Thursday, February 25, 2021

Life Updates & My New Home


 Hi, Friends. Dang, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?

2020 was a year that seemed like a decade. You would think all the time inside would give me ample time to develop recipes… right?

Well, to put it simply, my photographer quit both the gig and our marriage. Naturally, this led to me not having much energy for anything, and my lack of photography skills kept me from really documenting the few things I managed to eat. And a breakup wasn't even the worst thing to happen to me in 2020! A host of deaths, drama, health issues, and more piled on me. I was in a depression hole, digging itself deeper into the rocky Texas ground.

...Until I decided the best way to catapult myself out of my depression would be to totally shake up my life and create a situation where I could focus on nothing but the adventure at hand.

So, I packed up my life and moved to the place that has always called to me from across the country--California. It’s me, two cats, and my amazing dog, and so far I’ve just been adjusting to this totally new existence in Santa Barbara.

Guess what, guys: this place has incredible food and even better wine. It might be a bit harder to find the foodie hotspots than Austin, but with the backdrop of the California coastline on one side and the gorgeous mountains on the other, you can definitely find something tasty.

I’ve decided it’s time to revive this blog. It may be mostly pictures taken with my iPhone, but at least it’ll be alive again. At this time, it’ll probably be heavier on the restaurant reviews, but knowing me a recipe or two will probably find its way into the mix.

Oh, side note: I haven’t eaten a land animal since 2019! So this blog will be shifting a bit of focus to include vegetarian (and sometimes pescatarian) content. 

If you’d like more regular content, please follow my Instagram and Facebook.

See y’all real soon, and thanks for continuing to read!


Friday, November 13, 2020

Loaded Potato Waffle Bites



These waffle things are all over Pinterest. I know.

But they were too good NOT to try myself. And the pictures came out decent, so on the off chance someone hasn't tried these yet and needs some MORE convincing, here. Let me try to convince you.

Tiny, crispy potato waffles, with melted cheese, sour cream, bacon, and chives. Delicious. The perfect party app.

Then I got cocky--If I could do this with regular potatoes, IMAGINE what sweet potatoes would be like! I started fantasizing about the paleo-friendly treats I would soon create.

...Sweet potatoes = messy waffle iron, and burnt mush. Oh well. Can't win them all.

Loaded Potato Waffle Bites

  • 1 cup leftover mashed potatoes (or 1-2 cooked, mashed potatoes with added milk, butter, and salt and pepper)
  • 2 tsp smashed garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 1 handful cheese
  • 2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 3 tbs sour cream

-Preheat oven to 350, and warm up your waffle iron to high.

-In a small dish, mis together the mashed potatoes, garlic, and egg until well combined.

-Drop by the over-flowing spoonful (ideally, a couple tablespoons) into the waffle iron.

-Cook on high until browned on both sides.

-Place on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with cheese and bacon. Bake for 5 minutes, or until cheese is melty.

-Top with sour cream and chives, serve.

Note: While I was inspired by a Pinterest post I cannot find at the moment, I threw together this recipe from my own brain. Any resemblance to another recipe is totally accidental.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Halloween Candy and Wine Pairing - Testing Viral Wine Activity


I don't want to say it's tragic that Halloween falls on a Saturday the one year that we all cannot take advantage of the holiday, since the reason WHY it's a lame Halloween has resulted in so many more tragedies than missing out on a party, but it definitely is bumming me out.

So, what to do when you're stuck inside on Halloween?

Drink, of course.

And don't just drink, make use of all that Halloween candy hanging around and do a fancy wine pairing!

I did this last year and it was pretty fun. I was super surprised at how the (cheap) candy and (cheap) wine enhanced each other's flavors and made it all feel super fancy.

Despite my current budget of not buying wine over $15, this was still a pretty expensive endeavor. If you have the wine and candy on hand, it's a fun activity, but otherwise it's probably not worth the cost. 

As a reminder, here is how you taste wine:
See - Look at the wine, notice the color and transparency.
Swirl - This is how you see the texture and density of the wine. Watch how the liquid sticks to and flows down the glass (this is called the legs).
Smell - After swirling, stick your nose into the glass. Breathe in deeply. Smell is 75% of taste, so you're actually getting a bit of flavor in with the fragrance. Make note of what you smell. Fruits? Leather? Smoke? This will give you a sense of what flavors you'll be looking for when you taste.
Sip - Take a sip! Let it sit on your mouth a bit. Then...
Savor - Open your mouth and breathe in a bit, letting the air make bubbles in the wine. This opens up the flavors a bit more and makes them easier to detect.
(Spit) - Optional step but, why would you do this...?

To pair wine with food: Take a bite of the food, hold a bit of it in your mouth, and take a sip of wine. Notice the flavors that are expanded or muted with the wine. Swallow.

Here were my takeaways:

Whoppers - Pinot Noir: Started off amazingly! I loved how the chocolate was enhanced by the wine, and then once you hit the malted middle you had a whole new flavor experience! Pinot Noir is one of my favorite wines, and while Whoppers are not my favorite candy, it certainly made them taste better. Win!

Skittles - Sauvignon Blanc: And the second was kind of a dud. The Sauvignon Blanc wasn't very sweet, and the Skittles tasted too sugary and intense as a result. I feel like the rule is to not have wine that is sweeter than your dessert (rendering this whole experiment pointless if that's a hard and fast rule?) and it certainly was in play here.

Snickers - Shiraz: I prefer Milky Way, but the Shiraz enhanced the peanut flavor in the Snickers to an insane level. They tasted roasty, toasty, and perfectly paired with the smooth Shiraz. Again, a higher quality chocolate would have helped, but it still worked!

Sour Patch Kids - Pinot Grigio: My surprise favorite! The bold colors in SPKs would trick nobody but the tiniest child into thinking they're real fruit flavors, but as soon as the Pinot hit my tongue I was tasting crazy intense flavors. The red tasted like fresh raspberry! The yellow was a tart lemon! Literally every flavor was amplified and made better. I was so surprised, and this candy was the one that went quickest.

Candy Corn - Chardonnay: I was dreading this one. I hate Chardonnay. I am meh about candy corn. In my opinion, neither did the other any favors. I understand why the pairing exists, as Chard is a buttery wine and candy corn is a somewhat buttery candy. But the waxy coating of the candy corn kept the wine from really hitting my palate, and made the bitterness of the wine even worse. Not a fan.

Raisinets - Merlot: This one worked! Not as well as the Whoppers, but enough to appreciate. The chocolate had a similar affect, and the tart raisin complimented the wine well. A higher quality chocolate would be even better, but it was still enjoyable.

Have you tried pairing wine with Halloween candy? 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Coffee Cake Donuts with Espresso Drizzle


Though my can't-skip-it morning coffee is a recent development of my working life, I can't remember a time when I didn't love coffee. I can recall making my parents breakfast in bed, and mixing coffee crystals into tap water that was as hot I could get it and pouring a heavily sugared version for myself probably at age 6 or so.

Little did 6-year-old Ashley know that there was a bigger, better world of coffee waiting. Lately I've been somewhat of a coffee snob, though I still enjoy a good instant from time to time! And what better pairing for a high quality brew than a coffee cake donut?

I made these gorgeous Coffee Cake Donuts. They really are the perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of joe. I've always wondered--why doesn't coffee cake contain actual coffee? I felt the need to rectify this by drizzling them with espresso glaze.

I daresay it's perfetto itself ;)

Coffee Cake Donuts with Espresso Glaze
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt

Crumble Topping
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
Espresso Glaze
  • 1/4 cup brewed espresso
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a donut baking pan and set aside*

-Sift together all dry cake ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients. Be sure the butter is melted but not piping hot, and add to wet ingredients SLOWLY so as not to cook the egg.

-Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, whisking to get rid of clumps. Pour batter evenly in donut wells.

-In a separate bowl, mix together the crumble topping ingredients. The topping should stick together lightly, making large crumbs. If mixture is too wet, alternatively add more sugar and flour until desired consistency is reached.

-Sprinkle topping generously over donut wells. The cakes will rise and separate, so more is better for a full coating.

-Bake for about 20 minutes, until cake is spongy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool to room temperature.

-Mix together the glaze until it is about the consistency of glue. It should be thick, but fall off the spoon. Drizzle over cooled donuts and let the glaze set.

-Serve with your favorite Lavazza coffee!

*Alternatively, you can use a muffin tin, this will make about 8 cakes.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Battle of the Breads - "Easy" Sourdough vs "Simple Crusty Bread"


Y'all, I am the basic bitch of Quarantine. If there is a stuck-inside-foodie-trend, I am ON IT. So far I've made that fancy coffee, endless cookies and breads, and even HOMEMADE BUTTER!

I'm feeling pretty accomplished.

But we all know the most popular trend going right now is SOURDOUGH BREAD. Why is sourdough so popular? Well, if you've been to the grocery store lately you may have noticed that yeast is one of those coveted, hard-to-find items. Sourdough requires no yeast, you literally grow your own in a jar!

I've never been much of a baker, so my go-to easy bread has always been this recipe, which I actually re-posted from my old blog since I thought people could benefit from a no-fail bread.

Two popular recipes I've seen floating around have been this Simple Crusty Bread from the New York Times, and the ONLY "Easy" Sourdough recipe I've EVER found called Easy Sourdough Artisan Bread from An Oregon Cottage. My first time attempting sourdough was that recipe and it was PERFECT. Both of these recipes are great, so I thought I'd compare the two, so y'all know what you're getting into!

Simple Crusty Bread

Is it truly easy?: Yes! It's a bit time consuming, but most of that time is simply waiting for the dough to rise. Everything comes together rather quickly and requires NO kneading. Simply mix the ingredients, let rise, shape, and bake! It even gives you the option to save some dough in the fridge for a future recipe.

Ingredients and equipment: Requires yeast, which is hard to come by right now, but other than a bowl, spoon, and oven, you truly don't need much else!

Crust: Wonderful! A bit floury, but that's probably moreso my fault than the recipe's. It crackled and cracked perfectly.

Crumb: A soft interior with a light crumb. I was really impressed with how it came out!

Taste: This is the one place it didn't thrill me. It tasted like NOTHING. I mean, bread is supposed to just be a vehicle for other things, but it really had no flavor at all.

Tips: While the recipe says to use a pizza stone, I used the Dutch oven method and it came out wonderfully--heat the Dutch oven (covered) in your oven for 20-40 minutes, then place the dough inside and bake, covered, for the first 20 minutes. Take the cover off for the remainder of the bake.

Easy Sourdough Artisan Bread
(I use this recipe for the starter)

Is it truly easy?: A bit more hands-on than the no-knead, but if you use a dough hook you really don't need to knead it at all. It takes more rising time, and during the rise you need to fold in the corners of the dough and turn it over. But it is pretty simple!

Ingredients and Equipment: No yeast! You will need a starter, but using the link above you should be able to grow one in a week or so. Takes some planning ahead but it's worth it! You'll also need a Dutch oven, or a covered baking dish, to bake this bread.

Crust: Softer than the no-knead but the moisture in the Dutch oven probably contributed. Still tasty!

Crumb: Denser than I would like, but not too bad. Still some good holes and fermentation.
Taste: SO GOOD! The slight sour taste that is typical of a sourdough really stands out. This is a bread I could really just eat plain with butter. It's also a bit more sturdy, so would work great for sandwiches.

OVERALL: I liked the crust on the "Easy Crusty Bread" better, but the FLAVOR of the sourdough just can't be beat.

What bread recipes have you baked while in quarantine? What should I try next?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

EASY No-Knead Bread! - Crusty, Light, Delicious Bread

Can you tell from this blog that I am NOT a baker? It might be hard to recognize, but my best recipes tend to be dinner recipes, or drinks. Because that's what I can do pretty well on a regular basis. Honestly, baking scares me.

Why? Because baking = chemistry. And guess what necessary high school class Ashley ended up not taking? Yep. Chem. Here's the short story: I went to a TINY school in New England. This meant we didn't have very many "fun" classes. When I decided I wanted to go to Art school, I decided I needed to take an extra year of art to build my portfolio. Unfortunately, the only art class was opposite chem. I was told I totally could take chem senior year... until senior year happened and chem was opposite gym. That's right, chem was not a graduation requirement, but gym class was.

Luckily, my college didn't require I take chem. Even more luckily, one of my best friends, John, was a baking fanatic and was able to teach me the basics. For a while John and I met weekly for Foodie Friends Night where he'd make the baking portion of the meal--everything from bread to cakes to cookies--and I'd make the rest. One day I got a call from John at 4am with a serious plan to open our own bakery/restaurant. If we both weren't drowning in student debt, I may have joined.

Our baking nights are one of the things I miss most about New England. John's bread skills are way more advanced than this super easy recipe, but it does the trick.

With a little planning ahead I can whip this up for dinner. The slices are narrow, so they make excellent dinner bread slathered with butter, or great cafe sandwiches.

If I can make this, so can you!

Easy, No-Knead Crusty Bread
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast (1 package)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 1/4 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • Herbs or mix-ins (I like using roasted garlic!)
  • cornmeal for dusting stone

-In a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment (or just a bowl + spoon + elbow grease) combine water, yeast, and salt and stir until combined. Wait about 10 minutes, until mixture has begun to froth. This is how you'll know the yeast is "proofed" and ready to go!

-Add the flour and gently stir until incorporated. Add in any herbs or mix-ins you'd like. Mix on low speed until dough is smooth and elastic.

-Place a clean dishtowel or plastic wrap over the bowl and set in a warm spot for 2 hours. I like to set the oven to 200 degrees, then turn it off and put the bowl in there.

-Pre-heat oven to 450 F. Place your bread cooking pan of choice (pizza stone is preferred, but I do fine with a silicone baking mat on a cookie sheet.  

-Add 2 cups of water in an oven-safe dish and position in the bottom rack of the oven. The steam from the water will help ensure a crispy, crusty crust!

-Gently form dough into a ball (or any other shape you desire!) and brush with the egg if you'd like a shiny crust. Make two or three shallow slices on top of the bread.

-Sprinkle your baking sheet with corn meal and set the dough ball on top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Cheap and Easy Pantry Meals - Recipes for Quarantine

"Our motorized grocery scooter" by beancounter is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 

Wow, guys. 2020 is definitely throwing us for a loop, isn't it? I've been mandatory work from home at my job for a week, and been seriously social distancing since the weekend. Grocery stores are empty, bars and restaurants are closed.

In these times, I feel like home cooking is a necessary skill that not all of us have. While this blog has gone closer to reviews recently, or more advanced recipes, I thought I'd share a different sort with y'all today.

These are all meals I've made using mostly pantry staples, with inexpensive fresh ingredients as well. They're tasty, moderately healthy, easy, and cheap. Feel free to substitute fresh for frozen foods where needed.

You won't see the usual pictures here (using Creative Commons to break up the text), because this is kind of a last-minute post. I wanted to put these recipes out there for people who are looking to go beyond boxed mac and cheese or pasta with sauce in their pantry staples as we hunker down for however long.

"Massa" by c.alberto is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Pasta Carbonara
  • 1 package pasta
  • 3 slices bacon or pancetta, chopped
  • 3 large eggs, whisked
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp parsley
-Boil pasta according to directions.

-Whisk together the egg, milk, cheese, and season with salt, pepper, and parsley.

-While pasta is cooking, cook the bacon over medium high heat in a large skillet until desired crispness is reached. Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent.

-Drain the pasta and add to the skillet. Take skillet off the heat and slowly mix in the egg mixture, stirring constantly. The sauce should thicken due to the heat of the pasta, without scrambling the egg.

-Serve hot, with extra cheese.

  • You can make this as cheap or as expensive as you'd like--in a pinch, I've used shelf stable Parmesan cheese, parsley, and bacon.
  • If you do go the cheap route, you can still heat up the bacon in the skillet and it should release some fat.
  • I use milk in this recipe. Purists will tell you this is a big ol' NO, but in my opinion it helps the sauce spread and doesn't impact the taste at all.
  • Use any pasta you'd like--spaghetti is traditional, but I like any sort of curly pasta that holds the sauce.

"MOE_0016" by gangnam of solace is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Fried Rice
  • 2 cups rice, cooked
  • 1/2 to 1 cup protein, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup petite peas
  • 1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 egg, whisked
-In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and butter. If using meat as your protein,  brown it in the skillet. Add the carrot and cook for three minutes, then add the onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent. If using mushrooms or tofu for your protein, add it now.

-Add the rice and mix well. Pour over the soy sauce (adding more for color and flavor, if needed).

-Add the peas and cook until warmed through. Pour the egg over the rice and mix until the egg has cooked. Serve hot.

  • This is a great "kitchen sink" dish, as you can use whatever leftovers you have on hand.
  • I also love to add kimchi to this, towards the end, cooking it just enough to get hot.
  • Depending on how much protein you use, you can use this as either a main dish or a side.
  • Add more soy sauce, as needed.

Souped Up Ramen Soup
  • 1 package ramen noodle soup
  • 1 boullion cube plus 1 tsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, OR the included flavor packet
  • 1/4 cup protein of choice
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp sriracha sauce
  • 1 stalk green onion, sliced thin
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 1 egg, soft boiled
  • 1 lime wedge
  • Other toppings: corn, peas, parsley, cilantro, kimchi, nori
-Prepare the broth: add one and a half cups of water plus the boullion mix and bring to a boil. Add the ramen noodles and cook until desired done-ness (check package for preferred cooking times).

-Add the rest of the ingredients, and serve!

  • Another good "kitchen sink" recipe, since you can use whatever veggies or protein you have as leftovers.
  • Cooking the noodles in the broth makes for a more flavorful noodle.
  • The included flavor packet is very high in sodium, but if you like the flavor feel free to use it!

Souped Up Ramen Noodle Salad
  • 1 package ramen noodle soup
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp sriracha
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 carrot, sliced into toothpicks
  • 1 stalk green onion, sliced thin
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 1 lime wedge
-Cook the noodles according to the package, but do not use the flavor packet. Drain.

-In a microwave safe bowl, microwave peanut butter, butter, sriracha, juice from the lime, and honey. Microwave for 30 seconds, and mix well.

-Toss the noodles, sauce, and all remaining ingredients. Chill overnight.

  • Can be served hot or cold.
  • The peanut sauce is a great dip for chicken or drizzled on tofu.

Lazy Golumkis
This is the version I grew up with--not necessarily authentic, but tasty and inexpensive!
  • 1 lb ground beef (these days I use a plant-based substitute as well as mushrooms)
  • 1 can condensed tomato soup (10.75oz cans)
  • 1 can diced tomato (12 oz can)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 head cabbage, shredded
  • 2 cups white rice, cooked
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the meat. Drain the fat, and add the onion and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent.

Add the soup, ketchup, and herbs and spices and stir to combine.

Once the mixture begins to bubble, add the cabbage. Stir and cook until the lettuce has wilted. Add the rice and heat until dish is warmed all the way through.

Serve hot, I like to top it with Parmesan cheese!

I omit the salt because the tomato soup and ketchup are salty enough as-is, but feel free to add some if it needs it!

What do you cook when you are working with limited resources? Share in the comments!