Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Day Job

Okay...I have to laugh at that title. As a stay at home mom, the only time I get to work on anything but being a parent is usually from the hours of 8PM- whenever I run out of steam. My day job is being a Mommy! Of course, that's my night job, too! You may have noticed that I haven't been steadily blogging this week. A few months ago, when it was clear that we'd be moving to the Austin area and I'd need to find some way to help bring in income to our little family, I started thinking of what talents I possess that could be turned into a lucrative venture.

I've always been a part of sales and marketing, since the beginning of time...or at least since I started working. I was always pretty successful, and I have a creative streak as well. Put those two things together and I have started a Marketing Consulting and Web Design business.

I won't be mentioning it much on this blog, simply because I don't want to. That is my business, and my blog is an outlet to share ideas and is something that is fun for me! If I make it about business, it won't be fun anymore, and I just don't want to do that.

For the first and last time on this blog, I do want to share this little blurb about my business, True Grit Marketing.

Obviously, I'm in the Austin area, but can work on anything all over the country. If you want to know more, it's all on the website. Thanks for looking! :)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Starbucks Secret Menu????

For those of you that have ever worked with me, you know if I have to leave the house before 10:00am, my car always manages to lead me straight to Starbucks. I am a huge fan of a good ol' Skinny Vanilla Latte. You can get a tall for 90 calories!

It turns out that Starbucks has a secret menu!! I was shocked, as I thought I was one of the more informed Starbucks groupies!

Read this article from Yummly here. Amazing stuff! I'm going to have to try that Thin Mint Frappuccino!

I just had to share this! I need a random thought section for this blog. :-)

Teriyaki Chicken Thighs

The inspiration from this recipe came from Skinnytaste, which is probably one of my favorite food blogs! They have tons of Weight Watchers friendly recipes, that are almost always delicious. This came from the Asian Glazed Chicken Thighs. Mine is slightly different, and probably has a few more calories from the flour that I added at the end to thicken the sauce. (Their method just did not work!)

By the way, the really fantastic part about this recipe is that is cost less than $3/per serving! Honestly, it cost me quite a bit less because I already had most of the ingredients on hand.

Here's the ingredients:

1 package of 4 chicken thighs, skin removed
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
1 tsp sriacha sauce
3 Tbsp honey (or agave nectar)
2 Tbsp garlic, minced
2 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp flour and 2 tsp cold water

In a large pan, melt coconut oil. On a medium high temperature, place chicken, skin removed in pan, and cook on each side for about 4-5 minutes. Just enough to crisp it up. In another bowl, mix balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, water, sriacha sauce, honey and garlic. Pour over chicken and once it comes to a boil (which won't take long), reduce to a simmer on low. Let it sit covered for 20 minutes.

After twenty minutes, take off the cover, and bring back up to high. By this point, the soy sauce mixture will be getting a little thicker. Let it boil, and turn the chicken often, so it gets coated. After about 5 minutes on high, after the sauce has had a chance to reduce a bit, add the flour and water that you have mixed together. (Make sure there are no clumps before you do.) Once you add the flour, stir frequently. It will become a much thicker sauce almost instantly. Once it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, it's done!

Plate your chicken and top with extra sauce and chives! You could also add sesame seed, I just couldn't find any at the store.  I served with steamed broccoli and basmati rice. It was REALLY, REALLY, REALLY good. I'm usually not a huge fan on chicken thighs, but they are so inexpensive that I'm really glad to have found a recipe that the whole family loves!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Roaring Fork-Austin

My hubby and I celebrated our anniversary last night at The Roaring Fork in downtown Austin. He would not tell me all week long where we were going...and kept saying we were going to Golden Corral! Well, thank goodness when we pulled up, it was not the infamous buffet line! haha

Located in Downtown Austin on South Congress inside the Intercontinental Hotel, the Roaring Fork was a great place for a special occasion! The only complaint I have is that we didn't get to sit on the patio upstairs. It overlooks the State Capitol and South Congress Avenue. It was a gorgeous night, so I had really hoped to be up there. We will try to next time, for sure!

The atmosphere was great. Perfect for a special evening. Dimly lit, and with antlers sporadically placed, it had a nice lodge flair. Very casual, but still sophisticated. Not to mention the location was perfect. You can see the State Capitol from the front door! Also, a stone's throw from 6th Street if you plan to head out for some fun afterwards.

We started our meal with a very interesting appetizer. Fried avocado and crab with a horseradish sauce and chives. I wanted to try it because it sounded so different, and I just had to try it! It was really delicious! The crab was really delicious, and I was amazed that the avocado was still perfect inside. I probably wouldn't order it as an appetizer again, simply because two pieces were incredibly filling! They could be a meal in themselves with a salad. Delightful, though!

That being said, I like to do menu research before I go to a restaurant and read reviews so I know what to get. Since my husband wouldn't tell me where we were going, I didn't get a chance to do that! Sweet surprise, though. :) Had I been able to look, I would have known to try the Kettle of Green Chile Pork with hot buttered tortillas. Apparently, that is the appetizer that is a reason to go in itself! Next time!

For dinner, I had the Braised Beef Short Ribs with horseradish mashed potatoes and tomato jam. The horseradish mashed potatoes were a little strong for me. Next time, I might replace them with the White Falls Mills cheese grits. (My hubby had those as a side, and they were fantastic!) The tomato jam really didn't taste much like tomato, more like a sweet barbecue sauce. Still quite tasty, though! The beef rib....I didn't even have to pick up my knife. I could literally pull off the meat with my fork. It was perfectly done. Absolutely amazing. I was very impressed! Perfectly moist, with the hint of sweet from the tomato jam and the savory from the perfectly braised beef rib. I loved this meal.

My husband got the Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with White Falls Mills cheese grits and street corn. The street corn was filled with a pico de gallo mixture, queso fresco, and a balsamic reduction. I thought it was great! The pork was also sensational, and the grits were so creamy. The flavor was perfect, especially when mixed with the balsamic reduction.

They are also known for their Roaring Fork Big Ass Burger with poblano pepper, smoked cheddar, peppered back, onion, lettuce, tomato, and pickles. We saw one come out after we had already placed our order, and from the looks of it, it lives up to the name!

I was also very impressed that they gave us a card for our anniversary and a free dessert. The dessert, by the way, was out of this world. We went with the seasonal pie, which was fresh strawberries in a perfectly flaky crust with Amy's ice cream. It also came with a nice script in dark chocolate that said "Happy Anniversary".

Great experience! Can't wait to go back! Especially for happy hour on that great patio!

Friday, March 23, 2012

I just have to share this great blog that I follow. You guys have probably heard me mention it before, but it is a fantastic resource for free (or really cheap) things to do in and around the Austin area. A lot of activities are during the weekday, so can be a perfect thing for you fellow stay at home Mommas!

For example, if you were to look this week you would find:

A $13 coupon for a family 4-pack at the Austin Zoo

Art in the Park- Free Event for Friday

Mother Goose on the Loose Storytime at Austin Public Library

Williamson County Archeology Day (includes free hot dog lunch!) 

Strawberry picking at Sweet Berry Farm in Marble Falls

This website is geared towards families, and has been a lifesaver to get out of the house and find fun things to do!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

NOT my Aunt Dee's Manicotti

As you can probably already tell from some of my recipes, some of my favorite foods are italian food. There is just nothing better to me than a saucy pasta dish paired with a piece of fresh, crusty bread and a glass of fine red wine. No, my family is not Italian. Not even close. I didn't grow up eating a ton of wonderful Italian food with huge Godfather-esque family gatherings. My family gatherings usually looked more like an episode of Green Acres. (I wouldn't have it any other way!) However, my husband is one fourth Italian! That has to count for something! 
I Aunt Dee is famous for her manicotti. In fact, I can't really remember her making anything else! I'm sure she did, but her manicotti is so good that's all I seem to remember! She would let go of the recipe, unfortunately. Maybe one day when she's old and gray I can get it from her, but until then, I've had to come up with my own! I decided to go with a manicotti with a meat sauce, and spinach and ricotta filling. It turned out so good! I still can't compare it to Aunt Dee's manicotti, but it was darn tasty! Also, my version is low fat!



1 28 oz. can Cento Whole Tomatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb. 95/5 lean ground beef
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package manicotti noodles (I found whole wheat at Whole Foods, if you want to go that route)
1 16oz tub part skim or fat free ricotta cheese
1 package frozen spinach, drained
3-4 ounces fresh parmesan cheese
1 cup part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Start a pot of water to boil on the stove for your noodles. Salt and add just a few drops of olive oil to the water. Drop your manicotti noodles once it comes to a rolling boil. Leave for about 1-2 minutes, then turn off. I drain the noodles at this point. I don't want them to cook all the way, because they will cook more in the oven. Set noodles aside.

You can start on your sauce while you are boiling the noodles if you are a multi-tasker. Personally, when I have the time, I start the sauce early in the day and let it simmer for a few hours. I almost never have that kind of time, though. Isn't that what a crockpot is for, anyway? Works just as well! Saute your ground beef in a pan with your olive oil. Once it is browned, add onion and bell pepper and continue to cook until onion is translucent. Add can of tomatoes, garlic, fennel and red pepper. You can use an emulsion blender if you have one to break up the tomatoes. After a few minutes they break down on their own and you can do it with a fork, if you don't have one. I like to use the whole tomatoes, because they seem to have more of that fresh flavor. I'm a tomato fanatic, so I'm kind of picky. Once it comes to a boil, let simmer on a medium-low heat until needed to pour over stuffed noodles. 

While your sauce is simmer, it's time to mix the filling and stuff those puppies! To get the spinach where you need it, it will either need to already be defrosted or you can do it in the microwave. I just put in frozen in a microwave-safe bowl for about 4 minutes. Once it is out, you can cool it down by putting it under running water. You'll need to squeeze out any excess liquid with a cheesecloth or thin kitchen towel. (A clean one, obviously). Mix together in a large bowl with the ricotta cheese. I add a little bit of Parmesan cheese to this mixture, too. 

Now, for the stuffing. I can't ever get them to stuff without breaking the noodles. I go ahead and break the noodles myself, and treat them like a tortilla. I slather the mixture on with my cute little baby spoon, and wrap it up just as if I were making enchiladas and put it into the casserole dish. Check out my baby spoon. :)
 Before you add any noodles to your dish (I use a glass 13x9 casserole dish), add about 1/2 cup of sauce to the bottom. That way the noodles have something to sit on.
 Add the noodles, top with the remaining sauce. Yes, you will have a lot. Yes, it will fill up the pan. You don't have to add this much, but like I said before, I like it extra-saucy. 
Top with your mozzarella cheese and bake until top is golden and bubbly. That will probably take about 35 minutes or so. Let it set for about 20 minutes before serving. It will still be warm and gooey, but the sauce won't run everywhere when you cut it. Before serving, top with parmesan and fresh chopped basil. 

No, it wasn't my Aunt Dee's manicotti, but it sure was good! This would make a great freezer meal, too!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Salt Lick BBQ

Every part of the country has it's own special cuisine that it's known for. Philadelphia has cheesteaks, New York has pizza, and in the South...we have barbecue. If you've ever watched the Travel channel or Food TV, you know there are several different regions with claims of being the best in the country. St. Louis has a style of it's own focusing on ribs and these wonderful things known as burnt ends. (They are literally the burnt ends off of a brisket. They are so amazing!) North Carolina...well, they have something that I'm not particularly a fan of...but to each his own! Then of course, there's the real stuff. Good ol' Texas BBQ. Texas is an enormous state, and big enough to be a country all on it's own. There are different regions in Texas, and different forms of BBQ. Dallas' best claim to BBQ is Sonny Bryan's. Excuse me while I go anywhere else...that's just not BBQ. Sorry. I personally think the best BBQ in Dallas comes from my Daddy's backyard. I digress...when you get into Central Texas, that's when you find the real stuff. Central Texas was largely formed by German immigrants, and they brought all of their wonderful sausages with them! You can find more sausage in the H.E.B deli section on any given Tuesday in Austin than you can at a Market Street anywhere else in the country. It is delicious, too!

One of my favorite barbecue spots in the Austin area is Salt Lick BBQ. You will see their billboards on 35 starting in Georgetown that say "You can smell our pits from miles away!" They aren't kidding, either. Whether you are in Dripping Springs at the original location, or the satellite in Round Rock, you really can smell the greatness a mile away! When my hubby and I moved to Austin, we decided to first try all the restaurants that were on an episode of Man vs. Food that we had recently seen about Austin. Salt Lick was first on our list! We went to the one in Round Rock, simply because of the location. The locals tell me that the original in Dripping Springs is so much better than the Round Rock location. As good as the Round Rock location is, I would be in BBQ Heaven if that's true! The Round Rock location is also located directly next to the Dell Diamond, which is where the Round Rock Express play.

Our first visit was last summer. I was pleased when we walked up because even though there was a long wait (which is always a good sign), they had opened up the stone patio and the outdoor bar. After an excruciatingly, hot Texas day it was so very nice to kick back on a patio with a beer. The hour we waited didn't seem like that long at all, and when got in we were seated at family style benches. The first thing that catches your eye is the GIANT barbecue pit on your left. They truly cook their meat old style, on a pit, right there in the middle of the restaurant. My hubby is a total nerd, and wanted to take a picture of the pit. So he asked the waiter if he could take one, and he actually took him back into the kitchen and took a picture of him right next to it!

 We decided to try the ribs and the sausage. A true staple for both of us. The combo plate came with two meats, beans, coleslaw and potato salad. It was reasonably priced, too. Only $12.95, and you can actually get up to 3 meats if you want. I just double up on the ribs. Talk about delectable!

They bring you white bread, which I'm usually not a fan of due to the fact that it almost always tastes like it's made with Elmer's glue. Theirs was actually really nice, and went perfectly with the sauce and the meat. The ribs literally fell of the bone when  you picked them up. The sausage was perfectly spiced. It almost tasted like venison sausage to me, but it isn't. It's pork sausage, but maybe they used similar spices. At any rate, it was delicious. They have two sauces, the regular and a spicy. Their sauce is different. I wouldn't go in expecting it to taste like Rudy's or whatever you may be used to. It's really, really good. It has a tang to it. It's slightly sweet, but still slightly spicy. It's their own invention, and nothing like anything I've tasted before. Apparently the secret recipe actually goes back to the wagon train that Scott Roberts (the owner)'s family was on in the 1800s. All I know is that is has 40+ ingredients, apparently mustard is one of them. Although, you really couldn't pinpoint that flavor in there.

The staff and service is absolutely wonderful. You can tell they all get along with each other. The manager, Maggie comes off tough as nails, but a really nice lady when you sit down and talk with her.  It's like going to a barbecue at a friend's house.

They have these pecan pies on display when you walk in that look amazing, but we've always been too full to order dessert. I can't imagine going in and saving room for dessert with food like that. Maybe one day, I will have to get one to go.

I absolutely love Salt Lick BBQ, and that would be the first place I'd take any friend looking for authentic Texas BBQ!

You can check out their website here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Grand Opening of SFC Farmer's Market in Austin

Man, I am super excited about this! There is just nothing greater to me than walking around a farmer's market on a spring day. As I've said before, nothing beats a fresh tomato.

 Being from Dallas, originally, I am used to one massive farmers market that is open from early spring to early fall, seven days a week. Austin is a great area to get locally grown food. I'm finding out there there are several farmers markets that are open certain days a week, all year long! This one in particular that is opening this coming Tuesday is part of Austin's Sustainable Food Center. This is the fourth farmer's market they will be opening, and will be open every Tuesday from 10-1. Check out this little blurb from ( A FANTASTIC website for those in the area, especially SAHMs.)

Join the Sustainable Food Center and other excited Austinites in celebrating the grand opening of SFC's fourth farmers' market, the SFC Farmers' Market East, on Tuesday, March 20, 2012. The new market will be a year round market located at the YMCA East Communities Branch, and will operate weekly every Tuesday from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Local farmers and dignitaries from the City of Austin, St. David’s Foundation, the State of Texas Department of Agriculture, Dept. of State Health Services, Travis County, YMCA of Austin and local state legislator Eddie Rodriguez will help kick off the event at 9:30 a.m. with opening remarks and an official bell ringing ceremony. The event is FREE and open to the public. 

The East market will showcase at least 10 vegetable and fruit farmers, along with several ranchers and farmers who will bring meats, eggs, honey and dairy. The March 20 kick-off will include special music, cooking and tastings, kids activities, door prizes and giveaways, beginning at 9:30 a.m. There will also be a tasting tent with short cooking demos featuring recipes from The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Allegre.

Along with the festivities, the SFC Farmers' Market East will feature incentives such as the Double Dollar Incentive Program, where shoppers who use their WIC and SNAP fruit and vegetable benefits will receive matching dollars.

YMCA East Communities Branch
5315 Ed Bluestein Blvd (51st & 183)
Austin, TX 78723

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Pinterest Dream House

You know how there are just some days when it's better to sit back and look at pictures than actually read anything. I think that's one of the reasons Pinterest is so popular. I've compiled a bunch of photos that will be inspiration for my future dream home that we build right after we win the lottery. It's coming, I can feel it. :)

I'm just a little obsessed with the porches covered in Southern charm. There's a part of me that wants to live in an old plantation! 
Do you know how much laundry I would get done if my laundry room looked like this??? 

I've always wanted a music room with nothing in it but a grand piano. This is so simple, too.
I love, love, love, love this design. I'm currently working on our own master bedroom to make it look like this!
A perfect breakfast nook!

My dream kitchen isn't full of anything crazy. I want my whole house to be comfortable, liveable, but still impressive.
 I LOVE shutters. I'd have them on every single window!
 Hello gorgeous. :)
 I just love the simple charm of this!
 Well, you know I'd have to have a wine drinking circle for me and my buds!
 For the ladies lunches I'd throw and serve finger sandwiches. :)
 Back porch, perhaps?
Nope, this would be the back porch. Ay caramba, I love this!
Very masculine. I'd make this the gun room.
Love the stairs! Love the blue!
I don't care how tacky it's going somewhere on my porch!
For the game room.
I'd have hydrangeas all over the place! I love these. Just wish I could keep them alive. Did I mention the gardener I'd also be hiring right after that lotto win?
For my lavish dinner parties.

Well, that says it all, doesn't it!

*all of these photos were compiled from I do not have ownership an any of these photos.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Yummy Orange Dreamsicle Bars

The other day, my husband called me in the middle of the day and asked "What are we having for dessert tonight?" We rarely actually have a dessert after dinner, so obviously his sweet tooth had attacked. My first thought was lemon bars. As you have probably heard me mention before, I always have lemons on hand. I usually keep them on display in a wood bowl on our dining table. They are aromatic, and oh so pretty to look at. We had just had lemon bars a few weeks before, but that's all I had the ingredients for...until I remembered I had a big bag of Cuties in the refrigerator that needed to be eaten. I then wondered what these easy to make bars would taste like with oranges instead of lemons.

I followed the classic recipe for lemon bars, only substituting the oranges for a small amount of orange juice and juiced oranges.

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Next, to make the crust I used the following:

1/2 cup of butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup oats
1 cup all-purpose flour (Yes, I used bread flour. Made no difference to me.)

Mix all of these ingredients together in a mixer or even with a fork until they look crumbly. You'll then pour them in a 9x9 casserole dish and press together to form a crust.
Then you will bake for about 15-17 minutes until it is golden and a little firmer. While it is baking, you can make the orange mixture. For that you will need:

2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 oranges, juiced
1/8 cup orange juice

Whisk together until incorporated.  Pour on top of the baked crust while crust is still hot. Then continue to bake at 350 degrees for an additional 20 minutes. Let cool for at least 30 minutes. Slice up into squares and you have orange bars that taste just like a dreamsicle! I will say, the next time I do this I may not use quite as much sugar, because they were a tad on the sweet side for my taste. I think it really depends on your taste, because my husband thought they were perfect.

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