Links We Luv: Austin in the News

By | Links We Luv | 2 Comments

Growing up, every year my family would go on a vacation. My family of five would pile into our Ford Conversion Van and my Dad would drive for hours at a time. We went to Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina and we’ve visited states everywhere in between. Oftentimes, Our Texas license plate would cause people to ask where we were from. The answer Austin, TX would normally provoke a dazed look and the reply “Where?”. This almost always lead to a conversation about how you could find Austin in relation to Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston.

Oh how the times have changed. Nowadays, when I tell people I’m from Austin, it usually results in a response along the lines of “Oh, I just love Austin!”. I can’t remember a more exciting time to live in Austin especially for a food lover.

This edition of Links We Luv, reinforces that sentiment. I’ve shared a couple of great articles about the Austin food scene and the announcements of a couple of interesting store openings. Enjoy! Read More

Restaurants We Luv: La Condesa – Austin, TX

By | Restaurants We Luv | 4 Comments

Up until a couple of weeks ago, La Condesa had been on my “Places to Eat list” for much too long. It took a visit from Anthony Bourdain to finally bump it up to the top of my list.

I loved the atmosphere of La Condesa. The big floor to ceiling windows brought in a lot of natural light. Mixed with the vibrant colors and decorations, the restaurant gave a great first impression.

We started off with the Guacamole Tasting for the table. I thought all the options were good, but my favorite by far was the Chipotle puree and toasted almond guacamole. It had a nice smokey flavor and the chipotle brought a subtle heat without being overly spicy. I also liked the crunch the toasted almond brought.  Read More

This Week’s Links We Luv: Austin Restaurant Week, Bourdain in Austin & More

By | Links We Luv | 2 Comments

I wrote a Links We Luv post about SXSW a couple of weeks ago and got so much great feedback that I’m planning on making it a regular post every couple weeks. I plan on posting helpful articles I find related to Austin food news, cooking tips, and recipes.

Here’s a recap of my favorite links this week:

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  • Austin Restaurant Week Starts Today – Starting today, some of the most popular Austin restaurants will be offering special three course pre-fixe menus. A donation will be made to Meals on Wheels and More for each reservation made through Open Table, so get out there and eat for a great cause.
  • Anthony Bourdain in Austin – Anthony Bourdain was in town for SXSW and it sounds like he stayed for awhile filming.  According to Austinist.com he visited JMueller BBQ, Contigo, Barley Swine, La Condesa, Franklin BBQ, Quality Seafood and El Taco Rico. And yes, he confirmed to me on Twitter that he waited in line at Franklin BBQ.
  • The Most Common Cooking Mistakes (Cooking Light) – Cooking Light has a pretty comprehensive list of 42 common cooking mistakes and what you can do to avoid these errors. There are a few no brainers, like tasting your food as you cook, but I found this article extremely helpful. I will be applying a few of these tips in my own cooking.
  • Base jumpers skip bar tab by strapping on parachutes, leaping 55 stories off building – I had to share this crazy news story. A group of men base jump off a 55 story building to skip out on a bar tab. You can watch the news report on youtube.
  • The Cooking Oil Comparison Chart – I’m guilty of pretty much using either Olive Oil or Canola Oil for everything, but I’d really like to branch out to using some more exotic oils. This chart is a great starting point for moving beyond just your basic oils. It compares some of the most common (and not so common) types of cooking oil, examines which options are the healthiest, and what each is best used for.
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Restaurants We Luv: Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew – Austin, TX

By | Restaurants We Luv | 4 Comments

With Franklin BBQ getting so much national attention, you may not have heard about one of the newest additions to Austin’s booming BBQ scene. Opening in December of 2011, Stiles Switch BBQ is definitely the new kid on the block, but they’re serving up  delicious BBQ. Maybe that’s because Pitmaster Lance Kirkpatrick, formerly of historic Louie Mueller BBQ, has been putting out great BBQ for years.

I heard about Stiles Switch when it was mentioned in February’s Texas Monthly Article “Of Meat and Men”  (which is a fantastic article) and decided we’d have to try it out. When we arrived at Stiles Switch BBQ, the first thing I noticed from the outside was how nostalgic the building looked. Located in the old Violet Crown shopping center, they really did a good job of creating that 50’s feel.

The inside was spacious, with a few flat screen TVs showing college basketball games. The walls were covered with photos and neon signs. I really liked the vibe of the restaurant. The staff was super friendly and even took us out back to see the pit. Most importantly, it passed my first test for a BBQ joint. It had to smell like BBQ!

We ordered as much food as we possibly could. We tried the Brisket, Switch Original Sausage, Pork Ribs, Turkey, Potato Salad, Pinto Beans and Lemon Vinaigrette Cole Slaw. The food was awesome.

I especially liked the pork ribs, which were seasoned and cooked perfectly. The moist brisket was outstanding. Not too fatty, with a nice seasoned crisp bark (the outside part of the brisket). The lean brisket was a little dry, but BBQ is not meant to be a health food. Order the moist brisket for Pete’s sake! The turkey was fantastic. The sausage was good, but I’d like to try the jalapeno cheddar sausage on our next trip. We really liked all of the sides. The Lemon Vinaigrette Cole Slaw, which was really refreshing and light. A nice change from most heavy mayo based Cole slaws. For dessert, we tried the banana pudding, which included whipped cream, chocolate pudding and Oreos. Disclaimer: I may be slightly biased here because I love banana pudding and Oreos. When they put the two together it kind of blew my mind.

All in all, I’d have to say we really enjoyed our visit to Stiles Switch BBQ and would highly recommend it. It’s hard to believe they’ve only been open for a few months and are probably still working out some kinks. Stiles Switch BBQ is located over in the historic Violet Crown Shopping Center at 6610 N. Lamar. For more information visit StilesSwitchBBQ.com.

Photo Gallery:

 

 

Links We Luv: What to Eat at SXSW 2012

By | Links We Luv | One Comment

SXSW is upon us and as a food blogger, one of my favorite parts of SXSW is the food of course. Austin’s food scene has really blown up over the past couple of years, so I’m listing some links to help you navigate the Austin food scene while you’re here.

And for some of our personal favorites:

Photo ©Luvs2eat.com

Barbecue Lover’s Guide to Austin Giveaway

By | Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Being born and raised in Texas, I’ve been eating BBQ as long as I can remember. One of my favorite BBQ memories growing up was my family’s frequent trips to Pok-e-Jo’s. We spent many special family occasions celebrating birthdays, Fathers Day or any other holiday. BBQ had a way of bringing our family together.

The BBQ phenomenon was not something that happened with just my family. BBQ in Texas has had a way of bringing families together for generations. Recipes and techniques have been handed down from generation to generation often times kept as a family secret. Although their recipes may remain secret, some families have turned their BBQ into a profitable business. In fact, there are hundreds of BBQ joints that have succeeded to do just that.

It would take a lot of time and effort to find all of these wonderful BBQ joints, but author Gloria Corral has made this easy for us by creating a comprehensive guide for Austin-area BBQ. Investing more than two-years of hands on research, the Barbecue Lover’s Guide to Austin puts the Central Texas BBQ scene at your finger tips. The Guide features, not only the famous BBQ joints you’ve heard of, but all the hole-in-the wall joints, shacks and trailers you may not know about. We thoroughly enjoyed reading through the book and would recommend it for any BBQ lover out there.

Thanks to the folks over at Music Box Media, we have an extra copy to give away to one lucky reader. To be entered in the drawing simply leave a comment about your favorite BBQ Joint by 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, March,10. Be sure to include a valid email address so we can get in touch with you. Winner will be chosen randomly using random.org.

Healthy Tailgating Snack: Buffalo Style Hummus

By | Healthy Snacks | 4 Comments

It’s time for the NFL Playoffs, which means the Super Bowl is right around the corner (Go Pack Go!) and you know what that means. It’s time for tailgating! Aside from brats and cheese curds, one of my favorite tailgating foods is buffalo chicken wings. The problem is chicken wings aren’t exactly healthy and it’s way too early in the year to start breaking my New Year’s resolution.

This buffalo hummus recipe is a healthy alternative to buffalo chicken wings. Serve it with a side of pita chips or veggies for a quick and easy tailgating snack. Enjoy!

Ingredients
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  • 1 3/4 cups canned chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup Tahini (Sesame Paste)
  • 3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 3 Tablespoons Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Optional: Blue Cheese to top it off
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Directions
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  1. Drain, rinse and dry the canned chickpeas
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and combine until it reaches your desired texture. If your hummus is dry you can add additional olive oil, while the food processor is running. Due to the high sodium content of the hot sauce, you may have to add quite a bit to get the consistency you’re looking for.
  3. That’s it! You can serve the hummus immediately, but I would recommend letting it sit overnight so the flavors have a chance to develop.
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Food Swap!

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I know, I know, it has been quite awhile since our last blog post.  The holidays are always a busy time and somehow it just goes by faster and faster each year.  Luckily for us, this holiday we did something we’ve never done before.  Being foodies, we’ve joined our local food blog alliance and took part in a festive holiday event…..a FOOD SWAP!  We were paired up with Boston Food Swap and were given the guidelines of spending $30 or less (we might have gone a bit over here…) sending it before Dec. 15 (sorry, that didn’t happen either!  I know we’re terrible!) and then writing a blog post about what you sent (so here it is folks!).

Here’s a picture of our Texas “foodie” items and a little explanation of each:

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  • “Keep Austin Weird” bumper sticker: If you live in Austin, you see this EVERYWHERE!  Basically it’s to promote supporting your local business and to remind everyone that Austin is unique and PROUD OF IT!  We love to find new local restaurants and support them as much as we can.
  • “Don’t Mess With Texas” postcard: I’m not sure if it’s our official state motto, but you will see it on any Texas highway.  I think it’s mostly to promote the fact that if you litter you get a large fine, so if you’re eating something in the car, don’t throw it out the window….or else you might just mess with Texas, and it’ ain’t gonna be pretty!
  • “edible Austin” magazine: This is a free, local magazine that promotes local food establishments, farms, and proprietors that are usually up and coming.  We like to read this anytime we go to our local restaurants because they usually have them free to take! You can also find great content on their site.
  • State of Texas cookie cutter: Being in Texas, everyone is loud and proud to be from here.  Heck, most native Texans think Texas should be their own country!  Why not make cookies in the shape of the best state in the U.S.?
  • “Mr. Bacon” air freshener: Who wouldn’t want their house to always smell like bacon?  After all, you can’t walk into a restaurant in Texas without seeing at least one item on the menu that involves bacon.  We even have a restaurant we like to go to called “Bacon” where that is the featured ingredient in almost 99.9% of the menu items.  It’s delicious!
  • Alamo cookies: When in Texas, you must be sure to visit all the major cities: Austin, Houston, Dallas.  One of our favorites is San Antonio.  They have so much to do, eat and see!  It’s near and dear to our hearts because we went to college right outside of San Antonio and we visited the Alamo when we first started dating, so we always “Remember the Alamo….” 🙂
  • Salt Lick Original dry rub: The Salt Lick is a Texas tradition.  The original location is in Driftwood, TX and has been featured on a variety of food shows.  They are known for the their all you can eat BBQ- ribs, brisket, turkey, sausage, chicken, potato salad, beans and coleslaw!  Lucky for us, they opened a location in Round Rock not too far from our house so whenever we get a craving for good bbq, that’s where we go!
  • Kerbey Lane Cafe Buttermilk Pancake Mix: If you don’t live in Austin, think of Kerbey Lane as the equivalent of a much better, local 24/7 Denny’s!  They serve breakfast all day long and have other menu items as well, but the pancakes are where it’s at!  It’s an Austin tradition!
  • “Fixin to Do” list: In most of the United States of America people get ready to do certain things.  However in Texas, everyone “fixes to do” something!  I don’t know exactly what they’re fixing but they do it ALL the time!  So if you ever find yourself in Texas, now you know about all the fixins!  You’ve been warned!
  • Austinuts: Locally owned and operated, you can find these tasty nuts all around town.  They are some of our favorites!
  • D. L. Jardine’s Texas Chili Kit:  You can’t live in Texas and not eat chili.  Now you have the tools to make traditional Texas chili at home far away in Boston!
  • Central Market Jalapeno Cheese Cornbread Mix:  You can’t have chili without cornbread, so we got a mix from our favorite grocery store, Central Market.   Because everything is hot and spicy in Texas and every Texan LOVES their jalapenos and cheese, we thought that this mix would be a great variation of traditional cornbread.
  • Christmas Crinkle Cookies: John’s favorite Christmas cookies. Yum! (not pictured)
  • Texas White Trash: A snack mix made with Crispix, Dry-roasted peanuts and Texas shaped pretzels. It’s coated with a mixture of melted chocolate, butter and peanut butter and then shaken in a bag of powdered sugar. (not pictured)
  • Lammes Candies Longhorns: One of Diana’s favorites. Lammes is an Austin original(since 1885), so we had to share! Random note of trivia: the original owner, William Lamme, lost Lammes Candies in a poker game. His son David later returned to Austin to reclaim the store. Learn more about Lammes Candies (not pictured)
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Last Minute Turkey Tips

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I’m making my first turkey this year. Because I was a little nervous about it, I’ve spent the past couple weeks preparing to roast my first turkey. I’ve read magazine articles, blog posts, and watched YouTube videos. My wife and I even attended a turkey cooking class so we would be ready.

Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot of time left to get your turkey started, so I’m sharing some of my favorite turkey tips I’ve picked up over the past couple of weeks. Happy Thanksgiving and good luck!
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  1. Your turkey should already be defrosted, or very close to it. If you haven’t started defrosting your turkey yet, no worries! Run cold water over your turkey to help speed up the process, but this could still take a couple of hours.
  2. It’s not too late to brine your turkey! As a general rule, brine your turkey 1 hour per pound. Brining will help your turkey to absorb more moisture and also add additional flavor.
  3. The formula for a basic brine is 1 gallon of liquid to 1 cup salt, 1 cup sugar and whatever aromatics you choose (onion, garlic, thyme, oregano  etc.).
  4. Use ice as 3/4 of your brining liquid, so you don’t have to wait for your brine to cool. Since I’m making one gallon of brine, I used 3 quarts of ice to 1 quart of water.
  5. If you want crispy skin allow your turkey to air dry in the fridge for 4-6 hours after brining.
  6. Let your turkey sit out at room temp for at least one hour before cooking. This will help your turkey cook more evenly and avoid cold spots in the middle.
  7. When adding butter and herbs to your turkey, be sure to place under the skin. This will not only flavor the turkey meat, but help keep the herbs from burning.
  8. Cover your roasting pan with parchment paper before putting your turkey on the roasting rack. This will save you a lot of clean-up later.
  9. The general rule of 20 minutes per pound is ok as a guideline, but will probably lead to an over-cooked turkey. Instead rely on your thermometer. Remove your turkey from the oven when it reaches 145 degrees. Don’t eat it yet though. See tip 11 for more information!
  10. If the skin of your turkey browns too quickly cover it with tin foil with the shiny side facing out. This will help deflect some of the heat from the skin and slow the browning process.
  11. Let your turkey rest for at least 30 minutes after taking it from the oven. It will continue to cook and is ready to eat when it reaches 160 degrees. This will also allow the juices that were lost in the cooking process to be reabsorbed by the meat.
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Do you have any favorite turkey tips? Please share them in the comments.

With Great Food Comes Great Responsibility

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As you may have noticed, I’ve taken a short break from blog posting recently. A lot of family stuff has been going on, which prompted me to visit the doctor to get myself checked out. Unfortunately, I wasn’t all that happy with what I found out. Like millions of other Americans, I have high cholesterol. I was a little shocked to find this out. At only 28, I hadn’t ever really considered having cholesterol issues. Yes, I know I need to lose a few pounds, but I count calories and I try to watch my carb intake. Cholesterol was really the last thing on my mind.

As a food blogger, this is particularly hard for me to deal with. I enjoy going out to eat and trying new recipes at home all of the time. My passion is to cook, my wife’s is to bake and when I heard the news I initially felt that this was going to be the end to our foodie adventures. After thinking about it for a while, I’ve come to the realization that good food doesn’t mean it has to be unhealthy. A real chef can take on the challenge of creating dishes that provide short term enjoyment without a long-term negative impact on your health.

Instead of giving-up on the blog, I’ve decided to embrace that challenge. That’s why over the next few weeks you’ll see a shift in what we write about on Luvs2Eat.com. Does that mean we’ll stop eating out completely? No. I’m not giving up enjoying the occasional trip out to a new restaurant (and we’ll still write about it). Does that mean we’ll stop creating delicious desserts? No. A dessert every now and then is OK. Moderation is key, right? What you will see is interpretation of our favorite dishes with twists to make them more heart healthy. An attempt to continue to enjoy the foods we luv, with a more health conscious focus. It will be a journey and learning experience for us, and I hope you’re willing to join us for the ride.

If you’re interesting in learning more about Cholesterol, here are a couple of helpful links from the American Heart Association to get you started:

What Your Cholesterol Numbers Mean

Cooking for Lower Cholesterol