Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Great Austin Hamburger Quest: Hill's Cafe

It's been a while since we've burger quested, eh? Our semi-vegetarian lifestyle (which I find explained well as "flexitarian", these folks say it best) has put a bit of a cramp in our questing. However, it is not over! We tried out Hill's Cafe last night, because we heard word that they had a fantastic burger with three different meats on it. I mean, if you're going to eat meat, go big!

Handsome man, you are hurting my eyes. Also, here's an awkward girl with a beer, because clearly I can't handle myself in photos:

Hill's Cafe is the cutest. We'd never been before, even though it's super close and we drive by it often. And we will be back.

A++. We both got the Country Bob Burger which has a burger patty (obv), bacon, brisket, a fried egg (!), and American cheese (although somehow I think I ended up with a white cheese of some sort, not complaining, it was still delish!). The brisket was the best part. I love love love brisket. It's one of the reasons I don't think I'll ever be able to go full vegetarian. This burger was amazing and huge and you need it in your life. The buns are great; they're not just buns out of a bag (those are always such a let down). I got a kolache bun (yes, it's as good as it sounds) and Brendon got a jalapeno cheese bun. And I think I've discussed my love of fried eggs on burgers previously, but whoever thought that up is a genius and I love them.

YES for side variety! As this place is not just a burger joint, they've got all kinds of sides to choose from, including actual veggies! I got mac and cheese, because how can you ever turn down mac and cheese when it's an option, and Brendon got sweet potato fries. Both were very good. I can't gush over how much I love side options enough. The more the merrier.

Excellent. The place is old as heck, but incredibly clean and well taken care of. And HUGE. That place is humungous. It's got random decor of all varieties, giving your eyes endless entertainment while your mouth is full of good food. The service was amazing, everyone was so nice. The hostess was sweet, our server was sweet, and so was the guy who I'm assuming was a manager who checked on us. Everyone just seemed pleased to be there which is SO RARE these days. Great service goes such a long way with us. Way to go Hill's.

Definitely a good deal. Not a five dollar burger by any means, but for getting a burger of that size (and variety of meat!), it was an excellent deal. And they have a great happy hour, like a dollar off beer and two off specialty drinks, although their drinks are already decently priced. Excellent bang for your buck.

Aside from that ridiculous(ly awesome) burger? Chive butter. I know that sounds weird, but I happen to LOVE butter and infused butter is even better. You get rolls with your meal (another bonus, we love bread) and they come with that chive-y goodness. I need to learn how to make fancy butter. Stat.

As I think you can tell, we loved Hill's Cafe. And we will be back. I have my eyes on some brisket tamales (doesn't that sound divine??) and I know Brendon is head over heels in love with that big ol' burger. Thank you Hill's for a great reason to keep on burger questing, finding food gems like you that are right under our noses!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

52 weeks of baking: 30 - rosemary chocolate cake

Hello, let me introduce you to my new favorite thing, rosemary and chocolate. Oh plus a lot of olive oil. I grew up with rosemary growing everywhere in my backyard, and I ended up running through a lot of it. Rosemary has a pretty potent scent, and after a while my child self got real sick of it and decided I didn't like it. Up until last nightish. I was intrigued by the combination of chocolate and rosemary and using spelt flour, which I had never even heard of, and accepted the challenge. The outcome? This cake is a rockstar (bold and italicized, y'all). I used this recipe from the Vanilla Bean Blog. Thank goodness for food blogs.

Yay for husbands who chop things! He's becoming an excellent kitchen assistant. ;)

Oh, this cake. We had some fresh out of the oven last night and I just had a piece for breakfast. It is wonderful and my life is better for it. The texture of this cake is spot on. It's fluffy and light and the olive oil compliments the only slightly heavier flavors of rosemary and chocolate perfectly. Rosemary and chocolate... who would have known? I guess there is very little in the world that some form of chocolate can't compliment. Thanks to this cake, I have a new found love of rosemary and plan on throwing it into my cooking asap. Of course it was a cake that would show me the light.

The only snag I encountered with this cake was all of my doing. I used the wrong size pan (because my 9.5 inch fluted tart pan was housing cheesecake #2) and just used a 9 inch cake pan. The center didn't cook through quite all the way and it cracked when we flipped it out. We lost a little cake, but the majority of it survived and is perfect. I will be making this baby again. And again. Just in the correct sized pan.

This week is cray cray and I am surprised, and relieved, that I managed to squeeze this cake in. Although I was suffering from a monster of a sinus headache last night, I stumbled out into the public, grabbed some rosemary, and threw this baby together with the help of sweet Brendon. It seriously took no time at all, another winning quality of this rockstar cake? SO easy to make. And I think cake may be the cure to headaches.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Fishing Lake Austin

Thursday my dad picked Brendon and I up at 6am to get our fish on at Lake Austin. This was the first time I'd been fishing since I was young young young. And I loved it! Lake Austin is so beautiful, and we went on the perfect day. We got there right after all the rain finally cleared out, and the lake was covered in fog. It slowly burned off as the sun came out, it was so pretty.



I drive over this bridge everyday on my way to work, it was so nice to finally be one of those boats ON the lake! Brendon caught a fish, my dad caught a bunch, and I caught nothin'. But I still had a blast. Watching my dad fish was pretty awesome. That man knows what he's doing. As my Aunt said, he's the fish whisperer. It's insane. It's like those fish just jump into the boat for him. He's got some smooth fishin' moves. I was impressed.

Also, see my skin? See everywhere that's not covered by clothes? SUNBURNT. I've got the best tank top and shorts tan line. Even rockin' the watch tan line. See that hole in my shorts? Nice red square on my leg now. It was so foggy at first, but that sun came out with a vengeance and your girl is pale. I failed in the SPF department and am paying for it. Worth it though. Ready to fish again, next time I plan on catching something.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

52 weeks of baking: 29 - lemon cheesecake

For my sister's birthday she requested a lemon cheesecake. This was something I'd never made before and very intriguing and potentially quite yummy, so I was on board. I used this recipe, and for the most part it was successful.

Five packages of cream cheese. No biggie.

The texture of this cheesecake is pretty phenomenal. I've never baked a cheesecake in water, but it does wonders for the fluffiness factor. Usually my cheesecakes are fairly dense (which isn't a bad thing), but this baby was all kinds of fluffy. I actually conducted an experiment (because the recipe made enough cheesecake batter to make TWO CHEESECAKES) and I made a second one and did not bake it in water. They are very different consistencies. That water trick sure does work. If you want a fluffy cake, bake it in a big ol' pan of water. But really, I was a little appalled at how much extra the recipe made. The reviews all said it would make a lot, but I mean, two cheesecakes? Unless you're baking for a crowd, half it.

The downfall of this recipe was the crust. The gingersnap crust sounded incredibly delicious, but it baked onto the bottom of the pan and wouldn't budge. So we had crustless cheesecake. Still delish, but I'm sure it would have been better WITH a crust. (EDIT: cheesecake #2 had a successful crust, and it was gooood. The bottom of my first pan has a raised diamond checkered texture to it, the second pan's bottom was flat, so I think that's part of the reason why the crust stuck)

Flavor-wise though, this cheesecake was on point. Lemony, but not overly so, and not overly sweet either. Pretty perfect. Would be a great plain cheesecake without the lemon if you like yours plain jane. Or maybe add whatever flavor you'd like! Key lime anyone?

Like our ghetto candles? That poor "2", I don't think it will last us until we hit thirty.

Hope you had an excellent birthday Jules! Thanks for being born. Love you to death.

Monday, July 15, 2013


This recipe is too good not to share. Everyone should have this in their repertoire, so here you go and you're welcome. First and foremost, this is not my recipe. This is my mom's recipe, so of course it's amazing. Get with this.

Usually I make my spaghetti sauce base with ground beef, but as we're riding the veggie train these days, I just use whatever vegetables I have laying around. Usually mushrooms. I had some carrots that needed eating so I threw those in there too. I make the sauce the exact same way, just sub in chopped veggies for the ground beef. Mushrooms tend to soak up the butter and spices perfectly, as the meat would.

How to achieve this cheesy goodness:

1 batch of spaghetti sauce (this is my recipe)
1 box lasagna noodles (9 pieces)
1 8oz bag shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 8oz bag shredded Italian blend cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 15oz container Ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup of water

Add your cup of water to your spaghetti sauce and heat to simmering. I usually start my spaghetti sauce a few hours earlier so it's hot and ready to roll when it's lasagna time, but you could totally make your sauce a day or so (or longer since it's freezable!) ahead of time. Heat your oven to 350 and spray a 13"x9" glass pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix together your Mozzarella, Ricotta, and Parmesan. I like to use my hands because it's fun. Add your eggs, parsley, salt and pepper. More mooshy hands!

Pour 1 1/2 cups of your spaghetti sauce into the bottom of your pan. And now we play the layer game. Add three dry noodles, another cup of sauce, and then half of your cheese mixture. I kind of pat the cheese down so it spreads evenly, the warm sauce helps. Three more noodles, another cup of sauce, and the rest of your cheese mix. Then guess what? Three more noodles! Then the rest of your sauce. Top with the Italian blend cheese, cover with foil, and bake for 45 minutes. Wipe up all your drool because your kitchen will smell divine. After your 45 minutes is up, take off the foil and bake for another 15, then remove from the oven and let it hang out on your counter for 10 minutes or so to cool. Good luck with that. Cut yourself a giant piece. You'll need it.

This is one of those meals that actually is better as leftovers, in my opinion. Leftover lasagna is my jam. It's most of the reason I make it. Something about how it solidifies in the fridge (how appetizing is that?) and the spices have more time to marinade together into wonderfulness. And this recipe makes SO MUCH. You could freeze half and still have leftovers, if there's just two of you.

So go make this. You can thank my momma later.

Friday, July 12, 2013

52 weeks of baking: 28 - peach galette


Peaches, peaches, peaches. Peach season in Texas, y'all. This week I had a few peaches hanging out in my kitchen that needed to be consumed, preferably after being baked surrounded by something buttery. I consulted Deb (I am banning myself from Smitten Kitchen for a few weeks, I need to branch out) and made this galette recipe, but used peaches instead of nectarines and blackberries. Oh and I accidentally picked up apricot preserves instead of peach, whoops. The jars and fruit look really similar, okay? Reading labels is overrated.

This little thing is gooood. Simple and sweet and the crust is perfect. Whipped cream on the side for me of course, but ice cream would probably be good too if you're into that.

This is a super simple recipe and concept that you could use with basically any fruit. You could even go savory and throw some veggies in there instead (I'd skip the sugar topping though). I think I may need to do that with my other half of dough. Easy dinner, I'm in.

The rest of the year here!