Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sunday Adventuring along Hwy. 290

Sometimes you just get the urge to wander.

Wildseed Farms

I often get the itch to roam in the springtime, when it's warm but not scorching & the hill country begins filling up with wildflowers.  Moving to Austin was always in my plans, but it's not until I actually arrived here that I realized my favorite Central Texas wonder: the wildflowers.  There's something so magical about bar ditches filled with yellow blooms, bluebonnet fields & front yards adorned with poppies.  If you follow me on instagram, you will see my infatuation is real.  I have many, many photos of wildflowers sprinkled throughout my feed.

Recently, Andrew & I decided we needed to do a little Hill Country wandering.  We headed down Hwy. 290 on a breezy Sunday morning with two things in mind: pastries & poppies.


Wildseed Farms

We stopped at Pie-e-tea for a few goodies before heading on to Wildseed Farms, to check out their famous poppy fields.  Neither destination disappointed.  The flaky, rich pastries at Pie-e-tea would have been worth the trip alone & my latte was equally decadent & delicious.

Wildseed Farms, which is always on my list if we head down Hwy. 290, was overflowing with poppies & people.  We arrived to a packed parking lot, but the crowds weren't nearly as bad as we imagined when we pulled in.  We roamed around the giant grounds, checking out all of the gorgeous plants & pots for sale, before making our way to the fields.  Wildseed Farms has several fields of poppies, as well as rows of various other blooms scattered around the back section.

Walking among the wildflowers is a wonderful way to spend the day.  And though it was a little early for us to take advantage of, Wedding Oak Winery now has a tasting room set up on the Wildseed Farms grounds.  We will definitely be back to try out their wine.  

Wildseed Farms

Wildseed Farms

Wildseed Farms

Wildseed Farms

Wildseed Farms

Wildseed Farms

On our way back in to Austin, we decided to stop in & take the driving tour of the LBJ Ranch.  It's a really peaceful way to see a little piece President Johnson's life.  We walked around the original buildings, including the school house pictured below & even saw a few Longhorns & wildflowers.

Our day ended on a tasty note with BBQ from Stubb's at Graceland Grocery, a fun roadside stop along Hwy. 290.  A huge outdoor space houses lots of tables, a volleyball court & room for kiddos to run around.  We happily munched on nachos & a brisket sandwich with a side of mashed potatoes, while reflecting on our fun day trip.

LBJ Ranch

LBJ Ranch
LBJ Ranch

Stubb's at Graceland Grocery


12005 W. Hwy. 290
Austin, TX
6am - 4pm

Wildseed Farms

100 Legacy Drive
Fredericksburg, TX
9:30am - 5pm

LBJ Ranch 

100 Ladybird Lane
Johnson City, TX
9am - 4:30pm

Stubb's at Graceland Grocery

8600 W. Hwy. 290
Austin, TX
11am - 9pm

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Quick Eats: Caprese Panini Style Sandwiches

Did you know that it's National Grilled Cheese Day today?  These social media food holidays can be goofy, but when I hear about them it really gets my inspiration going.  After seeing some posts earlier today, I decided we need to observe this fun day with sammies for dinner.  Because cheese & bread are awesome.  And why not celebrate?

But we couldn't have just regular 'ol grilled cheese.  We needed fancy grilled cheese.  I love to make things complicated. :)  So, I came up with a little take on one of my favorite restaurant orders: Caprese Sandwiches.  We had shredded mozzarella leftover from homemade pizzas a few days ago, cherry tomatoes in the fridge & even some basil from a plant I had picked up over the weekend (Trying to grow some indoors herbs this year, wish me luck!) so after a quick trip to the store for ciabatta rolls, we were set.  I decided to add some balsamic to the bread at the last minute & I'm really glad I did.  It adds a nice depth of flavor to the sandwich & I love balsamic on just about anything.  It's delicious.

We made the sandwiches really shine but cooking them up panini-style.  We don't have a panini press, so any time we feel like making them, I just use two of our cast-iron skillets & the heaviest canned good I can find from our pantry.  You heat up your largest pan, load it up with the sammies, place the second pan on top & then add your unopened can to the top of your second pan to press down the sandwich.  It's a really simple method & makes delicious, crispy edged, gooey on the inside sandwiches, minus one more thing to store in my already cramped kitchen.

These quick sandwiches would be a great lunch, but they make for an even better, incredibly quick, tasty dinner that's made in literally minutes.  I ate mine while finishing up my reading (Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling) for this week's book club & it made for the perfect reading companion.

(P.S. I've been attending The Paper Craft Pantry's book club hosted by Stephanie Hinrichs of Interlaced Goods & it's so good & so fun.  If you're in the Austin area, you should join!  All of the info can be found on Paper Craft Pantry's website.)

Caprese Sandwiches

(Serves 2)

Ciabatta Rolls (4, cut lengthwise)
Balsamic Vinegar
Mozzarella Cheese (2 cups shredded or one large ball fresh, sliced)
Tomatoes, diced (I used 3 or 4 cherry tomatoes per sandwich)
Fresh Basil (1 bunch, diced)

Utensils: 2 cast iron skillets or heavy pans, the largest canned good item from your pantry (35 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes work well, but anything big will be great)

Slice ciabatta rolls lengthwise, shred/slice cheese & dice tomatoes & basil if necessary.  Heat your largest skillet/pan over medium high heat while assembling the sandwiches.  Take each piece of ciabatta bread & liberally sprinkle the inside portions with balsamic vinegar.  Then, arrange about 1/4 cup of cheese on each 'bottom' piece of bread.  Evenly add in tomatoes & top with basil.  Add on another 1/4 cup or so of cheese & finish the sandwich with the 'top' piece of bread.

Carefully place the sandwiches in the largest skillet/pan.  You may need to cook these in batches, depending on how large your top skillet/pan is.  You need the top skillet to completely cover the sandwiches, so that they can press down the sandwich to melt the cheese & help create a panini effect.  Carefully, place your second skillet/pan directly on top of your sandwiches.  Place your unopened canned good from the pantry on top of the skillet/pan.  This will help press down the sandwich.

Cook over medium high heat for 1-2 minutes, then very carefully remove the canned good & top skillet, & flip the sandwich over.  Replace the top skillet/pan & canned good & cook for another 1-2 minutes.  The cheese should be melted completely & the outside of the rolls should be toasted.

Once the cheese has completely melted, carefully remove the canned good & top skillet.  Remove sandwiches from the pan, cut on the diagonal if you wish & serve!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What's On My List? Small Goals for April

I'm the queen of list-making. I can plan & come up with perfect-on-paper solutions all day long.  When it comes to actually getting the things on my list done though, I struggle.  I get busy, get lazy or just plain forget about my to-dos & then weeks later I sulk about all the things I should've accomplished.  It's frustrating & it's become a silly little loop I've gotten myself into.

When I saw Nicole's April small goals post on her blog, Writes Like a Girl, I was so inspired.  I love the idea of setting a few achievable goals for the month ahead.  She also includes a reflection on the previous month's goals, without the 'everything wasn't impeccable' guilt.

What a wonderful idea?  I like the accountability of putting your intentions online & the idea of working towards progress, not perfection.  I often shame myself if things aren't exactly what I envisioned & it's a hurtful cycle that needs to stop.  The world isn't without fault & I can't expect myself to be.  Plus, what fun would life be if everything happened exactly the way you thought it would?

I've decided to follow in Nicole's footsteps & create a few small goals for myself.  Do you make monthly goals?  If so, I'd love to hear what you're working on in April!

April Goals

  • Get Moving -- In 2016, I'm trying to focus on my health & one of the most significant ways to do that is to get more exercise.   I've been walking, going to YogaYoga for a few classes, shaking it with a Zumba DVD & even jogging the teeniest, tiniest bit, but I want to commit to doing something every day. This past weekend, I got the sweetest little cruiser bike & I'm excited to ride around the neighborhood!

  • Enjoy the Spring -- One of my favorite things about living in Central Texas is the spring wildflowers.  I'm obsessed.  My sister calls me an old lady, but I really like stopping on the side of the road or pulling in alongside an open field & taking photos.  I'm going to take this as an opportunity to work on my Digital SLR camera skills, too.  There is a poppy field in Fredericksburg that is calling my name.

  • Create & Stick to an Editorial Calendar -- This has been on my to-do list for a while now, but this month I'd really like to sit down & spend some time planning out my blogs posts & coming up with some general direction for the next few months.  The other side to this coin will be actually sticking to the plan.  I'll need to hustle to make it happen, but I'm definitely up for writing, creating & cooking more!

  • Complete an Embroidery Project -- Last month I took a great Intro to Embroidery class taught by Allie Biddle, Bedthread Goods, at the Paper Craft Pantry.  I really enjoyed it & diligently worked on the bus, during my lunch break & even a couple of evenings to get my first piece (A sweet Marfa inspired teepee scene from class) finished.  Now, I've got tons of ideas swirling in my head about what I could make next.  I may have even bought some fun fabric/thread for a few projects.  I want to commit to a simple, but fun design & get it done! 

  • Make My Lunch the Night Before -- I don't know about y'all, but I am almost always running behind in the morning.  I hit the snooze button a couple of times & before I know it, I've left myself *just* enough time to shower, get dressed & grab a cup of coffee on my way out.  If my lunch is not completely made, packed & waiting in the fridge, I'm screwed.  Maybe I'll have a few snacks from my drawer for lunch, maybe a pastry & coffee or maybe I'll even spend way too much for something that doesn't taste great but is within walking distance.  All of these options are crap.  So, I'd like to commit to making lunch after dinner so that eating a good lunch is a non-thought.