Fabulous Find: Stray from Stickage

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Happy Thursday, friends.  This will be a short one- I'm due to rise at the ridiculously insane hour of 3:45am
(I am a part-time barista- mornings are made for my kind).  However, this post could not wait.  I have a newfound kitchen tool that I must share with you.

Many of you may already know of these- and if so, fabulous- welcome to the club. 

If not, you will learn right now.  These are not-to-be-missed.

These are non-stick baking mats, otherwise known as Silpat mats (most common brand).  Well, Silpat is one type, mine are actually the Paderno brand- but most know of these inventions by the former.

Behold, the Silpat mat:





They are a MUST in the kitchen of any baker.  A must.

Goodbye parchment.  
Goodbye non-stick cooking spray.  
Hello money-saving, less clean-up, one-less-thing-to-worry-about.

They are lovely.  

However, upon visiting Williams-Sonoma, I couldn't
seem to find the Silpat brand, but did find Paderno,
which works just as well!

Here are my new beauties:



Aren't they lovely?



So...of course, I had to make cookies.
You know, to break 'em in.
I had to.












Beautiful.  No stickage.  No stainage.
Easy clean-up.



Yep, cookies tasted simply divine.
I attribute it to the mats.
And...the chocolate.
And maybe the two sticks of butter.



Anyway-
Just get the mats, you'll be thoroughly satisfied!
And...maybe inclined to bake more of the
above treats for yourself.

You know, because you have to.




Carnivorous Indulgence.

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I've been gone a while.  Sorry about that.  But my apologies are just- I have been out of town (and still am) but I could not refrain from this post.  This is one that must be written.

Backstory:  I grew up in the good ol' Midwest but in high school my family moved to New Braunfels, Texas- a small German town smack-dab between Austin and San Antonio.  I attended my final years of secondary school in the south, then returned north for college.  However there are many areas of my heart that remain in the Lonestar State.  And, well, a few part of my stomach.

Figuratively speaking, that is.

There are an incredible amount of eateries that I have to hit during my stay but the feature today is the one I must hit every day upon arrival.

Quite frankly, you must, I repeat must, know about this little southern gem that I've kept in my back pocket.

You see, I love Barbeque.  LOVE it.  I think I've previously mentioned my slight pulled pork obsession.  I am from the heartland- we enjoy our swine.  It is for this reason alone that I could simply never be vegetarian.  I. just. couldn't.  I adore vegetables- far more than most, I'm sure.  But every so often there is a yearning deep within my bowels (sorry, bad visual) for roasted meat.

I'd like to think of myself like this:


Dainty, glamorous, but good BBQ has the ability to flip
my skirt and make me tingle.  
Yeah, it can do that to a person.
Even the most dainty of women.

And I'd like to think of Mr. K and myself like this 
lovely couple:


We get our kicks out of cookin' over a spit.
However Mr. K wouldn't be caught dead in
flannel and I'm pretty sure this head has never seen
a set of rollers to procure that updo.  
Ah well, you can't have it all.

BUT my friends.  You can have the experience.
If you are in south Texas, that is.

Because as much as I love BBQ- I simply cannot
grill meat like this place:



Have any of my readers ever been?  Because if you have experienced it- you are one of the chosen few who can and will enter the club of fabulousness.  Really.  You simply cannot live this life and have not had Rudy's.  

However.

I know there are camps in the BBQ realm.  People from Kansas City will argue that BBQ has to be a certain way, people in the Carolinas will dispute sauces, folks throughout Texas even have their own opinions and ideas.  In fact, true carnivore enthusiasts down here call Rudy's "fast food BBQ"--but I refuse to accept the label because, well, the taste does not equal such a brand.  However the price does- but who could complain about that?

And quite frankly, this is my blog.  Not theirs.  'Round these parts- what I say goes.  

And I say, "Rudy's, Rudy's, Rudy's!!"  Yeah.  Everytime I see the movie regarding a certain Nortre Dame underdog who came into football greatness I always think of BBQ.  I'm a foodie- sorry.  Football isn't something that trips my trigger, but food?  Oh yeah.

And this place has it.  That special something. 


Step right up, enjoy the view.
It isn't spacious or ritzy,
it doesn't need to be.


We don't go for atmospheric ambiance here.
We go here to eat.  And eat, we do.


The meal is not served on fancy platters or dainty dishes.
Wax paper is all ya need.
Wax paper, slabs of meat...
And some sauce.
But more on that in a few.


Oh and a tower of white bread.  Yeah.
And maybe some sides.  
But the meat shines.  Sides aren't necessary.


My choice is a 1/4 lb of pork loin, and a 1/4 lb of brisket.
I also grab a side of three bean salad (gotta throw some
fiber in there somewhere to make myself feel better) and 
big fat cuppa this:


SWEET tea, baby.

It's the nectar of the southern soul.

BUT.  If you cannot visit.
And you have no intention to 
(I'm not sure I could forgive the latter).
You can still order somma this:


The best BBQ sauce on this side of heaven.  
I'm pretty sure heaven's is incomparable but this
will suffice until I arrive.

Or, if you prefer to be a sissy milder flavors,
you can partake in the less spicy versions:


But truly, truly.

This place is divine.
It's the first place I go when I arrive.
It's my once-a-day-stop for sweet tea.
It's the last location I want to hit before I head home.

It's all that and more.

Find your nearest location
After partaking, you'll eternally question 
your food chain status.



Heirloomery.

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Guess what time it is, sweet friends?  GUESS.

Okay, you're stumped, I know.  But really, really?!  I am borderline-unhealthily-giddy whenever May rolls around because, dearest readers, THIS is the time for my favorite weekend event.

What am I ranting on about?

This is what:

Yeah.
Oh hello, beautiful heirlooms.
Did you miss me? 
I longed for you.  Pined, really.
Yearned.



Oh, dearest, sweet and crisp veggies. 
Be still my heart.



Hello, quirky farmer's marketians.  You make me smile.
Probably because I am one of you.
We are a special breed, we are.

Although I cannot sleep in folding chairs,
we are kindred spirits.


So, yes.
It is time.
I long for this day throughout the dead of Winter.
I pine during the early days of Spring.
I get restless when late April rolls around.
I shout for joy on May 1st.

I even do a little jig.
I'm a little weird like that.
Seriously though,
this is my absolute favorite time of year- except autumn leaves
and the smell of freshly picked apples--ooh, nothing beats it.

But I digress.

Yes, early May holds a special place in my heart.  Why?  Because the fruits of our local soil make known their presence- and they make a bold, triumphant entry.  I visited our local farmer's market Saturday morning and beheld the stark beauty of vibrant colors, happy omnivores sipping piping hot coffee, strolling with their babies in Bjorns and smelling the pungent goodness that is fresh produce & flowers.

Oh it was divine.

I never know what I will purchase when I leave the house (I know, I know, that's the #1 no-no when shopping anywhere).  But really, I like to walk the aisles in search of inspiration, asking myself, Which herbs are singing to me?  Which veggies are begging to be eaten?  Which fruits look juiciest, most succulent?  Which grains look heartiest and would taste best with a big slathering of canned apple butter?

Oh yes, inspiration abounds.

However there is ONE thing I always know in advance to look for.
One thing that marks the celebration of the beginning of the season.
One thing I crave for months and just NEED immediately when those
gates open.

Heirloom tomatoes.


Oh the succulent, juicy, sweet-and-tangy, messy goodness of these seasonal fruits.





Incredible doesn't seem to do it justice.
Extraordinary. 
Yes, that fits. 

I need these immediately upon entering the market.
I scout for them, scanning each stand until I find the tomato lady- I haven't a clue what her name is but she's there every year and she always has an incredibly long line of avid tomato enthusiasts awaiting their plunder.  She also sells seedless cucumbers, red and green bell peppers, and banana peppers but my absolute need is for her heirloom beauties.

I can taste them as I stand there impatiently, salivating as I think of my plans for them back home.

And I do have plans.

The very first thing I make is this salad.  THIS is what I crave for months on end until I feel I just might burst with anticipation.

It's the signatory emblem of the beginning of summer.

This, my friends, is marinated tomatoes.

Oh yeah.

Now- normally I try to suppress my food snobbery but not here.  You simply cannot use any other tomatoes. They must be home or locally grown, in season, ripe tomatoes.  Please do NOT use the store-bought variety. They just defile this dish.  

This dish shall NOT be defiled.  Please, I beg you.

Please use fresh tomatoes and even better, heirloom, but really- any locally grown tomato will do.  What are heirloom tomatoes, you ask?  Here is the best description I could find.  Basically they are special seeds that are, as the name suggests, passed down from generation to generation in a family- mainly because they have produced above-par produce.

But back to this dish.

It's a-mazing.  And versatile in-the-sense that you may eat these babies on anything and everything you wish.

So let's get started.

Marinated Tomatoes
-6 to 8 fresh, locally grown tomatoes
-red wine or balsamic vinegar
-olive oil
-salt & pepper
-fresh basil (not dried, the real deal)

Instructions:
- Slice up tomatoes in thick slabs, grab a round or square Tupperware dish, place one layer of tomatoes on the bottom, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, pepper, and chopped basil.  Layer and do the same again, and again, until the tomatoes are gone.  Pour 1/3 cup olive oil over top and 2-3 Tbsp vinegar.  Secure top on the dish and turn upside down to mix through.  Place in fridge for at least 2 hours.  

That's it, my friends.  It's the easiest thing in the world and gets better as it sits so let it chill a while.  The measurements are versatile and can be altered to suit your tastes and preferences.

But truly, there is nothing better in the world than
this sweet sight:


Oh my, the smell of fresh basil is unparalleled.


Grab your ingredients.


Layer up.



Beautiful.

My absolute favorite is simply grabbing a fork and eating 
them straight from the dish with a good hunk of fresh bread n' butter.
But here is another way to eat 'em:





This was yesterday's lunch.  A wrap slathered with pesto, 
spread far and wide with spinach, a sprinkling of bleu cheese,
and, of course, lovely marinated tomatoes.

Those veggies are from the farmer's market as well.
Oh me, oh my.
How gorgeous is this spread?





I will take that.
Yes please.

Now, I beg you, go find your local farmer's market
and partake in some of the earth's greatest treats.  
It'll change your life.
Or your cravings anyway.