J.L.Tries To Make A Veggie Burger (And Succeeds!)

Something that I’ve been itching to try was a veggie burger. Last year, I unintentionally started a journey of trying various veggie burgers at restaurants and comparing them. One day I’ll write a post highlighting the best veggie burgers, but for now I’m here to show y’all my attempt (this isn’t a recipe post as so much showing my attempt at making a veggie burger).

Since I had leftover mashed sweet potato and needed to get rid of it, I decided to make sweet potato a big part of the burger. A quick search took me to this interesting recipe for a sweet potato and black bean burger from a blog titled Minimalist Baker. My version replaces the rice with rolled oats, omitted out the walnut/pecan meal (which is a thing I just have heard about), and I cooked them on the stove top rather than baking them.

First things first, I drained and rinsed a can of unsalted black beans before mashing them. I then added the sweet potato mash* along with my seasonings and some oats.

Once everything was mixed, I formed them into patties and put them in a lightly greased pan. The patties held up for the most part, though I think an egg would help it stick better, and they cooked quite well. I cooked them until they brown on both sides.

Now comes the assembly. I didn’t go full on vegan with my patty  because I like cheese way too much so you’ll see I have a slice of Colby jack. I added some spinach for some iron and leafy goodness and jalapeno ranch dressing for that creamy, spicy kick. All of it sandwiched between a cut and toasted English muffin. Let me just say that I had a good Friday night when I made this!

The amount I made had enough for at least two or three more patties and trust me, they still taste good! I’m quite proud of myself for making this burger. I do want to experiment more with ingredients such as replacing the sweet potato with mushrooms or do a combination of beans. Either way, I have another recipe in my cooking repertoire.

*To make mashed sweet potatoes, wash and peel your potato, cut into fours and boil them until you stick a fork in them. Then drain the water and mashed them together.

**And to show the trial and error, here’s a patty that broke while I was cooking it. Still tasted great.

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Foodie Friday: Favorite Foodie YouTubers

I get a lot of my inspiration from Foodie YouTubers, be it new recipes or new foods to try for myself. Here are my top favorite YouTube channels to watch for all of my foodie needs.

Just Eat Life

Of all the YouTubers listed, they have the least amount of subscribers. A shame really as people are missing out on the impossibly bubbly personality of Jen who makes a variety of food with influences from her Thai and Filipino heritage.

Peaceful Cuisine

While I’m not a vegan myself, I do try to look for ways to reduce my meat consumption (in particular beef consumption) and Peace Cuisine has some of the best-looking recipes that I’ve encountered on the web. What really made me stay was the production quality of the video. Ryoya Takashima turned cooking videos into an art form that invites the viewer to slow down and enjoy the process.

Fit Men Cook

This is the man who inspired my quesadilla recipe and has helped me to be more conscious of my eating habits while still focusing on the taste factor. Doesn’t help that he’s a Longhorn (hook ’em!).

Cooking With Dog 

This channel is a simple cooking tutorial video reminiscent of Julia Child if Child had a dog companion. But its simplicity is its charm as we watched the unnamed chef cook delicious Japanese food with easy to follow steps from her dog, Francis who passed away in 2016.

Gemma Stafford

What’s a list without some desserts? From no machine ice creams (which I keep telling myself I’m going to try) to mug cakes, Gemma Stafford is a creative baker and a joy to watch. What makes her stand out is her ability to explain the process that even a novice like me can understand.

Ochikeron

One of the first channels I watched regularly, Ochikeron is similar to Cooking With Dog with her simplistic explanation and style of Japanese cuisine. Her everywoman style makes the tasks less daunting.

Emmy Made In Japan

This channel was the one that inspired me to try Japanese Kit-Kats and to really blog my foodie adventures. Emmy’s attitude towards trying foods, even one she doesn’t like, is refreshing to watch in a sea of critical videos wanting a laugh rather than seriously discussing the flavors.

Alice in Paris

Last, but not least, we have the ever so charming web series Alice in Paris. This little show does a great job of showing off the culture and various restaurants in Paris, France. Alysse Hallali is charming in the role as the curious and always hungry Alice with a fabulous fashion sense. If you prefer a more narrative approach, this is definitely the series to watch.

Honorable Mentions: TabiEats, Dining on a Dime, Food Wishes, Divas Can Cook, and Honeysuckle.

Favorite Things I’ve Watched & Read in 2016

 

It’s the last day of 2016, but dang it, we’re going to have a list of my favorite media! Real quick, here are some of my favorite things I’ve read and watched in 2016.

Jughead

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I’m a big Archie fan. Since I was a little kid buying the digests from Wal-Mart, I loved reading the cheesy adventure of Archie and his gang. When I heard about the reboot and a focus on Jughead, one of my favorite characters, I had to check it out. I was not disappointed. Funny, cute, and thoughtful, this was one of the best comics I’ve read in a while. Check out my more detailed review here.

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers comic

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Need something to tide you over while waiting for the movie? Always wished Mighty Morphin’ could do more with their characters? Then check out Boom Studios’ Power Rangers comic book that hosts new stories involving our six spandex clad teenagers.

Queen Sugar

This show is killing me with how its goodness. From the cinematography to the story to the acting, this is a show that really should have been talked about next to Atlanta and Insecure in showcasing the varied lives of modern Black Americans. I can’t wait for season 2 to grace our presence.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

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The second book from Mindy Kaling is arguably better. While the first was more about Mindy herself, this book was more insightful about the Hollywood machine while simultaneously being a self-help book.

Voltron: Legendary Defender

I think I found my new favorite animated show with this reboot of the 1980s classic. The show does a great job of freshening up the characters while still paying homage to the original and the Japanese anime the show adapted. It’s got great humor and stories and I can’t wait for season 2 in January!

Honorable Mentions: Power Rangers Dino Super Charge, Archie comics, Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show by Tara Bennett, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Pink

Thai Tea Inspired Snow

Foodie Friday: The Best Food (and Drink) I Had This Year

It’s popular to say 2016, for a lack of a better word, sucked. But I choose to look on the brighter side of things and I have to say this has been a good year of food and drinks for me. Some weren’t winners, but I found some amazing restaurants and products this year and I would definitely recommend these to y’all. Here are some of my faves for 2016 in no particular order:

1.Halo Ice Cream, Birthday Cake flavorhaloThis ice cream made me into a believer. If you ever wanted to get a “healthy” ice cream, Halo Top will probably be your best bet.

 

2. Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream from Rhea’s Ice Cream:20161126_133633Up until this point I have never had vegan ice cream. I’ve been tempted but never had the desire to spend up to $5 for a pint of frozen dessert. I may never do it after eating this delectable vegan vanilla and agave ice cream from Rhea’s in San Marcos. I also enjoyed my scoop of Goat Cheese and Raspberry Jam (don’t knock it til you try it), but it was that vegan vanilla that kept me silent as I savored the creaminess of this ice cream.

3. Pieology pizza:20161126_113823

Do you like pizza, but wish you could order one like a Chipotle burrito? Pieology Pizzeria has you covered in San Marcos. My friend and I went here and were impressed by the thin crust pizza and ingredients. On my half, I had spinach and kalamata olives.

4. Shwarma from Peace Bakery and Deli in Austin peace-schwarama2

Yes, I’m four years too late since the infamous scene from The Avengers but better late than never, right? And boy, was it worth the wait! Warm, greasy, and packed with flavor. This is a perfect item to have during your lunch.

5. Shaved ice from Snow Monster

Thai Tea Inspired SnowI’ve already been to this location twice this year and wrote about my first experience. The last time I went I made a Thai tea inspired ice with Thai tea syrup, mochi, tapioca balls, and condensed milk. It’s the best kind of treat during the summer

6. Swiss Mocha Almond Coffee from Coffee Beanery20161125_184550

This may seem like an odd choice, but folks, this is the best coffee. It’s so good that I can drink it straight black. It’s nutty and goes down really smoothly.

7. Bean Pie from So Natural Organic Restaurant20160827_190607Before you freak out, this was a very tasty pie. It’s a vegetarian pie that was sweet without being sickly sweet like some pecan pies (sorry fellow Texans) with a great texture and crust. If you’re in the Killeen area, definitely give this pie a shot.

8. Bienenstich from the Walburg Restaurantbienenstich

One of the best desserts I’ve had this year and it wasn’t even chocolate! The bienenstich had a sweet, but not too sweet cream sandwiched with two pieces of sweet cake with the nuts adding a lovely crunch. If you don’t mind searching for a minute, head down to Walburg, TX for some bienenstich.

Bonus: 20161108_175723

My favorite condiment that I discovered this year is the Louisiana Gold Pepper Sauce. It’s got the right amount of kick with a nice peppery flavor reminiscent of Tabasco sauce. I would recommend giving this sauce a try.

What foods looked good to you? What were your favorite foods from this year? Please leave a comment about them. I’ll continue to share any foods and drinks that I come across for 2017!

 

Foodie Friday: Review of Halo Top Birthday Cake Ice Cream

The leaves are changing and Starbucks has unveiled their brand new cups and holiday drinks. What better way to celebrate the full swing of Fall than by buying a pint of ice cream?

Despite being a Southerner, I actually prefer Ben & Jerry and Haagen Daaz to Blue Bell (that’s the sound of all my Southerner friends disowning me). Blue Bell is good, but I like the cake chunks of Ben & Jerry and find Haagen Daaz’s ice cream to be better tasting. So when I heard of an ice cream that was just as creamy as Haagen Daaz without the calories, I was intrigued by this mythical ice cream. When I found out they had a birthday cake flavored, I knew I had to try the ice cream out for myself.

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Opening up the container, I could tell it was definitely birthday cake. Or rather funfetti cake with the white color and colorful sprinkles. Or even Dunkaroos (who remembers Dunkaroos?)

But really, y’all want to know whether it tastes good. It is an ice cream that’s trying to be the healthy alternative to other ice creams like Haagen Daaz, so you would assume it wouldn’t taste as good. Lo and behold, Halo Top has managed to find the winning formula for this ice cream. And yes, it does taste exactly like birthday cake. And without the weird aftertaste, you would find in a lot of diet products, you can feel a bit better eating this ice cream compared to the usual suspects.

One thing to note is that you need to keep the ice cream out for a few minutes like it suggests on the carton. It is really hard when you take it right out of the freezer. I’d also recommend having a sturdy metal spoon or ice cream scoop for this ice cream. Even when I left it out for a few minutes, it still took a minute to get a good scoop of ice cream.

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Some of the things that didn’t wow me about the ice cream included the price and being a healthy alternative. The ice cream is comparable to Ben & Jerry and Haagen Daaz and certainly pricier than Blue Bell. I will say it’s worth the price, but I can also see being hesitant about buying this ice cream. As for being a healthy alternative, while it’s healthier than other brands, I wouldn’t eat the whole pint like the ice cream implies. Yes, it’s 280 calories a pint, but you’ll notice on the nutrition facts that the actual serving size is 1/2 cup. I also can’t say if the other flavors would be good. I might have been lucky with the birthday cake flavor.

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Overall, I give it a 5/5 and would definitely recommend checking out Halo Top.

Foodie Friday: Oh Joy, La Croix!

I think we can all agree that soda is pretty worthless. Oh sure, it’s tasty, but what does it do for us? It provides no nutrition (with loads of sugar to boot) and it doesn’t even satiate our hunger like other junk food. And it looks like the rest of America is realizing that too if the falling sales are any proof. Is it any wonder some are switching to sparkling waters with French sounding names? I know I’m now one of the converted of La Croix (pronounced La-Croy).

Like any good foodie millennial, I discovered La Croix at my local Target. They had the individual cans near the checkout area in a few different flavors. As someone who ahs been watching my sugar intake, but misses the fizzy goodness of soda, I decided to give the fruit flavored sparkling water a try.

It was a shock to my system when I took my first sip. Maybe it was my association of fruit with sweetness or its appearance looking like Sprite, but my face screwed up at the lack of sugar. It wasn’t necessarily bitter as so much different. I would have given up on the beverage if it wasn’t for my plan of having a healthier lifestyle so I continued to try more La Croix drinks.

My tip for those who want to give sparkling water a chance is that you have to keep drinking it. Try a can per week so you can get acclimated to having a fizzy drink without sugar. When I drank the stuff frequently (along with limiting my intake of sugar), I found myself enjoying the drink more.  If continual exposure isn’t working for you, I’d suggest adding some fruit into your drink to sweeten it up. I’d also suggest looking into different flavors. I’m a fan of the peach and pear La Croix.

Overall, I give La Croix as a brand an A- with points taken off for the pronunciation.

Foodie Friday: Walburg German Restaurant

[Writer’s Note: It’s been a while since I did a Foodie Friday. I want to make it a feature of this blog and will try to do one once a month.]

German food holds an interesting place for me. While not one of my favorite cuisines (but slowly moving up to the top), I have always appreciated the country where I learned about the world. So when my friend invited me to a German restaurant in Walburg, TX, I had to accept and make it the focus of this month’s Foodie Friday.

Now, I almost didn’t make it. I don’t know if I went too far down one road or missed a sign, but I ended up in another smaller town with a German name. After consulting Mr. Samsung on how to get to the restaurant, I managed to find my way back to meet my friend patiently waiting for me. Tip for those who want to find the place, remember to have a map of sorts with you and to pay close attention.

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When I pulled up to the building my first thoughts were “this is truly small town America”. The atmosphere both outside and inside had a very homey feel with a mixture of both American and German influences to create a truly unique looking place. The outside resembled an old store from an older time in America while the inside showed off more of the German roots. Mugs from the country origin lined right side of the wall  complimented by the flags hung from the ceiling.

 

It was pretty empty save for two other customers, but it was also during the middle of the day on Thursday. I can only imagine the nights and the advertised Oktoberfest brings large crowds. My friend and I both got the Hausegemachte Bratwurst that consisted of two pork sausages, German potato salad, and sauerkraut. While we love us some kraut, I really wanted some spaetzle and my friend was longing for some red cabbage. They will definitely substitute certain sides with no trouble. The sausages were amazing and the spicy mustard

The sausages were amazing and the spicy mustard that accompanied them added a nice kick without overpowering the sausage. The spaetzle was good having the right chewy texture and complimented the sausage perfectly. The German potato salad is not your typical mayonnaise or mustard base potato salad you see at your family’s BBQ. Their version had pieces of bacon with rosemary and lemon seasoning the thinly chopped potatoes.

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Of course, I had to try the dessert here, and oh we got a good one with the bienenstich. Bienenstich, or bee sting cake, is made of sweet yeast dough topped with caramelized almonds and filled with cream, in this case, Bavarian cream. It’s not an overly sweet dessert like other German desserts, but it was sweet enough to satisfy my, diminishing as I age, sweet tooth. The cake was dense, yet light. A contradiction, but sometimes you need that in food. The cream was the best part and complimented the pastry and almonds that gave it a nice crunch.

bienenstich

Overall, the drive was definitely worth it for this great restaurant tucked away in a small part of Texas. If you’re in the Austin area, I would definitely recommend taking the drive to go this place and definitely get the bienenstich as your dessert. And if you get lose, just look out for the truck with their name on it.

walburg-truck

 

What College Students can Learn from “Hamilton”

As the Fall semester begins college students could use all the encouragement they can get. Especially for new students who are entering a whole new world. What better way to get the students motivated than with beloved Broadway musical Hamilton? But the songs aren’t just good for a good laugh and cry. There are some good words of wisdom to be found in the songs.

  • My Shot: If you haven’t already, it’s time for you to start thinking past tomorrow. Time to start passionately smashing all expectations of yourself that only limit your ability. If you have the opportunity to better yourself, take it. You don’t have to stay the same person you were in high school (please don’t keep that teenager mindset!)
  • Right Hand Man: If George Washington can recognize his need for a right-hand man, you certainly can learn to ask for help. One of the big things that helped me through college was having study buddies. Even if we weren’t in the same classes, being around people who care about their education forces you to step up your game.
  • Wait for It: While sometimes you need to be passionate, other times you need to just wait for it. Be patient and don’t try to push yourself too hard. Enjoy your time in college. Trust me, those will be the best years of your life. This brings me to the next song.
  • Take A Break: It’s not good to be non-stop (see what I did there?) in life. Take a break and enjoy your family and friends. If you don’t, you could end up making some big mistakes. Hopefully, you won’t cheat on your significant other.
  • It’s Quiet Uptown: Forgive yourself. If God can forgive you, then you certainly can. Stop flogging yourself over your past mistakes. That F you got in that class doesn’t have to define your path in college. That nasty break up doesn’t mean you should give up on love. You can grow from it and still graduate. Stop stressing and push through the pain.
  • The World Was Wide Enough: Competition can be a good thing, but there’s a limit. If you find yourself resenting the people around you, it’s time to pull up and reevaluate the path you’re taking. At the end of the day, you’re all trying to graduate and get jobs. Challenge others to be better, but don’t be jealous or mad if they’re doing better than you. And for God’s sake don’t challenge anyone to duels.

College can be both an exciting and frightening time in your life. I hope these songs and their messages can help you during these years of your life.

Knowing When to Fold ‘Em

In May I wrote a post about going back to your original plan. For this post, I want to talk about knowing when to let your plan die and move on to another plan.

The art of knowing when to fold ’em is not an easy art. Sometimes we mistake struggle or resistance as a sign that we should stop going down the path. You can’t completely escape struggles or resistance to your plan. There are too many variables to contend with such as other people, changing environments, and the economy to say it’ll be smooth sailing. That being said if you find yourself struggling to the point that you’re making zero progress it’s time to evaluate your path. Struggle and minor setbacks are one thing, but overall progress is the main goal.

Too often we believe in the idea that as long as we work hard progress will be made. Accomplishments don’t come from working hard, but a combination of working harder and smarter than what you have done. If you’re fighting tooth and nail for something you thought was your passion and aren’t progressing and even regressing you need to reevaluate your plan.

Sometimes it’s just about the willingness to let go of our original plans. This is especially true if you have invested a lot of money and time into this thing that isn’t reaping any benefit for you. It can be hard to let go of something when you put so much of yourself into it. But you have to let go for your own sake. You’re letting yourself be dragged down and keeping yourself from moving on to better prospects.

So, how do we know when to fold’em and know when it’s just doubt clouding our judgment? I have a few suggestions:

  • Ask for a second opinion. Sometimes an outside point of view can give us a better insight concerning the situation.
  • Calculate how much time and money you spent on this path and compare it to others. Granted, there’s no set timeline, but if you find yourself spending way too much money and time compared to others, it’s time to leave it behind.
  • Write a list of pros and cons for sticking with this path. If you have more cons than pros, time for a new plan.

It can feel like a game of poker figuring out whether your path is worth it or not. Remember that you don’t have to figure it out alone. If you have any suggestions for knowing when to move on leave a comment.

How to Make Friends When You’re Grown

A week ago my cousin came up to visit the family and we had a nice if too short time. What was interesting about this visit was when she told me about wanting to connect with people in her city, but not knowing where to start. And she’s not alone. If you type in the search bar “Millennials making friends” you’re bound to find a few articles parsing out why twenty and thirty somethings seem to have a difficulty making friends when they’re no longer on the college campus and bound by full-time jobs and families. (And it can be worse if you’re a guy.) I can even attest to having some difficulties establishing a friendship in my post-college years.

But it’s not impossible and we don’t have to fall into the trap of people thinking Millennials are nervous and awkward wrecks. Here are a few tips for all us grown folk out here:

  • Search on social media for any groups in your area. Maybe there’s a young professionals group out there for your accountant self. There’s bound to be a chess club for those of you who study the art. Meetup is a great site to look at. Just be prepared to see some…interesting groups.
  • Take a class. For some, it may be easier to make friends in a situation that’s familiar to your college life. Plus, there’s a chance you may have to partner up. (Yes, I know you didn’t like it in high school, but give it a shot.)
  • Go to church. I’m serious. You probably need to go anyway, but you might as well connect with some people there.
  • “Make new friends, but keep the old” was a common phrase during my Girl Scouts years and it’s still relevant to me. Even when you make new friends, you should still keep your old friends. Not only will you feel less lonely, it’s good practice when you want to maintain your shiny new friendships.

The most important tip is to put yourself out there. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, rejection sucks if it happens. But some of the most lasting friendships are the ones where we take a chance. I’m still friends with people I took a chance and they are some of my best friendships. And all it took was for me to be the one to say hi first.

I hope these tips help you during your journey. Tell me in the comments if you have any other tips for meeting friends.