Also, one of the many perks of having Brendon in the kitchen? Someone to help document! Too bad his pictures always come out like this:

Quality photography, y'all. And yes, that's a miller lite. BOOZIN' AND BAKIN'. JK, it was an ingredient in the dinner I was making. But I'm not saying we didn't finish it off. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Great Austin Burger Quest - Hopdoddy

Hopdoddy Burger Bar. If you like burgers and live in Austin (and there's one in Dallas now!) you know about Hopdoddy. If you don't, what's wrong with you? We have eaten there a gazillion times, but we still needed a burger quest visit. We went to the original on South Congress with a couple friends and it was awesome as always.

Brendon got the Thunderbird which was the specialty burger of the day. It was a green chili chicken patty with a fried egg (always a win), roasted poblanos, chipotle mayo, pepper jack cheese, and tortilla strips. I had the Primetime, which was a fancy beef patty, brie, truffle aioli, argula, and steak sauce. Both these burgers were boss, as is every burger I've had there. Brendon loved the chicken patty, although he was a little wary at first. Between us we've had almost every burger on the menu. Brendon's favorite at the moment is the Terilingua and my standard is the Ahi Tuna Burger. That Ahi Tuna Burger is where it's at. And their buns... oh man. They bake them in house (they make every thing they serve basically, from their patties to their ice cream!) and it smells like heaven. The best thing about this place is that their ingredients are just so good. They put the best things on their burgers and everything is super fresh and super local. They even have a chalk board where they write what Texan farms the ingredients are coming from!

The french fries. I think we've discussed how I'm not really a fan of fries, but I love Hopdoddy's fries. They're thin and crispy and just perfect. We actually kind of got a funky batch this visit, kind of like the bottom of the fry bowl. Usually they're more golden than brown, but even then they were still really good! Fries are pretty much it when it comes to sides. Although they do have milkshakes! I've never had room after my burger to try a milkshake, but I've heard they're delicious.

The only downfall of Hopdoddy is how it works. You wait in an usually ridiculous line, order and pay for your burgers at the counter, are assigned a table, and then you wait for your food at said table while a cocktail type waitress gets you anything else you need. So theoretically you'll have two tabs if you order your burger and then get say, a margarita or beer at your table. Not terrible, but not good. The line is always crazy, unless you go at like 2 or 3 in the afternoon. In the evenings it wraps around the building, although it does move surprisingly fast and is definitely worth the wait. It's a cute little place, but it's just always so busy.

These aren't the cheapest burgers in the world but they are definitely made out of quality ingredients so I think it's a fair price. Your burger comes with nothing, you order fries on the side, but the fries are a good portion, Brendon and I split the smaller order of fries and it's perfect. The drinks aren't real cheap, and I have no idea if they have specials but they have lots of fun drinks and local brews. Pricier than your usual burger joint, but not by much and it's worth it.

Green chili queso. This queso, y'all. Put it on everything. It's meant for your fries and but is heavenly on everything. And alone... like good enough to eat it with a spoon and/or just pour it into your mouth. It's amazing and you have to get it. I need some right now.

Overall, Hopdoddy is amazing. The awkward ordering style and insane amount of people constantly there are my only qualms, but those burgers are so damn good it's worth it. If you are ever near one, GO or we might not be able to be friends.

The semester is over (WOOO!) and Brendon's pharmacy school partner in crime, Mike (top left), is moving back to El Paso to finish his last two years of school. Last night was his going away shindig, and we celebrated good times with burgers and then believe it or not we went to 6th Street. And not even West 6th! We played pool and shuffleboard and I got verbally abused by a homeless man for wearing the Denver Bronco's colors. It was a good night and we will miss Mike. Brendon's going to be lonely without his bff here. I guess some road trips to El Paso are in order!