Saturday, June 29, 2013

52 weeks of baking: 26 - chocolate caramel brownies

HOLY HORCRUXES HARRY, WE'VE MADE IT HALFWAY. Half way through the year, that's a little scary isn't it? Wasn't it just New Years? Wasn't I just starting this whole baking my life away thing? Well, halfway through and proud of it. I've been a procrastinator lately and baking and blogging on the weekends, which is all fine and good if I have the weekend off, but I don't usually. 

My momma suggested this recipe a couple weeks ago, and of course I was on board. Chocolate and caramel? I mean, hello, yes please. I had to wing it a bit since that recipe calls for "chocolate cake mix" and I don't have any of that around and prefer to make things from scratch. So I made up my own brownie/cake mix and hoped for the best. And by some culinary miracle, it was super successful. Here's my "mix":

2 cups of sugar
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup dutch process cocoa powder

I originally was planning on just rolling with regular cocoa powder, but I ran out (of course) so I subbed in the rest with dutch process, making it a bit darker. I'm down with that though. It made for some deliciously dark brownies.

I mean, look at that. You cannot go wrong with those ingredients.

Drooling yet? These are rich rich rich and yummy and everything you'd think they'd be. The caramel and chocolate layer inside is gooey and delicious and the brownie is so chocolatey and chewy and pretty dang good for making it up on the fly. Mucho success. Thanks for the suggestion Mom, these are winners. For real. Dangerously good.

Hey, here's the first half of the year.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

52 weeks of baking: 25 - molasses cookies

This is not what I planned on baking this week. I originally was going to try out a recipe my momma suggested, however all of a sudden it was Saturday night and I hadn't baked squat. This week! So busy! So boom, molasses cookies happened via a recipe from my Women of the Farm Bureau Cookbook (this book, y'all... so many winners). Because I had all the ingredients and look at that recipe. LOOK AT THE THREE SENTENCE INSTRUCTIONS. So easy. And they turned out SO good. Some of the best cookies I've made ever. I completely overlooked the last sentence of the instructions and missed the powdered sugar. Completely missed it. Ironically, when we were trying them fresh out of the oven, I said to Brendon "these would be really good with sugar on them". Didn't notice until writing this post that the creator of these cookies thought so too. I think I might have added coarse sugar versus powdered, but regardless, they're delish even without sugar.

Don't let the fact that the cookie dough looks an awful lot like dog poo scare you away. I promise, that cookie dough is yummy.

These cookies are great fresh out of the oven, but I think they're even better the next day. They're so soft and chewy, which my cookies never seem to be a day after. They are perfect for breakfast with a glass of cold orange juice. Having cookies for breakfast is acceptable in my house. After sleeping in today (!!!) I sent Brendon a text at work after noshing on some cookies, remarking on how yummy they were, and he confirmed as he too had a breakfast o' cookies. Great minds.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Shiner, TX

We have been all over Texas lately. Tuesday we drove over to Shiner, TX to check out, well, where they make Shiner! It was one of my favorite Texas trips with Brendon so far. Shiner is the cutest little town, we loved it. And the brewery was perfect. It's the coolest little place and so very Texan. We got to take a tour which also included four decent sized samples of beer. All for free! It was the best. You should go!

A lab with beer on the counter? Brendon, you are not using your biochemistry degree correctly.

The bottling room was my favorite. It was like "How it's Made" with a little "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" thrown in. They were bottling up Ruby Red Bird, which is currently my favorite beer. Maybe ever. They can only bottle one type of beer at a time and those big beautiful copper tanks up there can only brew eight types of beer at a time. I loved how small this place was but yet they were churning out so much beer! It's still family owned and operated and they only have 125 employees. What a fun place to work, huh? Oh and you get beer on your lunch break. Some guys stopped by the sample taps for a few little brews on their lunch. Best job ever?

Open your eyes sleepy head!

Yes, we got that ridiculous road sign. It's hanging in our bedroom. Tacky enough for you? I think it's perfect.

After touring the brewery and sampling all sorts of delicious beer, we explored the town a little. They claim to be the "cleanest town in Texas" and I might have to agree! It looked like a little town out of a movie. The houses were so cute! We stopped at a little candy shop (surprise) and then went to the coolest antique store that was also a bar! They serve beer and wine and have the cutest patio in the back. There were SO many beers to choose from. The sweetest lady who ran it let us in on all kinds of beer knowledge, she was a beer guru. Also, she makes a killer coffee fudge with Shiner Blacklager in it. Delicious.

The drive to Shiner is beautiful. We've been driving out and about towards the west lately, it was nice to see a little of the east. Sweet farm houses and rolling hills with the greenest fields. It was so pretty and again I am so thankful for all the rain that has Texas looking so green.

I am getting spoiled rotten with these little trips with Brendon. Can we do this forever? Just had adventures all the time? Life is so good without pharmacy school!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Great Austin Hamburger Quest: Sandy's Hamburgers

We drive by this place all the time and have said we needed to try it. It's a tiny little place, you can either walk up or drive thru. We walked up. It's been there forever, there's a little historical piece on the side of the building telling Sandy's story. I love a good story!


These burgers are of the thin fast food variety, but they're good. And I'm pretty sure they don't make them until your order them. Brendon says they're Whataburger (ironically next door) style burgers. The patties have a great flavor, they're kind of smoky! I ordered my norm; cheese, pickles, and mayo. Brendon got a cheese burger basically all the way (ew, lettuce!). You can add bacon or chili too! They're good burgers. Not phenomenal, but way better than McDonald's or Whataburger for that matter.

Fries. That's it, haha. But they're good as far as fries go. Actually, they're pretty close to McDonald's fries, which are my probably my favorite of fast food fries. So A+ on the fries, Sandy's! There's also custard and shakes and sundaes. Are those sides? Brendon had a dish of ice cream and I had a chocolate shake for dessert. And even though it wasn't Blue Bell, it wasn't bad!

It's not the best, but it's alright. The only tables to sit at are in the fairly small parking lot. And it may or may not have been a little stinky at times. Buuuut there's an okay view of downtown over the building. And it's super close to things we like, like Town Lake! And South Congress. But lets be real, this place is slightly grungy and funky and I was not trying to hang out for a while. It's quirky though?

This place gets kudos for excellent value. Super cheap but filling and yummy! They have a combo deal on Thursdays and Saturdays for a burger, fries, and a drink for $4.99. Super good deal. Ice creams real cheap too!

Ice cream? Or how about the birds that flock around you when you eat at the picnic tables? Or the pigeon with jacked up feet that kept staring at me and made me tear up? I don't have squat. The historical Austiny aspect is nice.

This place was cute and quirky, but with a good measure of grunge. Worth it for sure. I'm sure we'll be back, but I think next time we'll just drive thru. And they've got hotdogs on the menu, and I love a good hotdog. And of course, here's us:

Look at that goof. Two drinks are better than one. Blue powerade and a chocolate shake. Bonus.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

52 weeks of baking: 24 - quick bread(s)

This week when brainstorming what to bake (it's getting harder you guys. (that's what she said?) suggestions, I need them!), I wasn't really in the mood for something sweet. I know, I know. SAY WHAT? And so it has been documented, at one point in her life, Marie was not in the mood for something sweet. Moving on. I decided on bread. Yes, we've discussed how I cannot seem to bake bread to save my life, but I think I've finally figured my oven out (lower baking temps! shorter cooking times!), so I was ready to tackle the bread monster again. And guess what? Success, y'all! And I even went cray cray and baked TWO loaves in one night. Because this recipe is awesome and so easy and bread is yummy so why not?

For the first loaf I stuck with the basic buttermilk version and got with wild the second. For loaf number two, I added some oregano, thyme, subbed olive oil for butter, milk and lemon for buttermilk (because I ran out of buttermilk), and wheat flour for half the all purpose. Oh and I lowered the sugar to one tablespoon. Even in the first version I lowered the sugar to about a third of a cup (and it could go lower for sure), because like I said, I wasn't in the mood for sweet.

The first loaf is delicious, a tad on the sweet side, but pretty dang good. Perfect for breakfast. The second loaf is a tad too herby for my taste, I'd cut back on the herbs and load up on the cheese next time. And maybe skip the whole wheat flour, I am trying to get on board with that, but it's so... wheaty! The second loaf was still good though! Had a slice with a couple eggs fried over easy for dinner. Odd dinner you say? Well, seriously, all I have in my fridge right now is eggs and cheese. And one Miller Lite. Classy!

I could go on and on about how easy this bread is. I've already got the recipe memorized. Mix your dry ingredients, mix your wet ingredients, combine, and bake! Boom, fresh bread whenever you want. Although, it is a quick bread, no yeast involved, so it's slightly dense, but still, it's good and it's bread. And so quick. I love quick. I have the patience of a two year old. Just ask Brendon.

Definitely not perfect, but these babies are miles from my last loaf of bread. The texture is perfect, it's just the magic combination of flavors I have to figure out. Yay for bread that isn't burnt on the outside and doughy on the inside!