Drafthouse Diaries: Selma on MLK Day

I’m not going to lie, one of my favorite parts to seeing a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse (aside from the no talking/texting/babies/arriving late policy, the great 35 MM offerings, the special events, the and the food) is the preshow. The Drafthouse always puts premium effort into making sure I see something new and exciting that relates to whatever I plan to watch by creating unique and engaging preshows.

Drafthouse Selma

I was particularly impressed by the effort that went in to the preshow for Selma, which I waited to watch on MLK Day as part of my celebration thereof. The preshow for this movie included actual historic footage of Civil Rights protests that were intercut with documentary interviews with the participants so you got to not only see and hear but feel the events leading up to Selma. As a bonus, several of the people interviewed and shown were also characters in the film.

I had been very nervous about watching this movie because, despite the fact that I know my Civil Rights history and that there’s a good ending, I also know all the not so good that happens in between and had been having a hard time not crying just watching the previews for this movie. I teared up multiple times in the preshow watching people being beaten and berated.

I *did* manage to make it through the film without openly crying… in two scenes just barely. Having seen the film, I am more floored than before that it didn’t get more Academy Award nominations. The cinematography was excellent and you can’t tell me that there were not outstanding acting noms to be had, especially with the other items nominated this and in the previous few years.

DIY Home Improvement: Spraypainting Switchplates

Take a second to look at your switch plate in whatever room you are in. Is it old and yellowed plastic that maybe has chipped paint on the screw and more than a little dinginess from being repeatedly touched? Good news, that’s relatively normal. Bad news, for $7 you can redo all the plates in your house and you haven’t done it yet.

I decided I was tired of staring at the ones in the house, bought a bottle of Rustoleum Ultimates in Antique Nickel, laid them out on a trash bag with the screws in, spent 20 mins painting and touching up, and boom. I even had over half of the bottle left so I get to come up with other ideas.

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We are already talking about using the Oil Rubbed Bronze on the two rooms that tend in that direction over silver/nickel/stainless and can use the rest or the can on refinishing the living room furniture next weekend because things turned out so well. IMG_1509 As you can see in this pic, they look better than the subpar groutwork the previous owners did, but also that they have a little sparkliness in direct light (seen here from the undermount Ikea Dioder pack) but that they otherwise look just the right amount of shiny and from a distance it is hard to tell that they aren’t metal.

If you’re worried about scratching, you can always hit it with a coat of varnish.

 

Kitchen Experiment 8,971: Deus Ex Pasta

IMG_1505I recently moved from my much beloved and weird South Austin to a blander but cheaper cost of living in far North Austin. One of the key things I’ve been missing up here is restaurant diversity. I had a stable of solid Greek places down south that I just don’t have up north so I decided it was high time to attempt to recreate and update one of my favorite dishes from one of my favorite south Austin Greek places, Zorba. Zorba is probably a chain or something but they have a great chef down south creating some good food and one of my faves was a chicken pasta that used a feta creme sauce along with mushrooms and, when they had them on hand (and sometimes when I was there they didn’t :-/ ) artichoke hearts.

I grabbed a large thing of feta and baby San Marzano tomatoes from Costco, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and imported pasta from Trader Joe’s, and sorta pulled this recipe from the ether, so here it goes:

Deus Ex Pasta of Epicness

Cook Time: 30 mins
Serves: 4 hearty helpings, 6 reasonable helpings

Ingredients:
1 cup red onion, diced
1-2 cups mushrooms, diced
1 cup grape tomatoes, diced ( I used San Marzanos for flavor)
1 can artichoke hearts, diced with the can only half drained (12 or 16 oz can, don’t skimp)
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, diced (you can use more if you want)
2 chicken breasts (you can leave this out if you want it vegetarian)
2 TBS Miracle Whip with Olive Oil
1/3 cup Olive Oil (Extra Virgin if you got it)
1/2 cup White Wine (citrus notes, bright if you got it)
2 cups Feta
Greek Seasonings (I used Savory Spice Shop’s Mt. Olympus mix)
1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, diced (or 1 TBS of the stuff in a jar)
Black Pepper (to taste, can use Lemon Pepper)
1 standard sized bag of pasta of choice (I used Trader Joe’s imported radiatore)

Cooking Instructions:
1. In a standard skillet or wok, combine your defrosted chicken breasts, the garlic, 1/2 cup water, and a liberal amount of your Greek Seasoning and Black Pepper and allow to cook on medium high heat, flipping the breasts every few minutes for even consistency. You may baste the breasts with olive oil to add flavor. Put on a pot of water to boil for the pasta.

2. Once the chicken is almost done, pull it with a fork and add your veggies to the skillet. Stir them occasionally while you chop the almost done breasts into small (bite sized) pieces and then toss the chicken back in.

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3) Your pasta water should be boiling, now drop your pasta in it to cook via the instructions for your pasta.

4) Your veggies should have cooked up nicely, now add the liquid from your artichoke hearts, the white wine, the 2 cups of feta, and your miracle whip to create the sauce. Stir continuously for several minutes and add more seasonings as desired.

5) Once your pasta is done, pour your chicken and sauce over your pasta.

6) Enjoy with a side of your white wine.

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Epic Eats: KaProw Sushi and Thai in Austin, Texas

I’ve been looking for fun and exciting new experiences and things to eat in 2015. We decided to head in to KaProw Sushi and Thai in north Austin as I’m feeling out my new surroundings up here and still haven’t found a solid Thai place and found great Foursquare reviews for the price, selection, and quality at this neighborhood gem.
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We started with the appetizer with the most fun name: the Avocano which is a hot (probably baked) avocado, with crab meat and spicy mayo on top with a touch of caviar. This thing was absolutely delicious, so much so the beau and I are already planning how to recreate this thing at home and variants. The heating of the avocado leaves it creamy which plays well off the saltiness to the caviar, the spiciess of the mayo, and the slight lemon acidity to the crab.

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Because I’m a glutton for crab, I also grabbed the Blue Crab Fried Rice which was super solid, especially at the cheap price. I would have added bean sprouts (and will when I go back) but the overall flavor was great and I could tell the crab didn’t come out of a can or something and was fresh.

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Finally, even the fortune cookie reminded me that I really need to finish my law school apps.

Gardening Update :)

Last year began in earnest an herb garden. Despite 2 of our 4 herbs dying, one from the heat of the summer, the other from the cold of an unexpected freeze in March, we chose to continue our project. We picked a great time to do so because as we headed to Lowe’s for something else, we realized that they had many of their plants on sale. With the budget we’d used last year for 4 herbs, we were able to pick up 2 heartier herbs to fill out the herb planter, 3 pepper plants, and a tomato plant. Cautious optimism began to creep into our senses that maybe growing things really wasn’t that hard, after all, the plants really do most of the work and fresh herbs taste so much better than their non-fresh counterparts.

After a month of growth, I’m rather excited about where the plants are now. First, let me introduce you to herb garden 2.0. Our parsley from last year is massive, it has had absolutely no problems in the Texas heat or the chill or really anything. It’s like a voracious cyborg of an herb plant whose tenacity makes me think its the plant equivalent of Chuck Norris. You see it holding down the entire end of the planter with an iron fist. Next to the parsley is a nice dill plant that has really taken off, too, which is great because I’ve discovered that I really like dill and the boyfriend is part Greek so dill is apparently something like a food group. Next to that, we’ve got some oregano. Next to that, our oregano has finally started to come into its own after a year of not really being big enough for me to not feel bad cutting parts of it off all the time. It is still growing slower than all of my other plants, but slow and steady I guess. Finally, we replaced the sage which withered and died last year in the Texas heat with a new and improved sage that’s better suited to our climate. For some reason it’s been cut off in this picture but I assure you that it’s there and is doing quite well, too. The herb garden has been pretty low maintenance, I water it every day and treat it with Miracle Grow about once a week (read as every 7-10 days, when I remember). I have also done some minimal trimming to pull of dead parts. No pesticides, no fungicides, no *insert whatever here*-cides, and I reused the Miracle Grow moisture lock soil I got last year. This has already gone so well that we are planning on expanding the herb garden yet again next year to include a large strawberry pot of other herbs we use frequently.
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You can also see in this pic our dual pepper pot which has 2 varieties of spicy peppers. Last year we tried a bell pepper plant and the poor thing got eaten all the time by wild animals. It graciously produced a single tiny pepper before it gave up after all its leaves were eaten for the 4th time by a vicious murdering herbivore. So far our super spicy peppers have yet to be touched by the local fauna and have grown so well that after 2 weeks I had to get garden stakes and tape and now after 4 weeks they’re tall enough that I need bigger garden stakes.

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Here are my peppers after one week. Note the change in the dual pepper pot. The purple flash pepper has been gorgeous and has already coated itself in flowers and begun to produce its peppers. It is absolutely coated with tiny baby peppers that start purple but will eventually mature into spicy little red peppers. This one is really gratifying because it’s very pretty and lends a pop of color while also needing basically no attention to grow. It’s bushier than my other plants and has grown out more than up so I am glad I put it in a pot by itself.

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Here’s a pic of some of the pretty purple blossoms and early sprouted peppers on the purple flash in week 4. I’m really excited to try the peppers to see how they taste.

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Look at the blooms on my tomato plant. It’s my very first tomato plant and it has grown like a weed in a month’s time, from a tiny $2 plant to over 2′ tall. It’s actually outgrown the garden stake so I get to start looking into an attractive tomato cage for it soon. I have been told that tomatoes were a pain but this one has not been hard to grow at all, let’s hope that remains the case because I’m excited to see the yellow heirloom tomatoes it will make when its ready.
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Overall, this time around gardening has been rather simple and has given me the confidence to make plans for later in the year and next year. We’ve discussed the possibility of potatoes and mushrooms for this odd dark part of our side yard, and expanding the herb garden next year, and I’ve found myself looking up fun and new plants to think about growing. As a gift for my exceptional stint as plant mom, the boyfriend even picked me up a killer leopard print garden set from Tuesday Morning. Who knew gardening could be so fashionable?

 

 

Kitchen Experiment 7,433: Quick Tuscan English Muffin Breakfast Sammys

This month, we came in over budget. It’s easy to do when you’re in 3 shows between the 2 of you. We were looking for a way to save some green to get out of the red, and I noted that he does breakfast at Starbucks every morning. The worst part about this, he doesn’t even actually like their coffee and if you remember correctly, I thrifted him a seriously nice coffee maker when we bought the house so he could have Dunkin’ Doughnuts at home because there’s not one in this part of the city. He admitted that he goes because he wants to grab a breakfast snack on the way in to work. So, to save us about $10/day on coffee and a snack, all I have to do is figure out a simple breakfast meal and that alone will put us back in budget? Done.

The first easy option, make one of those muffin tin breakfast things I keep sing on Pinterest, but instead of filling it with garbage, pick something delicious and toss it in a high fiber but light on calories Thomas’ English Muffin for portability. In the past we’ve made breakfast frittatas but it was hard for him to take them in the car so the muffin attempts to fix this while also giving it the hunger staving power of whole grains. I have a feeling I will be doing a series of these where I come up with different recipes for the filling veggies.

Quick Tuscan English Muffin Breakfast Sammys

Ingredients:
-1 pint egg whites (such as Egg Beaters or your local version thereof)
-1/2 bag of baby spinach
-1-2 good solid handfulls of sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
-1/2 bag of mushrooms
-1 clove of garlic, minced (optional)
-1/4 cup feta
-12 slices of bacon

Directions:
1) Preheat the oven to 350.
2) Pull out a muffin pan for medium sized muffins/cupcakes (this recipe is for a dozen-sized one, double to make 24) and lightly grease it with your favorite oil (I used sunflower seed oil).
3) Curl your bacon into a circle and place in the cup with the bacon touching the cup all the way ’round. The bacon on the outside will make the whole thing easier to handle when it’s cooked.
4) Drop an even amount of baby spinach across your dozen cups.
5) Repeat with sundried tomatoes.
6) Repeat with mushrooms.
7) Repeat with garlic, if desired
8) Fill cups to just below the top with your egg whites.
9) Sprinkle with feta on top.
10) Put in oven and cook for 15-20 minutes, until done. You can check them by poking a fork inside to make sure the middle is cooked.
11) Remove from oven, allow to cool, and place in freezer bags to store. These breakfast pucks will freeze well, too.
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12) When you’re ready to eat them, set your toaster oven to your desired level, place the puck on one of the sides of the muffin and allow the toaster to toast the muffin while also heating your breakfast puck.
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13) Boom, artisan style breakfast at a fraction of the price, every single morning.

Makes: 12 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 mins in oven, 3-5 mins in the toaster oven when you’re ready to eat it

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Thrifty Thursday: Gourmet Cooking Oils

I love Homegoods, I get all manner of home decor, kitchen wares, and even food there. My biggest pleasure is all the odd food they have- artisan oils, ancient grains, and great confection supplies at great prices. We’ve been playing around with oils starting with a dented can of Walnut oil I picked up there a few months back. It was followed up with hazelnut oil, sunflower seed oil, truffled oil, and now this, a great set of fun new oils including pistachio oil, which I’ve never even heard of. I’m excited to get to incorporate these into fun new recipes and to replenish my much-loved hazelnut oil stash. In case you’re wondering, hazelnut oil lends an earthy nuttiness to everything and is great for savory foods in general.

I grabbed this artisan nut oil trio for under $20 and think it was money well spent.

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Dinner Party on a Dime: Super Kaiju Party Deluxe Edition

Having just wrapped up a long stint of show after show after show for both of us, there’s no better way to celebrate than a fun-filled game night with friends. I love to up the ante with great menus and themes for our get-togethers. This one was Asian-inspired with a full slate of our Asian themed games, a full menu of Asian foods, and kaiju movies.

The Games:
-King of Tokyo- Players are kaiju attacking the city of Tokyo and must manage life points, victory points, and power points to buy exciting powers and game changers in this fun resource management game for 2-4 players. Several expansions are available with add new layers to the game and allow it to accommodate 6 players.
-Tsuro, The Game of the Path- This one is a simple tile-placing game. Players place tiles which have 4 paths on them and move their pieces along the connected paths while trying to remain on the board. Opposing players are forced to follow paths which connect with their own to make things competitive but fun.
Hanabi- An interesting cooperative game in which players represent a team of pyrotechnic experts whose fireworks have gotten jumbled. Players must hold their decks facing away from themselves and receive hints from other players as to which cards to play or discard. Cards must be played in ascending order of 1-5 with the correct corresponding color. Higher card values are rarer, with only one of each 5 available.
-Munchkin Fu- It’s Asian themed Munchkin.
We also had Shoei, Csai, and Ninja available but didn’t get around to them.

The Decor:
For this particular game night, I didn’t care much because the food was going to do most of the talking. I did dress up Boris, our chalk board pig, for the occasion of course and we do have Miguel, our giant rope octopus, but otherwise I had to rely on all the fun chopsticks and Asian dishes and platters I have lying around.
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The Food:

This was a full on multi-course buffet of me getting all manner of previously uneaten Asian goods out of my house in a single go and it worked like a charm.
Sushi Starters
First off, we did buy some sushi. I had this original idea of making my own and still have that dream for one mysterious day in the future, but for now, we grabbed some stuff on special at HEB because we woke up late and are cheap. It didn’t matter because this sushi was gone in a matter of about 2 hours.

1401054772935Pro-Tip: Make your own spicy mayo by taking Japanese Kewpie mayo, adding a touch of sriracha, and a dash of Miracle whip. Get the Kewpie mayo at your local Asian market.

Asian Slaw and Krab Stick Party Massacre
I had envisioned bothering to make spring rolls filled with Asian slaw, but people ate my cooked Asian slaw before I even had time to worry about wrappers.  I cheated by grabbing a bag of a pre-made Asian salad from the grocery store and just cooked it in a pan with a little water. Everyone destroyed it while I was cooking the Krab to go with.
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The krab, which was originally the “meat” for my spring rolls ended up also being devoured before I had a time to wrap it in something. I just picked up frozen krab from the store, tossed it in a wok with some ponzu, a little lemon juice, some soy sauce, and some lemon pepper. It was gone pretty much as soon as I put it down. I felt like I was actually feeding kaiju.  By the time I got to take a pic of it, there was only this measly serving left.
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To appease my voracious guests, I then threw together a quick Asian inspired soup. For the base I used water and beef Better than Bouillon, to which I added eggs, green onions, shittake mushrooms, cubed tofu, and some kale.
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I then followed my base fried rice recipe and added a bag of Asian mix veggies and a bag of peas and carrots. We also grilled some chiken breasts and some beef with teriyaki sauce for people to add to their rice as desired. The meat was eaten so quickly I didn’t even get a chance to take a pic of it. We marinated it in a mix of teriyaki sauce, ponzu, and soy sauce for a few hours before grilling it. Apparently it was delicious.

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Kitchen Experiment 9,841: Quick and Dirty Thai Not So Fried Rice

I’ve been trying to reform my food-going ways lately, adopting a less meat, less dairy, less processed, more veggies and whole grains approach. It also means being a little more inventive/adventurous in the kitchen with my fun new healthy ingredients I’m incorporating into the diet. It also means coming up with ways to use leftover ingredients before they go bad, particularly veggies. I found myself with a slew of veggies, a hunger in my stomach, and a 30 minute window to have food prepared and ready to go. No problem.

Quick and Dirty Thai Not So Fried Rice

Ingredients:
-3 eggs
-1 block tofu (extra hard, pressed)
-1 medium zucchini, chopped
-1/2 bag mushrooms, chopped
-1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
-1/2 large red onion, diced
-1/2 bag baby spinach
-1 bunch green onions, diced
-3 TBS Thai chili rub
-1 liberal squirt of sriracha
-1 bag mung bean sprouts
-3 cups pre-cooked rice

Directions:
Toss your  onions in a wok and cook on medium high heat for 3-5 minutes, or until limp.
Add all the other veggies and tofu, cook on medium high heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring well to cook evenly.
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Add your eggs and stir until cooked.
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Toss in your rice, and season with your sriracha and chili rub as desired.
Plate your fried rice, then toss your sprouts and an egg in the wok on medium high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring as needed.
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Plate and enjoy.

Makes: 2-4 servings depending on your appetite
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Suggested Uses:

 

 

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