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Archive for April, 2011

Homemade Almond Milk

I have been meaning to make homemade almond milk for sometime now. I absolutely love almond milk and tend to buy it often. The thing I really dislike about it (as with most foods from the grocery store) is that a lot of times it has added ingredients that really just don’t seem to need to be in there, even the organic stuff. Though that tends to be the story of most of the food products people buy. It’s all so over-processed and filled with unnatural junk. These are all reasons why I’ve changed my lifestyle and rarely consume store-bought processed foods, I try to make everything I can myself and eat as many fresh foods as possible.

I came across a few really great recipes and finally took the time to experiment and make my own homemade almond milk and now that I have, I will never buy it again. This recipe is simple, fast (besides soaking time) and it requires only a few ingredients. It is creamy, sweet, nutty, rich and full of luscious nutrients, plus it is great for those on dairy-free or raw diets and vegans. It’s great as is, in smoothies, served over your favorite granola or cereal, heated up with chai spices or chocolate, etc.

In addition to all these other great things, it’s also much cheaper than the almond milk you buy at the store.

Homemade Raw Almond Milk

2 cups whole raw almonds
4 cups water (you can use more depending on how light you want it, I used about 5 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 vanilla bean
2-4 tablespoons honey*

Soak almonds and vanilla bean or vanilla extract for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
Discard soaking water and rinse almonds.

Place soaked almonds, vanilla bean (if you are using), agave and 4-6 cups of water in a blender. Cover and blend on high for 1-2 minutes. It will be milky and have a bit of foam on the top.
Strain milk through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer. You will then be left with almond pulp that can be saved and used for spreads, butter, crackers, cookies, crusts, etc. Look for recipes using the almond pulp very soon 🙂

Serve or store in a covered jar or pitcher in the refrigerator, it’ll be good for about 5 days.

* You can also leave out the honey if you wish to have it be unsweetened

Homemade Almond Milk

Homemade Almond Milk

Homemade Almond Milk

Homemade Almond Milk

Almond Pulp from Homemade Raw Almond Milk

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Thai Chicken Soup

I absolutely love Thai food! The layers of flavors and the spices are so amazing and there are so many naturally gluten-free options. One of my favorite things are the different soups. The flavors are always so distinct in Thai soups from the curry pastes, lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, etc. I have wanted to try making a Thai coconut milk soup at home with all the fresh herbs and spices. With the lingering chilly weather, last week was the perfect time. The original recipe I found was a bit basic, so I added in mushrooms, fresh ginger, fresh lemongrass and jarred kaffir lime leaves (which I was very excited to finally find), I also went with a light coconut milk instead of the full fat version and I used more of it, I find it is still quite creamy and it has a bit less fat and calories. I also added a bit more broth, curry paste, fish sauce and noodles so I would have more leftovers for lunches and dinners on some of the busy nights we have this week. Don’t worry if you can’t find lemongrass or the kaffir lime leaves, the soup will still be really great even without them. The curry paste really has a lot of flavor. I just find that adding those extra fresh ingredients makes this soup more authentic. I know from eating a lot of Thai food that lemongrass can be a bit annoying to eat, since they are a bit tough to chew, so I decided to cut the stalk in large pieces so that I could easily pull them out just before serving.

Since we normally buy whole chickens from the farm we get all of our meat from, I just grabbed two organic chicken breasts from Wegmans, I honestly can’t tell you the last time I bought meat from the grocery store. Thankfully Wegmans has a great selection of organic and grass-fed meats, though it just isn’t the same as getting it from a local farm. You could also roast a whole chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken and shred some of the cooked chicken and add it in to the soup at the end. This soup could also easily be made vegetarian/vegan with vegetable broth and by skipping the chicken or you could make a seafood version and add shrimp or scallops.

Serve the soup with lime wedges and maybe even a little Sriracha if you want a bit more heat. Enjoy, this soup really is incredible.

Thai Chicken Soup
serves 6
loosely adapted from Food Network Magazine

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lb of sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped finely
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 tablespoons green curry paste (If you don’t like spicy, start with 2 and go from there. It seems some curry pastes are spicier than others)
8 cups low-sodium organic chicken broth
2 15-ounce cans organic lite coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce, plus more to taste
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
6 ounces thin rice noodles, broken into pieces
2 small skinless, boneless chicken breasts preferably local and hormone and antibiotic free (about 1 pound), very thinly sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon kaffir lime leaves (I used were jarred, you can also find them fresh or frozen, use about 3 or 4 leaves)
1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often until they begin to soften and get a bit brown, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and set aside. Add a bit more oil if you need it and add the onion to the pot over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and curry paste, cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, coconut milk and fish sauce; cover and bring to a boil.

Add the mushrooms, bell peppers and noodles and simmer, uncovered, until the noodles are al dente, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken and simmer until just cooked through, about 3-5 more minutes. Stir in the lime juice, kaffir lime leaves and cilantro. Remove the chunks of lemongrass just before serving. Add more fish sauce and lime juice, if desired.

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Fried Black Rice With Ginger Tofu and Baby Arugula

I came across this recipe in a recent issue of Whole Living and couldn’t wait to make it. I love black rice so much, it is full of flavor. I always keep a pound or two of Black Japonica in the pantry, a unique field blend of medium grain black and short grain mahogany rice. It’s so nutty and sweet, perfect in many different dishes.

This recipe is so healthy and fresh, simple to make and full of so many flavors. The original recipe called for spinach but since I still had some baby arugula on hand, I figured that would work just as well. I was pleasantly surprised how much more delicious the rice was after frying it up in the pan, it grabbed all the little bits of ginger and garlic and the Sriracha left in the pan from the tofu. The tofu had a nice crisp outside and it was full of flavor from the ginger and Sriracha and the arugula brought a beautiful peppery crunch. I hope to plan spinach and/or arugula in our garden this year so I have a feeling we’ll be eating this dish a lot this summer.

Fried Black Rice With Ginger Tofu and Baby Arugula
Adapted from Whole Living, March 2011
Serves 4-6

3/4 cup black rice (I used a blend of black and mahogany rices)
1 1/2 cups water
1 bunch organic baby arugula, rinsed and roughly chopped (spinach will work here, too)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
3 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
1 pound extra-firm tofu, cut into six 1/2-inch-thick rectangles
2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
Lime wedges, for serving

Bring rice and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

Steam baby arugula, covered, in 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat for 2 minutes; set aside. Saute garlic, ginger, and scallion whites in remaining oil until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tofu and Sriracha and cook until tofu is golden, about 6 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.

Add rice to skillet and cook over medium-high heat until crisp, about 2 minutes. Serve with baby arugula and tofu. Garnish with scallion greens and serve with lime. Add more Sriracha when serving, if you like.

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Gluten-Free Banana Bread

For some reason the smell of overripe bananas drives me crazy. There is no specific reason for it, it’s just so strong and obnoxious to me. Any time they are on the counter and past the point of eating on their own, I always think ‘banana bread’. The perfect use for those little stinkers. This is a very simple gluten-free recipe that requires very little thought and only a  few ingredients. If you hate measuring and buying multiple flours, Bob’s Red Mill makes a great all-purpose gluten-free flour. Of course, you can always create your own all-purpose flour mix, as well.

The great thing about this recipe is you can always change it up, you can add dried fruits like raisins, cranberries or cherries, chopped nuts, chocolate chips, etc. You can even come up with a sweet glaze to drizzle over the top and make this a delicious and simple dessert. This time around I kept it simple and just went with chopped pecans. I also have read you can substitute apple sauce for the oil in this recipe, I will have to give it a try to see how it works out.

This bread is just like the “real thing”, moist and light and it browns nicely on the outside. It has a nice sweetness and has the perfect amount of banana flavor without overpowering. It is equally as nice for breakfast toasted and topped with a smidge of butter alongside a cup of your favorite tea as it is served as dessert with a bit of cream cheese spread over it (I have fallen in love with Nancy’s Organic Cultured Cream Cheese).

Gluten-Free Banana Bread
adapted from Bob’s Red Mill
serves 10

1/3 cup grapeseed oil
2/3 cup organic dark brown sugar, packed
2 large local farm-fresh brown eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe organic bananas (I used 4 small bananas)
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Other ingredients you could add:
chocolate chips
raisins
dried cranberries
blueberries
peanut butter chips
coconut

Preheat oven to 350Âș F.

Use a bit of grapeseed oil to grease a 9×5-inch non-stick loaf pan. You can also make smaller loaves, use three 5×3 inch loaf pans.

Cream together oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in large bowl. Add flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg to egg mixture, alternating with bananas.

Beat until smooth. Stir in nuts and any other add-ins. Transfer to pan(s).

Bake 9×5″ loaf for 1 hour, 5×3″ loaves for 45 minutes. Make sure a cake tester or knife comes out clean.

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Baked Sweet Potato Chips

This is a super easy and healthy treat you can make at home that is perfect for a mid-day snack or for the road trip munchies. I made these for our drive to NYC a couple of weekends ago, they were perfect for the car.

You can certainly leave the peels on, though the potatoes that I had on-hand were looking a bit rough, so I decided to peel them. I used organic white sweet potatoes but any sweet potato or regular potato would work just as well. You can have fun with spices, oils and other flavors. I kept it simple with just salt and pepper and a good olive oil and topped them with a squeeze of lime and a bit of chopped cilantro. You could add chili powder, cinnamon or any other spice or herb you desire. I made these again today, for a mid-afternoon snack, and this time I used applewood smoked sea salt! WOW, it was incredible.

Once you get into making your own chips, you’ll really laugh at the thought of eating them out of a bag. These are so much more filling and have a great flavor. You will still have the great crunch but without the insane amount of fat from frying and all the chemicals and preservatives.

Once thing I recommend highly when it comes to making your own chips at home is to slice the potatoes (or whatever you are making the chips from) with a mandoline slicer. This ensures a consistent thickness on all the chips so they will cook evenly, plus it is incredibly easy to use. You can go-it by hand with a sharp knife and a steady hand, but it isn’t easy.

Baked Sweet Potato Chips
serves 4

2 medium organic sweet potatoes, scrubbed well or peeled, sliced about 1/8 inch thick
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

lime wedges for serving
fresh chopped cilantro for serving

Preheat oven to 400Âș F.

In a large bowl, add the potato slices, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss gently to evenly coat.

Place the potato slices on two rimmed baking pans, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Gently toss to coat evenly. Arrange in a single layer between the two pans.

Bake uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes until the potato slices are golden brown, crisp and cooked thoroughly, turning a couple of times to crisp evenly. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper a squeeze of lime juice and the chopped cilantro just before serving.

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Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Sweet Peas

I am so ready for it to just be spring already. This chilly, dreary weather is getting a tad bit old and we’ve gotten a taste of the warm weather already, so I just wish it would stay. It was near 80Âș when we were in NYC last weekend and apparently it was in the 70s here in Buffalo at the same time. Today it is in the low 30s and it’s snowing again. Don’t get me wrong, I love the snow and the change of seasons, but this has been one of the longest and nastiest winters I can ever recall here.

I guess since the weather isn’t cooperating the only thing to do is to bring the spring to our bellies via delicious spring inspired dishes like this one! Once again this risotto, like the pasta recipe I posted yesterday, was inspired by what looked best in the produce section when we went to the market. I had actually hoped to find fresh sweet peas, but I guess it is still a bit early, so I went with frozen organic sweet peas. You can certainly substitute fresh peas here, you’d just want to quickly blanch them first.

This risotto is so creamy and satisfying it is hard to believe it is healthy. There is very little cheese and really since arborio rice creates such a creamy risotto, if you wanted to make this vegan you could simply leave out the cheese and it would still be incredible. The leeks bring a nice fresh but subtle onion flavor, the mushrooms a nice rustic earthy aroma and taste and the peas are a nice burst of brightness to finish it all off. The fresh tarragon was the perfect unique compliment to all of these flavors, bringing subtle scent and taste reminiscent of anise. You can play with adding in some white wine or vermouth as well as different cheeses, mascarpone or heavy cream, different herbs, lemon zest, etc. There are so many variations on classic risotto and you really can’t go wrong.

I had a dozen local farm fresh eggs that I picked up and want to use while they are at their freshest so I decided to fry up an egg for each of us to serve on top of the risotto. I had never done this before, but I knew it would be incredible and I was right. Such a nice way to finish it off. The yolk was a tad runny and it was just perfect.

Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Sweet Peas

Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Sweet Peas
serves 4-6

5-6 cups of organic mushroom broth
2 tablespoons organic olive oil
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms, I used baby bellas
2 leeks, rinsed very well, slice thinly white and green parts only*
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 1/2 cups frozen organic sweet peas (I would have preferred fresh, but they weren’t yet at the market)
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and a sprinkle of salt, sauté until tender and beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan over a medium-low heat. Add the leeks and garlic, sprinkle with salt. Sauté until the leeks are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and increase the heat to medium. Stir until the edges begin to look transparent, careful not to brown the rice or leeks. Add the mushroom broth, 2 ladles at a time (or approximately 3/4 cup); stirring constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. Always adding enough just to cover the rice. Continue stirring and adding broth, waiting for it to absorb and then adding more. Cook about halfway, which should be about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the sautéed mushrooms. Continue adding broth until the rice is tender but has a bit of a firm bite and the risotto is creamy, another 10-15 minutes. Add the frozen peas and fresh tarragon with just a few minutes remaining, stir to combine. The peas will cook very quickly. Once cooked, turn off the heat. Taste the risotto and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in approximately 1/4 cup of the parmigiano-reggiano cheese, reserving the remaining for serving. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl, top with fresh ground black pepper and a pinch or two of freshly chopped tarragon. Serve with the remaining grated parmigiano-raggiano. This risotto is incredible with a fried farm-fresh egg served on top. If the yolk is just a tad bit runny, it is absolute perfection! Trust me, try it.

* a quick note on cleaning leeks: leeks tend to have a lot of dirt and grit in them. If you aren’t careful when cleaning them, you may think they are totally clean, start cooking with them and find your entire dish has a nasty grittiness to it. This can ruin a dish After trimming off the ends (called the beards) and the dark green tops (save these for stocks). You can run them under cold water at this point, or even better, you can submerge the leeks in a large pot of cold water. Swirl them around to really remove all the grit and dirt. Drain well and then cut.

Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Sweet Peas

Oh and one last thing to mention, this is what was going on outside my kitchen window while I crafted up this beautiful spring dinner. Ironic, isn’t it?

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Spicy Spring Pasta with Roasted Asparagus and Baby Arugula (Gluten-Free)

Pasta is definitely my go-to comfort meal, it rarely disappoints. I almost always have a couple of pounds of dried gluten-free pasta in the pantry and enough ingredients to throw together a tasty and seasonal dish with it. Plus, I really love how little effort it takes. In the time it takes to preheat the oven and make a horrible processed frozen pizza, you can have a delicious main-course pasta made with fresh ingredients. With all the traveling we’ve had going on and how busy we’ve been I have been craving one of my homemade pasta creations, so last week after we got home from NYC and before we left again for Pittsburgh, I thought up this dish and threw it together for us.

Besides the beautiful spring produce that is finally showing itself at the grocery store, what inspired this dish was a jar of hot pepper spread from Wegmans in my refrigerator. We always have it on-hand for things like sandwiches, soups, eggs, pizza etc. It has a mere 5 ingredients, all natural, and it’s the perfect condiment. It caught my eye the other day and I realized that I had never made a pasta dish with it. I decided to take a trip to the grocery store and let the fresh produce decide the rest. I was definitely craving a spring inspired dish! Though the choices are still limited and it isn’t all necessarily local, I was happy to see more green in the produce section. It feels like we are finally through the winter and onto brighter things, literally.

The asparagus and baby arugula both jumped out at me in the produce section and I thought paired with the spicy peppers, a nice parmigiano-reggiano and some lemon, they would be perfect. Certainly skip the hot pepper spread if you don’t care for spicy or if you can’t find anything like it, or you can substitute it with a teaspoon or two of red pepper flakes. Have fun with it and always start out slow with the spicy ingredients if you don’t like the heat, you can always add more. This pasta just explodes with fresh flavors, the heat from the hot pepper spread brings a nice zing, but it’s not too overpowering, the subtle peppery crunch from baby arugula is fresh and welcomed after a long winter, along with the brightness from the lemon. It is a very light and healthy, but certainly satisfying, spring dinner. If you are looking for a nice vegan spring pasta dish, just leave off the cheese or substitute with your favorite cheese substitute, it will still be delicious.

After a winter of root vegetables, frozen vegetables and just plain ‘blah’ produce, it really is nice to start seeing better fresh produce options again at the grocery store. The farmers market opens in less than 3 weeks (I am counting down the days) and shortly thereafter I will be starting our garden.

Here’s to the spring, more green and a lot sunshine!! (FYI – as I type this, it is snowing)

Spicy Spring Pasta with Roasted Asparagus and Baby Arugula (Gluten-Free)
serves 4-6

1 lb asparagus
3 tablespoon organic olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 lb organic gluten-free brown rice pasta (you can use any shape you’d like and certainly you can use regular pasta here, as well)
2 cups organic baby arugula roughly chopped or torn
2 cloves organic garlic, minced
1 tablespoon hot pepper spread (I buy Wegmans brand, but you can also substitute 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes or leave it out)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Lemon zest
fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 400Âș F.

Clean your asparagus and snap off the tough ends. Cut into 2-inch pieces and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking pan and place in the preheated oven. Roast for 15-25 minutes until tender, but still a bit crisp.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to package directions. Once the pasta is cooked to al dente, reserve approximately 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, drain the pasta and rinse in hot water. Place the rinsed pasta in a large serving bowl, immediately add the baby arugula and toss, so it begins to wilt. Then add the minced garlic, hot pepper spread (or red pepper flakes), 2 tablespoons of olive oil and as much cooking liquid as necessary to make the pasta a bit creamy. Toss carefully to combine all the ingredients, add more cooking liquid as needed. Once the asparagus is done, add this to the pasta along with most of the parmigiano-reggiano cheese, reserving a bit for serving. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the pasta, taste the pasta and salt and pepper to taste. Toss everything carefully one last time. Plate the pasta individually and top each serving with fresh lemon zest and the remaining cheese.

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Camarones en Crema De Chipotle (Shrimp in Chipotle Cream Sauce)

As mentioned in my previous post, I fell in love with this dish while at Fonda San Miguel in Austin. It is a simple, but very delicious dish, full of smokey, spicy flavor. Though it is made with heavy cream, it is actually, surprisingly, very light. This is a very impressive dish that will ‘wow ‘your spouse or dinner guests and it can easily be made in about 15 minutes with little ingredients needed.

After savoring each and every bite while at Fonda San Miguel, I feel like I had a fairly good idea on how to recreate the dish, I am sure there are some variations that could be taken but I feel like I got the general concept. If I remember correctly, there wasn’t bell pepper in the original, but I thought the color and slight crunch would be a nice addition. Additionally, I suppose if you are worried about fat or calories, you could go with half and half or just use half milk and half heavy cream or something like sour cream, etc. I personally feel that as long as you aren’t consuming heavy cream multiple times throughout the week, one meal with a bit of it, isn’t bad for you and certainly won’t tip the scale. Everything in moderation. The original was also made with chives instead of scallions, but I had scallions on-hand from a stir-fry I made last week and I sometimes prefer that bigger burst of flavor.

I love the smokey heat from chipotles and a little really goes a long way. In this dish I don’t even add a whole chipotle pepper. I open the can and use approximately 1 tablespoon of just the adobo sauce, you’d be surprised how much kick just the sauce has, plus it always has bits of the pepper and little chunks of onion. If you like a bit less heat, start with 1/2 a tablespoon (or even less) and add from there. The creaminess is a really nice compliment to the heat from the chipotles.

This dish is a really great week-night dinner that feels so luxurious and special. If you have surprise or short-notice dinner guests, this dish will knock-their socks off both in flavor and in heat and they’ll think you slaved and planned over it for much longer than 15 minutes.

Camarones en Crema De Chipotle (Shrimp in Chipotle Cream Sauce)
serves 2
Inspired by Fonda San Miguel

1/2 lb (approximately 16-20) large peeled and deveined raw gulf shrimp (if you are unable to get gulf shrimp, go with whatever your preference, we had tiger shrimp)
1 tablespoon olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 organic bell pepper (red, orange or yellow), diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup organic heavy cream
1 tablespoon adobe sauce from canned chipotles (you can use more of less depending on how spicy you want it, I don’t even bother using any of the peppers, as the sauce gives a really nice smokey heat on its own)
1 small handful fresh cilantro, chopped roughly
2 scallions, thinly sliced
fresh lime juice

If your shrimp are/were frozen, be sure they are thoroughly thawed, pat shrimp dry with a paper towel. Place the shrimp on a single layer on a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat, add the garlic and bell pepper, stirring often until the peppers are soft and begin to brown a bit. Add the shrimp and watch it carefully, it will cook quickly. Cook 1 minute on the first side, flip over and cook another minute or so on the other side, until nearly fully cooked. Add the heavy cream and adobo sauce, whisk quickly to fully combine. Lower the heat to a low-medium , stirring the sauce often, it will begin to thicken. Cook only about 2-3 minutes until thick and warmed through. Be mindful not to cook much longer, you don’t want to overcook the shrimp or they will be rubbery. Turn off the heat and add in half of the cilantro and sliced scallions, stir to combine.

Serve over white rice and top with the remaining cilantro and scallions, give a squeeze of fresh lime juice over top, if you wish.

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So here I am, after a very long and crazy month and the craziness continues. We went to Austin for SXSW and Flatstock, we closed our store, the big job we’ve been working on finally launched and my head is officially spinning. That being said, I honestly don’t know if I have ever been this happy. The only thing missing right now, which I am quite sad about, is the time to cook and more importantly to blog about it. I have been cooking as much as I can, which isn’t nearly as much as I would like and I definitely feel like life is just a bit incomplete without it. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel and I know once April is over, life will certainly calm down a bit and the time to cook will be there once again. Part of the reason we closed the store after nearly 5 years, was to be able to focus better on the things that matter most to us, both professionally and personally. We are only five days in on being without a store and I already feel more focused.

This month we are finishing up modifying our home to move the studio in – we have to gut the garage of all the junk and garage-items to be able to move in our presses, poster inventory and all the print-related equipment. We also converted the two additional bedrooms upstairs into home offices for each of us. We have to go through what feels like millions and millions of things, both at home and at work to donate, give away and sell to be able to consolidate everything in one place. It’s definitely a daunting and overwhelming task, especially with the deadline of May 1st looming overhead, but we will get through it all.

Part of what is keeping us going right now besides the excitement of what’s to come is all the traveling and fun things we have going on. We took the long and fun road trip down to Austin in the middle of March and that was incredible, the weather was beautiful, we saw so many great friends whom we missed dearly, we saw family (albeit too briefly) and of course, we ate!

As usual, I didn’t bring my camera to every restaurant as I would have liked, so I did the best I could. On this trip we decided to take our time driving to and from Austin, enjoying the drive as much as the rest of the trip. We tried to seek out the best local restaurants for our taste in each city we stopped in and we had so much fun figuring it out as we went and of course we loved trying out new places. We certainly weren’t disappointed by traveling this way.

I am going to do my best to give you a review of some of our most favorite restaurants from the trip, some will include photos (some of which are better than others) and with others you will have to use your imagination.

Travelin' Eats from Our Drive to Austin.

Travelin' Eats from Our Drive to Austin.

Columbus, Ohio – zpizza

At the start of the trip we left Buffalo Saturday at a reasonable time and once we got to driving decided that our first major stop would be in Columbus for lunch. I did a little google searching for a fun gluten-free friendly restaurant where I could fill up and eat with assurance of not getting sick on the drive. I ended up finding a place called Z Pizza. It isn’t exactly “local” but certainly met all of our other criteria. Their pizzas are fire-baked on hot bricks and they even feature organic ingredients, additive free meats, daiya vegan cheese and most importantly gluten-free pizza crust. So we took a peek at their menu online and called ahead to order two small pizzas to share. (Please excuse the photos, my good camera was packed very deeply in the car at this point, so I made do with my iPhone). We went with the Tuscan and American pizzas. The Tuscan is a white pizza that features their homemade roasted garlic sauce, mozzarella, feta, a variety of mushrooms, caramelized onions, truffle oil and fresh thyme. WOW this pizza tasted like something I would make at home, all the ingredients were very fresh, the sauce had so much flavor and the crust was perfectly thin and crisp. The American was just like it sounds, a classic. It featured their classic organic tomato sauce, mozzarella, bell peppers, red onions, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes. It was definitely a great pizza as well, lots of flavor with very fresh ingredients, though it really didn’t come close to comparing to the Tuscan. I am actually excited for all the drives we take to Louisville now that I know I have an easy and good lunch option along the way. For a chain restaurant I was thoroughly impressed with not only the quality of the food but also the service. It also didn’t hurt that they stocked gluten-free beer, always a plus for me!

Travelin' Eats from Our Drive to Austin.

Bowling Green, Kentucky – Greener Groundz

We continued driving after lunch on Saturday and stopped in Louisville to see Mark’s family and we got to have a short, but quality visit with his Momo (Grandma). After that stop-off we continued on to Bowling Green, Kentucky to spend the next two nights with our good friends Connie and Stacey from Print Mafia. Connie and Stacey took us to their friend’s restaurant for brunch Sunday morning before we headed to Nashville for a bit. Greener Groundz is an adorable little coffee shop / cafe right in Bowling Green that offers 100% organic fair-trade coffee, local and organic ingredients and they have a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan options. They also cater to many food allergies! When I saw they had a breakfast pizza that could be made with gluten-free crust, I went for it. It had a delicious white sauce, you have your choice of scrambled local free-range eggs or tofu scramble, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, red onion, cheese and your choice of protein – ham, crumbles sausage, sliced italian sausage or vegan sausage. I had the local eggs and crumbled sausage. WOW this pizza was incredible and so filling. I had half for breakfast that morning and the other half the next day before we hit the road again. I was content all day! Everyone else at the table had Kentucky Hot Damns – a fun and creamy spin on the famous Kentucky Hot Brown. We all started with a serving of their homemade hummus that Connie and Stacey raved about. I love my own hummus so much that it is rare I care for other hummus (whether at a restaurant or store-bought), this time I was impressed, it was full of flavor, creamy and very well made. We had it served with tortilla chips but you can also get it with pizza crisps or gluten-free pizza crisps. I really cannot recommend Greener Groundz enough if you ever find yourself in the Bowling Green area, in fact it’s so good I would recommend stopping there even if you are traveling on to somewhere else. It really is the type of place that I wish every city and little town had, it really makes me so happy to support places like this. I knew when we pulled up and walked through the front door that this place that it was just my kind of place. I can’t wait to go back.

Travelin' Eats from Our Drive to Austin.

Travelin' Eats from Our Drive to Austin.

Memphis, Tennessee – Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken

This stop was all for Mark. Since he had eaten at all these great organic and gluten-free restaurants for me, it was his turn. I started asking around on Twitter if anyone had recommendations on somewhere we could grab lunch in Memphis when we passed through. More than one person recommended Gus’s. Being the fried chicken-loving Southern boy that he is, we had to stop and get lunch there for Mark. I was happy just to eat sides and enjoy the smile on my husband’s face. Much to my surprise they even had bottled hard cider on their menu, even better! Mark got a classic plate of fried-chicken with sides. When I told our waiter that I was just gonna have a few sides he asked if I was vegetarian, I replied with “not exactly, I don’t eat much meat and I am also gluten-intolerant so either way the fried chicken wouldn’t work for me”. He leaned in really close to me and said “our fried chicken is gluten-free, I cannot tell you the recipe since it is secret but we use corn starch, not flour. My ex-girlfriend was very very sensitive to gluten and she ate it all the time”. As tempting as it was, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I have learned to trust few people who can’t tell me with 100% assurance that something is safe and though I am sure I would be OK I didn’t want to risk it with all the traveling we had ahead. Though I would definitely be curious to know how true this really is. So I obviously cannot give you a first-hand review of the fried chicken here but Mark did say it was the best damn fried-chicken he has ever had and that I can trust.

Travelin' Eats from Our Drive to Austin.

Travelin' Eats from Our Drive to Austin.

Travelin' Eats from Our Drive to Austin.

Austin, Texas – Frank

This wasn’t our first time at Frank, in fact I have actually lost track of how many times we’ve eaten there. A poster/designer friend of ours from Austin, Geoff Peveto, opened Frank with a couple of his buddies and their wives. Normally you wouldn’t find me excited about a hot dog / sausage restaurant. It’s never really been my thing, plus having a gluten-intolerance and being mostly vegetarian makes this all even less fun. Frank, however, really caters to everyone – they carry gluten-free rolls, homemade vegetarian sausage and dogs and plenty of house made sausage from local meats and ingredients. Though I wanted their homemade veggie sausage, I couldn’t have it as it contained gluten, unfortunately. So I make sure to always go with one of their homemade sausages since they never disappoint. To be able to eat a sausage or a hot dog on a bun feels like a luxury after 6+ years. We usually eat there at least two times when we are in town and I like to try something different each time. On this visit I had the Texalina served on a gluten-free bun which is their housemade local pork and beef sausage covered in a grilled coleslaw and topped with a Carolina mustard BBQ sauce and shredded white cheddar. It was so incredible and tasty, it had a nice subtle spicy heat and the crunch from the coleslaw is what makes this sausage really stand-out, in my opinion. Though I am not a huge BBQ sauce lover – I am always down for a mustard based sauce and it was perfect on this. The Texalina is definitely messy, but something I was willing to deal with. I, of course, washed this incredible treat down with one of Frank’s deliciously fresh house margaritas (ok well maybe, two). Besides having delicious food, Frank is one of the most aesthetically pleasing restaurants I have ever been to, complete with hand painted signage and well though out menus and decor. A must see if you are in Austin.

Austin, Texas – Fonda San Miguel

One of our favorite things to do while we’re in Austin is to eat as much Mexican food as we can. Living in Buffalo there really isn’t much authentic Mexican food and I certainly crave it. What isn’t there to love about Mexican food, the spices, the margaritas, etc and it is so very gluten-free friendly. We definitely have a long list of classic taqueria style Mexican joints in Austin that we like to visit, but this time we decided to try out something a bit different that a friend recommended. Fonda San Miguel is an upscale restaurant that features fine interior Mexican cuisine, something I had never really experienced. It’s classic regional cuisine prepared authentically using numerous ingredients from their on-site organic garden.  I really didn’t know what to expect, but I can honestly say it is one of the best Mexican meals I have ever had. So different from the classic taqueria’s that I have become accustomed to. I decided to go with the Camarones en Crema De Chipotle, gulf shrimp in a spicy chipotle cream sauce. I am a big fan of the gulf shrimp and when I saw this dish, I knew it was right up my alley. It had a wonderful smokey heat that was balanced by the creaminess. Once we returned home to Buffalo I promptly recreated this dish myself so I could enjoy it again. I plan to make it again really soon so I can share the recipe here. I don’t have access to delicious gulf shrimp so my recipe was definitely lacking there, but otherwise I think I came close. I also had an incredible martini style cocktail that featured mezcal, tequila and fresh lime juice, this was my first time trying mezcal and I loved it. The strong smoky flavor from the mezcal was so unique and special, I am certainly going to have to keep an eye out for this at my local liquor store. I cannot wait to go back to Austin next year so we can go back to Fonda San Miguel and try even more things on their menu. I am sorry to say I had my camera with me, but was far too happy, relaxed and involved with both incredible food and wonderful company, to take any photos of the meal, so you will have to use your imagination on this one or get your butt to Austin and visit Fonda San Miguel yourself.

Travelin' Eats from Our Drive to Austin.

Austin, Texas – Juan in a Million

Last, but certainly not least, is Juan in a Million. Though simplistic in many ways, it is one of my favorite grub spots in Austin. There’s no organic garden or gluten-free breads, it is just straight-up, classic Mexican food, perfected. We always try to hit Juan in a Million at least twice for breakfast while we’re in town – they have amazing breakfast tacos and THE best migas, probably my favorite breakfast dish of all time. It is a simple concept, scrambled eggs with various veggies like peppers, onions, tomatoes and it also has strips of fried tortilla. Then it’s all topped with fresh grated cheese. Don’t ask me why it’s so much better than every other ‘ol scrambled egg dish, it just is. There is something about it. Juan’s migas with a side of their delicious beans, some fresh warm corn tortillas and their super spicy salsa? That really is heaven. Unfortunately the terrible iPhone photo that I took, really doesn’t do the food any justice, but you get the idea. If you are a Travel Channel junky then you probably saw Juan in a Million featured on Man Vs Food. Oh and Juan in a Million consistently wins the award for best handshake in all of Texas – so if Juan is there, make sure to shake his hand, it is not only award-winning but it’s also epic (your hand will burn afterwards)!

We obviously ate at other great restaurants along the trip, but these are the ones that most stick out in my mind. I always try to remember to bring my camera but somehow this part of the blogging process always alludes me. That being said, I plan to do more of these types of posts with all the traveling we have coming up, so I hope you enjoy it. I would also love if you shared any restaurant recommendations that you have for me. This weekend we will be in NYC and Brooklyn for a gallery show our work is in and some meetings and next weekend we’ll be in Pittsburgh for Handmade Arcade. We are home the rest of the month finalizing our move home and getting the new print studio all set-up, after that we are off to a week-long vacation on the beach on South Padre Island, which will certainly be needed. If you have any restaurant recommendations for any of these places, definitely post them.

Look for some recipes in the next week or so, I hope to recreate the Camarones en Crema De Chipotle again for dinner tonight along with a gluten-free Chocolate Almond Pound Cake for dessert, if I can squeeze in the time to do it. And look for more travel/restaurant reviews very soon. Hope everyone is well!

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