Sunday, August 20, 2017

Shrimp and Grits


You know how you throw out or give away all the food in your fridge before you go on vacation? Yea, well it's a necessary evil of making sure you don't come home to a stinky house.  The problem with that, is it leaves you with no food when you come home from vacation and you're tired. And you have to unpack. And need to do 5 loads of laundry.

Going grocery shopping is one of the last things on my mind when I come home from a trip.

So I usually have a few things stocked in my pantry or freezer that I would consider 'staples'.  This is also helpful for if you have a baby and don't have time or the effort to have perishables.  And hate food waste.  I usually have some oatmeal and/or grits in the pantry for breakfast.  And I usually have some kind of seafood, ground beef, and chicken thighs or breasts in my freezer.  And I usually keep some parmesan cheese in my freezer.  So I happened to have some frozen shrimp in the freezer when we came home from our trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Hence....shrimp and grits for dinner!

Now, I did cheat and used some cherry tomatoes in my fridge that were a little bit less-than-fresh.  And green onions from my backyard garden (the only thing besides rosemary that had survived my year of gardening neglect).  So this meal is not entirely from the pantry/freezer.

Shrimp and Grits
2 portions, approximately 20-30 minute cooking and prep time
Ingredients:

  • stove-top grits for 2 servings
  • 1 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1.5 tbs. butter
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 green onion,sliced

Directions:

  1. Prepare grits according to directions for 2 servings, stove-top.
  2. Remove from heat.  Fold in parmesan cheese and cover with lid to retain warmth.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Melt butter and oil oil until browned, about 1 minute.
  4. Saute garlic and tomatoes until tomatoes blister about 2-3 minutes
  5. Add shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes per side, or until cooked through and starting to curl. Season with salt and pepper
  6. Plate grits and add shrimp and tomatoes.  Pour sauce over shrimp and grits.
  7. Garnish with green onions

Monday, July 31, 2017

New Momma Cooking

I took a little hiatus from blogging because I had a hard time figuring out how to cook the time-consuming, challenging recipes and meals that I was used to once baby John showed up and I no longer had help from my mom and went back to work.

But now that John's a little better on a schedule and I've figured out how to compromise my cooking with some shortcuts, I'm back.  Recipe and posts will be a bit simpler than before, because I don't really have hours of free time anymore.  Those are taken up by baby snuggles!

I've never been great at super meal planning where you cook everything one day of the week, but I have found a few things helpful.  Some of these tips are from a book my friend gave me, Parents Need to Eat, Too
So here are a few tips and shortcuts that I've found useful as a new mom:

  • buying prepared produce is OK.  Save time, but splurge a little for those already washed and cut veggies.  I now buy at least one bag of sugar snap peas or broccoli or the like to make for dinner.
  • casseroles and freezer meals are your friend
  • divide up prep for a recipe into 15 minute blocks.  Example: wash anything that needs washing, dry, and cut up stuff. Then, when your baby hopefully naps again, mix or layer things or continue the recipe as needed.  And right before dinner, cook/bake/etc.
  • stock up your freezer and pantry.  I foolishly signed up for a CSA box around the time John was 3 months old and ended up giving away most of it because I never had the time to use it all before it went bad
  • try a meal delivery mail service.  My sister-in-law gifted one free box to me and it was pretty great.  No thinking about what to make. There are so many services where the first box is free.  I tried Hello Fresh and liked it
  • UberEats!!!!
  • Instacart!!!!
...and it will get better! I still have lots of kinks to work out, and it'll be some time before I'm baking bread or making ice cream again, but every week I'm able to accomplish a little more with my cooking! Last week my kitchen looked like a wreck, but I made zucchini bread!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

2017 Austin City Guide: Vietnamese Restaurants

When I moved to Austin over 10 years ago from Houston, finding Vietnamese restaurants helped me with my homesickness.  When I don't have the time to cook or want to eat out, some of these places have been solid!  I think the Austin Vietnamese scene has really blossomed over the last few years as Vietnamese food has become more mainstream.  

Vietnamese food in Austin is plentiful! Sometimes, you just need to know where to look.  Here is just a SAMPLING of a few popular places around town.  The hours and addresses are listed and website linked when possible.  If I left out your favorite, please comment below!

In an effort to keep this post from being repetitive or way too long, I left out places my fellow food blogger over at The Smoking Ho has included in his Banh Mi roundup

2400 E. Oltorf Suite 1A, Austin, TX 78741
M-Sat 11:00 am-2:00 am
Sun 5:00 pm-11:30 pm
Like the name says, this is pan-Asian cuisine, so you can also enjoy Thai and Chinese dishes along with the typical Vietnamese fare.  A great thing about 888 is the late night/early morning hours.  So if you are craving Asian food at 1:00 am after partying all night, or need somewhere to eat New Year's Day, this is the place.

13000 N IH 35 #102, Austin, TX 78753
Sun-Th 11:00 am-9:00 pm
F-Sat 11:00 am-9:30 pm
Cyclo offers Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine.  Upon recommendations by the owner, I tried the banh xeo (Vietnamese crepe), salt and pepper fried shrimp and squid,  Cyclo Special Seafood.  We also ordered the mi ax xiu (egg noodle with bbq pork).
Cyclo Restaurant


Dong Nai
Lakehills Plaza, 4211 S. Lamar Blve #E1, Austin, TX 78704
Mon-Sat 11:00 am-9:45 pm
Sun 12:00 pm -8:45 pm

Duy Vietnamese Restaurant
10901 N Lamar Blvd Suite A-101 Austin, TX 78753
M-Sun 10:00am-10:00 pm
Located in the spacious corner unit of the Chinatown Center, Duy offers Chinese and Vietnamese dishes.  A friend of mine recommends the non-pho dishes such as bamboo duck with pork blood.  I am a fan of their congee!

500 E. Ben White, Suite D-200, Austin, TX 78704
M-Sun 10:00 am- 9:00 pm
I haven't had a chance to try Hea cafe since it's in South Austin, but hear it offers good Chinese dishes alongside the typical popular Vietnamese dishes such as pho and vermicelli bowls.  No tipping necessary which is interesting.

Multiple locations, check website for locations and hours
Lots of different Chinese/Vietnamese dishes offered here.  Get the hu tieu ap chao, crispy pan fried wide rice noodles stir-fried with your choice of protein (vegetarian option also available)!  They also offer pho, vermicelli bowls, and other pan-asian favorites.  The Spicewood Springs location is very family friendly.

Pho Dan
11200 N Lamar Blvd, Ste 200, Austin, TX 78753
Mon-Thurs 8:30 am- 9:00 pm
Fri-Sun 8:30 am -9:30 pm
Come for the pho; they even have vegetarian broths and options.

Pho Hoang
2521 Rutland Dr #400, Austin, TX 78758
Mon-Sun 9:00 am - 9:00 pm
Casual setting specializing in pho.

Pho King
1021 E. Parmer Ln, Austin, TX 78753
Mon-Sun 9:30 am-9:00 pm
Best thing about this place is the cheeky name.

Pho Lee
2601 IH 35 Frontage Rd, Round Rock, TX 78664
Mon- Sun 11:00 am -10:00 pm

10901 Lamar Blvd, A108, Austin, TX 78753
Mon-Sun 8:00 am - 9:00 pm
This is my personal favorite place to eat beef pho in Austin.  Their broth is not too fatty, and is very flavorful.  Service is super fast but friendly and the place is always clean.  Located in the Chinatown Center.  This place is more consistent to Vietnamese restaurants in Houston that I'm used to, and they have locations there, as well. They specialize in one type of dish, and do it well.  

Pho Thai Son*
Multiple locations, check website for locations and hours
Pho Thai Son has a very nice setting and ambiance so it makes for a nice place to take out-of-town guests.  The food is a little bit more Americanized and so is also very accessible to many people.

Pho Van *
8557 Research Blvd, Austin, TX 78758
Mon-Sun 10:30 am- 9 pm
This used to be one of my favorite pho places in town.  I'm not sure if the management changed or if my tastes have changed since the first time I tried it 10 years ago, but it just doesn't seem to be the same. Pluses are that it is a little easier to get to than some of the other places that are further soother north in Austin.

Pho Viet
 603 Louis Henna Blvd B200, Round Rock, TX 78664
Mon-Sun 11:00 am- 9:00 pm

Phonatic
Multiple locations, check website for locations and hours
Great fast-casual eatery for your go-to pho and Vietnamese options.

Fried tofu at Phonetic
8557 Research Blvd, Suite 146, Austin, TX 78758
M, Wed-Sun 10:00 am- 9:30 pm
T closed
I think Sunflower is on everyone's personal 'best Vietnamese restaurant in Austin' list.  The food is authentic and their banh xeo (Vietnamese style savory crepe) can't be beat!


The amazing banh xeo at Sunflower

Tan My
1601 Ohlen Rd #E, Austin, TX 78758
Mon-Sun 10:00 am-9:00 pm
Pho Tai at Tan My
Tan My is my personal favorite Vietnamese restaurant in town.  Pho and vermicelli bowls here are excellent.  Located in an unassuming strip mall next to a laundromat, this place is pretty authentic.  The Tran family, the owners, are incredibly friendly and service is super quick.  It does get a little busy for lunch time.

10901 North Lamar Blvd, Suite B-203, Austin, TX 78753
Mon-Sun 10:30 am- 9:30 pm
I like the congee here.  This is another place that specializes in Chinese/Vietnamese cuisine.  The place has a pretty cool history.  It is run by descendants of Teochew ethnic-Chinese from Vietnam.  This ethnic group are from South China and Southeast Asia.

**If your favorite place wasn't listed here, please check out The Smoking Ho's banh mi City Guide for more places.   



Sunday, February 12, 2017

Getting ready for AFBA city guide

Getting together the Austin Foob Bloggers' 2017 City Guide and checking out some Vietnamese places I hadn't been yet. 
 
Mi Xa Xiu at Cyclo Restaurant

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Xiu Mai (Chinese/Vietnamese meat balls)

My mom stayed with us for a whole month after John was born.  To say we were pampered is the least of it.  She made this for us while I was wallowing in self-pity about my peri-partum Bells Palsy (facial nerve paralysis) and Reid was fighting a flu-like cold.  And she helped with baby John.  The kitchen smelt so good.  I asked her to write down her recipe for me (a very hard task for someone who cooks as well as she does).  We ate it in baguettes with French mayonnaise and cucumbers and shredded and pickled carrots for banh mi xiu mai (though I couldn't chew the crusty delicious outer crust so I ate mine with lettuce).

Xui mai, or su mai, or whatever other crazy spelling we've come up for translating Chinese/Vietnamese words into English phonetics are basically Asian meatballs.  They are savory from fish sauce and soy sauce and have a bit of a chewy/crunchy bits sprinkled throughout from the waterchestnuts or jicama root.  So like instead of onions in Italian-style meatballs.  This is hard to describe. But trust me, they are good. Combine them in a French-style baguette and mayonaise and it's even yummier.

Ingredients:
Meat mixture:
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  •  1 can waterchestnuts (or 1/2 small jicama root, small dice, cooked in microwave for 1 min and juice squeezed out
  • 1 tbs. corn starch
  • 1 tsp. choped garlic
  • 1 tbs. chopped shallot
  • 1 tbs. white part of green onion
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tbs. sugar
  • 1 tbs. oyster sauce
  • 1 tbs. fish sauce
  • 1 tbs. soy sauce
Sauce:
  • 2 or 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbs. oil
  • garlic
  • shalllots
  • 3 tbs. ketchup or tomato paste
  • 2 tbs. sugar
  • 1 tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tbs. fish sauce
  • 1 tbs. sesame oil
  • pepper
  • 1 c. water
Directions:

  1. Mix well.  Let stand 30 minutes.  
  2. Moisten hands with a small amount of vegetable oil to prevent meat mixture from sticking to hands.  Form into small ~1 inch balls.   
  3. Fry in 1 tbs. oil until golden brown on all sides.
  4. Simmer meatballs in sauce until fully cooked.  Taste to adjust seasoning as necessary.
  5. Add green onions

I had a baby

I had a baby.  John.  On November 26,2016 at 3:01am weighing 6lbs 6 oz and 21" long.
So there was a break from the blogging.  My next few posts are going to be back logged from when I started them or super late.  I may not have a post consistently again.  Or one that makes any sense.

Sleep deprivation is tough...

Almost as hard as quiting cheese and dairy because John may have a milk intolerance.

My baby burrito

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Cold Buster Orange Smoothie

I don't know about you, but allergy and cold and flu season has been kicking my butt. Maybe it's the lack of sleep while waking up so frequently to breastfeed the baby, the Bells Palsy, or just being post-partum, but my immune system just hasn't been working great. 
So this is a great way to quickly get some vitamin C in that's easy to gulp down.   I love the taste of cardamom  and cinnamon and the turmeric adds anti-inflammatory benefits. Raw honey is supposed to help with allergies.  Flax seed adds omega 3.  I have a Blendtec blender so it's super easy to throw everything in (can be prepped night before) and blend in the morning while I'm toting the baby around in the morning.   Then it goes in my shaker cup!

2 c. Unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 large Fuji apple
2 carrots
2 mandarin oranges
2 tbs ground flax seed
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Indian turmeric 
2 tsp ground cardamom 

Directions: combine all ingredients in a blender.