You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas

OK that was the last cute Texas pun I had up my sleeve.  
Last and final review (at least for now.)
Our FAVORITE can’t-miss best thing ever spot in San Antonio is….

The Friendly Spot Ice House

As we ate and drank our way through San Antonio, we heard about a brewery called Blue Star about 1.5 miles out of the tourist area we stayed in.  Being health-conscious (ha) young folk, we thought a pleasurable stroll would be the way to go.  We walked, through the late afternoon sun, down S. Alamo Blvd.  Suddenly, in the distance, something appeared.  (OK not really but I’m building dramatic tension here.)  It was a playground.  And a bar.  In fact, it was three open-air bars!  It looked like the family-friendly center of a neighborhood, and so it is.  
And then, Eric’s heart skipped a beat.  The specials board listed Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA for $4 a bottle.  $4! (That’s about what we pay at the packie  here in MA)
We fell. in. love.  
Cold beers (over 140!) many of them microbrews from around the world, a cool hip-but-not-pretentious vibe, little kids playing…this is exactly the kind of place I’d love to own.
We didn’t eat there, but we did go back for a total of 3 visits, about 15 different beers (Eric promised me he’d write a guest post running down all the IPAs we tried.) 

Only downside? I lost my glasses there.  Or I think it was there.  

BTW, Blue Star Brewery was boss.  I had beef brisket, mac and cheese, and it was perfect.  Along with some excellent beers.  And an awesome bartender named Mary, who rocked.  

There’s no basement in the Alamo!

No, I’m not out of cute references to Texas, or Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.  Soon, I promise.

Second little review is of the queen of the Riverwalk- Casa Rio.  This was the first restaurant to open up to the Riverwalk and offer patio seating. They also offered the first river cruises. (Now run by an outside company, I definitely recommend the boat tour.)

Casa Rio (literally River House) is a Mexican restaurant that offers an unpretentious atmosphere and good Tex-Mex cuisine.  I got a tip from a local that it was the best chili in San Antonio.  With the history of this dish in San Antonio, that was a tall order! 

As you can see, it was served with onions, cheese, and the traditional Saltine. 

I can’t say it was the ephemeral, blissed-out experience I was hoping for as I dreamed of chili in San Antonio.  But for $4.95, it was fantastic. 

Eric ordered a mixed plate that offered a small taste of numerous dishes: Chili con carne, tamales, tacos, refried beans, and I think an enchilada. I think it was about $12.  

Again, like at Achiote, we could have split that dish. But it was the cheapest, and loveliest meal we had.  We sat, drank sweet tea, and watched the river (and the cute ducks, and the not-so-cute pigeons.)  

Adorable-ness abounded.  

Casa Rio = best buy on the Riverwalk.  Huge props for great atmosphere, great service, live music (kind of cliche but whatever.) 

The stars at night are big and bright…

Deep in heart of Texas!

We spent the weekend in San Antonio, TX (and 1 day in Austin.)  What a wonderful place to visit! We saw the Alamo.  It was more moving than I thought it would be.  Pretty amazing to see the real place where 189 people fought and died for their independence.  

On a lighter note, we ate.  A lot.  And drank a lot of great beers.  I threw caution to the wind and ate whatever wonderful, down-home cooking I saw.  (Sorry WW, I’m back on plan today!)

Up first on the review train is Achiote River Cafe and Bar.  We stopped here on our first full morning in San Antonio.  We were looking for a relaxed breakfast, to linger over coffee, and start our mini-vaca off right.  Achiote provided a beautiful patio off the river where we could do just that.  

Here’s the meal breakdown:

Eric, in typical Eric-like fashion, ordered smoked salmon on a bagel.  It wouldn’t have been anything special, but the salmon was absolutely perfect. Also, it was huge.  

Not much to say- it was fresh, the bagel was very good, and it was exactly what it should be.  Good choice if you’re a lox ‘n’ bagels kind of person. 

Here’s what I ordered: chilaquiles (chee-lah-KEE-lehs). I wasn’t hungover, but I was interested to learn that this dish is a traditional Mexican hangover cure!

It is also sometimes called a poor man’s dish because it is a great way to use up leftovers.

This was probably my favorite meal of the weekend.  What’s not to like?  It’s a bed of tortilla chips, topped with a mixture of tomatoes, cilantro, onions, peppers, garlic, refried beans, chiles, and scrambled (or fried eggs.)  AND it’s served with sour cream.  
I’m not sure how authentic the recipe is, but it was absolutely delicious.   I can’t say enough about it.  This may be a poor man’s breakfast food, but we’ll be making it for diinner for sure! 

Here’s a recipe from a fellow blogger: My Sister’s Kitchen 

OK so Achiote was fabulous.  Here’s what was less than fabulous- the price.

$4 EACH for coffee (the coffee was Starbucks, and it was unlimited, but still.)

$16 for the smoked salmon, $15 for the chilaquiles,

Obviously on the Riverwalk you are really paying for the view/atmosphere.  The food was really impressive, but the prices were a little out of whack, even compared to other restaurants on the walk.

That being said, the portions were out-of-control big.  So my recommend is, definitely GO!  But share a breakfast entree.  The other option they had was a buffet for $18 that looked awesome.  I never find buffets to be that great of a deal- I guess I just don’t eat enough (surprising) to make it worth the $$. 

How about you? Do you like gourmet buffets? Any hidden hot spots in San Antonio?

More to come…See ya!  

Quick post! Yummy fall recipe

Hey y’all (I’m from Massachusetts so I can’t pull y’all off in real life.  But on the blog, fair game.  It makes me feel all Paula Deen-eqsue.)

So anyway.

Hey y’all!

I’m short on time this week but I wanted to share an awesome recipe with you.

It’s a hearty vegetable stew.  Inspired by my good friends El and Mark (they made me some for lunch today, albeit a different recipe.  I love free lunch! Thanks guys!)

I love soups and stews in the fall.  And this one satisfies that craving without being too high in fat or calories.

Sweet potatoes; peeled and diced (I use 2)
1 cup of white potato, peeled and diced
Turnips;peeled and diced
Carrots; sliced

Shallots; 4-6 halved (yum!)
Vidalia onion; 1, quartered, chunky
Roasted garlic 4 cloves
Kale; torn leaves
Olive oil; 2 tbs
Red wine; 1 cup
Whole wheat flour; enough to coat vegetables
Rosemary; fresh or a few pinches
Thyme; fresh or a few pinches
Bay leaf; 1
Cayenne pepper; few dashes
Fresh ground pepper

Vegetable stock (you can use beef stock for a richer taste if you aren’t serving vegetarians.)  I always use the lower sodium stock or sometimes make my own.

So basically what you do is saute the shallots and onion in the bottom of the soup pot until caramelized. Add the garlic.

Meanwhile, mix all the veggies (except the kale!) in a large bowl and coat in flour.  Add the vegetables and the wine to the pot and cook through (about 10 min.) 

Add the stock, and seasonings.  Cook until consistency is similar to stew (about 20 min on low-med)Then stir in kale, and remove bay leaf. 

I’ll post a photo when we make this.  It’s even better as leftovers!

Have a fabulous and yummy weekend!

Freezer Chili- another recipe from the "Freezes Beautifully" category

Right now on my counter is a Crock Pot (seldom used device in this house) that is simmering some Chili Con Carne.

Chili is a dish that originated in Texas. Since Eric and I are planning a trip to San Antonio, I thought this chili would be a perfect meal. See here for the original San Antonio Chili recipe: along with a ton of other fun facts about chili.

But onto our chili. Eric took a little freezer inventory recently and found some pork and sirloin. Just odds and ends that we had frozen after a meal (lots of leftovers when you cook for two.) So he threw them into the Rachel Ray dutch oven, seared them, and cooked them for approximately eleventy-million hours (a technical term meaning a long time- but really about 20 minutes.)

Here’s the chili recipe he uses:

3 pounds stew meat (beef, pork, and/or lamb)
2 teaspoons peanut oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer, preferably a medium ale
1 (16-ounce) container salsa
30 tortilla chips (crushed)
2 chipotle peppers canned in adobo sauce, chopped
1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the chipotle peppers in adobo)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
He cooked the meats in the oil for about 20 minutes, deglazed the pan with the beer, and basically threw it all into the crockpot. It’s been cooking for about 12 hours on low.

Top with sour cream, some yummy cheese (we like Monterey Jack) and some fresh chives or cilantro.

Added bonus: The house smells lovely!

Every cook (I think) has an awesome, unique chili recipe. What’s your secret??

Recipe: Sausage and Kale Lasagna

I love this recipe! Kale (or couve in Portuguese) is a great leafy green that holds up well despite the high heat and long baking time. You could probably experiment with spinach if you don’t like kale, or can’t find it.

The sausage adds some amazing flavor and texture. We used spicy Italian, but I think that chorizo or linguica might have been nice, too. (Eric and I disagree on this point. Since I write the blog though…. (evil laugh here))

We baked for 45 minutes at 400 degrees, then broiled it for 2-3 minutes.

The other thing I love about this recipe is that it “Freezes Beautifully” (Steel Magnolias reference….anyone? anyone?) so Eric whipped up two and froze one for later use.

We enjoyed this once with our friends Josh and Jess, and then Friday night with our friend Pat. Good reviews all around.

Here’s the only bad thing. It serves 8, and 1 serving (not that big) is TEN Weight watcher points. Not exactly light fare. As Michael Pollan says, “Treat treats as treats.” In other words, don’t have Eric’s lasagna every night. Or for lunch the next day. Because I definitely didn’t do that. (OK I did but I didn’t calculate the points until much, much later. And I repented.)

Martha Stewart recipe via (the only adaptation we made was more cheese- always a good call.)

12 ounce(s) spicy Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced (4 cups)
1 bunch(es) (1 1/2 pounds) kale, thick stems removed
4 clove(s) garlic, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
8 ounce(s) (about 9 noodles) lasagna noodles , each broken crosswise into 4 to 6 pieces
1 pint(s) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
3 cup(s) part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup(s) finely grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a 5-quart pot, cook sausage over medium heat, stirring often, until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in onions; cover, and cook until softened, 5 minutes. Uncover; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add kale and 1/2 cup water to pot; season with salt and pepper. Cover; cook over medium-low heat, tossing occasionally, until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain; coarsely chop. Transfer to bowl with onions.
Meanwhile, cook noodles 2 minutes less than package instructions. Drain; rinse under cold water.
Add noodles, tomatoes, and ricotta to the bowl; season with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Toss well. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; smooth top with a spatula. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

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