What feels like a million years ago now but is more like six years actually, I made this New Chicken Parm recipe from Bon Appetit. And I made it over and over and over again before I met David. I loved it so much that I thought I had made it for David a million times over too. Then, one Sunday a few weeks ago, I started the prep the recipe and David asked me just what in the heck I was making since it looked kinda looked like chicken parmesan but not really. I was in shock. I LOVE this recipe and can’t believe I had let it fall through the cracks. But I did. And I was ashamed. So, did David love it as much as I do? You bet your chicken parmesan loving behind he did. What’s new is old again, er, strike that, reverse it.
Here’s a collection of all the things that aren’t big enough for a full-on blog post but I have come to love over the past few weeks. And, just in time for weekend two, my must-eats at the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
(1) ACL Music Festival
- My number one place I kept going back to was The Seedling Truck. Their Roasted Goat Tostada was PERFECT. Yummy, tender roasted goat, refried beans, crema and lettuce on a crispy tostada. But, what everyone was waiting in line for by Sunday night was the Short Rib Grilled Cheese. Seriously, you paid in one line and waited in the other since they can only make nine at time. Totally worth the wait in my book and we had two! Also, not to be missed, was their salad with pickled carrots. There’s a ton of not-so-good for your foods at ACL, which of course is understandable, so I was thankful this healthy salad was an option and I got one every day we were there.
- Ch’ilantro BBQ Truck was also a huge favorite. It seemed like every other person was walking around with their famous Kimchi fries, and for very good reason. Crispy fries, queso, ground beef, kimchi and sriracha with fresh onions piled so high you don’t think you will get through it until you black out and all that’s left is an empty container and sriracha/cheese mixture smothered all over your face.
- 2nd Bar & Kitchen is a favorite of mine for brunch and they did not dissapoint at ACL either. Their Truffled Pomme Frites are the most decadent thing I think you can get at ACL (well, unless it’s a hug from the little lamb that is Thom Yorke but, since that’s not going to happen, this is a close second). David also got the Jalapeno Chicken Bahn Mi which we loved.
- The Thai Beef Salad from The Peached Tortilla was also a light and refreshing option amongst the heavier fare. I wish I could have eaten more here but there is only so much time to eat and I just had to inhale the one, the only…
- …The Mighty Cone of course. The beloved food child of ACL and something that you have to get when you go. Just get it, it’s awesome. Always is, always will be.
(2) I’m still dorking out over these black bean tacos two years later from Bon Appetit. Now that’s the sign of a great recipe!
(3) Ramian’s “Crisis Management” is possibly my new favorite wine. I randomly had a glass one night at one of my favorite Italian places here in Austin, North, and could not get it out of my head. I was in a crisis y’all since I could NOT find it. Then, randomly, I was at an HEB I never go to and there in the wine aisle was “Crisis Management.” I squee’d with delight and started clapping my hands with glee. The lady who procures all wines for the store started clapping her hands too and saying, “don’t you just LOVE this wine?” I think she might be my new best friend. It’s a bit pricey ($29) but seriously worth it for a special occasion, or a first bottle option for a nice weekend dinner with friends.
(4) THIS is my new go-to short rib recipe, thank you Bon Appetit.
(5) In case my post about Gwyenth Paltrow’s book didn’t inspire to go out and get it, I have two new reasons: The Turkey Meatballs were a hit with the hubs and little one, and the Brown Rice Pasta with Tuna, Olives and Capers is a perfectly satisfying and healthy lunch.
(6) The whole family (including our ten-month old Lila – she is such a LAMBY MCLAMB) enjoyed these Sweet Potato and Chickpea Cakes with Avocado Salsa (see top photo – beauties eh?). Lila pretty much likes anything, but she is a super nerd for avocados and sweet potatoes – hooray right?
There are moments, and they are rare, that you leave a restaurant just knowing it’s going to become a part of your regular rotation. Contigo is now one of them…I’ve been there twice in three weeks!
Located off of Airport and 38th/Anchor Lane on the East side this place has that rare mix of delicious food, great drinks, tentative and kind staff and terrific ambience. Let’s walk through and unpeel each layer shall we?
It was all delicious. Their burger actually has received recognition a few times over as one of the top in the Austin, so we of course just HAD to get it. It did not dissapoint. The patty was moist and juicy, with crisp bacon, lettuce, juicy tomato and perfect, and I mean perfect, Challah bun. The only complaint was it was a skosh on the salty side, but overall, it was very impressive.
We also had the popcorn (cinnamon, peanuts and cayenne); Pigs in a Blanket with Dijon mustard; Shisito Peppers with Sesame dipping sauce and the House Pickles with watermelon rind, sweet potato and jicama; fried chicken (their Thursday special!); Crispy Green Beans, and Summer Squash and Eggplant. All of it was great, the only miss for me were the pickles. I know it’s hard to find that just right balance and to me it was way too vinegary (sure that’s a word).
I’m highlighting drinks here for one main reason. When I was pregnant with Lila, I got on a huge kick to find the best mocktails in the city and I’m still working on it even when I’m not expecting. I plan on doing a bigger round up for all of you mommas out there, but Contigo hands down made one of the best ones I’ve ever had. The bartender (who as so nice!) made a blueberry concontion with basil syrup and soda water. It was absolutely delicious!
I could tell Contigo was much more of a cocktail place when I scanned the menu and saw they only had two white, two rose and two red options. While I appreciate a simple wine menu, this seemed to be a little skimpy for my liking. I had a glass of The Curator from South Africa (a shiraz/mouvedre blend) since I’m more of a big and bold wine girl. It was a great glass of wine, but once again, I wish I had just a few more options to choose from.
It’s also unusual for me to make a big deal about the staff, but, they were so nice and attentive I just had to highlight. From the moment we walked in from the pouring rain and were greeted by the awesome hostesses to the fun and laid back bartender; everyone was just delightful and accommodating. As we were leaving the hostess said, “I really hope we get to see you again,” I turned around and sad, “Oh you will!” and then she goes, quite sincerely, “that makes me so happy!” What a LAMB!
And just a I was putting the finishing touches on this post, check out what poodles they really are!
So we arrived during a torrential downpour here in Austin. This city hasn’t seen rain in a while, so needless to say it was a little chaotic, but the staff handled it with grace. Contigo is all open-air seating with a huge outside patio. From the pictures provided on their website it looks so gentle huh? Everything about it is relaxing and easygoing and makes you feel like you are at home. Jeez, I wish I had a patio that looked like that. Right? I loved all the twinkling lights and openness of the space. You could tell they tried hard to make it inviting but didn’t overdo it if you know what I mean.
If you haven’t been to Contigo I would highly recommend as a place to go with your kids and sip a glass of wine, or a fun girls/guys night out or just a laid back dinner for two. It’s kind of perfect in every way.
So, I know some of you readers out there really don’t like Gwyneth Paltrow. If you are one of them, might I suggest the next post below? If you are on the fence about her, like me, you should keep reading. While I do think she can be a bit shallow in her approach (what, you DON’T have an outside pizza oven?), I do like her simple and healthy methodology about cooking, and come on guys, she can be gentle? I do think however, if her and Ina Garten got together in one place the world would spontaneously combust with their “holier than thouness” of it all (if you don’t have ground unicorn horn fresh from your own personal unicorn collection in your back yard in the Hamptons…table salt, I guess, will do…). For more laughs, check out Eater.com’s favorite lines from the Gwyneth’s new cookbook, It’s All Good; I’ll admit, I stifled a giggle while reading.
But seriously, this is about the It’s All Good cookbook and testing and tasting the dishes. I have to say, it really is good! The recipes are simple and direct. A few of the ingredients had me scratching my head and scouring Whole Foods and Central Market – such as xylitol, what? But overall, it’s a great little cookbook. The dishes are flavorful, healthy and David and I agree that you don’t feel like you are “missing” anything by eating this way.
The book has received a bit of flack about her non-recipe recipes such as boiling an egg or her Avocado Toast, which is merely spreading Veganaise, ripe avocado and salt on a piece of toast. I’ve got to defend her here. When I think of my Mom’s delicious Southern cooking, the one thing I’ve noticed is it’s pretty simple ingredients but done with a very specific technique, or three simple little things put together that maybe you hadn’t thought of. Don’t knock technique or simple combinations y’all, otherwise, my mom’s calling of frozen okra, corn meal and salt wouldn’t turn into the most amazing fried okra you’ve ever had (the secret is getting it just golden enough and pulling it off the heat at the right time, I think I’ve mastered it these days but it took me YEARS to get it down).
I can’t share the recipes here, so go out and grab a copy, and check out a sneak peek here at Self.com. A few of my favorites so far are: Salmon with Lee’s Sriracha and Lime (yes, you make your own sriracha…yes, you will kick butt at it); New York Street Vendor Salad with Yogurt-Tahini Dressing; Crazy Good Fish Tacos (the sauce on this one is, well, all good and then some); Chinese Chicken Salad; Power Chopped Salad with Parsley Dressing (I served this at a dinner party and got rave reviews); Lee’s Chopped Vietnamese Salad; Grilled Duck with Lee’s Hoisin Sauce (see sriracha note above…easy breezy…you will kick butt!).
There are times in the Cooking Inside the Lines kitchen (and more than I would like to admit) that some recipes are just missing the certain something; that, you just can’t put your finger on it “thing” that would make it really sing. The je ne sais quoi if you will? Oui, oui! This circumstance happened last night when a friend brought over a red wine sauce and we were both turning our heads in thought as to what the heck it needed.
When I’m making dinner, I’ll stop and ask David to try a sauce or a dressing and we always equate it to having a “hole” in the middle. The brightness might be there in the beginning and the nice spice kick might be there at the end, but there’s nothing really in the middle to make it totally palatable. Through all of these years – yes, years! – of doing this, I noticed I turn to a few things to help save a sauce or dressing. Like a culinary ER doctor, I try to find out what’s causing the damage and then, save the dish. Here are my go-tos when something is amiss in the kitchen. You can try one or a combo of them to see if they might work for you:
- Low-sodium chicken broth: this is usually for sauces with a wine base. Sometimes, after you burn off the alcohol, the flavor just isn’t there. I usually add a cup of broth, let it simmer and then bam, you have a low-fat and low-sodium but flavorful sauce.
- Tomato paste: If chicken broth hasn’t saved your sauce above, or, that marinara just doesn’t have the oomph you are looking for, it probably needs more acidity. Try adding tomato paste and see if it gives it the kick you are looking for.
- Honey or sugar: I know sugar is no-no to some of you, but sometimes, you have to have a little bit of sweet to balance out the flavors. I’m not talking about a cup, I’m saying a 1/2 teaspoon. I use honey or agave or sometimes sugar to save sauces of all kinds and add roundness to dressings.
- Salt: Now go in reverse from the point above. when you are doing something sweet and it just seems to be missing something, trying adding an 1/8 of a teaspoon of sea salt or kosher salt. I promise it will make a huge difference.
- Fresh herbs: When all else fails, there is nothing like fresh herbs to add freshness and zing to a sauce or dressing. It’s unbelievable what fresh herbs can do and it’s virtually zero calories to boot!
- Red Pepper Flakes: This is a big go-to dish saver here. Sometimes all a dish needs is a hint of spice to make the sweetness and acidity play nicely together. Just a dash always does it for me.
- Cumin: Oddly, I use this in dressings most of the time when I find it’s off balance and I’ve applied honey and herbs to try and make it better. Cumin has a smokey undertone that sometimes is just what the doctored ordered to round out the flavors subtly.
- Cinnamon: This is a great little spice that people always ask, “what is that in there that makes it taste so good?” a little bit of spice and a little bit of that “you can’t put your finger on it flavor” is what makes cinnamon so special in my book. This is great in marinaras, cheese sauces and even broth-based sauces. A little goes a long way, so just pinch you guys!
I’ve been talking to my friend Kari about trying Josephine House and lo and behold the day we decided to go it was touted as one of the best restaurants in America along with its big sister restaurant Jeffrey’s in Bon Appetit magazine. “Great,” I thought in my head, “now it’s going to be swimming with people.”
But alas, when we got there for happy hour it was filled with a few ladies, but wasn’t too bad. Close your eyes however and think for a moment about “ladies who lunch” and that’s exactly type of clientele that was there. If you know me at all, I’m really not that type, so I felt a little bit out of place from the get go. We quickly scurried to a spot outside by the fireplace (that’s got to be THE spot during the fall let me tell you) and asked about the Happy Hour specials. So, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting huge discounts but still, it was $2 off drinks and 25% off food. I remember giving Kari this look when our very nice waiter mentioned the specials and thinking, “so your $15 glass of overpriced wine is now $12? What a deal!” Trying to not get too snarky, we glanced over the menu and ordered a spinach salad with peaches, these awesome deep fried rice cakes called calas, the Nicoise Salad and Ratatouille Empanadas.
Let me be clear here that I owned a food company so I know it’s painful when someone reviews your food in a negative light, but I’m most certainly not trying to be negative because I did think the food was good, not knock your socks off great, but good. I think the other issue was that I was walking in with high expectations with “the best restaurant in the U.S.” blitz, and the prices for the size of plates you are getting felt, well, a little like a very ritzy, overpriced place in Dallas. Two bright stars were the calas and empanadas. Whoever did that dough for the emapadas needs a medal or award or something as I thought it was perfect.
The other great thing about Josephine House is that place is downright impeccable. Every detail is pitch perfect and no stone is left unturned. From the thick, expensive feeling, personally imprinted napkins in the bathroom, perfectly chilled white wine, awesome and perfectly balanced Paloma, to the unfussy and effortless service – everything about the look and feel was phenomenal. Like I said, the food was good, but I think it just wasn’t up to par with the impeccable surroundings, service and drinks. We will definitely go back in the fall, sit by the amazing fire place and give her another try!
One little egg and it’s yoooolk! Ha, sorry, I was singing this in my head as I was writing the title. You might recall my Delicious Failure post that I had with the Crabless Cakes from Food & Wine magazine. Well, let me tell you, I went back and did it all over again, this time adding one little egg and then placing the formed patties (I hate that word for some reason, ugh and the word moist, bleh) in the fridge and VOILA! perfect little crabless crabcakes. Just one egg and they turned out perfect and still so, so, so delicious. Neat huh?
That’s really it guys. Have a gentle crabless cake day.
I remember very vividly my first Pure Barre class. It was at the Westlake studio and I was super excited. Having been a dancer for most of my teens and early twenties, I walked in thinking “I’ve so got this.” The cocky Emily swiftly exited stage left in about the first five minutes of class and I was served a big slice of humble, butt-kicking pie. I was sweating bullets and my legs were shaking like a leaf in a category five hurricane. But, I am not one to shy away from a challenge and I went back the next day, and the next and the next. After three weeks, I could start to see a difference. My tushie was lifted, arms were toned, my stomach felt like it had a girdle (in a good way) and my legs had not been this toned since I had danced. Those ladies really do mean it when they say “Lift. Tone. Burn.”
I did Pure Barre before our wedding and did the new mom bounce back after I had Lila. Cue some current job/financial issues, us having to put our dear, dear dog Cricket down (oh sweet girl, we miss you so) and Lila having an issue with her kidney that we hope will turn out OK, but medical bills have been piling up. Unfortunately, Pure Barre was the first on a list of items to get cut. While saddened that I wouldn’t get to see the lovely ladies everyday, I was just thankful that we still had our amazing family and friends, a roof over our head and food on the table – which is more than some have, so I can’t complain. Fortunately, like most of the ladies at Pure Barre, I’ve gotten to know the instructors pretty well and when I slightly mentioned to Kathryn, a supremely sweet instructor, about my current situation she mentioned getting together for coffee. I’ve always thought she was awesome so of course said “sure!”
We met up a few days ago and she mentioned that a client had given them funds to support one person who was a Pure Barre enthusiast but might be going through a tough time and couldn’t afford it. Kathryn informed me that I had been chosen as the lucky recipient. I was speechless. In fact, I cried all the way back to my car. The client’s reason? She believed in Pure Barre so much that she wanted to make sure that someone else who loved it too didn’t lose out on the experience. That’s so awesome! She’s paying forward exercise! I don’t need to list the myriad of reasons to exercise, but I do Pure Barre specifically because I love what it does for my body and my mental clarity, but also, my enthusiasm for the other women and instructors is equally as strong. Can you really name another workout place where an instructor would take the time to get to you know you like that? Can you name another place that a person would willingly pay for another person’s exercise because they believed in so much? I know I can’t think of any.
I started back at class yesterday and I could not be more grateful for this woman’s charity, kindness and thoughtfulness – not to mention Kathryn, the amazing instructor with a heart of gold. I only hope someday that I can return the favor for someone else and help them feel as great as I do now. It’s a little thing, but during trying times, it really is the little things that count the most. Thank you my Pure Barre angel!
I’m just going to be honest here, I hate shopping. Not loathe, not severely dislike, hate. It’s a strong word and one I don’t use very often but for some reason, I was born without the shopping gene. But, at least once or twice a year, I have to pull myself up by my bootstraps and get a few things so I don’t look like I l’m from 1995…or, is that year back in style? If only I could be like the fabulous Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love but fear I’m more like Steve Carrell. I did a little new mom product shopping and let me first just say that all of the products mentioned here are by my own discovery. Haha, that’s laughable to think anyone would think that brands approached me but just thought I would let you know.
There’s this absolutely hilarious article in The Huffington Post that said most new moms end up looking and smelling like a homeless yoga instructor because you honestly do think that today *fist shake* you will get in that workout and take a shower. Spoiler alert, you won’t. I would like to add on to that and say my high reaching goal each day is to not look too dead. While I don’t spend too much time on myself in the morning, between breakfast, tummy time, changing Lila, getting everything ready for school and a quick smooch with my adorable husband, I rely on these five products before I walk out the door to ensure I look like I’m part of the land of the living. It takes five minutes and bam, no zombie Emily! In case any of you are in need of a little beauty boost here’s my list:
(1) Dove Dry Shampoo – god bless this spray. The aforementioned shower issue really becomes less of one with this glorious spray since it takes my oil slicked roots (from days of not washing) and brings them back to life. Plus, it smells good and not like baby vomit.
(2) Boots No. 7 Stay Perfect Smoothing Eye Shadow in Bronze – When I found out Boots was coming stateside I did a little jig as I love their products and this shadow is the perfect hint of color that stays on all day long with no smears or smudges.
(3) Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser Darkspot Concealer + Treatment – Yeah, you might have gotten dark spots in college but let me tell you, the first three months with a newborn gives you a whole new appreciation for how effing dark this area can get and this stuff is like crack. One – or twenty – swipe(s) and you look like you’ve slept the whole night. Combine with dry shampoo and you start looking half way normal. See where I’m going with this?
(4) L’oreal Colour Riche Lip Balm in Nourishing Nude – another thing that happens from lack of sleep…mouthbreathing. My lips got so dry, to be honest I think from snoring and sleeping upright in our rocker that this lip balm with just the littlest hint of color keeps my lips moisturized and pretty…perfect!
(5) Sonia Kashuk Chic Luminosity Highlighter Stick – the final swipe I do before walking out the door to give what is otherwise dull skin a little kick and shine.
Ok, back to our regularly scheduled cooking blog, I’ve got some tasty recipes to try next week and will keep you posted. Anything out there that is a must try ladies and gents?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved recipes from Food & Wine magazine but I’ve noticed as of late that they have really inspired me to want to cook. Like these whimsical Garlic Bread “Fries” with Marinara “Ketchup” or the three bomb diggity dishes I made the past two days.
Lila just started daycare and while she’s fine, I’m the one losing it with worry and well, missing the heck out of her. So, while I was waiting for her and David to get home, I did what I know will help calm me down and keep my mind off of things…COOK! What better way than to honor the Chef who found sheer joy in cooking than the one and only Julia Childs. I tried this Julia’s Favorite Roast Chicken recipe from Food & Wine and to start, it was divine! Roasted chicken always sounds so simple but to nail it, it takes great timing, and a few simple ingredients to really make it shine and shine this one did. I’m not going to lie, there’s a lot to this but I didn’t mind the effort given the return when it was done. We both raved about this and I followed the instructions to a “T” to ensure I honored Miss Julia. As recommended, I paired it with the Bread Salad with Currants and Pine Nuts. This was bonkers good and perfect with the roasted chicken. I would recommend a smidge more dressing than it calls for since I felt it needed it at then end to dress it up and add a little more flavor. Otherwise, perfect.
For tonight’s State of the Union speech we made this Antipasto Salad with Bocconcini and Green-Olive Tapenade from another icon of women chefs, Nancy Silverton. Simple should be this recipes middle name and out-of-this-world delicious would be its last. YUM. We snarfed this down in no time, and while I was hoping for leftovers the next day for lunch that was just not the case. The only thing I added was toasted bread to add a bit more crunch and texture to the salad.
I’ve got to say that roast chicken recipe was probably my favorite. It’s lengthy and a bit more of a food workout than normal but worth it! As Julia would say, Bon Appetit!