What Not to Miss: Austin

Austin is a city that gets talked about a lot.  Everybody knows somebody who knows something about Austin.  They’ve embraced the mantra “Keep Austin Weird”, and trust me, they do.  I find a lot of similarities between Austin and my own hometown of Lawrence, Kansas.  Both cities are a blue blip in a very red state, but both are so much more than their politically liberal leanings.  Both could easily play leading roles in a foodie’s dream and both are powerhouses of culture.

My husband and I spent about 5 days in Austin in early January.  It was his first time visiting, and my third.  Both of my previous trips were to attend SXSW, so my experience was a bit limited, but this was an awesome visit and we’re already making plans to go back.  Based on my experiences, I have a few recommendations of things that you shouldn’t miss if you visit Austin.

What to Do

Austin Eats Food Tour

This is my top recommendation for how to spend some of your time in Austin, and it includes eating at some of the city’s best food trucks. We love doing food tours in cities we visit and Austin Eats didn’t disappoint.  I wish we’d had more time in Austin so that we could have done more than one of their tours, but we participated in their Best of Austin Food Truck tour and it was pretty amazing!  The tour started with fresh Golden Eggs from Sandra Bullock’s Walton’s Fancy & Staple (seriously, look these up – they’re amazing), then visited the Cocoa Puro tent at the Saturday SFC Farmers’ Market.  All items sold by vendors at this farmers’ market have to be produced within 150 miles of Downtown Austin.

Other stops on the tour included Kerlin BBQ, where we sampled a fantastic BBQ brisket & cheddar kolache; la Barbeque, where we skipped the line that was forming before they opened, and had the best brisket and pulled pork of our trip, alone with homemade pickles and a really unique cole slaw; Tumble 22 for some Nashville Hot Chicken and Deep Eddy Sweet Tea vodka; Lucky’s Puccias, in the courtyard of Mort Subite Belgian Pub for puccias, a tasty authentic Italian sandwich made with bread baked in the wood fired oven inside the food truck; and Churro Co. for an incredible s’mores churro.  All of the food and beverages are included throughout the tour and you absolutely will not leave hungry.

Rainey Street

This is an adorable little area (just a couple blocks) where old homes have been turned into restaurants and bars.  It’s adjacent to Downtown, and where our Airbnb was. There are food trucks interspersed throughout the area, so if you’d rather have food from a truck, then grab drinks at one of the hip little bars along this street, you can absolutely do that.

Austin 360 Bridge

If you’ve got a rental car, I definitely recommend going out to check this out.  The bridge is stunning, but the view is even more spectacular.  It can be a little confusing to find, as there aren’t any signs and it seems to be a bit of an unofficial park area.  If you see people parked on the side of the road, just before you are about to cross the big bridge, you found it.  You’ll park where they are, then climb up.  You won’t regret the mini hike.  The view from the top is AMAZING!

Hope Outdoor Gallery

This spot started as the beginning of a building and the project was never completed.  Now, it’s an outdoor gallery where artists use spray paint to create amazing art on the concrete foundation of the building.  There’s also a great, unobstructed view of Downtown Austin.

Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library

One of the better presidential libraries I’ve been to.  LBJ was the one who created many of the social programs we work with today.  It was interesting to see how they all started.  There’s a neat feature in this library where they allow you to listen to phone conversations LBJ had with many people, including Jackie Kennedy, right after JFK was assassinated.  It’s really interesting.  It’s on the UT campus, but they have a designated parking lot, so you shouldn’t have any problems.

Blanton Art Museum

If you like art museums, this is a great one.  The entry way is beautiful and they just opened a brand new building (it opened right after we left Austin) that looks amazing.  This one is also on the UT campus, but there’s a public parking garage that makes things easy.

Where to Eat

Pizza – Via313

This is a Detroit-style pizza spot that started as a food truck.  I recommend checking out the original (behind Craft Pride at 61 Rainey Street).  They have an amazing patio in the back yard, where the food truck is, and Craft Pride serves all kinds of Texas craft beer.  The pizza is amazing, and it’s a spot I go back to every time I’m in Austin.

Trendy Doughnuts – VooDoo Doughnuts

This isn’t the original location (that’s in Portland), but it’s just enough of a taste of Austin’s 6th Street to be enough for me.  6th Street is Austin’s Bourbon Street and can be a little overwhelming.  I recommend going long enough to grab a doughnut and catch a little live music.

Amazing Doughnuts – Gourdough’s Big. Fat. Donuts.

This is a food truck that only sells donuts.  There are great combinations and they’re all really good.  This is a popular place, so don’t go unless you have 30-ish minutes to spare.

Tacos – Torchy’s Tacos

Torchy’s is always on the list of recommendations when you’re talking about Austin.  If you like tacos, you’ll like this place, and they even have a “secret” menu.  It’s an Austin chain,  but they’re spreading to other places across the country (Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma right now).  but they know what they’re doing.  There are lots of locations all over the city and all have different features.  Check out their website to find the location that best fits your needs.

Unique Asian Fusion – Soursop

We stopped here on the way back to the airport.  It’s a small food truck attached to a brewery in a really industrial-looking area.  If you’re using GPS, you’re going to think you’re in the wrong place, but you’re not.  They have a really nice outdoor area and the food is unique and really good.

Breakfast – Biscuits N’ Groovy (Hyde Park)

If you like biscuits & gravy, definitely check out this food truck.  Lots of combinations and they’re all amazing.  It’s also around the corner from a great coffee shop, The Flightpath Coffeehouse.

BBQ – The Salt Lick

This is one you’ll have to drive to.  It’s about 30-45 minutes outside of Austin, but it’s worth it.  It’s one of the more famous BBQ spots in the country.  They have amazing food, but it’s super popular, so I recommend it for lunch rather than dinner.  We actually went as soon as we got off the plane and got our car in Austin, since we couldn’t check into the Airbnb until later in the afternoon.

No matter what you choose to do or where you choose to eat, Austin has something for everyone.  What are your favorites?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keto Fathead Cheeseburger Pockets

Keto Fathead Cheeseburger Pockets

Makes: 8 servings

These keto fathead cheeseburger pockets have quickly become a staple in the ketogenic diet that my husband and I have been following on and off over the last year.  Fathead dough is super versatile and you can really fill these with just about anything.  I’ve used fathead dough to make lasagna “noodles”, pizzas, cinnamon rolls, and several other recipes over the last year.  What’s your favorite way to use fathead dough?

Keto Fathead Cheeseburger Pockets

Recipe

Filling

1.5 lbs ground beef

3/4 medium onion, diced

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

16 pickle sandwich slices

Salt, pepper, and other seasonings, to taste

 

Dough

6 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

3 cups almond flour

8 tablespoons cream cheese, cut up

4 teaspoons white wine vinegar

4 eggs, beaten until the white and yolks are combined

1 tsp salt

 

Method

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

You’ll want to make the filling so that it’s ready to go when you get your fathead dough cut.  Fathead dough is easier to work with when it’s warm.

Brown the ground beef in a skillet with the diced onions and your preferred seasonings.  Be sure to break the meat into small crumbles so that it will fit into the dough pocket better.  When the meat is cooked through, add in the shredded cheddar cheese and stir until melted.  Set aside.

Next, you’ll make the fathead dough.  I usually do this in two batches to make things less difficult.  Just take the ingredients I’ve listed above, for the crust and divide them in half to start.

You’ll want to start the dough by melting the mozzarella and cream cheese in a large, non stick skillet (or the microwave – I prefer the skillet because you can add and remove heat on the fly and it makes it easier to mix the dough later).  Once the cheeses are melted, add the almond flour, egg, and vinegar and mix (if you used a skillet to melt the cheese, this is when I would reduce the heat to low so you don’t overheat the cheese) until combined into a nice dough.

Transfer the mixed dough to a sheet of parchment paper, and cover with a 2nd sheet of parchment paper.  Roll our the dough into a large rectangle, between the two sheets of parchment paper until it’s about 1/4 inch thick.  If you’re making the dough in two batches, this half should be cut into 4 equal rectangles.

Before making the second batch of dough, go ahead and put together the first half of the hot pockets, otherwise the dough will get cold and be more difficult to work with.  To do this, you’ll scoop about 1/8 of the meat filling into each of the dough rectangles and top with two slices of pickles.  Fold the dough over to form a pocket and pinch the edges together, pressing with a fork, if necessary, to seal completely.

Repeat for the second batch of dough.

Place finished pockets on a cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper, and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes, checking regularly after 20.  Finished pockets should be nicely browned and the dough should be cooked through.

Nutrition

Keto Fathead Cheeseburger Pocket Nutrition Facts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Apron Believer: A Review

I'm a Blue Apron Believer!
Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this review and after the initial free week, have paid full-price for each subsequent week of meals.

When a colleague offered me one of his free week links from Blue Apron in July, I was ready to hop on the offer immediately. My husband, Josh, on the other hand, is super skeptical of subscription services and wasn’t thrilled about the idea of getting stuck in a subscription that would be difficult to cancel. We received our first box the week of the 4th of July and we have never looked back.  We LOVE it. We’ve only had one or two meals we didn’t care for, but most nights, I get serious compliments from Josh on dinner. It’s not stuff I would have normally chosen to make, whether it be because of ingredients I’m not used to working with (or have never heard of) or because it’s a cuisine that I’m not a fan of, but I love that it takes me out of my comfort zone and makes me try new ingredients and cuisines that I may not have otherwise attempted. According to our year-end report, I cooked meals from 13 different cuisines in 2016. That’s probably 9 more than I would have otherwise.

Blue Apron Year in Review
I love that I only have to have salt, pepper, and olive oil on-hand to make 3 fantastic meals and you get to choose (with some limitation on the combinations) from 6 different options each week. If you don’t like one of the proteins from one of the “default” three meals, you can switch to another meal instead, as long as you change it enough in advance of the shipment. I love that I’ve got our meals planned out for the next 5 weeks right now and I know exactly what we’ll be having from Blue Apron each week.

Also, no more food waste! We use exactly what they send us and we don’t throw out any rotten fruit or veggies or meat we didn’t get to. I used to throw out hundreds of dollars worth of food that went bad in the fridge or that I stuffed in the freezer, thinking I’d use it in a reasonable amount of time, but found it hiding in the back with several years of accumulated freezer burn.

Because it costs more than I would have spent previously (each serving is $9.99), I make cooking those three nights each week a priority and schedule which nights I’m going to cook. If I know that I have meetings each night one week, I’ll skip that week ahead of time so we don’t waste the food. This also means we don’t make excuses to order delivery or go out to eat when I’ve got Blue Apron on the calendar.

As far as how long it takes to cook each meal, plan for a little longer than the recipe cards say, unless you’ve got experience in a professional kitchen. Maybe I’m just too much of a perfectionist, but it takes a decent amount of time to cut and prep the fresh veggies before you even start heating anything up.

Subscribers are occasionally given the opportunity to share free weeks with friends and family and, so far, I’ve had 7 friends cash in their free weeks from my referrals.  I know that a couple of them just tried the free week and decided to pause their subscription until they finish grad school, but others are still subscribers and love it, as well.

Josh and I travel a lot and we were on vacation for 2 and a half weeks in October, then two days after we returned, I left for a work trip to London for a week. We skipped Blue Apron deliveries for the whole month of October and picked right back up when I returned from London in early November. Skipping weeks is incredibly easy, you just have to remember to stay on top of it if you know you need to skip a week.

Blue Apron has changed the way we eat and has given me the opportunity to get out of a cooking rut that included casseroles most nights and very little fresh fruit and vegetables.  I’m cooking with ingredients I’ve never cooked with before and am learning to love things I’ve never tried before.

If you’re on the fence about trying Blue Apron, I encourage you to seek out a friend who might have a free week to offer and give it a shot.  You’ve got nothing to lose and so much great food and experience to gain!  Bon Appetit!

Curry in a Hurry – Lawrence

Today, I stopped by the new location of Curry in a Hurry on the outskirts of Downtown Lawrence.  We’ve been hearing a lot about it through the Journal World and local twitter users and Josh really wanted to try it.  I had the day off of work for a doctor’s appointment and had some errands to run, so I stopped by on my way home.

The setup is like nothing I’ve seen before in a restaurant.  Sammi has a buffet-style setup where all of the curries are pre-packaged in to-go containers and you just select which variety of curry you would like, grab a container of rice and any side items that you’d like (I grabbed naan bread, but there were at least two other items that I didn’t pick up) and take your selections to the register to check out.  I chose the chicken curry and rice for Josh (and unfortunately, he ate it all before I could get a photo) but Sammi was also offering pea and potato curry today.

The store has also been converted into a small storefront convenience store with candies, sodas, cigarettes and other convenience store items.  It’s definitely a unique addition to Downtown Lawrence.

Josh thought that the curry has some great flavors and that it was very good.  We hadn’t tried Sammi’s curry before, when he was working out of the Shell gas station near 19th & Mass but people have raved about his set-up for quite some time.  I know his true fans are delighted to have him back with his curry in a hurry.  I also know that we will be back to visit Sammi and see what kind of variety he will bring to Indian cuisine in Lawrence.  We’re definitely looking forward to it.

Curry in a Hurry is located at 1111 Massachusetts Street in Downtown Lawrence, KS.

Jarritos Nation Contest

Today, I was contacted by someone from Jarritos, a soda manufacturer from Mexico.  They seem to be expanding in the US and asked me if I would sample some of their products and let you all know what I think about them.  I’m excited to receive my package and will let you all know what I think after I’ve had a chance to test them.

In the meantime, check out the Jarritos Nation contest! It’s a website designed to bring all fans of Jarritos together and award prizes for posting photos. Entering is very easy – just head to www.jarritosnation.com and “claim” a location on the map with a photo. Prizes range from packages of Jarritos to digital cameras and even a 12 day cruise to Hawaii!  Good luck!

Bird Dog Bar at The Oread Hotel

 
Those of you from Lawrence may have noticed the new structure that now towers above the northern end of the University of Kansas campus.  The Oread hotel was recently completed and is not fully in operation.  With the opening of a new luxury hotel, comes the chance to try some new restaurants in town.  My friend Shauna and I took the opportunity while wedding planning, to visit the Bird Dog Bar in the Oread Hotel several weeks ago and we left satisfied and impressed. 

We didn’t order anything that was terribly exciting (we both got burgers) but instead of french fries, I ordered the Mac & Cheese as my side.  Let me just tell you, this was some of the most amazing mac & cheese I’ve ever had.  I actually wanted to get it as my main dish but I’m always hesitant to do that because there are lots of ways for people to screw up mac & cheese and I didn’t want to possibly waste my money on something that was merely mediocre.  The Bird Dog’s mac & cheese was anything but mediocre.  It was outstanding and the next time I go here, I will absolutely order it as my main dish!

What’s even better about the Bird Dog Grill?  Oh, that’s right, the Oread offers free 2 hour valet parking with a purchase from any of its restaurants.  That’s pretty awesome on campus, where parking comes at a premium.

Shauna and I also decided to try the roasted red pepper hummus and pita as an appetizer and we weren’t disappointed with that either.  The hummus and pita comes with celery, cucumbers and olives and it was really good.  I’m not usually a fan of anything with any kind of bell pepper in it, but this was very good and I would definitely try it again.

Overall, the Bird Dog Grill gets my vote for a new restaurant in town that’s got staying potential.  I wish them the best of luck and look forward to going back again!

Cozy Inn – Salina, Kansas

Some of you may have never heard of Cozy Inn in Salina, Kansas.  If you’re from Kansas and you’ve ever traveled west of Topeka or know anyone who has, you’ve probably heard of the place.  A quick Google Search for "Cozy Inn Salina, KS" turns up over 6,000 results.  Sadly, I am one of those sheltered Kansans who never heard about the Cozy Inn until I was in my 20s, even though my dad graduated from high school in Salina and I’m sure, indulged in his fair share of Cozy Burgers  back in his day.

The restaurant opened in 1922 as a tiny 6-stool diner in downtown Salina.  Three months after opening the business was sold to a former semi-pro baseball player named Robert Kinkel.  The hamburger trend was just beginning in America at this time and the first White Castle actually opened in Wichita, Kansas in 1921, so Kinkel wanted in on the action. 

Cozy Inn doesn’t serve anything fancy and special orders are a big no-no.  If you want a burger from Cozy Inn, you’re going to get a slider-sized burger topped with a pickle, grilled onions, mustard and ketchup.  That’s it!  No cheese, no bacon, no fries.  Just the basics at the Cozy Inn.  Because of the crazy onion smell, they even have a walk-up window so people can avoid smelling like onions until their next shower. 

Back in the good old days, each burger was a nickle.  Today, they’re 75 cents a piece or you can get 6 for $4.50, 12 for $9.00, 24 for $18.00 or a value meal of 6 burgers, chips and a can of soda for $5.51.  I’m told that most people order 6 burgers.

Josh grew up near Salina, in Marquette, KS, and we stopped at the Cozy Inn for my first Cozy experience on the way to his family Christmas this year.  Here’s Josh looking excited about his Cozy burger.

The building really is tiny.  I would probably ask to work alone if I worked there.  I didn’t get to see the inside though because I stayed in the car.

 
You can see the size of the burger in comparison to my hand.  It’s not a large burger, but they were really good.  I’m looking forward to more Cozy Inn stops in the future.

Day 6 Food

Unfortunately, our amazing cruise had to come to an end. . .

Here’s the menu for our last night on the ship:

 

 
For an appetizer, I had the Chicken Fettuccini.  It was wonderful.

I also tried the crab cake and I wasn’t a huge fan of it.

My main course was the jumbo panko crusted shrimp.  I LOVE shrimp.  You might have noticed how many times I ordered them on this cruise.

Before dinner, some of my family and our travel agent brought Josh some Indian food because they got to meet the chef and told him how much they all enjoyed Indian food.  They ended up bringing Josh a plate and he was very excited about it. 

Day 5 Food

Here’s the menu:

I love how the fried shrimp is listed as "Fried Shrimps".  Apparently, the menu author isn’t a native English speaker. 

 

Josh had the chicken tenders marinated in Thai spices.  In my experience with Thai food, I know that I need to be careful when I order a Thai dish because sometimes, they are crazy spicy.  This dish was in the mid-range of spiciness.  It didn’t kill me, but it wasn’t Sunday at Grandma’s house either.

I ordered the fried shrimps.  They were definitely shrimps.  🙂

I ordered the Duet of Petit Filet Mignon and Short Rib Confit and it was incredible.  I could have done without the red onions completely covering my potato (that was gross) but once I got rid of the onions, the potato was awesome.  I’m pretty sure that Josh ordered the same thing as I did this night.

My dad ordered the vegetarian lasagna.  If you look close, you can see his fingers and understand the true size of this gigantic piece of lasagna.  It looked awesome and everyone who ordered it seemed to like it a lot.

My mom went the very traditional route this evening.  She ordered the turkey dinner.  Normally, she wouldn’t eat the items that came with the turkey, especially since the menu didn’t say mashed potatoes and gravy anywhere, but she was brave and tried most of the items.
 

For dessert, I got the Chocolate Raspberry and Vanilla Cream Cake (still not the melting cake).

And Josh ordered the apple pie, which was amazing!

Day 4 Food

Again, no menu photos.

For starters on day 4, I had the Corn Chowder and the Cream of Broccoli Soup, which were both very good.
 

Josh has the escargot, which he always enjoys.
 
He also had fried oysters.

I don’t remember why I don’t have photos of both our main courses this night, but I did get a photo of the shrimp dish that we shared in addition to our normal main course.  Neither of us thought it was amazing.

I got an artsy shot of the table since there wasn’t anyone sitting across from me this night.

Baked Alaska. . . I love Neapolitan ice cream!

And this was some kind of chocolate cake that Josh ordered.  I don’t remember specifics about it.