The Latest Trend For Your Inner Fat Kid: Circus Animals

There are some REALLY exciting things going on right now if you’re in a deep, committed relationship with sugar like I am.

Exhibit One: Grown fresh from the rainbow/unicorn creations trend everywhere, this Braum’s Circus Animal Cookie Sundae is about the fattest and most wonderful thing I’ve ever eaten. Blood glucose levels be damned, I didn’t even feel guilty.

Luckily you can also by the ice cream flavor as a standalone in a 2 pint carton, and cut out a few hundred calories you’d get in the sundae with the same level of enjoyment.

After a little “research” I discovered there are oh, about a million super-cute, delicious looking recipes involving this trend:

Frosted Animal Cookie Cheesecake

Circus Animal Popcorn

Circus Animal Cookie Dough Truffle Bars

Circus Animal Cookie Truffles (AKA Cake Balls)

In the non-edible arena, how cute are these DIY ideas?

Circus Animal Throw Pillows

Circus Animal Christmas Tree Ornaments

Easy DIY Circus Animal Halloween Costume

 

The Dinner Club

Here we are. The Dinner Club.
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Two of my very best friends in the entire world and I like to do something I am somewhat ashamed to admit.

We like to be fancy. Obnoxiously fancy. We dress up, we spend way too much on food, we go to only the trendiest restaurants. And there is much talk and deliberation and telling others what we are doing before we ever actually arrive. We are THOSE people.

There’s something about enjoying this aspect of life with two people that you have the most unfancy relationships with. Because when we get together, we are crude, we are rude. We talk about things in our lives that suck, and reasons we are gross people, and give no-holds-barred updates on our lives. We are unashamed of anything as we nibble crowd around and gorge like cavemen enjoy overpriced charcuterie.

So, when my birthday coincided with a recent business trip, it was ON.

(This photo doesn’t really go with the blog post, but it’s too cute a picture of my “niece” and the present from her “mama” not to include.)

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Anyhow. We gathered again. This time at Uchi. And it. was. amazing.

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kara kyuri cocktail – cold sake, cucumber, thai chili, yuzu

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saba shio – grilled norwegian mackerel٠parsley٠preserved lemon

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makimono – “ham & eggs” – katsu pork belly٠yolk custard٠espelette

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good enough to be dessert – brie ringo – tempura-fried brie٠apple chutney٠ sweet potato crisp

Not pictured, but also AMAZING menu items: crispy brussels sprouts with sweet chili, and the “hamachi nabe” (baby yellowtail٠koshi hikari rice٠ farm egg٠soy broth).

Takeaway: Some of the best food I’ve had in Houston, but GO AT HAPPY HOUR. Surprisingly good deals for an otherwise PRICEY restaurant. Probably wouldn’t get my sake cocktail again, but it was unique, which is sometimes hard to do in Houston. The “eggs and ham” roll was not my favorite, but I did love the presentation. Every single other thing I would order again, and order two.

* * *

Then the next business trip, we reunited to try a trendy little place called Down House in the Heights.

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Tempura Zucchini Fritters, Quick Pickled Cucumbers, Cardamom Chile Yogurt, Mint

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Houston Dairymaids’ Cheese Plate, Three Cheeses with Pairings, Slow Dough Bread

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Chicken Fried Portobello Mushrooms, Mashed Potatoes, Spinach Salad, Spicy Pepper

Takeaway: Delicious, but a little overrated/overpriced for what it was, and had a lot more Asian influence to the menu than it really gave the impression of from the website, menu, atmosphere. My “chicken fried” Portabello mushroom had a honey soy glaze that pulled it away from the “country fried” experience I was expecting. Wilted spinach salad with pears and endive was amaze-balls. Potatoes were potatoes. Zucchini fritters were the best thing there. The cheese plate was a tiny portion, and their second-cheapest bottle of white was $30. The end.

Raw.

About two weeks ago I got a juicer and joined a fruit and veggie co-op. The results of this unexpected turn of events have been mixed, and given me pause as to carrying forth on this (personally) uncharted territory. It’s as if my inner health nut came out for groundhog day, saw its shadow, and willfully retreated back into my subconscious.

Lessons learned:

  1. Fruit and veggie co-ops like the one I joined really give you some impressive bang for your buck. Which is a really good thing when you realize you can’t eat half of it, and waste the other half making juices that test your gag reflex and make you want to rethink the $100 investment in this new piece of machinery.
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    For the record, this is what $28 will buy you. Impressive, yes?

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    Deceptively pretty orange beet juice.

  2. Leafy greens like spinach and kale don’t produce that much juice, but they sure make up for it in flavor. Drowning the stuff out requires more than 3x the amount of juice from other more desirable produce. Even then, the results aren’t pretty.

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    Oh-so appetizing!

  3. Just because the fiber is basically taken out of all that fresh produce, it doesn’t mean your body won’t react to it in the same way as if you had actually eaten a head of kale and four whole apples. Yeah.

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    Great photo opp – not so great gazpacho-inspired juice.

  4. Ginger makes (almost) everything better. In fact, out of all my rather disgusting concoctions, this one I made up turned out the best:

1 cucumber

1 lime

5 small apples

2 peaches

1 inch ginger root

Dear Kitchen People-

I am not a kitchen person.

It is not my domain, I don’t know what to do with myself if I’m not sitting on a countertop snacking, or opening a bottle of wine.

Last winter I made Christmas cookies, realized I don’t own a rolling pin, and ended up spreading the dough with a bottle of wine. Most of my friends didn’t believe me.

Well, here you go. (For the record, that’s Aaron’s hairy arm, not mine.)

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Another example of how not kitcheny I am? I used to buy my utensils at IKEA. Until this happened.

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What have we learned?  If you ever ask me to bring something to a dinner party (besides myself or wine), you’ve been warned. Also, never take yourself too seriously – you might lose in a knife fight to a pan of brownies.

Cheating the System

In my recent attempts to become healthier/still be a fat kid, I’ve found a few absolutely delicious standout winners:

1. Yoplait Whips in Cherry Cheesecake. I’ve always been under the jaded impression that there is no way yogurt can replace and provide the sort of fulfillment that sweets do, like the commercials seem to indicate. HOWever, I found this one, specific flavor that does actually taste like you are eating cheesecake filling in a plastic can. Seriously bueno.

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2. Snapea Crisps. They are salty, crunchy, yummy, addictive and allegedly made from snap peas. I highly recommend the black pepper and Caesar variety. The lightly salted leaves something to be desired and I have yet to try the wasabi ranch.

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3. Kombucha Wonder Drink. Granted, every kombucha tea on the market smells like fermeted “oops I forgot that apple juice in my car for three months in the heat,” and some even taste that way. Well, this brand – specifically the Asian Pear & Ginger – is a little less pungent. It’s a little weird at first, but the addiction slowly builds as you have this tasty, carbonated experience not all that dissimilar from a hard cider. And there’s all these weird health claims and cool packaging to have you silently justifying paying $2+ a bottle.

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Fancy (Green) Grilled Cheese

I have been eyeing this sandwich on Pinterest for a very long time:

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Finally, I decided to actually make it. Only I’m dumb/extremely lazy, so I basically just went by the pictures instead of reading what all it was made of. By the time I got back from the grocery store I realized I didn’t have ANY of the ingredients for the “Green Goddess Herb Pesto” that’s suppose to go in it. Lord knows I’m not one of those people who keeps fresh herbs on hand. (Though it would be nice to someday be!)

It still turned out to be one of the best meals I’ve made. Here’s my lazy version:

  • Sourdough bread, thinly sliced from the (grocery store) bakery
  • Sliced provolone
  • Fresh baby spinach
  • Avocado
  • Goat cheese
  • Real butter

To balance it out/fill the need for pesto, we ate it with some boxed roasted red pepper and tomato soup.

Five minutes.

Muy bueno.

Hooray for lazy people.

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Food Fest ’13

Oh, Houston. Home of the Brave(necs) and Land of The Free (Food).

When I look back at my iPhone photos from my recent 11-day trip, I find it a little hard to believe I found time to eat all this amazing food while working 10-14 hour days…

At Pistoleros – where the grilled portabella tacos blow your mind, the street corn is spot-on, and the Dos XX is on tap.

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Then on to Ruggles Green…

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…for some hummus, prickly pear cactus juice lemonade, fried goat cheese salad, grilled tofu, and pink velvet cake.

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A quick lunch at Whole Foods

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On to the free – nothing like getting on a VIP list to make you feel all big-city again.

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a little obsessed with the ahi tuna tacos

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Then it was time for pre-opening Friends & Family night for my clients.

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…and a couple of Sugar Land favorites before heading home.

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Le sigh. This is why Houston is fat, and makes no apologies. Who would ever apologize for food this good?

The Best Non-Salad Salad You’ll Ever Have

Joanna on Cup of Jo often likes to claim the recipes she shares are “the best.” While I have yet to actually cook any of them, the pictures are rather convincing.

Well, thank goodness she hasn’t yet laid claim to a salad champion, because this recipe from Kirsten at Mission Delectable truly is the most delicious salad I have ever put in my mouth.

Why?

Well, for starters, I don’t like salad.

A second, this:

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My only modifications:

  • Skip the steak if you’re lazy. It also makes a great side salad…
  • ….but substitute the arugula for a spring mix. Unless you REALLY like arugula.
  • Substitute blue cheese for goat cheese, if you don’t like blue cheese.
  • The dressing in the recipe is just a good go-to in general. Make a lot. Use it elsewhere.
  • Suck at photography.

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The Holy Triniti, In Three Courses

I’m in Houston this week for work, so per usual there’s a lot less blogging and a lot more doing. To hold you over (or make you salivate uncontrollably), I bring you the amazing, beautiful, serene Triniti.

As luck would have it, this month was Chef Ryan Hildebrand’s turn to feature his Cadillac Culinary Masters menu, with proceeds going to the Houston Food Bank.

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Beets~Feta, Cauliflower, Pistachios, Strawberries

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Green Pasta~Carrot Pappardelle, Fava Bean, Mushroom Collection, Spring Squash, Ricotta

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Boxes~Boxed Chocolates or Macaroons (obviously “both” was also an option)

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Sigh, why is Houston always so wonderful?

A character flaw. A tasty, tasty character flaw.

I love me some cake. Although this obsession has made an impact on my clothing choices (ehem, waistline) for quite some time forever, I find it trickling into my design and art/media consumption choices as well. Trying to decide which is the more essential travel companion for next week – the Kate Spade clutch, or the Sloan Crosley read. Sporting both may be a little over the top…

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Easy Greek Salad

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I make it all the time. Which is really saying volumes, since we’re talking about basically nothing but vegetables.

Salad:

  • 1 English cucumber (you know those kind that come in the plastic?)
  • Baby/cherry tomatoes. Or heirloom tomatoes.
  • Red onion (only about 1/4 of it, MAX)
  • Sweet peppers. Or if you don’t have them, buy a jar of peperoncinis. I like to add both.
  • Slice it all up. Any way you like it so it’s easy to eat. I have a mandoline slicer I got at the dollar store that does the job swimmingly. (Especially good for the cucumbers and onion – for what may or may not be obvious reasons, don’t use it on the tomatoes.)
  • Feta. Good feta. And by good, I don’t mean you need to spend $10 on a 4 ounce block, I just mean that you shouldn’t buy pre-crumbled because it dries out and loses flavor (kinda like when you buy the pre-shredded cheddar.) Buy it in a block and cut it into chunks.

Dressing:

  • Even parts Red Wine Vinegar and EVOO (depending on size of salad – you may want a tablespoon of each, or 1/3 cup of each)
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Oregano. I like a LOT. I’d say start with a tablespoon and go from there…

Eye Candy, Candy Candy

Really the best combination, or at least my two favorite senses.

When I was little I had an Eloise-like dream of living in a luxury apartment above a coffee shop with grates in the floor that allowed for continuously scrumptious aromatics wafting from below.

Revised dream – to also have said coffee house apartment decorated in the style of Crave, plus ya know, have my neighbors baking them daily.

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