On Friday, I made one of the last few April meals and it was definitely one that I was looking forward to trying. This summer I had steak with chimichurri and I have been wanting to make some at home or try it again. After defrosting the steak in the fridge, I decided to pair the steak with penne pasta and spinach salad. I heated up my grill pan on the stove top and seasoned my steak with some Chicago steak seasoning from Penzey’s. I was supposed to have a seasoning blend, but my meal was missing it. I cooked my steak about 7-8 minutes per side and then cooked it another 1-2 minutes on each side so that the steak was medium to medium well. I let the steak rest before Mike sliced it thinly. We topped our steak with chimichurri and we ready for dinner. This steak was tender and delicious. I loved the addition of the chimichurri, but a little went a long way and there was plenty to add to the pasta, too. There was plenty of steak leftover that will be great as nachos, tacos or a sandwich. I was happy that I picked this steak dish, even though it made a bit more than we would normally eat.
I am almost done cooking and eating my April meals and I am still finding great things in the freezer. Thursday night, we made Penne with Chicken and Peanut Butter. This dish definitely had a delicious Asian flavor with the surprise of penne pasta instead of rice or rice noodles. This was an easy dish to make that yielded great flavor. I started by heating up the sauce in a saute pan and letting it simmer for 2-3 minutes. Next, I whisked in the peanut butter until the sauce was smooth. I poured the pasta, chicken, and vegetable bag into the sauce and stirred it to coat. Then, I put the lid on the pan and let it simmer for 10 minutes until it was heated. We loved this dish! It had a great peanut flavor, which paired nicely with the chicken, vegetables and pasta. I will definitely be looking forward to this meal the next time it shows up on the menu.
Lately, I have been doing some networking with my new position. Most networking has occurred in group settings with lunches and lots of people. It’s been informative, but a little overwhelming for someone who is not from a business background. I will talk to anyone, but I am working on learning the right things to say to interest people in my business and our big upcoming event. I had my first one on one meeting the other day at Joel’s Coffee Shop, which was a new location for me. It was a really cute shop located in a strip mall that would easily be missed (I did miss it the first time I drove by). However, the inside is what really matters. The barista was a cool, Austin guy who seemed pretty chill at 10:30 am. The overall vibe was warm and welcoming and it wasn’t very crowded, which allowed for a great place to meet and talk. The menu was nicely done in chalk and each suggestion sounded better than the next. In the end, I opted for “Come and Take It” featuring cinnamon and caramel. It was a great choice with two of my favorite ingredients, I knew I couldn’t go wrong. It was served with a foam heart, which was pretty cute. I loved the vibe, the coffee, and my meeting felt like a success. I got some great tips, shared more about my business, and hopefully will be forming a great partnership. I will definitely be hitting up Joel’s Coffee next time I need my fix in that area.
As we get further in to May, I am getting closer to making my May meals and almost finished with the April meals. I now have to take a few days to catch up on blogging about them. Our next meal was the Pecan Crusted Chops with Oven Roasted Broccoli. We’ve made the oven roasted broccoli on several occasions, so I knew that would turn out great. I also decided to make some rice to add on the side and also because Lola likes to eat the leftover rice. I preheated the oven while I got the water boiling for the rice. I put the broccoli on a foil lined pan. I mixed the pecans into the crumb mixture. I coated the pork chops in the crumb mixture and placed them on a baking sheet. I put the broccoli and pork chops in the oven for 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, I removed the broccoli and mixed in the butter and seasoning. Everything finished at about the same time. The broccoli was great, as we’ve experienced in the past. The pork chops were cooked to perfection, but I would have liked the crust to be a little crispier. While I liked this meal, I enjoy the pork tenderloins a little bit more. I think the crumb mixture on a pork tenderloin would have been really tasty and I will definitely include that when I rate my meals.
I declared that Sunday was going to be a Lazy Sunday. I had just finished a busy week and was prepping for another busy week. Lola let us sleep in a little bit and we went for a nice walk. Fortunately, for us, I remembered that I had a delicious sounding breakfast treat from Dream Dinners that I put in the fridge to defrost. When we got home from our walk, I preheated the oven, placed the tray on a cookie sheet and baked the Cinnamon Pull Apart Bites for about 12 minutes. While the bites were baking, I made Lola breakfast and got the coffee brewing for us. After the timer chimed, I pulled the tray out of the oven and breakfast was ready. This was a great pairing with our Texas pecan coffee. I love the ooey gooey soft cinnamon bites. It tasted a lot like an old Foods class favorite, Monkey Bread, but it was even easier! This breakfast treat made plenty of food for us with enough for a few days of leftovers. This is definitely a sweet from the freezer that I will pick up next time its available.
Each May, several Austin craft breweries come together to raise money for Divine Canines. Dvine Canines raises money to provide therapy dogs. We participated in this event last year and went to our local Cedar Park breweries and waited a long time before making it to any other breweries. This year we hit the kickoff party at Whitestone Brewery and made tentative plans to visit other places with friends. This weekend we hit some of the breweries in Dripping Springs with our friend, Lauren. Our first stop was Suds Monkey. It was quite a trek for us to this small brewery in a warehouse style setting. We got to talk to the beertender, who was also one of the brewers. Many of the beers had clever monkey related names. In the end, I selected the Punk Monkey Porter, which was super smooth and tasty. We hung out here for a while, meeting another patron from our neck of the woods and trying a few more beers.
Our next stop was Acopon Brewing Company in the heart of Dripping Springs. It was definitely the cutest location with a small town Main Street kind of vibe. We met another friendly beertender, who educated us a bit on their beers. I ended up picking the Gaspipes, an English Bitter, which was definitely not bitter tasting. We didn’t spend as much time here because we knew we had another stop. Lauren was excited because she got to pet a dog here-sometimes its the little things that make us smile.
Our final stop was Family Business Beer Company. This one has been in the news a lot with a few “celebrities” running the food truck and brewery. This brewery had the prettiest venue with a lovely picnic area out back with a food truck. I opted for the Haulin Oats Brown Ale, which sounded delicious from the description, but was actually a little bit of a let down. My BLT from the food truck was pretty tasty and I was glad to have some food.
We had a really great time trying some new places and spending time with one of our beer friends. Hopefully, we will get a chance to repeat this again in another section of town.
I am trying to quickly finish up my April Dream Dinners meals as I get ready to make my May meals this week. We got to try another new meal the other night, Cubano Chicken with Black Beans and Rice. I started by making the rice. Next, I heated up my grill pan on the stove top. After the rice had cooked, I added in the black beans and cooked the bean and rice mixture for 10 more minutes. Meanwhile, I grillled the chicken and orange quarters for 5 minutes on each side, until the chicken was cooked and the oranges were charred and juicy. We served the chicken with the beans and rice with squeezed orange juice on top. I really liked this meal. It was simple, different and flavorful. The charred oranges brought great flavor to the chicken and rice. This meal would be great as a salad, wrap or nachos. I hope this meal shows up on the menu again because I’d love to make it again.
At Mike’s work, there is a guy who places giant BBQ orders at some of Austin’s most exclusive and difficult to get in to BBQ places. He takes orders from his coworkers and brings it to the office, so the need to wait in long lines are non existent. A few weeks ago, we got to try La BBQ. Mike and I drove to pick up our portion of the order and it smelled so good in the car! I was really excited to try it. So far, I would consider BigCat to be one of my favorite BBQ places in Austin, especially when we talk about turkey. Things changed that day. This turkey was moist, tender, and required no sauce. The brisket literally melted in my mouth as I ate it. The sausage was a chipotle sausage with a definite, delightful kick. The only disappointment was that we didn’t order enough! Originallly, I was skeptical about the BBQ order system, but I look forward to tasting and trying as many delicious places as possible and waiting to see which place I might crown the ultimate champion.
As I gear up to make my May meals in a week or so, I should probably start blogging about the April meals. I have been so busy in March, April and now in May. I am really excited to have a little bit of down time booked in June! I have also gotten to the point with Dream Dinners, where at least a portion of meal meals are repeats that I’ve tried and loved before. Last Tuesday, I had my monthly staff meeting and Mike was in charge of dinner. I left him Monte Christo Chicken, which went straight from the fridge to the oven. Mike baked the covered pan for 35-40 minutes to start. Then, he uncovered it and baked it an additional 10 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken. When I got home, I made a quick salad and a delicious meal was ready for me. I loved the tangy mustard flavor, the creamy sauce, and the fact that it was all served over a bed of rice. This meal screamed comfort food and in hindsight, I wish I had made more of them! Once again, a Dream Dinners pan meal saved the day for my family and I know it saves the day for many of my customers, too!
This was a fairly uneventful weekend, so I finally have a chance to sit down and finish blogging for March! The last new March meal that we tried from Dream Dinners was the Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sliders. Mike and I really love Buffalo Chicken so we had very high hopes for this meal. I started by preheating the oven and preparing my pan. I baked the breaded chicken patties for 15-20 minutes. I don’t always like breaded chicken, but these patties looked pretty tasty. Next, I sliced the rolls and heated them up for about 10 minutes. I squeezed some buffalo ranch sauce on the bottom of each roll, placed a patty on top, put one blue cheese on the top half of the roll, and broiled it until the cheese had melted. I served our sliders with waffle fries and fresh cut strawberries. While the sliders were good, they weren’t our favorite meal ever. We felt like this meal could have benefited from more buffalo flavor. I would have also preferred grilled chicken or baked chicken to the chicken patty and if it was on a pretzel bun, that would have been ideal. This meal definitely had potential and wasn’t bad, but it didn’t quite live up to my high expectations.
In finishing up my March meals last week, I got to try a Dream Dinners version of a family favorite-jambalaya. We typically use the Zatarain’s mix and use a sausage for the meat. This version was originally designed to have sausage and shrimp, but I replaced the shrimp with diced chicken, as we don’t eat shrimp. This was a simple pan meal that could have cooked from frozen. I defrosted it so that it would cook a bit faster. I added the chicken into the pan dish and poured the sauce over the dish, covering it all with aluminum foil. I baked it about an hour and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving. This was a huge amount of food. I think this 3 serving meal translated into at least 5 meals for us. I liked this dish, but I wished that it had a little more kick to it. Mike ate leftovers with sriracha and it was perfect for him. I would definitely make this again and probably double the amount of seasoning I used or be prepared to add some heat at home.
As I get closer to starting my meals for April, I still have a few meals from March to blog about. One new meal we tried last week was Greek Chicken with Lemon Feta. Mike really likes Greek and Mediterranean food, so we thought this was a good choice for us. I started by preparing the Orzo. Meanwhile, I preheated the oven to 375 and prepared my pan. I topped each piece of chicken with a lemon slice. Then, I drizzled the chicken with olive oil and baked the chicken for about 15 minutes. I added feta cheese to each chicken breast and put it in the broiler for about 2 minutes. We served each chicken breast with a side of orzo. This was a really tasty meal. It was perfect for spring with the light, fresh taste of lemon. The orzo made more than 3 servings, which was nice for leftovers. This dish was pretty simple, but had great flavors and is definitely one that I would order again.
Now that its mid-April, I have finished eating all my March Dream Dinners meals, but I still need to catch up on blogging about them. One meal we tried recently, was Chicken Parmesan. We started off with some toasted ravioli and paired with a side salad. I put this pan dish in the oven for 35 minutes at 400 degrees. I uncovered it and topped with the Parmesan mix, baking an additional 20 minutes, until the top was brown and crispy. We let it sit a few minutes before serving. This chicken parm was pretty good. I am picky, as Mike makes a pretty delicious chicken parm every year for Valentine’s Day. This dish was tasty and definitely less work than Mike’s version. While I enjoyed this one, I still love my special treat from my sweet heart each year. We would make this again, but its not a replacement for Mike’s special dish.
A few weeks ago, Mike and I headed to Whitestone on a Friday evening. The weather was great, there was a new food truck, and there was a band playing. It was also incredibly busy-almost St. Patrick’s Day busy. We started with a beer and ordering at the truck, American Girl Grille. I was excited to see that they had crinkle fries and several different burger options. Mike ordered a pub burger that had Irish cheddar and was made with a stout. Mine was served on grilled bread with bacon. The food was great, which is a feat for a new truck, sometimes. Mike really loved his burger and I’ve seldom met a burger I didn’t like. The staff on the truck was friendly and despite a technical glitch, things ran smoothly. We would love to see this truck back at Whitestone in the future. Unfortunately, it kept getting more and more crowded that night, so we ended up making it an early night. We love that our favorite place is getting more popular, but that Friday was too popular for us.
March flew by and left me with a freezer full of delicious meals. In fact, its mid April and I am finally finishing the meals. This has nothing to do with the quality of the food, but more to do with poor planning and lots of travel on my part. One of the delicious meals we made last week was the Caribbean Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Savory Cauliflower. I especially loved the cauliflower part of this dish. I got the oven preheated to 425 and prepared the pans. I removed the pork from the the bag and put it on the baking sheet. Next, I brushed the pork with the glaze and baked it for 25 minutes. While the pork was cooking, I got the cauliflower on the pan and baked it for 30 minutes. After the initial bake, I put some of the honey mustard glaze on top of the tenderloin and baked it for 10 more minutes. I heated up the rest of the glaze for about 5 minutes. After everything was done cooking, I let the pork rest before slicing it. We drizzled the honey mustard glaze over the pork and cauliflower and were ready for dinner. It was delicious, as all the pork dishes have been so far. The cauliflower was different to me, as I’ve never had it roasted before and I loved it. I liked the texture along with the savory flavor. I will definitely be serving my cauliflower roasted again in the future and hope I can get some more of this delicious side with my next order.
In March, Dream Dinners had a ton of pan meals. These are meals that are assembled in a pan and just get popped in the oven. I was so busy in March, and these meals have been great. The other great thing about the pan meals is that most of them can cook from frozen, so you don’t even have to remember to defrost them. These meals are especially great when I’m working in the evening because Mike is happy to just pop one in the oven and enjoy. One of these meals that we really loved was the Bacon Mac N Three Cheese Bake. I had a meeting or an event and Mike made dinner. He started by baking the dish for 30 minutes at 350. Next, he sprinkled the top with the crumb topping and baked it about 8-10 minutes until the top was golden brown. We served our pasta bake with a side salad and dinner was ready. I loved the flavors in this dish-bacon, cheese, and pasta. The topping had a little kick to it, which matched the creamy pasta nicely. I will definitely make sure to make doubles of this meal next time its on the menu!
March was a very busy month for us. I started a new job and visited Dallas and Vegas. Fortunately, I had a freezer full of Dream Dinners meals to keep me from spending a ton of time and money at the grocery store and working on food prep at home. One such great meal was the Steak Gorgonzola, which I made on Easter. I started by heating up the grill pan on the stove top. I grilled the steaks about 5 minutes on each side until they had nice sear marks. I put gorgonzola butter mixture on each steak and let it cook until melted. I let the steaks rest and we were ready to serve. I paired the steaks with some fresh pineapple and pasta salad. We really enjoyed these steaks. The gorgonzola gave the steaks great flavor, without being over the top. I love the quality meat that Dream Dinners provides and they cooked so wonderfully in in my cast iron grill pan. I will definitely make sure to order these steaks next time they pop up on the menu.
After a few days away, my stomach was definitely ready to quit eating out for a while. I didn’t have time to go to the grocery store right away, but fortunately, I had some Dream Dinners meals in my freezer that I just needed to defrost. I decided to pair Crispy Salsa Ranch Chicken with Brazilian Cheese Bites and a side salad. I started by preheating the oven to 400 degrees. I was lucky that both items needed to cook at 400, so I didn’t have to worry about under/over cooking anything. The Brazilian Cheese Bites cooked from frozen so I just put those on a foil lined baking sheet and cooked them for 20 minutes. While the oven preheated, I removed the chicken breasts from the marinade and cut them into 3 strips. I put them on a sprayed, foil lined baking dish. Each strip was topped with the tortilla chip crumb mixture and pressed onto the chicken. I baked the chicken about 15 minutes until the strips were brown and crisp. We dipped the chicken in salsa and served them with the cheese bites. We really enjoyed both parts of this meal. The cheese bites were interesting. The bread was crisp with a cheese flavor without being stringy or overly gooey. I really loved the chicken. The chicken strips helped the chicken cook a bit faster and more evenly. I loved the flavor of the crumb mixture and using salsa as a condiment for dipping was perfect. The leftovers from this meal would also make great nachos or be tasty in a taco or wrap. It was also super simple to make-next time this shows up on the menu, I will definitely order several.
We had a busy weekend with a hockey game, escape room, hanging out with friends at Whitestone, and movies on Sunday. By the time dinner arrived on Sunday, I was thankful that I had thawed a Dream Dinners meal. I was also glad that it was Black and Blue Steaks. I decided to pair our steaks with a baked potato and salad. I heated up my grill pan over medium high heat. I added my steaks ad cooked them about 5-6 minutes on each side. I cooked them an additional minute on some of the really pink spots. I pulled them off the grill and topped them with the blue cheese mixture while I cooked the potato. I let the steaks rest for 5 minutes and then we plated our food. The steaks were cooked perfectly for us with grill marks on the outside, but some pink on the inside. The blue cheese mixture was interesting. It was a little bit salty and the blue cheese flavor was quite strong. I feel like in the future, I wouldn’t be concerned with using all the mixture and just lightly season the steaks. Overall, we really liked these steaks and I was so happy to have a home cooked meal in less than 30 minutes.
A few weeks ago, we got to have another wonderful adventure with our Texas family-Ashley, Jason, and Ethan! We headed to Dallas for some hockey, good eats and great company. We left on a Friday afternoon and got to experience some lovely traffic along, especially right around Waco and then again as we drove into Dallas. We stayed at beautiful hotel, the Fairmont, in the downtown area, which was very convenient to all the cool things we decided to do. We checked in and ate dinner downstairs at the bar, which had some delicious treats. We spent some time hanging out and making plans for the rest of the weekend.
Saturday morning, we stopped by Starbucks to start our day. We headed to Mad Hatters for sandwiches before the hockey game. It was really cute with lots of Alice and Wonderland inspired decor and so many tasty sandwiches.
Next, we headed to the hockey game to see the Dallas Stars versus our St. Louis Blues. It pretty exciting as it was Ethan’s first hockey game and I haven’t been to a Blues game in about 15 years. Brett Hull was also honored at the game. It was a great game with lots of fights and ending with overtime. Unfortunately, the Blues lost, but it was a really good game.
For dinner, we headed to Pecan Lodge, a local BBQ joint. There was a pretty long line, but it moved pretty fast. Unfortuntately, they ran out of the giant beef ribs right before Mike ordered, but there were still plenty of great choices. I tried the brisket, sausage and mac and cheese. I was very happy with my choices. This bbq had plenty of flavor and taste. It was definitely worth the wait! We stopped at a few shops and a brewery before heading back to the hotel.
On Sunday, we were pretty tired, so Mike and I decided to head home after checking out of the hotel. We decided to stop for kolaches on our way home. We got to stand in another really long line in order to get some tasty kolaches. It was so crowded at Czech Stop that we had to eat in the car and we couldn’t even get to the gas pumps!
We had another great weekend with our friends and can’t wait for our next adventure. Thanks so much to sweet Ashley for her excellent planning skills for making this trip possible!