Smokey Mo’s – Austin, TX

On a recent trip to Austin, Texas, we rediscovered a BBQ joint that we first tried in Conroe: Smokey Mo’s. While I may have been enjoying them for a while and somehow never managed to blog about them, they are still producing very appetising and satisfying meals in multiple locations around Texas.

The run of side dishes is pretty standard, and everything is complimentary to BBQ meats, of course. Fries, potato salad, beans, fried okra, corn on the cob, right down to the self-serve bread, onions, pickles and jalapenos.

Trust me, I helped myself to the pickles.

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Two trays of pickles, just like this!

 

My partner helped himself to not one, but two chop sandwiches. The chop is loaded with sauce and chopped bits and pieces of meat. It’s mostly beef with the occasional turkey or sausage bits mixed in.

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Chop Sandwich before any fixin’s were added.

 

The three meat plate is an indulgent sampler of meats and sides. There’s plenty to choose from, too. I picked the turkey-sausage-sliced brisket combination with a double side of slaw. The second slaw was really for Christopher, but it sure makes the plate look as full as my belly got after eating all this.

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Three meat combo plate with two sides.

 

It’s always pleasant to find a bit of the familiar when travelling that’s not your run of the mill fast food. Visiting Smokey Mo’s was definitely a fit of comfort food in a weekend full of exploration.

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

 

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Elotes!

My partner in crime, Christopher, works with a company that indulges in company lunches once every month or two. Employees are encouraged to bring side dishes and desserts. One of his fellows decided to bring a favorite in Houston and other American cities along the Texas-Mexico border – Street Corn, also called Elotes.

While Christopher was too busy munching to get a photo of the dish, he did manage to bring home the recipe and permission to share it with our readers.

ELOTES – Grilled Mexican Street Corn
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:
6-8 ears sweet corn, husks removed
½ cup Mexican crema (or sub sour cream)
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup minced cilantro
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
¼ tsp ground chipotle pepper, to taste
2 tsp lime zest
2 tbsp lime juice
½ cup cotija cheese, crumbled (or sub crumbled Feta or grated Parmesan)

Directions:
Set up your grill as you normally do. Light your coals and get them good and hot.

While the coals are getting started, in a large mixing bowl combine crema, mayo, cilantro, garlic, ground pepper, lime zest and juice and mix until homogenized.

When grill is ready, place ears of corn directly over hot side of grill and cook, rotating occasionally, until cooked through and charred in spots on all sides.

Transfer corn to cheese mixture and coat well on all sides. Set coated ears onto serving tray and sprinkle with additional cheese and cilantro before serving if desired.

Serve immediately. Lime wedges and crisp corn chips are good sides for this dish.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

If the specific dairy items above are not available in your area, please note the suggested substitutions.

 

Christopher enjoyed the elotes quite a bit, and hopes that you will, too.

Bon appetite!

– Ann Cathey

Pho Lee Vietnamese – Austin, TX

 

On a recent trip to Austin, some friends directed us to a little strip center restaurant to appease my partner’s craving for a traditional Vietnamese dish: pho.

Pho Lee Vietnamese Restaurant is a small, strip center restaurant. It is immaculately clean,t eh staff is friendly and the jasmine tea is always fresh. In spite of it’s seemingly small size, the menu is full of delights from pho, bun, mi, com chien, and Thai offerings to a small number of Chinese dishes. A little something for everyone who enjoys the savory, good-for-the-soul nature of Vietnamese foods.

We took it easy on our carb intake on this trip, sticking to spring rolls and pho. There’s so much more to try that we will just have to visit again, such as the Cafe Sua (Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk, served hot or cold).

Shrimp Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce

Spring rolls with shrimp.

The spring rolls were unexpectedly well done, with a thin and tender rice membrane containing lettuce, cilantro, bean sprouts, boiled shrimp, and served with a light peanut sauce.

 

Pho Tai Nam Gau

Pho Tai, Nam, Gau

Pho Tai, Nam, Gau
Pho noodle soup with thin slices of eye of round steak, well-done flank steak, and marble brisket.

Marble brisket has thin layers of fat like bacon, making it quite tasty.

 

Pho Ga

Pho Ga

Pho Ga
Pho noodle soup with thin slices of white meat chicken, and thinly sliced onion that melts in your mouth.

 

Side VeggiesCilantro, basil, lime, jalapeno and bean sprouts on the side, giving you the options of adding flavor and texture to your pho.

Hoisin, sriracha, a hot chili sauce and soy sauce were available at the table. By adding a bit to each spoonful, rather than the entire bowl, splendid combinations of flavors will keep your pho from homogenization on the palate.

When you are next in Austin and have some time for lunch or needs a hearty, satisfying supper, stop by Pho Lee and indulge your senses.

On the 1-5 scale, Pho Lee has earned:
Cleanliness – 4.5
Service – 4
Quality of food – 4
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 3.5
Overall experience – 4.5

Pho Lee Vietnamese Restaurant
2601 N Interstate 35 Frontage Road
Round Rock, TX 78664
(512) 310-8585

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

Kroger’s Simple Truth

The Simple Truth brand from the Kroger family of stores was created to support the concept that organically grown foods and other natural products should be easy to find, select and integrate into our daily lives. Not only have they given us a visible symbol that’s much larger and more recognizable than any USDA stamp, the variety is seemingly endless.

“With our Simple Truth® Organic line of food and beverages, we aim to make it easier than ever to find a wide range of certified organic options throughout the grocery store. You’ll find products in the produce section, of course — but you can also be on the lookout in the dairy, meat and snack sections, as well as many other aisles in the store.”

Part of the Simple Truth campaign is promoting goods that are “free from” a broad assortment of additives and chemicals. The website maintains a full list of ingredients you no longer have to suffer eye-strain to figure out if they are in a product or not.

Simple Truth also backs Fair Trade certified goods, offering more than 30 products from coffee to coconut, with more to come in the future.

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After receiving a free sample of some Simple Truth products in the mail, with instructions to share some, we’ve had a great time not only sharing, but meeting other folks who enjoy the products as much as we do.

We liked them so much, we keep going back for more.

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Ann Cathey

Dr. Praeger’s

I was recently asked to try out part of the Dr. Praeger’s line of frozen products. Information from My Magazine Sharing Network states:

“Dr. Praeger’s is a family-owned, natural products company founded by heart surgeons more than 20 years ago. All products are made from sensibly sourced ingredients that can be enjoyed by all ages and cater to a variety of lifestyles. You’ll find everything from veggie burgers to cakes, littles, puffs, hash browns, seafood and ready-to-heat bowls.

Look on the packaging for Non-GMO Project Verification, Gluten Free, Soy Free, Kosher, Vegan and Marine Stewardship Council Certified Sustainable seafood logos.”

My Magazine Sharing Network offered me some coupons including a free item. Of course, we had to try them out!

While not the easiest things to find in the spread out freezer section of my local grocery, find them we did. Making our selections wasn’t easy with all the tempting varieties, but we settle on three: Fish Bites (for me), Buffalo Fish Bites (for my partner), and Four Potato Hash Browns (for both of us). Each of the boxes seemed a bit small, but we found out quickly that the portion sizes were larger in our stomachs than they looked to our eyes.

We followed the directions as indicated, finding them to be simple and quick.  Then we started tossing ideas back and forth to come up with some fun ways to serve up the goodies.

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My partner’s rather large taco, topped with the hashbrowns. No hot sauce needed. Flour tortilla, Romaine lettuce, sour cream, and Colby Jack cheese.

 

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My own plate.  A “burger” of hash browns filled with Colby Jack cheese, sour cream, fish bites, and served with more fish bites, kosher pickle and Romaine lettuce. Delicious!

The Fish Bites surprised me by including jalapeno, but they were not hot. They were flavorful, crispy, and had a good balance of meat and breading for their size. They’ll make great fish tacos, would be good tumbled with other like sized seafood bites, and may be eaten with or without any sort of sauce.

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The Buffalo Fish Bites were much warmer, being spicy but maintaining a fairly low heat.  They offered a good baseline buffalo flavor that might be added to for those who like their buffalo sauce to be hotter. They made a very tasty taco, and could be presented as a lighter alternative to traditional wings.

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The Four Potato Hash Browns were a delightful surprise. They include red, gold, purple and sweet potatoes shredded and formed into lovely round patties. They have a sweetness natural to the potatoes, and crisp up on the outside very nicely when baked.

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Any of these combinations would have been great with other additions such as avocado,  diced tomato and/or onion, yogurt in place of sour cream,  or salsa. Let your imagination take you away!

We plan on picking up a few other Dr. Praeger’s products in the future and seeing what we can do with those. I’m excited at the prospect.

— Ann Cathey

 

Breakfast! It’s Good for You!

It is said that breakfast is an important part of your day, and I have found this to be true. Making a few minutes every morning for food to get your day started has a lot of potential benefits.

There’s a lot of research out there on the effects of a nutritionally balanced morning meal (whenever your relative morning may be), though even a simple glass of orange juice can get your motor running more effectively than an empty stomach.

Your metabolic rate will get a boost if you wake your system up with some breakfast. This not only gets your fat-burning potential revved up, but can energize your whole system. Your body and brain can benefit from the boost. They should me more energized and active all during the day.

Your heart, the central motor of your circulatory system, will likely thank you. Breakfast may assist in reducing the risk of a number of heart disease risks, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Cognitive function can be difficult to maintain if you are being distracted by a cramping or growling stomach. Higher protein foods can help your stomach remain satisfied, which in turn tends to keep down overeating later in the day.

Your mood is another factor that breakfast can help with. Starting your day on an empty stomach can make you cranky, especially if you are a coffee drinker. Adding food to your morning can help keep you on a even keel. Even a cup of yogurt can help, and add 1 of the 3 recommended servings of dairy to your daily intake.

Breakfast doesn’t always have to be super healthy granola and berries, either. As the start to your day, it can be a wide rage of tasty things depending on your dietary requirements. The two recipes below are bacon-based palate pleasers!

BREAKFAST CLUB
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 1

Ingredients:
1 croissant
1 egg, fried or scrambled
2 leaves Romaine lettuce
1 Roma tomato, thinly sliced
2 slices bacon, cooked
3 slices oven roasted deli turkey
3 sliced honey deli ham
Mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper to taste

Slice your croissant in half as a base for the sandwich. Apply condiments to taste. Layer on remaining ingredients as you prefer. Insert two toothpicks, one on either side, and slice in half. Enjoy.

NOTES: Why anyone would want to pile more salt on top of the sodium in the meats is beyond me, but some folks prefer a lot of salt. For this sandwich, I prefer fluffy scrambled eggs held together by a slice of cheddar or Swiss above and below, a brown mustard, and sliced pickle instead of tomato. The suggested condiments are all right, but not to my personal taste. My partner on the other hand, loves yellow mustard and black pepper.

The prep time for doing two to four of these sandwiches is not noticeably different. Not only are they great for a fairly quick breakfast, they are also a delicious addition to the brunch table.

 

BACON CINNAMON ROLLS
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:
1 package refrigerated cinnamon rolls (with cream cheese icing)
2 slices bacon, cooked (not too crispy) PER ROLL

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Prep a baking sheet with either parchment paper or baking spray.

Unroll the dough onto a flat surface with the cinnamon side up. If the rolls do not separate during this process, cut them apart gently. Lay 2 slices of bacon along each strip on the cinnamon side. Re-roll each strip of dough, maintaining the bacon along one long edge of the dough.

Place the bacon rolls flat side down on on the prepared baking dish. Bake 16-20 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. Remove to wire rack and let stand for five minutes.

Glaze the rolls with icing while still warm. Let stand until glaze is set. Serve warm.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

NOTES: Make sure you have 2 slices of bacon per roll noted on the packaging – some packs of cinnamon rolls contain 6 rolls, while others may have 8 or 10. Adjust your recipe accordingly.

Whip an ounce or two of cream cheese with the icing from the package, or just spread cream cheese instead of the sugar for a less sweet breakfast roll. When using the cream cheese by itself, you might consider adding a dash of chili powder to the roll before adding the bacon, or dried or fresh herbs for a more savory presentation.

I prefer to cook the bacon, drain and pat it dry of excess grease. Beef bacon as well as pork bacon both go well with this recipe. I have not tried it out with turkey or tofu based bacon products.

I had to learn the hard way that breakfast really was a good way to start my day. In making it a practice, however, I find myself with more energy and have actually lost a few pounds over the last year – without really trying. You might give it a shot if you don’t already eat breakfast in the mornings and see how you feel after a week or so.

Enjoy!

– Ann Cathey

Rachael’s Mostly-Lazy Tomato Bisque

A friend of mine tried to record her own recipe for tomato bisque while she was making a batch recently. This is what she came up with. Give it a try and leave a note for her in the comments. I’ll be sure any comments get to her.

Rachael’s Mostly-Lazy Tomato Bisque
Serves 4 as side dish/appetizer, 2 as a meal

Ingredients:
28-oz can crushed tomatoes
14 oz can vegetable broth or seafood broth(lobster/shrimp)
Garlic cloves, peeled (as many as you want. I used an entire head)
Butter (2-8 tbsp…go with your preference)
2 tbsp dried basil (or a handful of chopped fresh)
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp paprika (I used smoked-highly recommend)
1 tsp salt (again, used wood-smoked cause it’s amazing!)
1 tsp pepper
1/2 c heavy cream

Optional: 
Truffle dust (yes, seriously. I love this stuff and have an addiction. Don’t judge me.)
Splash of olive oil

Directions:
Add first 4 ingredients to pot. Simmer on medium, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted.

Slowly stir in the herbs and seasoning (or just dump ’em in if you’re a rebel). If you’re using truffle dust or olive oil, add them now. Simmer until garlic is soft, at least 30 minutes.

Add the heavy cream to a separate bowl and slowly pour a couple of ladles of the bisque into it, stirring to prevent curdling. Pour this back into the pot and stir until well combined.

If you want a smoother bisque run it through a blender, but I prefer to leave a little bit of texture to the soup and only pureed a portion of it. If you do only puree a portion, make sure you get all of the garlic cloves into the blender.

Serve hot with your favorite tomato soup/bisque toppings. Shredded cheese, sour cream,  shrimp, bacon are all tried and true additions.

 

 

Please leave Rachael a comment if you try out her recipe. It looks delicious to me!

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey