Thursday, March 19, 2015

Austin Passbook

I love Instagram.  If I could play around on Instagram all day long, I would, but I have a day job.  Thanks to Instagram, however, I have discovered some wonderful Austin businesses that I may not have found otherwise.  One of those is Austin Passbook!  If you are a self proclaimed Austin foodie, like me, or you love great buy 1 get 1 deals, please check this out. 

Austin Passbook released their first book in the winter of 2014.  There will be a new book coming summer of 2015.  It looks just like a passport so it is extremely portable while you galavant throughout the city using some, or all, of these deals!  The book is divided into two sections:  Eat and Play.  The Eat section has buy 1 get 1 deals for local food establishments, mostly food trucks, such as Dock & Roll Diner, Hey Cupcake!, and Ms. P's Electric Cock.  The Play section had plenty of Austin's favorite activities like Austin Duck Adventures, Butler Park Pitch & Putt, Silver Whisk Cooking School (which is awesome by the way), and Bodhi Yoga.  I'm sure the summer 2015 edition will have even more wonderful spots to try out. 

The rules are pretty simple:  each deal can only be used once and you will get a stamp in your passbook, the full deal must be used at one visit (can't buy 1 now and save the other for later), and you must bring a friend to share the deal. 

Have I mentioned the price yet?  It was a mere $20.  This book pays for itself within one or two visits.  I highly recommened checking them out.  I will be getting the summer edition as soon as it is available! 

Ms. P's Electric Cock-South Congress
The famous Jo's wall sipping on Juice Austin
Juice Austin-South Congress
Dock & Roll Diner-Midway Food Park
Fill your book up with stamps!

As Austin Passbook would say:  "Be social.  Try something new.  Have fun." 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Almond Cake

On a recent trip to San Francisco, I ventured out to Berkeley and had one of the best meals I have ever tasted at Chez Panisse.  I had a lovely three course meal that consisted of baby gem lettuce with beets and avocado, grilled squid with a fennel salad and white beans, and for dessert:  almond cake.  This delicious, single layer cake, was bursting with almond flavor and it was served with a light dusting of powdered sugar and some fresh berries.  I couldn't wait to get home and replicate this simple dessert. 

Layer cakes are not my area of expertise, but a single layer cake I can manage.  Luckily, I was able to find the Chez Panisse almond cake recipe courtesy of David Lebovitz.  He has a slightly adapted version on his website which you can find here.  The ingredients are pretty basic, except for the almond paste, but I was able to easily find the paste in my local grocery store in the baking aisle. 

I used a 9-inch deep, round cake pan for this cake, but I will warn you.  The cake it so light and airy that it will rise quite a bit.  If you want one cake, I suggest cutting the recipe in half or using a really deep cake pan.  Otherwise, you can divide the batter into two separate 9-inch cake pans, like I did.  If you pour all of your batter into one pan, you risk it overflowing over the sides of the pan and onto the bottom of your oven.  I speak from experience!  Baking in two pans makes the cake not as thick, but it will still taste delicious and you will have an extra cake to share with friends and family!

1 1/3 cups of sugar
8 ounces almond paste (I have found 7 ounce packages and this is fine)
3/4, plus 1/4 cup flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp, cubed
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
6 large eggs at room temp
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease your cake pan(s) with butter then dust with flour, shaking out the excess flour.  Line the bottom of the pan with parchment.
Using a food processor or Kitchen Aid mixer (I used the mixer with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed), mix the sugar, almond paste, and the 1/4 cup of flour until the paste has broken up into small pieces.
In a separate bowl, mix together the 3/4 cup of flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
Once the paste in the mixer is broken up, add the cubes of butter and the extracts.  Process for about 5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, until combined.  Be sure to scrape down the sides every so often to make sure everything is mixing together. 
Add half the flour mixture and mix for a minute before adding the rest of the flour mixture.  Do not overmix, just beat until the flour is combined. 
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan(s) and bake for approximately 45-60 minutes.  If using two pans, your baking time will not be as long, approximately 30 min.  The top of the cake will turn brown and the cake will not be jiggly in the center, it will feel set. 
Remove from oven, run a sharp knife around the edge, and let cool in the pan completely. 
Serving suggestions:
Dust with powdered sugar
Serve with fresh berries (I like raspberries) and fresh whipped cream
Cake can be kept for 4-5 days at room temperature (if it lasts that long!).  It will also freeze up to two months. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Baked Oatmeal

I love breakfast but it is the hardest meal for me to prep ahead of time.  I usually end up buying a breakfast taco because it is quick and easy to eat on the go, but not always healthy.  My second go-to breakfast meal is oatmeal.  It's inexpensive and has plenty of health benefits, but it is not always something I want to make in the morning.  I prefer steel cut or rolled oats, ones that you actually have to cook a bit, in order to obtain more of the health benefits.  Instant oatmeal just will not do.  So how could I make things even easier?  Baked oatmeal friends.

I adapted this recipe from Eat Yourself Skinny and you can find the link here.   The recipe made quite a bit and will last throughout the week.  You can change the ingredients to your liking and experiment with different fruits, nuts and seeds.  I also ommitted the sugar and replaced it with 100% pure, organic maple syrup.  You could also use agave, honey, coconut nectar, etc. 

I like to warm my serving before eating and serve with a little almond milk or plain, greek yogurt for some extra protein.  You can find more health benefits of eating oats here.

2 cups rolled or steel cut oats
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs chopped walnuts (or nut of choice)
2 cups diced apples
3 eggs
2 cups milk of choice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease baking dish, roughly 8x8 in size.
In a large bowl, mix together oats, baking powder, salt, apples, and walnuts.  Set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix together milk, maple syrup, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. 
Combine with the dry ingredients and pour into the baking dish. 
Bake for approximately 1 hour, until golden brown and set.  Serve warm (or cold)!