Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Spiced Orange French Macarons with Orange Curd



I feel like people can be divided into two groups: Christmas people, and Halloween people.

Um, and I guess Nightmare Before Christmas People that incorporate both... so maybe three kinds of people.

I've already enjoyed my first PSL of the season. And am slowly accumulating various Pumpkin Spice treats to try. So of course, I was going to try my hand at some seasonal French Macarons. Spiced orange French macarons, to be exact.

While these don't actually have any pumpkin, they DO have a hefty shake of pumpkin spice. With the accompanying Spiced Orange Curd it's the perfect treat for when the air gets chilly and you need something cozy to munch on.

Bonus: the egg yolks you separate from the whites go into the orange curd! It's really quite perfect.

Don't get discouraged if they fail the first time--these cookies are VERY temperamental. The good news is that even if they don't LOOK like macarons, they'll still be tasty!

Spiced Orange Macarons with Spiced Orange Curd
(Adapted from Food Network's Recipe)

  • 1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the orange curd

  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter cut into pieces

-Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

-Sift together the confectioner's sugar, pumpkin spice, and almond flour.

-In a stand mixer on medium, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy. Turn the speed to high, and slowly stream in the granulated sugar. Whip until stiff peaks form. Add the vanilla extract and mix until just incorporated.

-Add the almond flour mixture and fold into the egg whites until well combined. The perfect texture is described to be like "lava"--it should flow slowly off the spoon when pulled from the batter, and look shiny when at rest.

-Using a piping bag, pipe 2-3" diameter circles of the batter onto a cookie sheet fitted with parchment paper or a silpat. Smack the pan on a hard surface to remove bubbles, then let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

-Bake for 20 minutes, until cookies are shiny and small "feet" form.

-While the cookies bake, prepare the orange curd: In a pan over low heat, mix together all ingredients and whisk constantly until thick, about 12 minutes. It will further thicken as it cools.

-Sandwich two macaron shells with a bit of curd

Thursday, September 20, 2018

BLENDABELLA Recipe Challenge - Zesty Mexican Enchiladas #BLENDABELLA, #zestymexican


This is a sponsored post, in that I received complimentary product as well as the chance to win monetary prizes from BLENDABELLA

I have fond memories of enchiladas for dinner growing up in Western Massachusetts. Little did I know, authentic enchiladas did not use a condensed soup base (in fact, the recipe was on the back of a soup can!), and the real ones were actually way more flavorful and spicy!

Since moving to Austin, I've been educated in the complex tastes of this Tex-Mex favorite. Of course, I wanted to start making it in my home kitchen. I've played with the concept of an enchilada--tortilla wrapped around various meats and veggies, topped with a spicy sauce, and smothered in cheese. I can't say that my recipe is authentic, but it sure is flavorful!

So when BLENDABELLA reached out to me to create a recipe for their Blogger Challenge, I knew exactly how to feature their Zesty Mexican mushroom blend. Enchiladas are so versatile that this recipe can quite easily be adapted for any recipe. Swap out the tortillas for an almond flour or low carb version. Take away the beef and double up on the mushrooms. The flavor of the sauce is so great that you don't even NEED the cheese... but I can't resist.

You can follow BLENDABELLA by following these accounts:

Have you ever tried BLENDABELLA mushroom blends? Let me know in the comments!

  • 1 jar BLENDABELLA Zesty Mexican mix
  • 1 lb ground beef (omit if vegetarian, replace with a second jar of BLENDABELLA)
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup Mexican beer
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 beef broth cube, crushed (sub for vegetable cube if vegetarian)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp habanero hot sauce (optional)
  • 8 tortillas (I used low carb)
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • sour cream and chives, to garnish

-In a saucepan over medium heat, brown the ground beef. Drain the fat, then add the onions, garlic, and beer. Let reduce slightly until the onions are soft. Add the BLENDABELLA mushrooms.

-Add the tomato sauce and spices, tasting to adjust to your liking. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 20 minutes, until the sauce begins to darken, stirring occasionally. If desired, let sauce rest in the fridge overnight to let flavors enhance.

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9x13" baking pan by spraying with cooking oil and spooning a bit of the liquid sauce over it (you only need a light coating here).

-Use a slotted spoon to spoon the beef and mushroom mix into 8 tortillas, being sure to reserve at least 2/3 cup of the liquid sauce.
-Arrange the tortillas in the pan and pour sauce over the top. Top with cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, until heated through and cheese is melted. You can choose to add the cheese in the last 10 minutes of baking, but I prefer a toasty layer of cheese.

-Serve with sour cream and chives.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Fall is Here! - Vegan Low Carb Pumpkin Sage Bisque

This is a recipe from my now-dead blog, Quarter Life (Crisis) Cuisine. The recipe may not be new, but it sure is good!

I don't care that it's still 100 degrees. Or that the seasons in Texas are just "hot" and "not as hot." It is September, school is back in session (I only know this because traffic is 100x worse now), and the Halloween decorations are popping up everywhere.


I also don't care how "basic" that makes me. I can enjoy all the best bits of fall without winter being right around the corner? Great.

I can wear my Northface/leggings/Uggs combo when it gets chilly and it doesn't need to be covered by a head-to-toe parka? WONDERFUL.

I can still eat pumpkin and apple and spices all I dang well please? PERFECT. I will start with this Vegan Low Carb Pumpkin Sage Bisque!

This recipe was inspired by a favorite bakery back home (Second Street Bakery, if you're ever in the area) and I worked like a madwoman to try to recreate it. I think I did a pretty good job! I even made it VEGAN and LOW CARB. Woo!

Please note that the rosemary is NOT in the recipe. It was a last minute addition because Rosemary grows like MADNESS over here--HUGE bushes of it. I've never seen so much rosemary. It's pretty cool.

This is also accidentally vegan! So, yay!--if that's your thing. If it's not, then you'll still enjoy it. Promise. Substitute with cream if you really feel like it.

Pumpkin Sage Bisque
  • 1 small sugar pumpkin (~2 lbs) peeled, seeded, and cooked through
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • 3 leaves sage, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp sriracha
  • 1 can coconut cream
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbs olive oil + 1 tbs margarine or butter substitute
-In a large saucepan, melt the butter and warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic and cook until onions are translucent.

-Add the pumpkin, sage, nutmeg, and broth (you may need more or less, enough to cover the veggies by a little less than an inch) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes.

-When carrots are tender, puree the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a food processor. Add sriracha, salt, and pepper to taste.

-Add coconut cream, slowly, mixing constantly, until soup is at desired creaminess. Top with a dollop of condensed coconut cream or sour cream.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

9 Places You MUST Eat in New Orleans


Every year, my husband and I find some reason to visit New Orleans. While we never have gone during the most popular time of year, Mardi Gras, there is still so much to do, see, and EAT in this incredible city.

I love my new city of Austin, but New Orleans is quickly finding a place in my heart as one of my very favorite cities. I hope to live here someday, but in the meantime I treasure these yearly trips.

Here are my suggestions for the BEST food in town!

Killer Poboys
219 Dauphine and 811 Conti (inside the Rose Bar), New Orleans, LA 

Poboys are one of those things you'll find EVERYWHERE in New Orleans, so it's hard to know where, exactly, the best ones will be. You won't be disappointed if you stop into Killer Poboys. It was suggested to me by multiple trusted sources, and it did not disappoint on the first and second visit, and it wasn't until much later that I realized my friend was close buddies with the owner! What I liked best about Killer Poboys was that there were options that weren't deep fried, but just as tasty. Definitely my go-to spot in the quarter for Poboys.

8324 Oak Street, New Orleans, LA 

This was the first "upscale" restaurant we ever visited in New Orleans. On our first trip, we wanted authentic Cajun/NOLA food, and we got it. When we arrived I was a little concerned by the decor--it was a $30/plate kind of place and it looked really kitschy--but as soon as we got our appetizer, I was sold. The Alligator and Shrimp Cheesecake SOUNDS ridiculous, but it is one of the best things I've ever eaten! The stuffed porkchop and seafood bouillabaisse were also excellent. There are NO reservations here, so make sure to put your name in right as they open!

741 Royal St, New Orleans, LA

On our second trip to New Orleans we had the most amazing crawfish etouffe at a place we only vaguely could remember the name of... and after a few missteps (Antoine's is a whole other restaurant, need the pere!) we finally found it. Since crawfish season had just passed, the etouffe wasn't QUITE as good as we remembered, but it still was pretty delicious.

We started with the fried cheese and a few potent bloody marys. This is an older place, and I feel like it could definitely benefit from a facelift of sorts, but it is still our favorite lunch spot in NOLA. Stick to the seafood and you'll be quite happy.

Tropical Isle New Orleans
Various Locations on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, LA

If you're going to get one of these iconic bright green drinks, you might as well get them at the original bar! The Hand Grenade® packs a boozy (and sugary!) punch, but my favorite thing about getting one of these drinks here specifically, is that they have a "Skinny" version that cuts a lot of the sugar and calories while still giving you that Bourbon Street Buzz. Bonus--the kitschy decor is pretty adorable and their upstairs patio gives you a great view of Bourbon Street.

 Cafe Beignet New Orleans600 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 

Now that we've been to the city a few times, we can skip the touristy spots like Cafe du Monde and check out the more hidden gems for our favorite local NOLA fare. While Cafe Beignet isn't quite "hidden" as it's a ways up the street from the French Market and right near the harbor (with other locations in town as well), the few times we popped in it wasn't nearly as busy as its more famous counterpart. The beignets are just as good, and this place serves drinks while live music plays. If you're looking for a tasty treat without the long line, Cafe Beignet is your place.

514 City Park Avenue, New Orleans, LA

Did you know that New Orleans has one of the largest Vietnamese populations in the US? This is something we only recently discovered, and sadly haven't had the time to indulge in more than our one trip to Mopho's. I encourage y'all to try a few more authentic spots first (Tan Dinh and Ba Chi came highly recommended!) but eventually do make your way to Mopho's for some incredible fusion cuisine. This shrimp and grits used red curry and coconut grits and it was simply amazing. I also very much enjoyed my boozy bubble tea!

Bevi Seafood Co
236 N Carrollton Ave, New Orleans, LA

This is now our must-stop seafood spot in New Orleans, as recommended to us by our friends who have lived in the area for about 5 years now. Killer Poboys is still my favorite Poboy spot, but Bevi has a solid Poboy menu themselves. What I really love here is the crawfish. Even though we rarely end up in the city during actual crawfish season, Bevi's seafood is still mighty tasty. My first taste of crawfish was in Texas, at a Vietnamese-style joint that cooks the mudbugs in BUTTER. Sooo I'm always a little disappointed when the traditional boils don't come drenched in the stuff. Not at Bevi--their spice blend is so perfect that I don't even miss it. 

Pythian Market
234 Loyola Ave. New Orleans, LA

We specifically ate at Frencheez, Fete au Fete, and 1908 for drinks. But you'll find literally ANY cuisine you could possibly be craving with the 14 different vendors under one roof. I was extremely pleased with my Nola Trio Sampler that let you taste three New Orleans favorites: red beans and rice, shrimp and grits, and their famous (and fabulous!) Crawfish Poutine. The poutine was the clear winner, and I'll be dreaming of that dish until we visit again next year. The drinks at 1908 were expertly made, and my bloody mary was perfectly spicy. They even have virgin cocktails if you're not up for getting your drink on at the time. 

J's Seafood Dock At the French Market
2 French Market Pl.New Orleans, LA

Finally, this is another spot I always need to stop at in New Orleans. Fresh oysters, shucked right in front of you as you take a break from shopping the French Market. The "Bad Motha Shucka" will sing and entertain as he cracks open fresh Gulf oysters. These things are perfect, with just a little bit of horseradish and lemon they go down quite easy. I tried them on a cracker for the first time and that added a nice little crunch for those unsure of the texture of a fresh live oyster. I get a half dozen for lunch and leave NOLA a happy lady.

Have you ever been to New Orleans? Where are your go-to spots to grab a bite?