Monthly Archives: May 2010

Birthday Girl!

After lots of excitement this weekend (and another 2 hour nap this afternoon), I was feeling much better and ready to celebrate.  Pat and I decided to try an Indian restaurant for dinner tonight.  Shiva Indian in Rice Village.  We were so impressed!

We loved the decor.  They ushered us to a booth – it felt more private than other restaurants and it was really comfy.  The staff were all so nice and attentive.  I wouldn’t drink more than three sips of water before my glass was refilled.  Pat ordered a lamb dish and I ordered Shiva’s Delight – a vegetarian sampler.

The fried item on the right is a samosa – filled with potato.  The orange sauce was really spicy, but almost a little sweet – another potato dish.  There was a cheesy spinach mix, the lentils and beans, rice pudding and yogurt.  Even the spinach was extra spicy.  It was very good, but my nose was running from the spice.  This was the best Indian food I have had in a long time!  The company was good too 🙂

We had a pile of leftovers to take home with us.  But our mouths were still on fire, and it was my birthday dinner, so we stopped at Ben & Jerry’s on the way home.  Pat had a strawberry lemonade shake and I had the vanilla with heath bar crunch.

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

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It Began and Ended with Magnolia

Our Sunday in Austin started out with good intentions.  We were going to start our day with brunch at Magnolia Cafe, and then head to the capitol building, followed by Guadalupe Street, and then maybe a trip to Barton Springs or other shopping.  We headed to Magnolia Cafe and put our name on the waiting list.

After 30 minutes of waiting, the second migraine hit.  Please skip down two paragraphs if you don’t want to hear my sob story – but I’m going to write about it anyway.  Of course, seconds after the migraine hit, they called our name to announce our table was ready.  Pat and I booked it out of there.  Unlike the day before, I did not have my migraine meds on me.  We rushed to the nearest CVS… and they were closed.  Pat found another CVS that was open… and they were out of stock on my migraine meds.  At this point, the worst was starting to hit me.  CVS was nice enough to call around other to other pharmacies in the area, and found an HEB nearby with my meds in stock.

HEB took about 30 minutes to fill my prescription… and then informed me that my prescription is no longer covered by my insurance.  Are you kidding me?!  They gave us the name of the nearest urgent care clinic.  At this point (over 2 hours after the onset of the migraine) I wasn’t able to keep any liquids down, so I wound up in the clinic with 2 shots.  They helped, and I felt much better, but they really knocked me out.  I ended up sleeping until close to 5 PM.

Well after this eventful day, I woke up hungry, and remembered seeing that Magnolia Cafe served breakfast all day – so we decided to go back and try again 🙂  This time was a success!  I ordered the vegetarian omelet with egg whites and a side of black beans and fruit.

The omelet was nothing special, but I’m not sure what I should have expected.  The avocado in it was really good, but I forgot to order it without mushrooms and ended up picking them all out.  The black beans were really good though – just a little spicy.

After dinner, we set out to find some frozen yogurt.  We stopped by Swirll, where you self-serve your yogurt and toppings.  I tasted the NY Cheesecake and Cake Batter – and was so impressed by how strong each taste resembled the actual food.  I ended up choosing the NY Cheesecake and added in some strawberries and chocolate chips.  It was so good!

After dessert we decided to drive by the capitol building.  It was one of the sights that was high on Pat’s list, and we didn’t make it in time for visiting hours.  But we still got a good view from the outside.

I think I was still under the influence of the shots at this point, and I ended up falling asleep by 8:30 PM – and sleeping for 11 hours straight!  I definitely needed the rest.  We hurried home this morning to pick Bailey up from the Pets Hotel.  She seemed to have a great time there!  I was very impressed with the staff.  When we arrived an hour earlier than we had planned, we saw that they had her out behind the front desk and were cuddling with her.  The staff members asked us if we would mind seeing how she would do in the group doggy play camp.  Can you spot our puppy?

She’s the one hiding behind the staff member while trying to sniff out the situation.  We’re so glad to have her home!

If this weekend wasn’t enough excitement, take a look at what happened when we got home… Pat decided to be good and take care of the lawn.  As he was cutting the grass in our backyard, a rock flew up and hit the back window.

Yep, millions of glass pieces everywhere.  At least the part that broke was on the outside – no glass in the house.  And I guess the silver lining was that the previous owners had left their extra door (with a doggy door built in) in the garage for us “just in case” we might ever want it.  What luck!

The Hula Hut

I was too exhausted last night to even think about blogging my dinner before bed.  That was because it was about 11:30 PM when we got home (yes, I turn into a grandma sometimes).  We went to Hula Hut for dinner last night, another recommendation from friends.  It is a “Mexonesian” restaurant – a combination of Mexican and Polynesian.  It sits right on Lake Austin, which I’m sure would have been a beautiful view if it wasn’t pitch black while we were there.  We ended up going around 9:00 PM since we weren’t hungry after our late lunch, and figured the place wouldn’t be so packed.  They don’t take reservations or call-ahead.

Thanks to the bugs that had been eating us all day, we chose to eat inside.  The hostess told us it was going to be an hour and 20 – 30 minute wait.  Normally we would just go somewhere else, but we were already set on this place, and it was already after 9:00, so we headed to the bar instead.  They had chips and salsa for us to snack on while we waited.  The salsa was the most spicy salsa I have ever had at a restaurant!  There were seeds in it.  I couldn’t eat it, so I snacked on plain tortilla chips.

Don’t you love the table pattern?  We actually got sat after only 45 minutes or so – it was already after 10:00 PM at that point.  Looking at the menu, the stuffed avocado looked amazing… but it had chicken in it.  I asked the server if I could order it with no chicken, but they were already pre-made.  Instead, I ordered the Mango Poblano Chile Quesadillas – fresh mango, poblano chiles and cream cheese.  The server asked, “do you want to add chicken to that?”  Not even thinking I replied, “No, thanks.”  Pat said, “I think he was joking.”  I’m so used to that being a serious question.

The food came out super fast, definitely less than 5 minutes from when we ordered it.  The kitchen staff must have been ready to leave for the night.  My quesadillas were really good, but I could only eat two.  The cream cheese reminded me of really good crab rangoon from Chinese restaurants, and the mango was a nice add.  I wasn’t in the mood for anything too spicy (and the salsa had me scared), so I picked off most of the chiles.

The server came by about the time I was snapping this picture, to see how we liked our food.  Which we clearly had not touched yet.  He asked, “Are you taking pictures of your food?”  Yes… yes, we were.  Pat was even getting into it, and took a picture of his meal for me.

Pat ordered the Steak Tubular Taco.  Yes, that is a taco, not an enchilada or a burrito.  He said the sauce was amazing.  We tried to walk along the water after dinner, but it was too dark to see much more than some swampy looking water by the docks.  It was a late night, but worth the wait.

Austin is for Lovers

What an eventful day!  As I mentioned in my post before, it started out slow – and not so good.  First, I dropped my iPhone while trying to hold Bailey on her leash – and I cracked the outer glass.  I was (and still am) so upset, I’m not even going to show a picture.  Pat thinks we might still have a warranty that includes accidental damage… I’m crossing my fingers.  And trying not to think about it.

Then, on our drive to Austin, we got stopped in backed up traffic for about half an hour.  As we got closer, we saw lots of police cars.  You can’t see in this pic (and I didn’t take any once I saw what was going on), but it looked like a truck with a lot of items in its bed had dropped all its items into the road.  There was a second truck that was on a tow truck, which had been completely smashed in from the top – we think it must have flipped over.  It makes me so mad when people drive with so much loose stuff in their truck bed – and really nervous.  This is why it’s so important to avoid being behind those trucks.

And then… I got a migraine.  I was lucky and had just 1 dose of my migraine meds & 1 ibuprofen pill.  Migraines are the worst because I never know how long they are going to last or whether my medicine will help much or not.  Pat pulled over at a gas station so he could get me some water to take my meds.  I slept for the next 40 minutes in the car until we got to Austin.

We checked in at the hotel first so I could sleep a little longer.  The best cure for my migraines is sleep.  I slept about an hour and was still just feeling s0-s0, but I was so excited to be in Austin and it was already 3 PM, so we decided to head out anyway.  It was time to turn our day around!  Our first stop was South Congress Avenue.  We had heard it was a trendy area with good food and interesting shops.

We stopped for some New York style pizza at Home Slice.

Everyone seemed very laid back here – the staff were laughing while one of them was throwing some dough to make a pie, and cut a whole right through the middle.

They have pizza by the slice options until 6:30 PM and then again after 9:30 PM.  Since it was a late lunch for us, we ordered by the slice.  Pat ordered 2 slices of pepperoni pizza.  You probably can’t read it, but the pizza boxes behind him say “In crust we trust.”

I ordered a slice of the White Pie with Spinach – olive oil, garlic, ricotta and mozzarella.

Just look at those piles of ricotta!  Romano’s pizza in Houston has my favorite NY style pizza… but it was hard to compare the two since I ordered a specialty slice.  I love thin crust pizza, and this was really good.  It could have maybe used just a little bit more garlic – but I really love garlic.

After lunch we walked around.  We were especially fascinated by the store Uncommon Objects.

It had lots of old odds and ends.  It was filled with antiques, and although their website says they are not a museum, it felt a little like a museum – filled with mini “rooms” that were coordinated by color and design.  Unfortunately, they had a no pictures rule, but I really wish I could have photographed the inside.  A lot of the trinkets reminded me of my grandparents’ old house, filled with items they had collected over the years.  It was comforting in a way.

After wandering around awhile, I really wanted to try this cupcake stand I had heard about – Hey Cupcake!  It was a little trailer with a large revolving cupcake on top.  The menu was short, but it was a tough choice.  I went with the “Sweetberry” – a strawberry cream cheese top and strawberry cake.

Pat and I devoured the cupcake so quickly, I didn’t even get a chance to snap a picture of it in its full form.  So here is what you get instead:

Guess who doesn’t love sweets but ate most of it??  After South Congress we ventured over to the original Whole Foods.  I guess it wasn’t anything too special, but two people had recommended we see it, and it was huge!  I raided the bulk bins a bit – way more options than our local Kroger.  But there is a Whole Foods in Houston, we just don’t drive that far very often for groceries.

After the grocery store we stopped by Town Lake.  We didn’t have the right shoes on, but walked along the river (or lake?) for a little bit and took some pictures.

We then drove around Austin for awhile – it actually felt kind of small compared to Houston.  We drove around the (empty) UT campus just to see it, and then headed back to the hotel for some rest before dinner.  It was a rough start to our day, but nothing a little pizza and cupcakes couldn’t fix 🙂

Road Trip

We’re on our way to Austin! I’m blogging from the road. It was a last minute decision to go but we decided we should take advantage of the three day weekend. We got off to a slow start. And I didn’t want to leave Bailey… See the picture below for where she is staying this weekend.

We bought her 1 on 1 play packages with the staff twice a day while we are gone. They also have what they call the Bone Booth where we can all and talk to Bailey! We have never boarded her before.

After dropping Bailey off we stopped for some Starbucks on the road. I ordered oatmeal with nuts and brown sugar and a caramel light frappucino.

See you in Austin!

Confetti Quinoa

Work lunch today was Panera.  It was really easy to skip the meat.  I ordered a “You Pick Two” with black bean soup and the Mediterranean veggie sandwich.  I had never tried that sandwich before, but it was very good!

Dinner tonight was adapted from the Toasted Millet and Confetti Vegetable Salad with Sesame and Soy Dressing from Cooking Light.  I saw this recipe on The Front Burner and thought it looked pretty – and tasty!  And with my birthday coming up (I’m not counting down or anything), I thought a confetti celebration dinner would be perfect.

I had to make a few changes to the recipe though, based on the ingredients I had on hand.  First, I made the dressing.  I didn’t have sesame oil, so I substituted with peanut oil.  I didn’t have canola oil, so I substituted with olive oil.  I didn’t have fresh ginger, so I used ground.  And I threw in some extra garlic.

My next substitution was the millet.  I couldn’t find any at Kroger, so I used quinoa instead.  I’ve never cooked with quinoa before, so i wasn’t sure what to expect.  It looked interesting.

I used 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water.  At the same time I had a few side projects going.  This recipe really required a lot of bowls, pots and pans!  One for the dressing, one for the quinoa, one for the carrots, one for the walnuts… it made for a bit mess in the kitchen.

I should have boiled the carrots a little longer, they weren’t quite soft enough.  I also decided that I didn’t want to eat the bell peppers and onions raw, so I sautéed them in a little olive oil with pepper.

All the colors mixed together made for a pretty meal.

Just stick a candle in it!

This was a really good dinner, aside from the mess I made creating it.  Pat and I agreed that even without meat, this one was filling.  The quinoa was a little different.  I would still prefer brown rice, but I liked the texture and it went well with this meal.  Those dark pieces are walnuts roasted in soy sauce – so good!  I probably burned them just a little, but Pat thought they were perfect.

The V Word

I’m not sure how to start this post.  It’s been three days, so I feel like it’s time to write about it – three days with no meat, that is.  I finished Skinny Bitch last night.  I’m definitely not ready to adopt a completely vegan lifestyle, but the book made me question a lot of my decisions about the food I eat.  And quite frankly, after reading the chapter on factory farms, I have no desire to eat meat right now.  So I haven’t.

I’m not ready to call myself a vegetarian.  I guess I don’t know if this is something I can (or will) stick to, and that’s partly why I’m hesitant to even write about it on here, but I feel strongly about the decision right now.  I’ve been making an effort to eat “less” meat for awhile now, but this is a pretty big jump.  I even feel a little guilty for not giving up dairy products as well, but I’m taking baby steps.  Actually, it feels like I’m taking giant steps as it is.  Party of me wonders if I would feel this strongly if I were able to find environmentally friendly & cruelty free meat – but as I said before, I just don’t have the desire, so I’m going with it for now.

The first two days weren’t hard at all.  I actually like meat substitutes, and it’s been fun to try new recipes.  But tonight was my first real challenge.  Eating dinner out in public with friends.  I wasn’t ready to “announce” my new lifestyle, but it’s pretty hard not to when you’re faced with a menu that is almost entirely meat.  We went to eat at Garson tonight – a Persian & Mediterranean restaurant just outside the Loop.

Although my new diet may have come up in conversation (and although I know I shouldn’t feel ashamed for not eating meat, I couldn’t help feeling my cheeks turn a little red), I was not ready to announce my new hobby to the crowd as well.  So thanks to my shyness, the pictures tonight are via the iPhone.  *Sigh*

The atmosphere at the restaurant was really nice.  It felt like a nice restaurant, but people weren’t really dressed up.  Our waiter was very suave.  He had the perfect accent to go with the setting and asked if he could start us off with some wine.  Umm, could we see a wine menu please?  He did this again with the appetizers – “Would you like some apps?”  Well, what do you have to offer??

Before I get into the appetizers, let me explain what happened when I ordered.  I was faced with a menu that was divided by different kinds of meats.  The only vegetarian items were labeled as “Vegetarian Appetizers.”  Some of the stews sounded good, so I asked if I could order the Gheimeh (tomato stew) with no beef chunks.  The server informed me that the beef is already mixed in.  So instead I asked for an order of Hummus and a Shirazi Salad.  He asked if that was all – yes, thank you.  He then asked if I would like both items brought out at the same time.  Yes, thank you.  He then brought both items out at the same time – as appetizers.  I felt a little embarrassed, since that was supposed to be my meal.  But many of the others had ordered apps, and the main dishes came out quickly, so it was not a big deal.

While waiting on the appetizers, I ordered a glass of Toscana wine.  The server brought out pita bread and a plate of parsley, mint, lemon and feta cheese.  Clearly, I am not ready to become a vegan.  I had some feta on pita.

I had two slices of this.  And then the appetizers (and my meal) came out.

The hummus was amazing.  It was definitely my favorite of every food item I tried tonight.  The lovely oil you see there was sesame seed oil, lemon juice and fresh garlic.  Just amazing.  The oil made the whole thing feel really buttery and it spread smoothly on the pita bread.

I also tasted the Babaghanosh (baked egg plant with the same oil dressing as above), the Mizra Ghasemi (grilled eggplant with tomato, Persian spices, garlic and scrambled eggs on top – don’t worry, I avoided the eggs) and the Eggplant (pureed, seasoned with mint and Persian spices).  It was all very good – especially the Mizra Ghasemi.  I loved the sauce it was baked in.

The other half of my dinner was the Shirazi Salad.  Tomatoes and cucumbers (and parsley) served with the house dressing (a lime vinaigrette). 

I was a little weary ordering this because I don’t really like cucumbers, but it was only $5, so I thought I might as well try it.  I’m glad I did.  I really liked the tomatoes, but the cucumber was pretty good with the dressing.  The dressing was extremely acidic, and it made my lips burn, but I still really liked it.

I really filled up on everyone else’s food.  I tried the dill rice – it would have been good, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the dill flavor.  It tasted too much like pickles to me and I hate pickles.  The only item I didn’t like at all was the Gheimeh Bademjan (Persian style tomato based stew).  It was pretty bad, which was surprising, considering it was surrounded by so much good food.

Pat ordered the Garson’s Favorite – fettuccine tossed with grilled chicken, smoked sausage and chive cream sauce.

He said it was really good (I didn’t taste this one).  He said the chicken was especially tender, but the sausage was just so-so.

Then the dessert tray came out.  I wasn’t planning on dessert, but look at this thing.  How could you resist?

The server caught me taking a picture of this one and joked, “No pictures!”  I think he was joking anyway.  One person ordered tiramisu, another ordered that rolled up crepe type dessert in the right hand corner, I ordered baklava, and others ordered tea and coffee.  I am so glad I ordered the baklava.

I remember the first time I had baklava.  I was at a Key Club convention in Columbus, OH.  We were having lunch in a mall, and there was a Greek place.  I remember how much I loved it the very first time I tried it – and I didn’t have it again until the same convention a year later at the same mall.

This baklava was one of the best I’ve ever had.  Probably the very best.  As someone else at the table pointed out (yes, I shared!), it was much softer and more moist than other versions I’ve had in the past.  So true.  But I was good, and only took a few bites.  Really, I was just too full from all that pita bread to eat anything else.  So the rest is in the fridge waiting for me to take it to work tomorrow 🙂

Pat had the Persian tea for dessert.

It was black tea with cardamom.  It was really good – not very sweet, but just sweet enough.  I can’t drink tea completely black.

Overall, it was a great dining experience, and I would love to go back.   Every single thing I ate (with the exception of the stew) was just wonderful.  Our total bill came out to exactly $30/person (including tip).  This wasn’t too bad considering the alcohol, appetizers and dessert.  I highly recommend this restaurant!