Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Weeknight Wonder: Slow Cooker Roast with Crispy Vegetables

I don't know about y'all, but I have a heck of a time getting dinner on the table most weeknights.  Andrew & I both commute for at least an hour each way (Austin traffic @$#*!) & by the time we get home, both of us are usually too tired to make a complete meal.  It's hard!  We often result to breakfast for dinner, eating out or on occasion....frozen stuff.  Yep.  This food blogger is admitting that when weekdays get the better of me, we've been known to make meals out of frozen eggrolls, quiche, pot stickers, ramen packs or even...corn dogs!

While I think there's room for everything in moderation, even frozen corn dogs, I'm striving to make better, healthier weeknight meals.  But if I don't do at least a little prep work in advance, all is lost.  Traffic is terrible, or we stop on our way home to run an errand or two....then we end up ordering a pizza.

That's why I've starting making more slow cooker meals.  With a couple of chops the night before, a second in the morning to throw everything in the pot & turn the slow cooker on & a few minutes making a side or two while your meal finishes up the evening of, you can have a tasty, healthy, real meal with no fuss.

This roast with broiled-to-crispy-perfection vegetables has been a go-to of ours in the last few weeks.  One of Andrew's favorite meal is pot roast.  I think he even requested it as his 'birthday meal' often as a child.  But it's never been my style.  Growing up, roast was a staple in my house, & I never turned it down, but I also never cared for the soft veggies.  Which is why I love this version so much!

The onions, wine & chicken stock that are slow cooked with the roast to add a ton of flavor to the meat & help keep it fall-apart tender.  Throwing the rest of the vegetables in the oven to roast gives them a crisp bite & a taste I just can't get enough of.  In addition to the traditional potatoes, I've added in cauliflower & radishes.  I disliked these as kid, but roasting has bumped them to be some of my favorites.  The cauliflower gets a little toasty & takes on richness from the balsamic vinegar.  The radishes mellow out their bite, & gain a touch of sweetness.  They're both so good.  You have to give them a try. 

Slow Cooker Roast with Crispy Vegetables


1 Beef Roast
3-5 Onions, sliced
1 tablespoon Ground Mustard
2 tablespoons Paprika
1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
Salt & pepper
1 bottle red wine or rose
1 quart chicken stock


1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 bunch radishes, halved or quartered
1 lb. baby or fingerling potatoes, halved or quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
salt & pepper

Optional Extras:

Polenta, cooked according to directions
For Polenta: 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated & 1 -2 tablespoons butter
Fresh thyme for garnish

Combine first 8 ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 6 -8 hours.  About 30-45 minutes before you are ready to eat, remove beef from the slow cooker & shred.  Return to slow cooker until ready to serve.

During the last few minutes of cooking time, start polenta cooking, according to directions.  Once polenta is cooked, take off flame and add in butter, parmesan cheese, salt & pepper.  Stir to melt butter & cheese & combine.

About 20 minutes before eating, preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Combine vegetables, olive oil & balsamic vinegar in a large zip top bag.  Close bag & carefully shake to coat veggies in oil & vinegar mixture.  Arrange on a lined baking sheet & season with salt & pepper.  Roast vegetables for 15 - 20 minutes.

In a bowl or plate, spoon a helping of polenta, then add meat & onions, top with vegetables & garnish with fresh thyme & additional salt & pepper if desired.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Easy & Cheerful Spring Signs + a Dollar Tree Giveaway



Now through April 6th, visit ILeaveHappy.com & vote for your favorite springtime craft (including the coral & gold DIY signs below!) for a chance to win one of ten $50 Dollar Tree giftcards!  Voting is limited to once per day.


This is a sponsored post and items used were provided courtesy of Dollar Tree.  All thoughts & opinions are honest & my own.

Don't you just love Spring?  The weather's getting warmer, nature's perking up & everything gets a new start.  Even us humans.  Which is why I chose the words 'Grow' and 'Bloom' for these pretty Springtime displays.  Because we could all use a little encouragement to be our best selves.  

These sweet signs come together in a snap & add a positive & pretty touch to any area of your home. I got everything to make these at Dollar Tree!  Dollar Tree is at the top of my list when seeking out craft finds & holiday decor.  They always have a huge selection of goodies for making any celebration beautiful.  And every thing is only a dollar!

In addition to being easy, this project is also incredibly affordable.  A quick trip to Dollar Tree & $3 later & I was ready to go.  You'll need:

- 8x10 Photo Frame
- Foam Core Board (white)
- Package of Gold Thumbtacks (300 per box)
- Pencil
- Box cutter or scissors
- Paint, paintbrush
- Plastic fork, metallic gold paint (optional)
- Printed letters in word of choice

Start by opening your photo frame & carefully removing the inside liner paper & glass front.  Using it as a guide, trace the dimensions on a corner of your foam board.  Very carefully, cut your piece of foam along the traced lines, so you have an 8x10 piece.

Paint the foam your desired color & let dry thoroughly.

If desired, use a plastic form & gold metallic paint to create a 'scratched' pattern on the painted foam board.  Dip the fork in the paint & randomly, create hashtags, scratches & random marks until you have reached your desired look.

While your foam board is drying, create your lettering template on a computer using your favorite font.  Be sure that you adjust your page settings so that your word fits on a landscape 8x10 area.  Once you've created your word, print it & cut it out.

Position the cut word on your foam board & trace around the edges, creating a template for your thumbtacks.

Taking extra care not to stick yourself, push in the tacks to create your letters.  I used almost an entire box of 300 thumbs tacks per board.  I layered & overlapped the tacks to achieve my desired look.

Place the foam board inside your frame (make sure the glass has been removed!) & reattach the back, making sure you secure the backing tightly.  Now place in your favorite nook or hang on that wall that needs a bright boost!

For more creative holiday Dollar Tree crafting ideas, be sure to visit:  www.ILeaveHappy.com


Now through April 6th, visit ILeaveHappy.com & vote for your favorite springtime craft (including my fun succulents below!) for a chance to win one of ten $50 Dollar Tree giftcards!  Voting is limited to one time per day.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Deep South Austin Eats: 2015 AFBA City Guide


When we moved in to our first home in deep, deep South Austin (almost in Manchaca, but not) two years ago, there was very little in the way of local restaurants in our neighborhood.  Fast food chains & a couple of not-so-good take out places seemed to be our only options.

But, thankfully(!), we have found some hidden gems & our deep South Austin dining options are expanding.  In the past year or so, new, Austin-owned eateries have been popping up all over between William Cannon & Slaughter Lane.  Mostly second locations of hometown favorites, but still!  And I'm hopeful that many more will be coming soon.  It's a foodie miracle that has been keeping our bellies full & our mouths happy.

Below are my picks for great eats in deep South Austin.  What are yours?  I'm always looking for great places that are close, so if I've left off your favorite, please let me know!  

And if you're looking for more delicious fare that's a little further North, but still in South Austin, check out South Austin Foodie's addition to the 2015 AFBA City Guide, Best of South Austin Restaurants.


Wholly Bagel

4404 William Cannon, Weekdays 6 a.m. - 3 p.m., Weekends 7 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Incredible bagels & delicious specialty cream cheeses.  Very limited seating.  And get there early, they sometimes sell out of popular flavors!

Kerbey Lane

4301 William Cannon, 24/7

Austin weird meets arguably the best breakfast in town.  They have a full menu, but their omelets, varieties of eggs benedict & pancakes are tops.  Plus, it's fun to have breakfast anytime.  With weekly flapjack specials, seasonal menus, lots of vegan options & dang good queso, they've got something for everyone.  Try the baked potato omelet or the buttermilk pancakes with lots of butter.  No syrup needed.

River City Donuts

1945 William Cannon, 7 days a week, 5 a.m. - 9 p.m.

No frills, tasty, consistent donuts & sausage kolaches.  Strike up conversation with the older men drinking coffee while you're waiting in line & make sure you get at least a few of the Bavarian cream donut holes.  They're amazing.


9001 Brodie Lane, Monday - Saturday, 7 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Solid breakfast/brunch options, delicious pastries & a good cup of joe.  With a large variety of cake balls that'll sooth your sweet tooth, what more could you need?  They also serve sandwiches, salads & soups.

Quick Bites

Torchy's Tacos

4301 William Cannon, Monday - Thursday 7 a.m. - 10 p.m., Friday 7 a.m. - 11 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Killer queso, inventive tacos & fried deep fried chocolate chips cookies.  Bonus: real sugar sodas from Maine Root.  There's lots of seating, but be prepared...it will be packed if you go around standard meal times.  Try whatever the taco of the month is.  The Scarecrow, a frequent October pick, is my favorite taco.  Ever.

ThunderCloud Subs

3601 William Cannon, Monday - Friday 10:30 a.m. - 9 p.m., Saturday/Sunday 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

1807 Slaughter Lane, Monday - Friday 10:30 a.m. - 9 p.m., Saturday 10:30 a.m. - 9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Original Austin, friendly service & a large list of above average sandwiches.  Say yes to the Thunder Sauce.


9900 S IH 35 (Southpark Meadows), Monday - Sunday 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Tasty Vietnamese fare including build-your-own Pho, vegetarian goodies & a wide variety of drink choices.  Try the bahn mi sliders as an appetizer to share or a light lunch.

Bamboo Bistro

6818 Westgate, Monday - Sunday 10:30 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.

Dependable Asian food available for delivery, dine-in or drive-thru.  The service is always friendly & quick & their Cantonese Crispy Noodles are the perfect comfort food. 

Green Mesquite

9900 S IH 35 (Southpark Meadows), Sunday - Thursday, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Friday/Saturday 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Traditional Texas BBQ, Southern favorites & daily specials.  They can be a little inconsistent, but the meat is good & the sides are tasty.

Brooklyn Pie Company

9500 S IH 35 (Southpark Meadows), Monday - Wednesday 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Thursday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Pizzas, calzones, salads & more made with natural & preservative-free ingredients.  Available for delivery, carry out or dine-in, but their seating is very limited.

Macho Taco

12110 Manchaca Rd., Monday - Thursday 6:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Friday 6:30 a.m. - 7 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m. - 7 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Inexpensive traditional Tex-Mex breakfast tacos, lunch specials & more.

Rosa's Cafe & Tortilla Factory

509 W. Slaughter Lane, Sunday - Thursday 10:30 a.m. - 11:00 p.m, Saturday 10:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.

I am super-biased, as Rosa's is a West Texas staple & that's where I'm from, but it is a Texas based chain, so I think it's worth mentioning.  Solid, standard Tex-Mex dishes done quick & most importantly, drive-thru friendly.  If you're looking for an enchilada & queso fix but don't want to go to a sit-down restaurant, Rosa's is your new best friend.  Tip: pick up hearty, cheap taco dinners on Taco Tuesday & try the nachos; it's just the right amount of chips & queso for two. 



4625 William Cannon, Monday - Thursday 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. - 12 a.m., Saturday 9 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. - 10 p.m.

This new location of an old favorite is very nice, with a large bar & plenty of seating.  Typical, but tasty Tex-Mex with an exceptional La Flor margarita.

Hao Hao

1901 W William Cannon, Tuesday - Friday 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. - 9:30 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m. - 9:30 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m. - 9 p.m.

All of your favorites, plus an extensive list of vegetarian options, this family-owned Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant has been a favorite of my husband's family for years.  They also offer quick delivery.

Mandola's Italian Market

4301 William Cannon (Arbor Trails) 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. daily

A wide selection of pastas, thin-crust pizzas, small bites, desserts & coffees.  They have two large dining areas, a small market full of Italian goods & bocce ball on the patio.  Try the parma pizza, calamari & zucchini fritti as a quick nibble, or the lemon ricotta cookies for dessert.

Independence Fine Foods

1807 Slaughter Lane, Monday - Saturday 7 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.

A variety of salads, soups, desserts, coffees & other offerings available from the deli counter as well as a rotating carving-station meal for evening service.  Their meats are locally sourced & as your taste buds will confirm, everything is made fresh.  Sandwiches, burgers & breakfast options offered daily.  Try the juicy burger with truffle fries or the sunshine cake.

Amaya's Taco Village

9900 S IH 35 (Southpark Meadows)   

Tex-mex usuals, but the stand-out on the menu are the crispy beef tacos.  Puffy, hearty corn tortillas take these old favorites to a new level.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hopping into Spring with Colorful Succulents + Dollar Tree Giveaway




Now through April 6th, visit ILeaveHappy.com & vote for your favorite springtime craft (including my fun succulents below!) for a chance to win one of ten $50 Dollar Tree giftcards!  Voting is limited to one time per day.

This is a sponsored post and items used were provided courtesy of Dollar Tree.  All thoughts & opinions are honest & my own.

To me, Spring & Easter has always been a time of new life.  One of my favorite signs of the season are all the pretty, blooming plants.  Unfortunately, though, I do not have a green thumb.  I've tried several times to add a few plants to the house...one of said plants is still alive.  And it's a miracle that one's hanging on because I only remember to give it water every few weeks.

So when I saw that Dollar Tree had bright green, realistic-looking succulents, I grabbed a big bunch!  They're only a dollar after all & I knew they'd add a fun, natural pop to add around the house.  These guys have quickly become one of my favorite projects.

And I got all of the supplies at Dollar Tree, one of my go-tos for craft goods.  They always have a great selection of seasonal gear & fun finds to make any season sing.   So, I was able to make four of these sweet succulent pots for under $10.00.  8 bucks to be exact!

Let's dive right in & talk about what you need to create your own...

- 4 small clay pots
- Paint in your choice of color(s)
- painter's tape
- Gold leaf paint or metallic gold paint
- paint brushes, small knife
- 4 succulents
- 1 bag of small rocks or pebbles

I found all of these goodies at Dollar Tree, except for the paints & painter's tape, which I already had on-hand. A quick note about the gold accent paint: I used a small jar of gold leafing paint as I wanted something that would really shimmer & shine.  Gold metallic paint would work well & be just as pretty, but probably won't be as 'shiny.'

Start by wiping down your clay pots with a damp rag to get any debris off, then paint each one your color of choice.  You might need to paint on two coats, I definitely had to on the lighter mint & coral colors.  Be sure to paint the inside rim of the pot at least an inch or so down.  A good, but easy to forget step!

After letting the pots dry for several hours, it's time to tape these guys up & get that gold trimming on!  Using painter's tape, section off the areas you want gold.  I decided to make a gold rim on the top of the mint & coral pots & for the navy, I taped off some triangle sections.

Now, carefully paint on the gold.  *If you're using gold leaf paint, please follow the instructions on your product.  I decided to use a very small brush, so that it was easier to achieve the 'worn' look I was going for.  I painted in small areas, with very, very little paint on my brush, so that I wasn't covering the entire area, creating that vintage-y look.  If you'd like a more modern look, cover the area entirely.  I think they would look very chic that way too.  : )

After letting the pots dry for another several hours, it's time to break the succulents out of their cages!  Carefully, pull out the succulents from the top & cut around the outside of the styrofoam to help release it from it's container.

In your painted pots, place a few rocks in the bottom, filling it up about a third of the way.  Next, arrange your styrofoam in the center and fill in the sides with rocks to secure.  Situate your succulent in the styrofoam and fill the top in with more rocks.  Done & done.  Super fun & pretty easy, right?

Repeat the process with the rest of the pots & succulents.  Enjoy your new plants!


For more creative holiday Dollar Tree crafting ideas, be sure to visit:  www.ILeaveHappy.com



Now through April 6th, visit ILeaveHappy.com & vote for your favorite springtime craft (including my fun succulents below!) for a chance to win one of ten $50 Dollar Tree giftcards!  Voting is limited to one time per day.