Roma’s Shed

This is the shed behind my house, Roma’s shed. It is anything but glamorous. It’s rickety. The floor is made of old bricks and dirt. Who knows what has found shelter within its walls. For the longest time, I was scared to go past the first few feet, where I store my garden tools, lawn mower, Christmas decorations, etc.

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One cool afternoon, in what little bit of Fall South-Central Texas has, I ventured past those first few feet. Since then, Roma’s shed has been a regular source of adventure, being that finding old treasures (also known as “junk”) is incredibly exciting to me. In fact, when I went in to take pictures earlier today, I walked out with items I had never seen before. (The “Seashells” picture will be perfect in my science classroom and I’m thinking the drawers could make for some neat shelves.) It is so much fun to have this in my own backyard.

 

Even more so because I love to decorate, and my process is very purposeful. Everything in my home is placed meaningfully to create cohesiveness while still leaving little surprises here and there. Some of my most favorite pieces come from Roma’s shed. 

During one of my “picking” sessions out back, I found a few boxes of books, which I was ecstatic about because, as you know, I love books. And to find genuinely interesting books? Unreal! I have read through many of these, skimming their pages and making them a part of my home, in more ways than one.  This particular book, Off the Beaten Trail, is one of my favorites.

Deep in one of the boxes, I found this gem, The Night Before Christmas In Texas, That Is. Published in 1952, the book is old and worn, but undeniably incredible, a true collectable. Not to mention, a really cute story! This little pearl stays out all year ’round because any book about Texas is worthy of being displayed.

Without a doubt, my favorite shed discovery is a set of watercolors. The set is made up of four small, yet intricate, paintings of flowers. They are beautiful, no doubt, but that isn’t even the best part. The name of each flower is written in german and the date is marked 1947. My favorite is “Edelweiss,” for obvious reasons (The Sound of Music has my love). Roma, the woman who owned this house many moons ago, was from Germany. I assume these paintings made their way into my backyard from her birthplace. To say that I am proud to have them hanging on my wall would be an understatement. Of everything in this beautiful house I get to call a home, these tiny water colors are dearest and nearest to my heart.

I have told several people that I feel a presence in this house. Nothing scary. It may sound strange, I get it. And it’s hard to explain. But I like to think Roma is proud of the legacy that is her tiny home. I find comfort in having her possessions decorating the house. Plus, they are one-of-a-kind because they were found in the shed behind my house. How lucky am I?

 

Rhea’s Ice Cream

I generally do not have a sweet tooth. I don’t regularly crave cookies, or donuts, or brownies, or chocolates. I’m not big on cake, or cupcakes, although I’m always polite at a party and eat them, obviously. It’s rare that I crave something sweet at all. Unless…it’s ice cream. Which, naturally, I blame my father for. I mean, don’t we blame most of our vices on our parents? I suppose it isn’t so much a vice as it is a guilty pleasure. Of which I indulge in regularly. As in, I currently have 4 different types of Halo Top Ice Cream in my freezer. It’s true what they say: “save the bowl, you’re going to want the whole pint.” That good.

So back to blaming my dad for this dependence on ice cream: Every Sunday evening, for the majority of Sunday evenings during my childhood, we went to Dairy Queen. (I grew up in a very small town in Indiana, and Dairy Queen was always a hot spot on a humid, summer night.) Without fail, my dad ordered a medium chocolate dip cone. He was an expert at keeping up with it so that the ice cream didn’t drip down the cone and the chocolate didn’t break and fall off. Amy, my younger sister, typically got a slushy of some sort, the kind that turns your lips, teeth, and tongue a vibrant blue (or red, or purple, etc.). For me? It was a chocolate chip cookie dough blizzard. I would pick out all of the bites with cookie dough and then be thoroughly disappointed when I was left with a third of the cup and not a single soft, chewy morsel. (I still do this.) My mother stayed at home, having zero sweet tooth, not even for ice cream. Genetics are a miraculous thing.


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There are plenty of chains and stores-with-freezers in town that do just fine when the cravings hit. But, recently, Rhea’s Ice Cream opened shop in New Braunfels and the rest is history. Rhea’s Ice Cream has been primarily based out of San Marcos, right up the road, our lovely neighbor. In addition to having a storefront, the locally inspired, small batch ice cream is also sold out of the Root Cellar Cafe, another epically delicious and original eatery, cafe, and brewery in San Marcos. In fact, it was at Root Cellar that I tried Rhea’s Ice Cream for the first time – Caramel Sea Salt.

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As mentioned, a second shop was opened in New Braunfels and so…THANK YOU TO ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THE WORLD, because I am one happy girl! The ice cream is unconventional, in the absolute best way. The flavors range from “Frosted Circus Animal Cookies” to “Big Red” to “Avocado Coconut.” And unlike a chain ice cream shop, it is all made from scratch. In fact, the business itself was founded on a true love and passion for homemade ice cream. It is made small batch, so you know the ingredients are fresh, resulting the most wonderful consistency and flavor. It is truly heaven on a cone, or in a cup, whichever you prefer.

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Having been there several times now, the sense of pride in this brand is apparent by those who work there, they are super friendly. They encourage you to taste all of the flavors (on cute, tiny metal spoons) because, if you’re like me, it all sounds good and you would like to have a giant heaping bowl of one scoop of every flavor.

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It is obvious I have an appreciation for food, and this ice cream is no exception. But I also have a deep adoration for old spaces. Especially old spaces that are inviting, trendy, and adorable (in a simple, not trying too hard, way). Walking into Rhea’s Ice Cream, you can feel the nostalgia before you taste it in their ice cream. It feels cool, like groovy cool, and not only because there are freezers.

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The shop itself adds to the experience of enjoying their amazing ice cream flavors: like “Raspberry and Goat Cheese”, or “Strawberry Nutella”. Or both. On one cone.

It is also worth mentioning that they have ice cream to meet dietary needs! My boyfriend is lactose intolerant(ish) and they have vegan ice cream that is, as the name implies, dairy-free. (We are not vegan, but if you are, I am very, very proud of you and Rhea’s Ice Cream has vegan “Vanilla Bean” and “Mint Chocolate” waiting for you in their cute little freezer).

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I am in love with this shop and hope she stays here for many moons to come. Live local and shop local. Support small businesses that are working hard to provide you with the simple pleasures in life – homemade, small batch, glorious ice cream.

Tapenade Stuffed Chicken Piccata

If I can enjoy an italian dish with zero cheese, it is not enough to call it a win. If I can enjoy an italian dish with zero cheese (i.e. mozzarella all day, everyday), I would call it an extraordinary accomplishment of something phenomenal. So I may be dramatizing that situation a bit. But this dish, for real, no drama, is something phenomenal: delicious, healthy, Paleo, and easy.

After a long day in training, I was craving something fresh and savory but also low-maintenance. That’s what I enjoy cooking the most: clean and simple. (Side note: teachers go through extensive, continuous education. Did you know that? Our brains are constantly absorbing the new, the better, the best. And after a few short weeks of summer/sleeping until 12 pm for no reason, it’s exhausting. Stepping down off my high horse now). I’ve mentioned it before, cooking is my downtime. I typically put on music, or mindless television, and get in the zone, with Moon laying on the edge of the bed watching me. It’s truly the best…

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61RD8GSg1aL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgBefore I get into the recipe, I need to give a bit of background where cookbooks are involved in my kitchen. I love cookbooks. I do not follow recipes. I love finding inspiration from dishes already created. I cannot follow step-by-step instructions. For me, cookbooks are like  picture books are to a young child. I look at the picture, I read the title, I go back to the picture, and then I skim the recipe. Done. My version will, without a doubt, vary in ingredients and method. That is what makes cooking exciting for me! That being said, because I do this, I fail forward a LOT. Maybe I should follow the recipe? I don’t know. I like living on the edge a little. This recipe is inspired by one from the Whole30 Cookbook by Melissa Hartwig.

For Tapenade Stuffed Chicken Piccata, the best place to start is by creating the tapenade. Tapenade, by definition, is a dip mixture of black olives, capers, and anchovies. So, this is a variation of a tapenade: roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, capers, artichoke hearts, garlic, basil, lemon juice, avocado oil, salt, and pepper. That’s it. Remember when I mentioned simple earlier? Semi-homemade. Smarter, not harder. Buy the roasted red peppers already chopped deli-style. Grab the olives pitted and sliced. Same goes for the artichoke hearts, buy them quartered and ready to go.

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Rinse and drain all of these ingredients, including the capers, to lessen the amount of salt. Combine them all in a bowl, add garlic, avocado oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and then….NINJA! Without fully blending, give the food processor a few good pulses to combine the ingredients and give it a more uniform texture. This could allow for all kinds of variations – get creative!

I made the tapenade a good 30 minutes before prepping the meal, to let the flavors marinade. (Totally not a necessity.)

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But now, the chicken. I used two full chicken breasts. Pat them dry (better for the hot pan, but also easier to handle). Using a sharp knife, cut a slit to create a pocket. Holding the chicken down with a steady flat palm, start with the thickest, meatiest part and slowly cut through, trying not to cut through the top or bottom of the chicken breast. Season the outside with salt and pepper and then get ready to do some stuffing.

You are stuffing the chicken with…the tapenade! Because it is the best for just that! It keeps the chicken moist while cooking and creates a glorious burst of flavor when you take that first bite. I stuff a good palm-sized amount into each chicken breast. You can use toothpicks to seal the stuffing within the pocket, but I don’t mind some of it spilling out and adding to the outside flavor of the chicken.

In a cast-iron skillet, on medium heat, I cooked the chicken for about 3-5 minutes on each side, just to brown the outside. In a baking dish, I covered the bottom with avocado oil. I used small Roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise, to line the perimeter of the dish. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. So good alongside the chicken! 375 for 25 minutes and that’s it. Almost.

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Piccata, in terms of italian dishes, means there is butter and there is lemon and there are capers (aka all that is good in the world). For this recipe, I used Ghee, or clarified butter. Using the cast-iron skillet from before, I sautéed a bit of rough chopped garlic, adding chicken bone stock, Ghee, and capers. To thicken, I added Arrowroot Flour Starch. After whisking for a bit, it made a lemony, buttery, caper(y) gravy-like sauce to pour over the chicken and tomatoes.

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And, that’s it. For real. I added a bit of tapenade to the top and garnished with green onion because green onions give an excellent pop of flavor without being too much, you know?

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You can see the stuffing inside the chicken. Yum. Tip: eat a piece of a roasted tomato with every bite of chicken. You’re welcome. IMG_0592

Leftover tapenade can be kept in the refrigerator for at least a week. It is wonderful to use as a dip with small, sweet bell peppers, or to top off crackers, or simply by itself on a spoon. Like, just eat it by the spoonful.

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Ingredients

For the Tapenade

1 cup of deli-style roasted red peppers, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup of quartered and marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup of pitted and sliced kalamata olives, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup of fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/3 cup of avocado oil (or olive oil)
2 tablespoons of capers, rinsed and drained
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of lemon juice (juice from 1/2 a lemon)
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Chicken Piccata

2 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons of avocado oil
6-8 small Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon of salt to season
Pepper
1/4 cup of Chicken Bone Broth
2 tablespoons of lemon juice (juice from 1/2 a lemon)
2 tablespoons of capers
1 tablespoon of Ghee (or clarified butter)
1/2 tablespoon of Arrowroot Flour
2 tablespoons of sliced green onions

Instructions

For the Tapenade

  1. Rinse and drain the roasted red peppers, olives, artichoke hearts, and capers.
  2. Roughly chop the red peppers, olives, and artichoke hearts.
  3. Roughly chop the basil and garlic.
  4. Combine all ingredients into a food processor. Add avocado oil and lemon juice.
  5. Pulse 3-4 times to create a uniform texture of ingredients.

For the Chicken Piccata

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of avocado oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add the chicken breast to brown the outside, turning once; cooking each side for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.
  2. Coat the bottom of a medium to large baking dish with a tablespoon of avocado oil. Toss in the Roma tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Distribute the tomato halves around the perimeter of the dish.
  3. Place the chicken breasts in the center of the baking dish. Bake the chicken and tomatoes for 2o to 25 minutes, until cooked all the way through. Remove from the oven and let rest while making the sauce.
  4. In the original skillet, saute garlic until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Slowly add the broth and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and then turn the temperature to a low, letting the liquids simmer and reduce. Whisk in Ghee and arrowroot flour until the sauce reaches a slightly thicker consistency. Stir in capers.
  5. Plate the chicken breasts and tomatoes, cover with sauce, garnish with green onion.

My Kitchen

This post is to let it be known that you do not need a fancy kitchen, full of fancy gadgets to create fancy food. And a fancy life. My life is very fancy, despite my 500 square foot house being a mere 20 feet wide, my dog being deaf, and my memory being that of someone 4 times my age.

SO, built in the 1870’s, this home was originally a Sunday house. Sunday houses served as a second residence for farmers and ranchers who lived in rural areas to come into the town for Service, as well as market and business. Roma’s house was, for a long time, a single room (the main, front room). A bathroom and kitchen were added on, creating a small, but perfectly functional and livable tiny home.

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The main room is the first thing you see when you walk in, and is typically the room that gets the “oohs” and “ahhs.” But the real star of the show? The kitchen. Though small, she is mighty. With dimensions of 12′ by 10,’ the space is limited. However, all of the necessities are there! With a little creativity, I can cook just about anything.

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View from doorway leading into the kitchen
Creativity is not just needed for the food preparation. Storage is another issue. Everything in this room has a place to make it easily accessible but out of the way. I can say that my organizational skills have become more savvy, but at the price of my obsessive compulsiveness becoming less savvy (if that is even a thing). I like all of my things that have a place, to be in their place! The butcher block makes that possible and is probably my favorite thing in this entire kitchen. It rolls, making it easy to move and clean. I do most of my chopping and mixing on that surface. It’s small, but that seems to be the theme here, so it works for me! I will always have a rolling butcher block, I think. 

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The guitar cutting board is the best.
When I need more floor space, I will scoot the table up flush with the china cabinet, which holds an abundance of my whose-its and whats-its galore. No big deal. What is a big deal, on the other hand, is that tiny sink. To put it into perspective, there are two mason jars in the sink and…it’s full. But, when one door closes, another one opens, and that other door is the retro, working fridge located under the dish-drying rack. Drinks are stored there, freeing up space in my actual refrigerator.

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That handsome dude there is Doug, by the way. 
My stove and oven range does its job. It has taken me quite a few failures to understand the correct temperatures to cook at, despite what the recipe says. And those cast-iron skillets are not decoration, I cook nearly everything in cast iron. The seasoning can’t be beat and its perfect for anything, from stove top to oven. A family friend put together my little spice rack, which is flawless, like my dreams. It holds everything I regularly use while cooking, my must-haves: my Trader Joe’s spices (because they are, hands down, the best and its my favorite store….wink, wink), olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, Texas Pete, Frank’s, and Cholula. I’m a spicy girl, what can I say?

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Hi, Moon.
And there you have it. A 360 view of my tiny kitchen! (That calendar, by the way, is my way of making it appear as though I am a very put together human being. I actually have several calendars and, for those that know me, I am still forgetting which way is up. Fortunately, I can’t get too lost in this house!)

As I’ve said before, I am in love with this house. I claim her to be one of my best friends. She is my security blanket, my most favorite place to be. And although the kitchen may lack in size, the food that is made within it is made with love, therefore it does not lack in taste. Like this YUM dinner I made tonight…

Thank you, Farmhouse Delivery, for this incredible Supper Club meal kit: Shrimp and Green Kimchi Fried Rice with Poached Egg.

Farmhouse Delivery

This morning, there was a quick knock on my door. Sitting outside was a crate, labeled Farmhouse Delivery. It was like Christmas morning. I brought the crate in and immediately opened it to explore its contents. You know you are a legitimate self-proclaimed foodie when a crate of locally grown vegetables gives you goosebumps. I had goosebumps. IMG_0440

Farmhouse Delivery is a farm to door grocer based out of Austin, Texas. All of their produce is from farms within 150 miles of Austin. That means, it is fresh. Without pesticides, processing, packaging, etc., you are guaranteed food that is high in quality and grown with love. The best part? It is affordable. Farmhouse Delivery makes good food accessible. If you read their mission statement, it is clear that this company genuinely cares about connecting people with the food they eat, through working with local farmers and ranchers, to deliver incredible produce, meat, and more TO YOUR DOORSTEP!

How does it work? There is a one time registration fee. But after that, you are a member until you’re a member until you’re a member! They offer bushels of seasonal, locally grown produce. You can choose a large bushel or a medium bushel. The bushel size determines the amount of produce, and thus, the price and serving size. From there, you can decide how often you want your bushel delivered. You can have a bushel delivered weekly or bi-weekly. I am currently subscribed to having a medium bushel delivered every other week. This is the medium bushel I received today:

The delivery comes with an inventory of the produce included, as well as suggestions for storage and shelf life. As a lover of gardening, farmers markets, and supporting all things local, I am head over heals for Farmhouse Delivery.

Wait though, that’s not all. In addition to bushels, they offer al a carte orders of fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, baked goods, prepared foods, spices and more. They even have options for those with dietary restrictions. And even more, Farmhouse Delivery has…Supper Club!

For my first time ordering through Farmhouse Delivery, I went all out. I knew I wanted the produce, but I also wanted to try out a couple Supper Club options. So, what is Supper Club? Farmhouse Delivery’s Supper Club is an ever-changing meal kit. But it is more than just that because it features all things local: produce, protein, sauces, spices, and TASTE! Each meal is individually packaged in a thermal lined tote. They come with all of the ingredients and detailed instructions for preparing the meal. For my first Supper Club, I received a meal kit for “Shrimp and Green Kimchi Fried Rice with Poached Egg” and “Beef Burger on Pretzel Bun with Banana Pepper Relish and Spiced Okra Fries.”

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Did I mention the Christmas analogy earlier? I couldn’t wait to play with my new gifts! I made the Burgers for lunch today. It couldn’t have been simpler and it was so incredibly delicious. All of the spices were measured and ready to be added to the burgers and okra. All of the sauces were pre-mixed and ready to dress the burger. I have always wondered about the meal kit trend, and I suppose I get it now. I highly recommend it for those who are busy and on the go. I also find it very educational for those who want to begin their adventures in the kitchen :).

I have been following Farmhouse Delivery for a long time on Instagram and Facebook. I regularly find inspiration from their posts of produce and recipes. I am proud to now be a member of their movement because I whole-heartedly support their cause. Shop, eat, cook, and live local.

Floating Bookshelves

“Wait. How are the books floating like that?”

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I cannot tell you how many times people walk into my tiny home, see the bookshelves above my desk and ask some variation of that question. In fact, I have been asked to explain how the mysterious, floating bookshelves work more than I’d like to explain. So, let me explain…

I love to read. I always have. I have also dreamed of having my very own library, which I am working on as we speak. Goals! So my house, at one point, was consumed by books. (In addition to those currently pictured on the shelves, I also have books in my trunk and a personal stash in one of the closets of my classroom…shh…). I had books on nearly every standing surface in my house, which is not a lot of surface. When I would try to grab a book to read, or possibly dust and stuff, I was moving books around constantly. Books everywhere!

Then, behold, I found these shelves while searching Pinterest, or Tumblr, or Etsy, or…who knows, I spend a lot of time alone. (It was Amazon, duh.) I started with two, and then four, and now five, but I need more. Because they are wonderful and create the perfect tiny library for my tiny office consisting of a desk. And a lamp.

The back cover of the book is slid onto the shelf and held by a tiny lip. The rest of the books are stacked from there, creating the illusion of books floating!

Living in a small space, I think of the main room as different compartments, or “areas.” I have my bed, front table, office, sitting area, TV, etc. It’s not just my bedroom to me, which is what people often refer to it as. No matter, this desk/study/office area is one of my most favorite areas in the house. Mostly, because of my books. And that they are floating.