Saturday, December 14, 2019

Musings on Meatless Monday - My Year of Experimenting with Going Meatless


Disclaimer: This is a personal essay on my experiment over the past year with reducing the number of animal products I consume. I'm not a nutritionist, doctor, or expert of any kind. This is also my own opinions based on my own research. I haven't cited any sources, I'm not saying everyone can or should do this, it's simply my experience.

If you've been following either of my Instagram accounts (@ashleyeblom and @forking_up), you've probably noticed a pretty consistent hashtag over the past year: #MeatlessMonday.

Last New Years I made a silent resolution to myself to keep to Meatless Monday. This was a decision based on a number of things. Firstly, the pressing environmental concerns we're facing as a planet. Secondly, my long flirtation with vegetarianism. 

Roasted corn and black bean tacos with lime crema

I think as children we all have that moment of discovering where exactly our happy meal comes from and some of us determine in that moment that if we love our puppies and kitties, what makes them different than the moo cows and piggies we see at the farm? I definitely had that moment. My first brush with trying the diet didn't quite work out. My mom was a nurse and concerned I wouldn't get the proper nutrition, and also we didn't really have the budget for her to be making two separate dinners each night.

Spicy veggie stir fry and spicy edamame

The second time was in college, and was my longest stint with going meat free. Aided by dating a string of vegetarians (lol) and being able to make my own menu, I succeeded in staying vegetarian for two years. Then a bout of stomach issues persuaded me to go back to meat for health reasons. Turns out, it was a defective gallbladder, and the meat made it even worse.

Asparagus on whole grain toast with hollandais, side of sweet potato hash

By this time I'd dove headfirst into food blogging, so going meat free wasn't quite an option for where I wanted my life to go. Plus I married a man who was a self-proclaimed veggie hater, so options were limited.

But as I've gotten older I've realized a few things--for one, it's harder to be healthy. My father died at age 47 and over 300 pounds. The easiest way to get your proper vitamins? More veggies. By filling up on nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, there's less room for all the junk. And yes, as someone who worries about their weight the added benefit of consuming fewer calories while still feeling full is attractive. 

Vegan lazy golumkis and wild rice

I also took an honest look about my relationship to animals. I do think humans evolved to eat meat, but I think along the way we've lost all respect for the animals that nourish us. If they are making that sacrifice, the least we can do is treat them well. And factory farms are not it. If I could ensure all animal products I consume are from local family farms, that's one thing, but that's hard to do.

Health of the body is just one part though. The most impactful thing a person can do for the environment is to reduce their meat intake. Factory farms, where we get the majority of our meat, eggs, and dairy, are terrible. The animals live in fear. The pollution is insane. And an acre of vegetables or grain can feed hundreds more people than an acre of cattle.

Portobello sandwich and cheddar broccoli soup

This doesn't even mean cutting it out entirely. But by doing this experiment of reducing, I discovered a few things:

  • I didn't miss meat nearly as much as I thought I would. Subbing out a burger for a portobello mushroom was just as satisfying to me. A vegetarian lasagna tasted just as good as one with beef. Pasta and sauce is delicious, quick, and easy, and doesn't lack flavor at all. Tacos with refried beans instead of beef are still mighty tasty.
  • My passion for cooking returned. This blog hasn't been the most active this year, due to some life things and my other commitments keeping me busy, and I found myself eating out more and taking time to cook less. But Mondays were the exception.
  • Without my grocery budget being eaten up by pricey meat of unknown origin, I had more money to spend on higher quality, organic, and local ingredients. Do you know what you're missing by buying cheap grocery store eggs? Buy a local, farm-fresh dozen and get ready to have your mind blown.
  • It is easy to rely on processed food to fill the meat void, and it's definitely something I did in the beginning. With all the new brands popping up with plant-based meat, you can almost entirely replace your proteins with these and feel like you never even stopped. But then you're reducing the environmental good of cutting out meat. So as the experiment progressed I tried to limit these to treats when I had a craving--the Impossible Burger is SO good, y'all!--instead of always making them the star of my dish.
Crock pot mulligatawny soup

Will I go vegetarian full time? Probably not. I'm pretty entwined in the food community in Austin and still want to explore. I love traveling, and since food is so tied to culture I want to make sure everywhere I visit I can truly experience it. Holidays with family have so many food traditions I don't want to give up. For me, for my life, going 100% is not going to happen.

But can I make my own kitchen meat-free? Absolutely. Can I find new, meatless items at my tried and true favorite restaurants? Yes. Can I make better choices in what I buy? Yup. 

Homemade veggie tortellini soup

This blog isn't going full-veg, but if you see a higher number of meatless meals in the coming year, now you know why.

My new goal is to be a weekday vegetarian, with flexibility on the weekends. It's the right choice for me, and it's one I feel good about. And I promised myself if I were to become rich and famous I'd go vegan, because let's face it--it's much easier to accomplish with a bigger budget. And it'd be a nice thank you to the universe.

Roasted butternut squash pizza with ricotta, goat cheese, and veggies

If you're thinking of trying out a lifestyle with a reduced animal product intake, I definitely suggest trying out Meatless Mondays. Sticking to one day a week is a simple way to cut down, and makes a dramatic impact on your carbon footprint. Even if you don't expand it, there are studies that show just one day a week helps. 

Mushroom bolognaise

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Homemade Egg Nog and Holiday Recipes - Christmas Egg Nog


Is there any Christmas treat as polarizing as egg nog?

I feel like you either love love love it, or HAAAATE it!

Myself, I fall into the love category. Maybe because my dad loved it, and as a kid I decided I loved most foods he did: Boston Baked Beans, Big Macs, black jelly beans...

Some of those are a bit weirder than others, I suppose.

Christmas is a time to remember those who are no longer with us. Sadly this year I'll be raising a glass not only to dad, but my uncle and Nana this year. Though I never did ask their thoughts on the beverage... so perhaps I'll just cheer on the Pats for my uncle and have a Toasted Almond cocktail for Nans.

This egg nog is pretty dang good... if you drink it immediately, anyway. After chilling, it got WAY too thick. This means I over-cooked it. I was so worried about making sure the egg was fully cooked, I let it get too thick on the stove. I forgot that it would thicken more as it cools. If this happens to you, simply add a bit more milk!

I also tried to make a dairy free, natural sugar version and that one tasted FANTASTIC... until I overcooked that one. Overcooked almond milk turns into a clumpy mess. So sad.

Homemade Egg Nog
(Adapted from Doughmesstic)

  • 6 large eggs, plus 2 yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • pinch of allspice
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup Bourbon

-In a large pot over medium-low heat, beat together the eggs, yolks, sugar, and salt. Slowly add the milk, and mix until well combined.

-Turn heat to low, stirring regularly, until liquid has thickened just enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and vanilla. Remove from heat.

-Before serving, add bourbon (or rum!) and mix well. Can be served hot or cold, but I prefer hot!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Where to Eat in Downtown Austin - Best Downtown Austin Food


When most people visit Austin, they either end up downtown, or very close to it. In my personal opinion, that's not where you'll find the best food. However, if you don't have a car to bring you outside the city proper, there are still some hidden gems that are worth checking out.

The rule of thumb here is to try not to be too close to the touristy places--restaurants near the convention center or music halls aren't going to be great. After all, foot traffic alone means they don't have to be stellar to make a living.

Visiting Austin and staying downtown? Here are my suggestions for the best food you'll find within walking distance or a quick Uber/taxi!


  • Cooper's Old Time Pit - the best BBQ in downtown proper. Meat by the pound, incredible sides (rare for a BBQ place!) and you can get it dipped in their BBQ sauce.
  • Terry Black's - Not quite downtown, but worth a scooter ride or quick rideshare. Pick your meat by the pound in this counter-service restaurant. Grab a cold beer from the cooler and try their beef rib, what they're known for.
  • Lambert's - Fancy BBQ. Full disclosure: I've never been, but it seems to be the go-to place to take visiting clients. I hear they also have a good happy hour!

Mexican & Tex-Mex

  • Chispas - My favorite new place in town to get tacos. The queso, which is a barometer for a Tex-Mex's quality, is decent, but the taco menu is so unique and all are tasty. I love the butternut squash taco and the pork belly.
  • Taco Deli - An Austin favorite, though it's only open until about lunch time. Skip the line by ordering ahead and sit on their patio to people watch.
  • Chuy's - It's a chain now, but the original spot is on Barton Springs Road. The quirky decor, extensive menu, and friendly service make it the perfect first stop when you're looking to try Tex-Mex cuisine for the first time.
  • Gabriela's Downtown - A hidden gem that really shouldn't be hidden considering it's right at the beginning of East 7th Street with full view from the highway. Incredible, homemade Mexican food by a brother and sister duo. Everything from the snacks to the dinners to the drinks is incredible

Burgers, Sandwiches, and More

  • Easy Tiger - a Beer garden AND bakery with incredible snack boards, sandwiches, sausages, and more. Their $3 Old Fashioned is a happy hour staple.
  • Fareground - Want a little taste of everything? This food court serves up food from some of my FAVORITE restaurants that you may not get to experience without a drive outside the city. Try Kome, Dai-Due, and Contigo.
  • Casino El Camino - It's in the back of a bar (with the best bloody marys, btw) but if you love burgers it's the best in town. Open late, it's the perfect place to get your drunchies on as you make your way down Dirty 6.
  • Banger's - Bangers is Austin in a nutshell: unique food concept (everything on the menu is a sausage), vegan/vegetarian options, the most craft beers you'll find on tap in one place, and a wide open space for both live music and mini dog park. It's probably one of my favorite places in the city!
  • Stube - Another unique sausage place that is generous in their portions and incredibly tasty. They just expanded their food truck behind Star Bar, so you can grab a fancy drink to pair with your brats.


  • Graj Ma'hal - Some of the best Indian food I've ever had, in a cool, quirky space. One of the few restaurants on Rainey Street that is worth your money.
  • Clay Pit - Another great option for Indian food if you happen to be closer to campus. Their lunch options are awesome and word is that the building is haunted!
  • Papadom - One of the best lunch deals in town! $13 for all-you-can-eat. I've never had a bad meal here, and it's my go-to when I want a filling, tasty lunch.
  • Swift's Attic - Asian fusion with Southern comfort cooking. Really unique and tasty dishes and a great happy hour. I especially love the ice ball cocktails!
  • House of the Rising Tanuki-San - I've only been here for lunch, but everything has been so flavorful! The dishes are unique, the atmosphere is fun, and everything is super tasty.
  • She's Not Here - The only sushi worth trying in downtown Austin. We're not known for seafood in this city, but the hand-crafted rolls taste a lot fresher and are more unique than other options. Bonus: awesome happy hour!
  • Koriente - Not quite sushi, but other great option for some fresh and tasty Japanese cuisine! The focus here is on healthy food, and during lunch salad and soup is never-ending. 

Southern Food

  • Moonshine Grill - Fancy Southern Comfort Food. Super tasty but a bit pricey. It's great for date night, as it's cozy and dark. I love their shrimp and grits!
  • Cannon & Belle - if you want fancy Southern food, this is a great option. It’s my new favorite in town and worth the price. Their bone in ribeye and pork chop rival steak houses in the area, for a much better price.
  • Fixe - This place is worth a stop for their biscuits alone. Holy wow these are little buttery bits of perfection. Pro tip: Get a side of biscuits with their excellent fried chicken and make a sandwich. you won't be sorry.

Sadly most of the best Mexican food in town has been priced out of the city. If you have a budget for an Uber, it might be worth it to check out Papalote, Veracruz All Natural, Matt's El Rancho, The original Polvo's, or one of the touristy favorites like Torchy's. If you really want a taste of something special, check out one of the independent food trucks you'll find scattered around the city.

Same with homestyle Southern food, as you'll notice most of my suggestions are of the "fancier" variety. Try Hoover's Home Cooking, Threadgills, Jack Allen's Kitchen.

Other restaurants worth the drive: Uchi, Odd Duck, Salty Sow, and La Barbecue. If you have a rental, definitely take a drive to The Salt Lick in Dripping Springs. It’s a Texas institution. Dripping Springs also has a bunch of breweries and distilleries, my favorites being Jester King and TreatyOak.

Where do you like to eat in Austin? Have you ever visited? Let me know!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Pimento Cheese Spread - Holiday Appetizers

So, here's the recipe I wanted to get up here before the holidays, because it makes an excellent side dish or appetizer, and it's super easy to put together! Aside from the pimentos, I typically have all these things in the house, too.

Pimento cheese was something totally new to me, as a New Englander during her first year in Texas. When I first tested this recipe, I simply threw in the ingredients I found on the Wikipedia page (yes, pimento spread has it's own Wikipedia page) and hoped for the best. It was tasty... but did it pass the test? I brought in the results to my coworkers and my desk-mate, a true Texans , said it was the best Pimento cheese he's ever had!

So I guess I did it right the first time ;)

As I said, this is the perfect appetizer for any gathering. Add a bit more mayo and cream cheese to make a dip, or a bit more cheese to make a cheeseball, or leave as-is for a spreadable cracker snack. The possibilities are truly endless!

Pimento Cheese Spread
(Adapted loosely from Wikipedia)

  • 1 8oz bag sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 8oz bag colby jack cheese
  • 1 oz brick cream cheese (I used neufchantel)
  • 2/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 4oz jar pimento peppers, drained and diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced small
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

*keep a bit extra cheddar cheese on hand in case cheese mixture gets too soft*

-In a stand mixer fixed with a paddle attachment, combine all ingredients. Stir until well combined, adding more cheese or mayo to desired consistency (I like mine with a bit more cheese). Taste, adding more seasonings as desired

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A Meal Fit for a Goul - Halloween Black and Orange Gnocchi


Hello? Is this thing on? It's been a month. I KNOW. And, admittedly, it's been even longer since I've put up an original recipe. So here you go, Homemade Halloween Gnocchi. Perfect for Halloween Dinner!

Lucky me, I had a food blog for five years that I closed up and can mine recipes from when I'm busy. It's my shameful secret, don't judge. But I haven't even had the energy to update my post drafts.

If you know me personally, you know 2019 has been an utter crapshoot and while we're barrelling towards the end of it, all I can say is GOOD RIDDANCE. Here's hoping 2020 starts looking up for your girl here. Send thoughts and prayers and maybe a whole lot of red wine.

But you know what actually makes me smile? October. It's my favorite month--not only because it contains my birthday, but also my favorite holiday--HALLOWEEN! I've always embraced this holiday with my whole being, and spooky food is just the icing on the bloody cake.

Though I'm in Texas and fall is just Slightly More Bearable Summer, I still love the fall themed everything, everywhere. So I'm embracing it. Spooky Season!!

She cooks! She writes! She... does Zombie Makeup? My birthday Zombie Pub Crawl this year!

This is a delicious Halloween dinner that is sure to impress--gnocchi gets a bad rap for being difficult, but so long as you pay attention to the texture (not sticky, not too thick, should feel like a squishy pillow) you'll be golden. Keep a bit of pumpkin on hand to add to the batter if it's too dry, and a bit of flour in case it's too sticky.

Happy Haunting, y'all!

Black and Orange Gnocchi with Slime Cream Sauce

(gnocchi recipe adapted from Taste of Home)
  • 1-1/2 cups flour (plus more for flouring surface)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup canned or pureed pumpkin
  • 1 heaping tablespoon activated Charcoal*

Slime Sauce
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 1/4 cup parmsean cheese

-In a small bowl combine the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in pumpkin until well mixed. Divide in half.  In one bowl, gently mix in the charcoal.

-On a lightly floured surface, knead each ball until a soft dough forms. Let rest for 10 minutes.

-While the gnocchi rests, make the slime sauce: create a roux by melting the butter and whisking in the flour until a paste forms. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking until thick. Stir in the pesto and cheese. Keep warm. Add more milk if the sauce is too thick.

-Divide dough into equal portions and roll into "snakes" (long dough rope of about 1/2 inch thick). Cut into equal pieces and shape into small ovals, pressing against a fork for the "gnocchi" pattern if desired.

-Bring salted water to a boil. Cook gnocchi in 3 batches until they float, remove with a slotted spoon. If desired (and I always do this!) heat butter over high heat in a skillet and fry the gnocchi until lightly crispy.

-Serve with sauce.

*Charcoal at your own risk! While I use this often as a coloring, it can and will absorb any medications you're taking if you consume enough. If you're concerned about this, black food coloring or squid ink will work just as well.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Homemade Veggie Stock - Making the Most of Food Waste


As you may know, this year I have been dedicating myself to going Meatless on Mondays (#MeatlessMonday) and the one thing I noticed was just how many veggie scraps were winding up festering in my garbage.

A lot of people use their veggie scraps for compost--which is a great solution!--but unfortunately living in an apartment I'm not able to do that.

What AM I able to do? Make a delicious, luscious broth out of all those veggie scraps! With all the veggie stock I was going through, it was a cost effective way to solve both problems. Saving money, utilizing food waste, and creating something insanely tasty in the process.

Half the time the broth itself is SO flavorful, that I simply throw in a can of tomatoes, some vegetable pieces, and some salt and pepper and I have a perfectly wonderful vegetable soup.

It's super simple, and I've gotten it down to a science--At the beginning of the week I use a gallon size ziplock bag to start collecting my scraps. This can be anything: peels, end pieces, cores, and from both fruits AND veggies or fresh herbs. I store it in the freezer so the veggies stay fresh and don't mold or take up room in the fridge.

Homemade tortellini soup, using the scrap stock base

By the end of the week the bag is full, and into the crock pot it goes with whatever extras I have on hand. I've found that peppers give the broth a great rich flavor, and potato peels give it a bit more thickness. 

Here's my "recipe" but it truly is more of a guide.

Homemade Scrap Vegetable Stock
  • 1 gallon bag full of vegetable scraps
  • Garlic (whatever you have on hand, I use about 4 cloves)
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 3 tbsp salt, or more to taste
  • 1 tbsp spices (I like herbs de provance or Italian seasoning, whatever you like!)
  • Any additional pieces of the following: carrots, onions, celery
  • Enough water to cover the contents by a half inch

Slow Cooker: If using a slow cooker, simply put all ingredients in your pot and stir. Cook on low for 8 hours, until vegetables are soft and have released their flavor. Taste--the broth should not be watery. If it is, cook on high an additional hour, adding any herbs or spices you'd like.

Stovetop: If using a stovetop, put all ingredients into a large stock pot and stir. Bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour, or until the vegetables are soft and have released their flavor. If the broth tastes watery, continue to simmer until reduced, adding any herbs or spices you'd like.

Once fully cooked, strain the broth. I use a potato masher to really squish the veggies down and release all the juice. Pour strained broth into mason jars and freeze or keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. Use in soups, stews, or as a flavor enhancer for your sauces!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

What I've Been Eating - Chicago and Indianapolis


You guys. When I visited Chicago, it was still -10 degrees outside. So you KNOW this travel post is LOOOONG overdue! Since these were both work trips, I figured they would work best in their own little post, rather than two short posts. 

So, if you're headed to either of these cities in the near future, be sure to check out the restaurants I found fit to write about! Also, if you'd like to Follow Me on Yelp, please do! To get an up-to-date account of all my favorite places to visit in every new city I explore.
Coming soon... Denver!


Two Lights - I only stopped in here because it was directly across from Second City, and it was such a happy accident. I got my fill on seafood for sure--with fresh oysters, a lobster roll, and some seriously bomb clam chowder. Oh, and don't forget dessert. Yummm. If you're taking in a show, or even if you're not!, be sure Two Lights is on your list.

Lou Malnatti's - I had to get Deep Dish, and this place came HIGHLY recommended. "There's two places to go, and Giordanno's." I went with the closest one, and was not disappointed! Deep dish is definitely an experience. Having grown up in the Northeast with the classic New York style, it almost didn't feel like "pizza" to me, but it was nonetheless delicious. Thick, buttery crust, tomato sauce (and you can TASTE the tomato! It's not bogged down with anything else but TOMATO), and savory sausage. Definitely a true taste of Chicago!

Girl and the Goat - Hands-down, the best meal I had in Chicago. Run by Top Chef Stephanie Izard, the menu is (obviously) goat-focused. While I've had goat before, none of it could hold a candle to these delicious, fresh, unique dishes. I started with bread from the bakery/diner across the street (Little Goat Diner!), then moved onto a goat empanada, and finally the braised goat belly with LOBSTER and bourbon butter sauce. Probably the best thing I've ever eaten. Reservations are impossible to come by here, but the bar was pretty empty in the middle of the week, so it's worth taking a chance and sitting at the bar--there's a full menu! If not, I've heard Little Goat Diner is also amazing.


St. Elmo's Steakhouse - As a foodie, I always do my research. In Indy, I...didn't. Where the heck do you go in Indianapolis?? The one suggestion I got was from my boss--St. Elmo's Steakhouse, and be sure to get the shrimp cocktail! Okay? Turns out, their cocktail sauce is famous. Youtube it, and you'll find people taking the "challenge." Every person I told I was going to St. Elmo's said "Are you getting the shrimp cocktail?" Then, warningly, "Have you HAD IT BEFORE?" And they were right to warn me, holy hell that cocktail sauce is FIRE. There is more horseradish in that sauce than anyone should ever have at one time. But thankfully, the burn is quick and it's an all around experience. I ordered a moderately priced steak, of course topped with crab, and did I want to upgrade my soup to lobster bisque? Um, duh. St. Elmo's was a steakhouse my dad would have adored, and my foodie self was more than satisfied. This place is very busy--it took over a half hour to get even just a seat at the bar!--so make sure to make reservations.

The Eagle - Located in a trendy part of town, this place has legit fried chicken. I don't know what else I can say about it, honestly. I got a quarter fried chicken and it was perfectly flavorful and moist. To start, I got the hushpuppies and those were ALSO incredibly flavorful and perfectly fried. I didn't check out their alcohol menu, but it looked like it would do the job. If you're in the Mass Ave area, definitely don't miss The Eagle!

Indianapolis City Market - Want a little sample of everything the Indianapolis food scene has to offer? This is the place for you. From sandwiches to tacos to seafood and Asian fusion, this place has it all! I circled three times, not knowing what to order. Finally, the pizza from Mauricio's Pizzaria caught my eye and I had two wonderful slices. Next time I'm back in town I'll definitely check out the other options! 

These are two cities I'm in often for work, so... where should I go next??

Psssst! Did you see my post about what to eat in Alaska? Check it out!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Peach Bourbon Old Fashioned - Perfect Texas Summer Sipper

It's Summertime in Texas, and that means one thing: PEACHES!

Actually, it means quite a few things. But after a stroll through Fredericksburg this weekend reminded me that peach season is in full swing. And while Georgia may have the peach market saturated, Texas definitely holds its own.

Fresh peach goes extremely well with bourbon. The sweet notes blend perfectly with the spice and smoke. I love crushing fresh peaches into a cold glass of bourbon, and an Old Fashioned is the perfect way to showcase this delicious summer fruit.

For an elevated flavor, try grilling the peaches first!

Texas Peach Old Fashioned
  • 1 oz Bourbon
  • 1 oz Texas Honey lemonade (basic lemonade recipe with honey swapped for sugar)
  • 1 or 2 splashes Grapefruit bitters
  • 1 cherry
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 slice ripe peach, no peel

-In a cocktail glass, muddle together the cherry, orange zest, and peach together. Shake in the bitters.

-Fill glass with ice, and pour bourbon and lemonade over.

-Sip slowly, and enjoy.