Turkey Bacon Meatloaf

DSC_0022Back in February, Katy and I gave the paleo diet a whirl in an effort to get in shape for a Mexican beach vacation. If you are unfamiliar, it is a diet based on the ways of our caveman ancestors. Lots of meat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. No dairy or grains and absolutely no processed food. To be honest, we each did our own modified variation of the diet, taking some liberties with what was acceptable and what wasn’t. I allowed beans, rice and quinoa, and yogurt. I figured those are all healthy foods, and it helped keep me sane. I really felt great during the diet and I’m continuing to avoid processed food like white flour, refined sugar, and processed meat.

Anyway, I made this recipe up during the diet, and even though bread crumbs are cheating, who cares right? It’s a 1/4 cup! It makes enough for 2 people plus a little leftovers, so scale up if you’re serving more people.

Ingredients:DSC_0001

  • 1.25 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 green onions (sliced)
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 clove minced garlic

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F

Grease a cookie sheet with butter. Use a sheet with raised edges so grease doesn’t spill off.

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Cook the bacon on medium heat until some of the fat has rendered off and it just begins to brown. Remove from heat and drain on paper towel. While the bacon is cooling, mix everything but the turkey and egg in a large bowl. Then chop three strips of bacon into 1/4″ bits and add to ingredients. Next, add the egg and ground turkey and mix all ingredients thoroughly with your hands.  Shape into a loaf and place onto the cookie sheet. Cover with the remaining bacon strips and bake for 45 minutes.

I love this recipe because the turkey stays moist, and the bacon adds awesome flavor (it always does)! Little bites with cranberry and onion add sweetness and texture, and the cumin and red pepper give it a nice little kick 😉 Have fun cooking and enjoy! Thanks for reading.

 

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Rio’s Brazilian Cafe

This past Saturday I was planning to take Katy to Arkie’s Grill, a hole in the wall diner on East Cesar Chavez, when we rolled up to an empty building with papered up windows. Needless to say it was closed, and we were both very bummed. We both love a good dive.  So with our plans foiled, we changed directions and headed to Rio’s with the idea of getting coffee and finding some breakfast. I’d only had coffee from there before, so when we sat down and saw a menu it was a pleasent surprise.
It has that homegrown Austin vibe, and shabby thrown together look of the east side that is kind of charming. Quiet Latin music and a fluttering canopy made it feel like we were instantly taken to a side street in Rio.
We picked a few items off the menu, kind of blindly guessing at what to try. Everything was very fresh and homemade, highlighted by the malagueta sauce that is still a mystery to me, but worth buying by the gallon. We each tried an egg, bacon, sausage, and cheese concoction that was fried in an empanada-like pouch, but still very light. We followed that up with a mozzarella, sweet potato, and zucchini pastry that was fluffy, savory, and spiced just right. Our last culinary adventure was a savory pastry made of mashed yucca and stuffed with pulled chicken in more malagueta sauce. It was ‘divine’, just as the server described. All together, this place was a great surprise lunch, and 100% worth revisiting. It had plenty of gluten-free and vegan options if that your thing as well. This humble little joint is a diamond in the rough of east Austin.

Mexican Street Corn


This might be one of the best effort-to-flavor ratio snacks ever. Take 5 minutes to whip up a few cups and you have a savory sweet snack with a little spice and a citrus tang. You can make it out of the can, but if you have the time either boil the corn on the cob or better yet, roast it on the barbecue. I used corn that was roasted the night before that we didn’t eat and simply warmed it up for the recipe.

Mexican street corn:

  • 4 ears of corn
  • 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 2 limes
  • 4 ounces of Cojita cheese
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper

Roast, boil, or microwave the corn to get it nice and toasty. Split it equally into 4 cups (one cob makes about one cup). Put one tablespoon of mayo on each cup of corn, salt and pepper to taste, sprinke on some cayenne pepper, then crumble tone ounce of cojita cheese on top of each cup. Put a wedge of two of lime on each rim and serve hot. Mix it all up and you have a great blend of flavors without breaking a sweat, or the bank.

Enjoy! 🙂

G’Raj Mahal

G’Raj Mahal seems to encompass everything there is to love about Austin.  Amazing food, friendly people, and a one of a kind “Keep Austin Weird” style food truck. Calling it a food truck would be a lie because it doesn’t move, but calling it a restaurant is further from the truth – it doesn’t even have walls. But somehow they turn this parking lot and trailer into one of the most enjoyable dining experiences I have ever had.

It located in the unique Rainey Street neighborhood where a bunch of old houses have been converted into bars and the whole block has a laid back vibe. G’Raj Mahal is only open for dinner, as we found out a few weekends back when we tried to go for a late lunch only to be disappointed. There was a lot of hype about this place because we had seen it on the Food Network show Eat Street and were really excited to see what it was all about.

It’s a bring your own booze joint so we grabbed a 6-pack of Shiner Ruby Reds and strolled over. Ruby Redbird is Shiners summer beer and has ginger and grapefruit and is one of my new favorite beers. It went really well with our dinner and I’d highly recommend it as your booze of choice at G’Raj Mahal.

The decor here is a contrasting mix of scrap metal, flowing white linen, and a few cats laying around the outside of the dining area. We were sat by a host and given a friendly server who helped us pick out our dinner since neither Katy nor myself are Indian food aficionados. It was very cool to be served at a food truck and it really gave it a brick and mortar restaurant feel.

We started with garlic naan and a side of Raita which is homemade yogurt sauce served cold with chopped veggies and is seriously AMAZING. Literally when the naan was gone I ate the rest of the sauce with my spoon. It should be noted that everything is served on styrofoam plates which completely adds to the no worries vibe at this place and I loved it.

For the main course Katy ordered chicken malabar which is a creamy curry made with a coconut milk base. It is thickened with a caramelized onion sauce and mixed with more spices than I knew existed, and had a perfectly creamy texture and sweetness. I was feeling spicy so I ordered the rechaad masala with shrimp, which is a red-chili paste that was pan-fried with huge plump shrimp. It was hot but not over-whelming or uncomfortable. I actually wanted something hotter but this is apparently their hottest sauce. I asked. It all comes with a big bowl of basmati rice and needless to say, there was nothing left when we stood up to leave.

I really, really enjoyed our trip to G’Raj Mahal and would highly recommend it for anyone looking for a unique date idea or something other than the food truck parking lots. It has an eclectic vibe in an unusual neighborhood and is very much “Austin”.

G’Raj Mahal

91 Red River

Austin, TX

http://grajmahalaustin.com/

Saucy Grilled Chicken Tacos

Happy Monday everyone!  Hope you all had a great weekend.  Last night we grilled chicken out by the lake and built amazing tacos that I simply must share with you all.  I’ve done these a few times now, and after bits of modification here and there, they finally taste just right.  The ultimate balance of all delicious flavors and textures —  juicy, super seasoned grilled chicken, crunchy coleslaw with the snap of balmy, nutty sesame seeds, sweet charred onions, and a savory, creamy, complex, homemade dressing to pull it all together in a soft tortilla, plus a squirt of lime juice.  I literally dreamt about them last night.  This is the ultimate stress-free summer finger food!

Start with a few boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I did three big ones and that was plenty for two hungry people plus some leftovers (we’ll see who gets to them first tonight :)).  Trim anything gross-looking off, and cut each breast into 3 or so pieces.  Now cover with waxed paper and use a meat pounder to gently pound these pieces to about half an inch in thickness.  No real rhyme or reason here, they will all come out different shapes.  As long as the thickness is about uniform, you’re on the right track!  This makes for the most tender chicken.

Now, for the chicken marinade.  In a blender, throw in 2 cloves of garlic, 2 scallions, roughly chopped, a quarter cup of soy sauce, the juice of 2 limes, 2 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar (or honey or agave, use about half if subbing agave) a squirt of Sri racha (or, if you don’t have it, try a little cayenne or chili flakes for a bit of a kick), a hefty shake of salt, and black pepper.  Get this all spinning together, and after about 30 seconds, stream in about 3 tbsp. of vegetable oil.  This will immediately emulsify the mixture and you’ll have a good, thick sauce.  Lay your chicken pieces flat in a big Ziplock bag, and dump 3/4 of this mixture over the chicken, zip it shut, and squish it around gently to make sure all of the chicken is covered in the marinade.  Throw it in the fridge and forget about it for anywhere from 1 hour to 3 days.  The longer, the better. 🙂

Marinating chicken!

You still have a quarter of that mixture in your blender.  Throw in about 2 heaping tablespoons of mayo, and get the blender spinning again.  As it’s going, stream in another quarter cup or so of vegetable oil.  The mayo will further thicken the sauce, and the additional oil you’re pouring in will follow suit and continue to do the same.  You’ve just made your very own delicious, flavorful, creamy dressing!  Give it a taste.  Go ahead and adjust for seasoning here, it may need more salt.  This by itself would be so delicious over cucumbers and greens, or to dip french fries in, or mixed into canned tuna fish.  Very versatile!  Creamy dressings are one of my biggest weaknesses.  I put the dressing in a squeeze bottle for easy application later, but if you don’t have one, you can keep it in Tupperware and spoon in onto your taco.

The creamy dressing for these tacos is in the middle. I had a creamy dressing party with myself on Sunday. The left one is creamy garlic balsamic, and the right is creamy lime dill pickle dressing (sounds crazy, and it is — the idea for this one came to me in a dream!).

As your chicken’s marinating, the next step is to prepare the slaw.  I used red and green cabbage because we had both in the house, but you can also just do one color.  I happen to love the red especially, because once it’s dressed and sits a while, the pretty color seeps into the sauce and it all turns out a gorgeous light fuchsia.  Sometimes it’s hard to believe colors so vibrant can come from a vegetable.

I sliced my cabbage (about a quarter-head of each color) very thinly.  Also slice two scallions thinly and set these veggies aside.  In a big bowl, prepare the sauce for your slaw: 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar (or rice vinegar), 1 tbsp. sugar, 1 tsp. salt, black pepper to taste, 3 tbsp. mayo, 2 tbsp. sour cream, and a small handful of sesame seeds.  Whisk this all together briskly until everything’s combined into a smooth mixture.  Then, dump your cabbage and scallions in and toss with salad tongs until everything’s coated.  Done!

You are now ready to head to the grill (once your chicken’s marinated for your desired length of time).  In addition to the chicken, the creamy dressing, and the slaw, you will need: flour tortillas (taco-sized), spring onions, and lime wedges.  Spring onions look like mini white onions with a scallion growing out of the top.  I believe these are seasonal (hence the name).  We had these in Mexico for the first time and fell in love with them.  If you can’t find them, I’d recommend using whole scallions instead.  Either way will be great, as both will end up with a sweet caramelized onion flavor after charring on the grill.

Get your coals hot (or your gas turned on) and warm up the grill until it’s at about medium heat.  Throw the chicken on first, and cook about 4-5 minutes on each side.  This will vary, as it’s hard to control the temperature of a charcoal grill (at least, it is for me!).  You’ll know when it’s done…the chicken will have a great deep amber color on it, even charred in some spots, and it will be firm to the touch.

Throw your spring onions on the grill about halfway through the chicken’s cooking time.  Once they’re on, keep an eye on them and turn them every few minutes, to evenly cook every bit.

Pull your chicken off and wrap it in foil to keep it warm and let the juices redistribute throughout the meat.  If timed properly, you should be able to pull the onions off about 8 minutes after the chicken comes off, which is the perfect amount of time for the chicken to sit after grilling.  Doesn’t really matter, but I was hungry and didn’t want to wait longer than I had to. 🙂

Sliced chicken, ready for tacos. I actually sliced mine even thinner than this.

Right before your build your tacos, toss your tortillas right on the grill grate and let ’em warm up for a few seconds on each side.  I prefer mine soft and malleable, which really doesn’t take long at all on a toasty grill.

To assemble your taco: slice a piece of grilled chicken thinly, against the grain of the meat if possible.  It’s going to be tender enough that it won’t really matter, but this makes for the perfect bite.  Cut up as much as you like and throw it on your warm tortilla. Now dress liberally with the creamy dressing you made earlier.  Slice a grilled spring onion or scallion up and toss that over the sauced chicken.  Finally, pile some slaw up on top.  Serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze over the taco, and voila.

Ky’s perfect taco

It’s the perfect combination of flavors — the warm, soft tortilla, which will start to soak up some of the dressing, the awesome crispy char of the sweet/salty/tangy chicken, and the crunch of the slaw and sweetness of the onion make this a winning combo.  A lot of ingredients pop up more than once in this recipe, which I think makes for a really complete end product.  For example, there is scallion in the chicken marinade, the creamy dressing, the slaw, and on the taco.  Each application is different, but not overpowering.

Hope you guys love these as much as we did!  I’d love to hear how they come out, and do share any awesome substitutes or additions! Thank you for reading. 🙂

Ingredients:

For the chicken/marinade/creamy dressing:

  • 2 or 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 scallions
  • 2 heaping tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. Sri Racha chili sauce
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3 tbsp. plus 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 heaping tbsp. mayo

For the slaw:

  • Quarter head red cabbage, sliced very thinly
  • Quarter head green cabbage, sliced very thinly
  • 2 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp. mayo
  • 2 tbsp. sour cream
  • Small handful sesame seeds

Additional:

  • Spring onions or scallions
  • Small flour tortillas
  • Lime wedges
  • Beer to drink!

Easy Tiger

Sometimes you just have one of those days where all you want to do is clock out, and crack one open. Yesterday was one of those days. So seeing that life gave us lemons, we turned it into lemonade and tried out a local watering hole that we have been wanting to test out. The place, Easy Tiger. It is fairly new, it opened earlier this year, but they are doing things right. They are a self proclaimed “beer garden & bake shop”, which are two descriptions I enjoy from any establishment.

It has a cool set-up, where you walk in on street level to find a working bakery with loaves and loaves of fresh  bread. If you are looking to stay awhile, head

Most of the seating is out back

downstairs to a Bavarian style bar and dining area or keep going out onto the outdoor patio. It’s right on the creek, or river, that runs through the city. Red River maybe? Either way its a nice setting to post up for a few drinks and food. Three ping-pong tables and some chill music rounded out the patio and I thought it had a very welcoming vibe.

The beer selection is awesome, with at least 30 beers on top, none of which ending in “ud” or “oors light”.  Although they do have $2 PBR and $2.50 Lone Star tall boys which is a steal for that area downtown.

We were hungry so we checked out the menu and struggled, in a good way, to decide our order. The bread is obviously fresh, and they say they prepare all the meats in house as well, which include multiple sausages, roast beef, pork loin, and pastrami to name a few. After much deliberation, we ordered a classic bratwurst($7), half a roast beef sandwich($8), as well as a side of potato salad($2).

The food came out quick and was delicious. The bratwurst was served on a pretzel bun(optional) that was warm, soft, and salty, although I thought it stole attention away from the sausage. It also had fresh sauerkraut and whole grain mustard that gave it a balanced bite.

The roast beef was on the well-done side, I prefer rare, but sliced really thin so it wasn’t too dry. The horseradish sour cream spread also helped in that regard. It was plenty big for a half-sandwich.

And lastly was the potato salad which I thought was the star of the meal. Seasoned perfectly with pickles, onions, celery, and dill, it was an instant reminder of summer. It actually is inspiring me to make some potato salad of my own very soon 🙂

To wrap up, I would highly recommend Easy Tiger to anyone who enjoys fresh food and well crafted beer. The location is great, the ambiance relaxed, and the  bill not too steep. Perfect for making lemonade.

709 East 6th St.

Austin, TX 78701

www.easytigeraustin.com/

Cinco De Mayo Survival Kit

Happy drink-o de Mayo!! There are three essentials to a solid cinco festival….margaritas, chips and guac, and sombreros, in no particular order. Here are two quick recipes before I start boozin’ by the pool 🙂  The sombrero is your responsibility, enjoy!

Mayan Margarita

  • 2 oz tequila
  • 1 oz triple sec
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz orange juice
  • 1/2 oz agave nectar

Mix, shake, pour. Rub a lime on the rim of a glass and roll in salt and begin day drinking.

Guacamole

  • 2 avocados
  • 2 limes
  • 1/4 cup red onion
  • salt
  • pepper
  • tabasco sauce or cayenne pepper

Slice the avocado into a grid while it’s still in the shell then scoop into a bowl. Add finely chopped red onion, the juice of two limes, 3 or 4 splashes of tabasco and salt and pepper to taste. Mash it together with a fork and you have guacamole in 5 minutes. Perfect.

Little Deli

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This is probably my fourth or fifth time eating at Little Deli and it has yet to disappoint. A tiny little spot with more seating outside than in, it delivers big time.
Honestly I haven’t even tried a sandwich here yet because I keep going back for the pizza. I did just read a sign on the counter for a half pound hot pastrami though….next time.
The pizza is awesome, at least to my liking. A great thin crust that has a little crunch but doesn’t shred your mouth. Sauce is spiced perfectly and the toppings very fresh.
Each day they have cheese, pepperoni, and a slice of the day. Today is sausage tomato basil and it’s great. Pepperoni is better though. I got a cup of tomato soup as well which is soooo good to dip the crust in.
In a town with limited pizza options, this is my favorite over the over-hyped Homeslice.

Little Deli
7101-A Woodrow Dr.
Austin TX 78757

http://www.littledeliandpizza.com/

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Slow-cooker Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m a big fan of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Guy Fieri might be the biggest douche bag on TV, in close competition with the Jersey Shore cast. He just bothers me, with his frosted tips and abundance of “bling”.  Plus what kind of chef doesn’t eat eggs? Either way, I like the show because it goes around the country finding the lesser known but equally awesome little restaurants that don’t get the notoriety as a celebrity chefs restaurant. On more then one occasion I’ve seen a diner cooking up cabbage wraps in classic European fashion, and I kept telling myself I need to try making them. Well this past weekend I got around to it, and let me say, they were delicious.

A flavorful combination of meat, cabbage, and sauce that works together perfectly and is super easy to make, especially with a slow cooker. The meat is spiced and mixed with rice, the cabbage soft but crunchy (somehow?), and a sauce that is worthy of making by itself.

Ingredients: 

  • 12 cabbage leaves
  • 1 cup cooked white rice
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (no less than 90/10)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 20 ounces tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons worcestershire

I removed the cabbage leaves from the raw head of cabbage but later read a good tip to core it out and steam the leaves. After a point the raw cabbage gets impossible to peel off so I would suggest doing the steam method, but removing raw worked too. In any event, you need to bring a large pot of salted water to a boil to soften the leaves. Drop them in for 2 minutes then remove, strain, and set aside. At the same time, cook your rice making at least 1 cup cooked rice.

In a large bowl, mix the cooked rice, egg, milk, onion, garlic, ground beef and salt and pepper. The reason the beef needs to be so lean is that its wrapped raw, so a fatty mix will make for a very greasy roll.

Next, set out the cabbage leaves and scoop about 1/3 of a cup of meat mixture into the lower center of the leaf. Roll the bottom of the leaf over the meat, tuck in the sides, then finish rolling over to seal the meat inside. It looks like a mini green burrito.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you roll all the meat and leaves together, load them into the bottom of your slow cooker and start the sauce. Mix the tomato sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, and worcestershire together and whisk quickly. Pour it over top of the rolls so they are completely covered. Set the slow cooker to 250° and let them cook for 8 hours and enjoy!

 

How to pickle

Pickling is one of the oldest methods of food preservation and has been utilized by almost every culture. The term pickle comes from the dutch word “pekel” which means brine. Makes sense. It’s simple and affordable and adding pickled veggies really boosts the flavor of so many dishes. Here is the recipe I have fine tuned for a couple of batches now and I really enjoy.

Ingredients: (makes 2 pint jars) 

  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1.5 cups white vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, halved
  • 3 tablespoon salt
  • 3 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorn

For making pickles also add 1/4 teaspoon dill weed or 2 sprigs fresh dill

Directions:

Bring water and vinegar to a boil and add salt and sugar. Stir until dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium and add in all the spices leaving out the garlic(and dill). Let the spices steep in the brine for 10 minutes. I use one of these tea catchers to hold the spices so I don’t have to strain them at the end. 

While the spices are steeping, chop your onions, jalapenos, cucumbers, or whatever ingredient you wish to pickle. Stuff them tightly into a mason jar with 2 cloves of garlic chopped into halves. Add dill at this point as well if needed. Strain the spices from the liquid with a slotted spoon or colander, and pour into the jars almost to the rim. Seal them quickly, being careful as the glass gets hot, and leave out on the counter overnight. Move to the refrigerator and enjoy after letting them sit for at least 48 hours and for up to 3 months, although they never last that long 🙂

Thanks for reading!