Saturday, August 18, 2018

Unicorn Poop Marshmallows

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Fresh, sparkly unicorn poop, straight from the magical horse's butt. This was inspired by Nomageddon's Poop Peep Recipe!

What little kid didn't adore unicorns? I remember I was desperate for any "proof" that these majestic creatures existed. I watched The Last Unicorn hundreds of times, doublechecked every horse I encountered for the trace of a horn, and wished on every shooting star that I'd someday see one.

Why are millennials obsessed with unicorns now? I see it on all sorts of fashion and decor, even moreso than on children's clothes and toys. Could it be because we're nostalgic for a simpler time? Or we're waiting for the magical unicorns to visit us again and bestow some magic upon us (possibly to make our student loans disappear?)...

Well friends, look who I caught in the act:


That's a real, live unicorn, folks. And he has the nerve to not only poop on my table, but sniff his own butt nuggets! What a creep! Maybe the magic of unicorns is something we should keep in the past...


He ran away before I could get a better picture (unicorns are jerks, who knew!) but something about these pretty little lumps piqued my curiosity. After all, how often does one come across a magical beast's dung? So I had to have a nibble. You would have done it, too.

Did you know that unicorn poop tastes of strawberries? It's true! I carefully recreated the flavors for you here, in case you don't have the good fortune of a unicorn pooping on your own table. These Unicorn Poop Marshmallows are the perfect gift for your favorite desolate millennial, or wide-wondered child with an awesome sense of humor.



Unicorn Poop Marshmallows
(Adapted from this recipe for homemade peeps)
  • 1 packet gelatin + 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar + 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp strawberry extract
  • 3 drops neon pink food coloring
  • 3 drops neon blue food coloring
  • 3 drops neon purple food coloring
  • Sprinkles, edible luster dust, and candy hearts for garnish

-In the bowl of a stand mixer, gently whisk together the gelatin and water. Let sit while you prepare the sugar.

-In saucepan over low heat, combine the remaining water with the sugar.  Using a candy thermometer, heat over medium heat until it reaches 238 F.

-When it's reached the proper temperature, take off the heat and pour into the mixer with the gelatin, add the strawberry, whisking gently until smooth. Let cool for 5 minutes.

-Turn the mixer on high and mix until fluffy and peaks form. The peaks should hold together slightly.

-Transfer mixture to three bowls and distribute the colors until they're to your liking. Tip: I did them all in one bowl to get a marbling effect, but it's hard to keep them from fully incorporating so I suggest the bowls if you're a beginner.

-Immediately transfer to large piping bag. Give it a couple minutes to get slightly sticky. When it's ready to pipe into your poop lumps, the mixture should hold shape with just a little bit of falling.

-Let dry until just barely tacky and cover with sprinkles of your choice.


What You MUST See/Do/Eat in Costa Rica! - Part 2

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Originally, I was just going to round up what to eat in Costa Rica, but I've been gushing about this trip to anyone who will listen so I decided to dedicate a post to activities as well.

Looking for what you MUST EAT in Costa Rica? See my first post!


Horseback Riding - You'll find Horseback Rides just about everywhere, for any skill level though there's definitely a focus on beginner. The horses are well-trained and chill, so you'll have a leisurely stroll through the gorgeous countryside. In Arenal, it's the best way to get as close to the volcano as possible for those incredible pictures! Taking into consideration the uneven terrain and length of the hike, it's a lot better to have a horse that can do the hard work for you. This is the tour I took, through the hotel I stayed at.


The Volcano! - Arenal is famous for their volcano, and the entirety of what you can do and see here pretty much revolves around it. We were lucky enough to stay close enough to see the volcano from our hotel room. While you can't actually climb it, you can get pretty close (see the horse riding tip above!) and it's pretty breathtaking just to be near.


Thermal Pools - These are in Arenal. Being a volcanic area, these are in no short supply. Luckily for us, we had them right in our hotel area! They were not quite "natural" but still used hot thermal water heated by the volcanic activity under the ground. Our hotel even had a swim up bar, which was pretty cool. We found that it was a great way to relax after a day of adventuring. There are a number of spas in the area that have their own thermal pools in every price range. Our hotel was the Arenal Pariso and we loved having it all right there.


Ziplining - You will see billboards for these EVERYWHERE but the best ones will be in Monteverde, where the rain forest is the most lush. We shelled out for the photography of our first zip and got some pretty good pictures. The guides are energetic and the views are to DIE for. Flying hundreds of feat above the canopy is a memory I won't soon forget. Even my husband, who is terrified of heights, had a blast. In his own words "you go so fast, and there's so much adrenaline, that there's no time to be scared." Plus, you're strapped in and typically flanked by little kids who have no fear--so it's hard to be scared. Click here for the ziplining tour we took in Monteverde.


Rainforest Night Hike - Most of your favorite rain forest critters are actually nocturnal, so a night hike is your best way to get a peek at them. We took two tours: one in Arenal that focused on frogs, and one in Monteverde that focused on mammals. Both had their charm and we saw a ton of animals at both! The best part of the Arenal tour was that it included a meal cooked by the family that owned the land, though it probably ties with seeing three sloths on the Monteverde tour! Here is the one we took in Arenal (with dinner included), and Here is the one we took in Monteverde.


Coffee/Chocolate Tour - We took this tour on a whim because our hotel in Monteverde (the Heliconia) had a deal with them. And let me tell you, it was one of our favorite things we did! You get to sample chocolate in every stage of its transformation from bean to bar, and learn the process of making coffee and sample different roasts. It was all on a working farm with an incredible tour guide that gives you the entire history of coffee. Check out the Don Juan tour we took here!



The Beach! - My one regret about our trip was that we didn't set aside enough time for the gorgeous Costa Rican beaches. While I have heard that the Carribean-side beaches are the best, I was only able to check out the Pacific side. Namely, Jaco. And I have to say, it was AWESOME. I loved it. It was a bit touristy, but the beach was absolutely gorgeous. We walked a bit past the main strip where the hotels are and had our own private little stretch of beach that looked straight out of the movies.

What do you think of this list? Let me know in the comments!

What You MUST See/Do/Eat in Costa Rica! - Part 1

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At the beginning of July, my husband and I (finally!) took our honeymoon. Since we got married in Massachusetts last year and used up all our vacation time, we decided to make this our one-year-anniversary trip.

When I was researching for our trip, I found a lot of suggestions on what to DO, but not a lot on what to EAT! So I thought I'd do a roundup of both for my blog. This is specifically for the area we visited, Arenal and Monteverde, during the rainy season.


First up (of course) is what you MUST EAT when you visit Costa Rica.

While most of the food in Costa Rica is what you'll find throughout most of Latin America, there are a few unique dishes I came across that I immediately fell in love with. For the most part, the food here is so good because it's all super fresh, local, and not buried in seasoning so the bright flavors come forward.


Chifrijo - If there is one thing you must eat in Costa Rica, this is it. I need to make my own version because I keep thinking about this dish! It's a classic bar food but so incredibly tasty. Rice, beans, pork, salsa, served with chips. It sounds so simple, but it is SO. GOOD. It's one of the few totally Costa Rican dishes I could find and it was hands down my favorite. It's typically an appetizer, but I ate it as my dinner at least twice. It's filling!


Casado - Casado is a Costa Rican meal made up of rice, black beans, plantains, salad, a tortilla, and a protein like fish, chicken, or beef. It's a simple dish but you can find it everywhere and it's a meal you know will taste good. You can eat it separately or use the tortilla to make your own taco. Nothing is over-seasoned, and the freshness of the food stands out.


Arroz con Pollo - Chicken and rice. Or beef, or pork, or whatever else but chicken was the most popular. Rice is a staple here, so low carb diets will have a lot of trouble avoiding it. My advice? Don't avoid it. Indulge. It's worth it. The rice isn't soaked in sauce or cheese, but the flavor is worth it. Slightly spicy with fresh veggies, this was a whole meal in and of itself.


Salsa Lizano - This stuff is like ketchup in Costa Rica and it is DELICIOUS. Tangy, only slightly spicy, and so perfect on everything from rice to eggs to every meat. I brought home two huge bottles and am consuming them by the teaspoonful so as to make it last as long as possible.



Breakfast! - We filled up every morning with the generous breakfast buffets at each of our hotels. I feel like this is where America comes up short--our continental breakfasts (crappy make-your-own waffles included) honestly suck. Costa Rica had amazing breakfast spreads with all sorts of breads, meats, eggs, and more American options like cold cereal. Gallo pinto (rice and beans), fried cheese, and fresh fruit.


Fresh fruit juice - Every hotel and restaurant we went had their own fruit punch or fruit juice, as did every restaurant. The fruit here is plentiful and fresh so it's easy to find just about everywhere! Strawberry and Pineapple were my favorites, but Sour Guava was a surprisingly tangy juice we loved, too!


Chocolate and Coffee - You'll find these together at souvenir shops since they're two of Costa Rica's most popular exports. The best place to grab these are straight from the farms themselves, as you'll be guaranteed local, fresh products. However, if you want to save some money you'll find excellent options at grocery stores as well.

What did you think of this list? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Fresh Summer Musssels in White Wine Sauce

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Oh Austin, Texas. How I love you. I even love your long, sweltering Summers. For real, I'm the weirdo smiling like an idiot while I skip down the street and others are wiping pools of sweat from their foreheads.

25 New England winters made me so appreciative of the warmth. And Austin rarely gets above 50% humidity, and is often much lower. Y'all don't know how good we have it here.

But the one thing I long for, from those humid temps, is seafood. Austin is pretty far from the shore, so live seafood is hard to come by. When I get the opportunity, I snatch it up.

Mussels are a bit more expensive when they make their way to my lovely city, but still one of the less expensive options. This summery sauce is the perfect way to serve them.




Spicy White Wine Mussels
  • 1.5 lbs mussels, rinsed and de-bearded
  • 1 tbs butter + 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp hot chili oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley, diced
  • 2 tsp capers, optional
  • salt and pepper, to taste
-In a dutch oven or large saucepan (make sure you have a lid handy), heat the butter and olive oil until combined. Stir in the onion, garlic, pepper flakes, cayenne, and chili oil and heat until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant.

-Add the wine and broth and stir until combined and just barely simmering. Add the mussels and cover immediately. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until mussels have opened and cooked through. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley and capers. Let sit for two minutes with the cover on. Remove any mussels that have not opened and serve hot with sauce spooned over the top.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Creamy Boozy Dairy-Free Fudge Bars for Summer!

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At this point in my blogging life, I've made a number of popsicle recipes. But not just any popsicles... BOOZY ONES. 


Specifically, Creamy Boozy Dairy-Free Fudge Bars for Summer! What's better than a cool treat that gives you a bit of a buzz? A friendlier diet recipe! By removing the dairy and cutting down on sugar, this is way better than your typical cocktail, and definitely better than your typical popsicle.

Coconut Cream Fudge Bars
  • 1 can coconut milk, cream separated (upside down in the fridge over night, cream scooped off)
  • 1/4 cup Bailey's or other Coffee Cream Liquer (use dairy-free for a fully tummy-friendly recipe, or omit for booze-free)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 heaping tablespoons agave nectar or honey
-In a stand mixer, whip the coconut cream until fluffy. Fold in the cocoa powder and agave. Add about 2 tablespoons of the coconut water (leftover from the can) and the Baileys, if using. If you want softer pops, less coconut water. More firm, more water.

-Adjust cocoa and agave until desired taste is reached. Side note: at this point it's a LOVELY chocolate mousse if you just want to eat it.

-Fill popsicle wells and leave about one finger width headspace. Freeze until firm, preferably overnight.

-Note: the pops will be soft, so remove gently from wells once frozen.

Monday, July 30, 2018

I LOVE Broccoli - Summer Broccoli Salad

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I have a confession. I am, and have always been, a broccoli lover.

I know, strange, right? Kids across the country turn their nose up at these tiny trees, and I, an anomaly of my kind, devoured it. My favorite way to eat it is always fresh, raw, cold, and covered with ranch.

My second favorite way? This family recipe. Though not as popular or as legendary as my dad's baked beans, my mom's broccoli salad was always a favorite at family cookouts.


I expanded upon it by adding a bit more ingredients and reducing the sugar by more than half. What results is an almost-paleo side dish that can double as a main dish if you're into broccoli (I am).

Sadly it's not enough to turn the husband into a broccoli-lover. Oh well. We have the rest of our lives for me to teach him the ways of the "green foods."


Broccoli Picnic Salad
  • 2 heads broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 5 slices bacon, diced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/4 cup silvered almonds
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 2 tbs sugar (or sweetener of choice, as much or as little as you think you need)
  • 1 tbs red wine vinegar
-Cook bacon in a skillet on medium-high until desired crispiness is reached. Drain, and set aside on paper towels to let grease wick off.

-In a separate bowl, mix together the mayo, sugar, and red wine vinegar. Taste, and add more or less vinegar and sugar to taste. You can also add a bit of salt and pepper.

-Toss the rest of the ingredients with the dressing, and put in the fridge for 30 minutes. Serve cold.

*This will keep for a few days, but be sure to mix it up regularly, otherwise it'll get watery.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Best Downtown Lunches in Austin - My Favorite Lunch Spots from the Past Year

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This time last year I had two options for lunch: either the simple cafe one office building over that was a toss up as to whether you'd get acceptable or bland food, or a slightly better spot up the hill that felt like a boring hotel restaurant. Now, and since October, I've been working in the center of downtown Austin, surrounded by an overwhelming number of the best lunch spots in Austin!


Though my work co-opts meals for us at $5 four days a week and provides a complimentary catered lunch on Wednesdays (plus breakfast tacos on Fridays!), I still find myself venturing out for lunch at least once a week. In my seven months downtown and my five years in Austin overall, here is my list of the best downtown lunches in the city!

Quick Bites



Tumble 22 - It's no surprise Tumble 22 is on this list, as if you've spent any time here you probably know I am super obsessed. While the line can be long during lunch hours, you can take advantage of the ordering system on their website and skip right ahead to pick up. Perfectly spicy chicken with a cool dipping sauce is the best mid-day pick-me-up.



Royal Blue Grocery - Nope, it's not just a bougie little bodega! They actually have fresh sandwiches, East Side Pies pizza, and a number of grab-and-go options including sushi from Kome, my favorite! Plus daily specials at each location. There are two within walking distance of my office, and at least two others in the city. Meaning you're always close to a quick and tasty bite.



Whole Foods - Whole Foods' Austin flagship is a sight to behold. After you do the rounds for the free samples (I do it twice #noshame), skip the infamous salad bar and check out their counter service instead--it'll likely be cheaper!--snag a sushi burrito or a taco cup for an inexpensive lunch grab-and-go. You can even order a cold one at the bar or enjoy the sun at their patio seating.

Casual Sit Down



Swift’s Attic - When the typical lunch flavors are getting you down (sandwiches, salads, soups), Swift's Attic is a welcome surprise. Tucked away on a second story on Congress, you may need reservations for Sunday brunch or weeknight dinner, but you'll rarely need them for lunch. Take the opportunity to taste some of their offerings without the wait!



Eureka - Pretentious Austinites often pass by Eureka for one of two reasons; either because it's on "Dirty 6" or because it's a chain. Neither of these things should matter, because their bone marrow burger comes to me in dreams and begs me to eat it on the daily. I've never had a bad meal here and everything has been super tasty! 



Maiko - I still haven't found sushi I love more than my options up North BUT I can definitely say the best sushi deal for lunch downtown is Maiko. Big portions, low price, fresh fish. They have options for non-sushi-lovers on their lunch menu too, I just haven't tried them ;)

Healthy

This is me doing an outfit pic at leaf... the one day I don't take a pic of my food!

Leaf - If you like salads, you'll like leaf. There really isn't much else to say, other than don't let that enormous line fool you! The guys behind the counter have their system DOWN and it goes by very quickly. My suggestion here is to pick one of the salad specials so you know the cost upfront--building your own can get pricey very quickly!


Mad Greens - More salads! But with a few more options available like grain bowls, soups, hummus, and juices. I like getting a kids' size salad with a hummus plate and warm pita to get a bit of everything!

Photo credit: Hideout Coffee House

Hideout - Yes, they have food! I may be biased, since this is attached to my beloved theater, but the counterstaff will happily build you a fresh sandwich or panini. You can also snag a to-go salad or cold sandwich from the display if you're in a rush.

Business lunch

Photo credit: Food Banjo
Italic - Their lunch menu is small, but worth it. Good Italian is hard to find in Austin for some reason, but somehow this little downtown spot gets it right. Cozy decor, extensive wine list, and impressive flavors. My personal favorite is the chicken parm sandwich.



Caroline - I'm not the biggest fan of Caroline's for dinner, but for lunch they are one of the better spots in town. The chicken schnitzle is a generous portion and is perfectly crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. You can even grab a coffee to go!


Perry’s - Hint: try to make a reservation for a Friday, so you can experience their excellent table-carved pork chop for a fraction of the usual price. If you're taking out a client and want to be impressive, don't dismiss Perry's just because it's a chain. Order a flambeed dessert for extra flair.

Local Flavors

I don't have a picture from Ironworks, so here is me eating a BBQ rib?

Ironworks BBQ - An Austin classic. Despite this being a BBQ town, the heavy hitters all seem to be outside the downtown area. Ironworks is a solid choice if you're wanting to get your hands on some authentic Texas BBQ. You can even scoot over to Rainey to grab a drink when you're done!

Fresa’s - Fresa's is an Austin treasure. Sadly, most taco joints have been priced out of the city in recent years, but Fresa's hangs on to its South Lamar location (just down the hill from Whole Foods). Fresh, flavorful tacos. You really can't ask for more.


Fareground - Six of Austin's best and most unique restaurants, all under one roof. What could be better? Grab some ramen or sushi at Ni-Kome, a burger from Contigo, charcuterie from Antonelli's Cheese Shop, maybe some tacos from Dai Due, a monster cookie from Henbit, or fresh baked bread from Easy Tiger. Everybody can choose, and all are happy.



Are you a downtown Austinite? What do you think of this list of Best Lunches in Downtown Austin? Where do you like to lunch?