Wednesday, June 4, 2014

2014 Girl's Trip: Austin, Texas

Second Annual Girl's Trip: Complete.  My good friend Jessica and I have gone, seen, and conquered Austin, Texas! So much fun.  So much food.  I'm full just thinking about it!  I believe I heard that it has the second highest restaurant to people ratio in the country...a foodie's paradise, if you will.  And what's really cool is that Austin is very eco-conscious.  There are about 15 different farmer's markets located around the city where you can find meats, produce, honey, and countless other locally sourced goodies!  Anyway, here are a few highlights:

On our first night, we went a few miles out of town to go to a place called Salt Lick BBQ.  I had seen it featured a couple of times on the Food Network, and it was recommended by a few friends.  The locals said it was a major tourist trap (and honestly, I think there was better BBQ around town), but the atmosphere was so fun!  They have a winery on site that you can visit while you wait for your table.  So Jessica and I enjoyed a nice wine tasting and cheese platter while we waited.  There was a band playing outside and a very nice garden with a fountain.  I would definitely suggest checking it out!  The photo below is one I found on Google Images...we were silly and didn't take a picture of the really cool BBQ pit on our way in, and they had already closed it down by the time we left :{

Our second day began with a food tour (Austin Eats).  The tour began at one of the farmer's markets...we got there early so we could look around.  We met our tour guide and he gave us a delicious donut-type pastry to sample.  It was from a local shop called Walton's, which is owned by Sandra Bullock's sister!

Then we went to one of the booths at the market.  We tasted a triple chocolate coated cacao bean.  Oh had dark, milk, and white chocolate on it!  Then we headed to a BBQ joint called La BBQ where we tried ribs and brisket. I'm not a huge fan of brisket because it's usually tough, but this was so good!  It was so tender it just fell apart.

Then we went a place called Lucky's Puccias.  Jessica and I agree; it was our favorite stop on the tour.  Puccia is a certain type of bread only found in a small town in Italy...yep, the same small town Lucky's from!  He makes all of his sandwiches with this type of bread.  Yeah, it's just a sandwich, but the ingredients were fresh, and the bread was crispy, not too doughy, and warm (because it comes right out of the oven after being baked!).

Next, we stopped by a food truck park where we ate a Monte Cristo (a deep fried ham and cheese sandwich!) at a truck called Hey...You Gonna Eat or What?  Then, we went to Burro Cheese Kitchen and had a sandwich with fresh sourdough bread, melty Gruyere cheese, and a little bit of dulce de was an interesting combo of crunchy and soft, sweet and salty.  I really enjoyed it, but at this point we could only take about one and a half bites of our food!  

The final stop was a dessert place called Sugar Mama's, which was featured on Food Network's Cupcake Wars.  I got a cupcake called Hipity was lemon and coconut.  It was seriously yummy, but we had to take our cupcakes to-go and eat them later because we were so full!

After the tour, we decided to go exploring around town to try to walk off a few calories.  We headed to one of my favorite cosmetic companies, LUSH.  Love their products, and love the company's mission statement (no animal testing, using mostly natural and organic ingredients, giving back to communities all over the world...seriously, you should check them out!).  Then we went back to the hotel to relax before going out to dinner at a trendy little place called 219 West where we had a slider sampler platter...whew, how were we able to eat another bite?!   

And the next morning, we headed back to our respective cities.  It was a whirlwind tour, but so worth it!  Now, where shall we go next year?

Oh, and as always: Keep Austin Weird.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Learning to Love the Freezer

I finally decided to try out a cook-all-day-and-freeze meal plan, and I'm super excited about it!  When I open my freezer, I hear angels singing!

Several people asked about how I did it and if I saved money, so I thought I'd go through the whole process.

The blog post I found is called Make 50 Freezer Meals in One Day; I chose 6 of the recipes she listed and got 16 meals...50 sounded a little overwhelming to try for my first time!  All 16 meals took about 4 hours to prepare (however, my two beautiful, energetic, destructive, needy boys were present, so I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have taken that long if they were perhaps at time!)

I picked the following recipes (the numbers in parentheses are how many meals I got by either doubling or tripling the recipes):

Slow Cooker Broccoli Chicken Alfredo (3)
Chicken Parmesan Pesto Shells (3)
Slow Cooker Beef Barley Stew (3)
Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos (2)
Lasagna (3)
Pulled BBQ Pork (2)

The first thing I did when I got home from the store (after putting away the groceries and beginning with a clean kitchen) was put the pork shoulder in the crock pot...I cooked 3ish pounds on low for about 6.5 hours...then Josh and I got to work on everything else. The slow cooker meals were a breeze to put together (we tried the beef and barley stew tonight and it was really good!  I made some Jiffy muffins to go with it).  The rest took a little more effort, but none were too taxing.  When the pork was finished cooking, I shredded it, added BBQ sauce, and portioned it into two bags.

The following morning I made about 15 breakfast burritos to freeze.  I cooked 1 lb. of breakfast sausage (Jimmy Dean Natural), 2 lbs. frozen southern-style hash browns (just diced potatoes basically), 8 scrambled eggs, and some shredded cheddar cheese.  I assembled my burritos, individually wrapped them in tinfoil, and put them in a freezer bag.  I ran out of sausage and eggs, but I have several tortillas and a good amount of hash browns left, so I'm going to make some bacon and some more eggs and make a few more to throw in the freezer :} I haven't reheated one yet, so I'm not sure about microwave time, but a friend (check out her blog, Me and My Soldier Man) recommended wrapping a burrito in a paper towel, heating 1 minute on one side, then 30 seconds on the other.

I spent an estimated $200 on the items for the freezer meals, including foil, freezer bags, and aluminum pans.  That comes out to roughly $12 per meal.  I bought a few other food items not related to freezer meals, such as cereal and snacks, a few frozen veggies and packages of different rices to use on non-freezer meal nights, so that added approximately $80 to the total.  I was going to the store once a week and spending $100-150 on groceries , so I can see the savings already!  I figure I'll still go grocery shopping once a week, but only to pick up perishable things like milk, eggs, and fruit, and a few things to add to my meals for that week like hamburger buns and fresh veggies.

I am definitely going to do this next month, too.  The time I will save trying to think of what to make for dinner, preparing it, and cleaning up afterward is pretty invaluable!  And I had fun in the kitchen with the husband :}

The recipes I used can be found at Happy Money Saver.  If you decided to try this, don't forget to take doubling and/or tripling the recipe into consideration when planning out your shopping list...and let me know how it goes, and if you discover any new recipes or food storage tips and tricks :}