Tuesday, January 6th

Easy Greek

Easy Greek meal

Greek food is all about good ingredients and flavors that work well together. One of my favorite dinners involves more shopping than cooking, as I grab fresh produce, good olives, and the very best feta I can find. (I prefer French sheep’s milk feta for its smooth creaminess and mild flavor.)

I pile those onto a platter with hummus, FAGE yogurt, a simple salad with red wine vinaigrette, and toasted blanched almonds.

Thomas Keller's Roasted Chicken

This arrangement works well with any protein. A lean steak, grilled halibut, shrimp, spiced meatballs…they’d all be delicious. But the easiest (and most wallet friendly) might be a roasted chicken. I like Thomas Keller’s famous recipe that just calls for salt, pepper, drying, and trussing. If you haven’t tried roasting a chicken this way, you simply must.

Easy Greek cooking

I like to serve with fresh pita from the bakery and butter lettuce to make yummy roll ups. Skip the pita if you’re off carbs. Mr. Betty and I like to cozy up and share a plate, so this type of dinner where we graze is perfect for us. But you can serve on separate dishes if you’re fancy like the pope.

Easy Greek cooking

The benefits of a Mediterranean diet have long been celebrated, so in addition to the simple preparation, eating this way may lower your risk of cardiovascular conditions and certain cancers. Plus, it’s just damn delicious.

What’s an easy, throw-together meal that you like to make?

Wednesday, December 31st

So Long 2014

New Year's Eve lights

Wow. Here we are. The end of another year. I’m always a little shocked at how quickly the years seem to go by and 2014 felt like the shortest year of my life. I guess that’s what happens when you’re constantly busy. Time just seems to slip away. I guess Beck summed it up best:

Time is a piece of wax fallin’ on a termite who’s choking on the splinters.

Okay, sure.

*****

Rather than recap my year, which is what I’d normally do, I’d rather talk about 2015. If you want a reminder of what I did in 2014, just scroll down and read back on the blog. Or look through my Instagram. 2014 was a good year and I know 2015 will be good, too.

I have a couple good things on the horizon. Kind of a delayed Christmas, I’ll be heading back to NJ in January to visit both my family and in-laws. And most exciting, I’ll get to meet my new little family member, my niece Julia Rose. Isn’t she cute?

cute baby girl

Hopefully Mr. Betty and I will be able to take another little vacation of some sort in 2015, as it’s been a long time for us. But nothing on the books just yet.

Other things to look forward to:

  • Speaking at SXSW (and finally having legit badge access to Interactive and Film)
  • Watching Mr. Betty’s SXSW panel. I’m thrilled that we get to experience this together!
  • Next Bloggy School sessions. More info to come soon. Follow on Twitter for details.
  • I’ll be upping my volunteerism next year by taking over as the president of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance. Those who know me know how important this group is to me and I’m honored to be a part of the positive impact they make on Austin.
  • I’ll keep pushing myself to make Giant Squid Media a success and have plans to expand my services and work with more companies on content, social media, and brand consulting. I love what I do and feel lucky that I live in a city where opportunity is everywhere.

*****

I’m also planning on evolving the content here on the blog. Because Mad Betty isn’t a true niche blog, I can really make it about anything I want. Over the years I’ve defaulted to a lot of restaurant posts because, frankly, that’s what people have responded to the most. And with restaurants opening at breakneck speed in Austin, it’s a never-ending well to draw from. But it was never my intention to write so much about food.

Blogging is a weird thing. There’s nothing to drive the work beyond our own desire to do it. So when you need a break, such as I did for the past couple weeks, you take that break. But the loss of momentum (for me, at least) proves to make it that much harder to resume writing. And the truth is, I’ve felt uninspired lately.

So it’s time for a change. I’m not sure what that’s going to look like yet—and no, I’m not abandoning food writing altogether—but I’m going to try some new things and see how it feels. I’d like to expand my lifestyle content as well as get a little more personal. My favorite blogs are the ones that are relatable and give glimpses into real lives.

What do you have planned for next year? Any major changes? Are you happy to say goodbye to 2014?

Monday, December 15th

Ann Webb Clinicals

Ann Webb Skin Clinic might be Austin’s best kept beauty secret. Those in the know have been visiting the huge spa in North Austin for the best prices on treatments from facials and massages, to injectables and lasers.

I’ve been a client for a while, so when I was invited to come in and check out Ann’s new clinical line of products, I jumped at the chance. My good friend and girly partner in crime, Melissa Lombard, accompanied me for complimentary facials and a tour of the new product line. (You may remember Melissa and I reviewed some Mineral Fusion products in the past, too.)

First, the facials were phenomenal. Ann Webb Skin Clinic uses a gentler technique. No hot steam blowing at your face, rather hot towels are places as compresses throughout. Many of the products used come from nature, so aromas of mint, pumpkin, citrus, and lots of other good stuff punctuate the relaxing sessions. Melissa and I each left with a four-step routine to try out at home. I took a morning routine, Melissa, evening.

Ann Webb Skin Clinicals
Kristin’s Morning Routine | Cleansing Milk ($14) | The Mist ($16) | Day Moisture ($26) | Eye Bright ($30) | The Balm ($12)

I love a good cleanser and appreciate the classics. Cetaphil and Origins Checks & Balances have long been staples in my arsenal, and now Ann Webb’s Cleansing Milk joins their ranks, the light, pleasant scent and thick creamy texture brings me right back to the spa. It’s incredibly luxurious and moisturizing and a huge value at the price. For my skin, this is a little rich for daily use, so I’m reserving it for times when I need a little extra moisture.

The Mist is exactly like it sounds, a refreshing mist that offers a cooling burst of orange-scenting moisture. I love it for setting my makeup and also a quick spritz before bed. This would be good all day, actually.

If I had to pick one superstar of the lineup, Day Moisture is it. It’s light, absorbs quickly, and lasts all day. Notes of orange and mint are pleasant and fade quickly. It feels like there’s nothing on the skin, but that you’re in perfect balance, the way nature intended.

The Eye Bright serves as not only a protectant, but a luminizing brightener. A little zinc and titanium boost your natural glow and are a nice addition to the cheekbones, forehead, and anywhere you want a little brightness. The Balm, which is a nice fat stick of moisture can serve double-duty under the eyes, on the lips, the elbows, or any dry spot. It gives thick, lasting coverage and is a nice smell and texture.

Ann Webb Clinicals

Melissa’s Evening Routine | Cleansing Scrub ($18) | The Toner ($16) | Enzyme Peel ($28) | Night Moisture ($38)

True confession. My nightly beauty routine occasionally, often, almost always involves a warm washcloth and some face soap procured from Target. The selection criteria? What’s on sale? Okay, if I’m being totally honest, if I find myself drifting off on the couch after The Blacklist, I have been known to skip the washcloth and soap and head straight for the pillow.

Clearly, I am not the ideal candidate for a multistep beauty regimen. But after the facial and product demonstration at Ann Webb Skin Clinic I left the spa with a commitment to an evening routine and to take better care of my skin.

Gotta say, I am a total convert! I’m not going to lie and say it doesn’t take time. But it’s just been a matter of creating a routine. Here’s mine: Apply the Cleansing Scrub and then chill out or 20 minutes or so. Did you know you were supposed to leave cleanser on for a while before rinsing it off? I had no clue. Next, I apply The Toner with a cotton pad. I haven’t used toner since the Sea Breeze days of my early 20’s when I assumed the burning meant it was working. Apparently, astringents aren’t so great for your face. Oops! Next up, I do the Enzyme Peel (usually an every other night thing). I let that sit on my face for at least 20 minutes, though longer is even better. Next up is my favorite product, Night Moisture. This product is fabulous! Extremely moisturizing, but not at all sticky or heavy feeling. I finish up with The Balm—generally on my lips and around my eyes—for a little extra moisture. This little stick is very versatile and I’ve used it on rough elbows and to soften my cuticles.

As someone who appreciates value, I was pleasantly surprised to learn just how affordable the Ann Webb products are. And a little goes a long way, meaning your products are going to last much longer. All in all, I’m enjoying the products and the routine and look forward to checking out some of the other goodies from the new clinical collection.

Wednesday, December 10th

Sichuan River

Dan Dan Noodles at Sichuan River, Austin Texas

You might have heard some buzz about Sichuan River, which took over the old Tien Jin spot at Westgate several months ago. If you haven’t been yet, go now. Previously, the best Szechuan I’ve had in Austin was at Szechuan House, and I’m happy to say they finally have a rival. And in South Austin to boot! No more hopping on the highway for decent Chinese.

Dumplings at Sichuan House, Austin Texas

I’ve been several times now, including an evening of a very successful Asian Supper Club. When they’re on the menu, we always begin our club nights with dumplings. Here, they come fried or steamed and are your basic dumplings. Yummy, but not particularly standout in any way, other than the dipping sauce which is above average.

Ma-Po Tofu at Sichuan House, Austin Texas

Ma-Po Tofu is one of my favorite dishes, and Sichuan River’s is fragrant, rich, and fluffy. It’s not as atomic-spicy as Szechuan House’s version, but it still packs a good punch.

Sizzling Lamb at Sichuan House, Austin Texas

But if atomic-hot is what you’re craving, let me direct you to the Sizzling Lamb. Covered with chili paste, whole chiles, jalapeño slices, and lots of cumin, this dish is for serious spice-lovers. I have a little bit of an aversion to cumin, but I like this dish anyway and highly recommend it.

Dry Fried Green Beans at Sichuan River, Austin Texas

My friend Foodie is the New Forty is a connoisseur of Dry Fried Green Beans and declared these exceptional. The shallow-fry just blisters the outside of the beans, so they retain a healthy snap. They are salty, seasoned, and downright addictive.

Eggplant with Curry Sauce at Sichuan House, Austin Texas

For those who like something on the sweeter side, a good option is the Eggplant with Garlic Sauce. I’d say this is an acquired taste. While not my cup of tea, my friend South Austin Foodie really likes this dish. So give it a whirl if you like a sweet curry.

Egg Foo Young at Sichuan House, Austin Texas

Egg Foo Young is a Chinese omelette, loaded with veggies and whatever meat you choose. It’s fried and served with a savory brown gravy and…it’s just incredible. I had to be talked into this dish but now I’m a convert. I highly encourage you to try it if you haven’t before.

Dan Dan Noodles at Sichuan House, Austin Texas

The last dish I’ll share with you is the Dan Dan Noodles. The springy noodles are covered with pork and pickled and fresh vegetables, and are immersed in a spicy, soupy chili-oil sauce. I think this is best shared with friends because, like many Szechuan dishes, it can be a little heavy on the oil.

Sichuan River is a good place to pop in for lunch, a casual dinner, or to grab takeout. The service is fast and friendly; prices are reasonable. Have you been? What are your favorite dishes?

Sichuan River, 4534 Westgate Blvd, Ste 105, Austin TX

Tuesday, December 9th

Diamonds are Evil: Jewelry Giveaway

Diamonds are Evil, Austin Texas

Diamonds Are Evil is a local, eco-friendly shop that makes laser cut jewelry (and other pieces) out of sustainable Canadian birch wood. The wood is extremely durable, yet very lightweight and the design work is so modern and playful. The nod to art deco with hipster sensibility makes these pieces both fun and serious. I love the versatility.

You may have seen me sporting this piece around town recently. It’s my new favorite necklace.

Diamonds are Evil, Austin Texas

So what’s up with the name? It represents the company’s socially conscious stand against the diamond industry. I can dig it.

Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond

Make sure to check out their online store or drop by Slackerville on South 1st. And right now, you can win this pair of earrings in time for the holidays.

Diamonds are Evil giveaway

To enter, leave me a comment and tell me how you’re making an effort to be more environmentally conscious for the holidays. Make sure you like Mad Betty on Facebook, as that’s where I’ll be announcing the winner on December 17th.

Wednesday, December 3rd

This Bar Saves Lives

Disclosure: I received a box of This Bar Saves Lives in exchange for a blog post to help spread the awareness of this important work they are doing to help end malnutrition in children around the world. 

This Bar Saves Lives

Do you eat granola bars? They are a staple in my house. We rely on bars for days when we’re on the go and need to eat in the car, or when we wake up too late to make breakfast, or when the fridge is a little bare and we need something more than an apple for lunch. So, pretty much all the time.

I like the trend of granola bars getting healthier and being made with high quality ingredients. This Bar Saves Lives is a relatively new company that makes seriously delicious bars. Made with organic, non-GMO ingredients, they are gluten-free, all natural, and kosher. The three flavors are Wild Blueberry Pistachio, Dark Chocolate Cherry & Sea Salt, and Madagascar Vanilla Almond & Honey. Yum!

This Bar Saves Lives

So what’s the name all about? Well, this is the best part. Each time you buy a bar, a nutritious packet of life-saving food is given to a child in need. It’s a buy-one give-one model (like TOMS) where you get to help end malnourishment. Check out the website for more information about the cause. Be warned that it’s pretty powerful. I hope that it moves you to buy some bars.

I, for one, am committed to including these bars as part of my regular Whole Foods shopping. You can also get them online along with some cool wearable stuff. I like the idea that my buying power can help nourish those who really need it, along with sustaining my grab-and-go lifestyle.

If you’d like to try This Bar Saves Lives, use code THISBAR for 20% off. Code is good for one week.

Monday, December 1st

Texas Rio Star Grapefruit

Disclosure: I was gifted a box of Rio Star grapefruits and some tools and recipe cards from TexaSweet. Opinions, photos, and grapefruit love are my own!

Grapefruit Guacamole

I did a grapefruit post last year and jumped at the chance to do another one this year. I’ve always liked juicy red grapefruit, but since moving to Austin and having access to the Rio Stars—which are ten times redder than Ruby Reds—I just can’t get enough. Mr. Betty and I buy giant bags while they are in season and enjoy them for breakfast for weeks on end.

But last year’s grapefruit extravaganza had me expanding my repertoire and I started including the fruit in dinner salads, with shrimp, quinoa, and more. It’s in that spirit that I made a refreshing grapefruit guacamole to snack on before Thanksgiving dinner. Grapefruit is a natural fit for the creamy treat, with the bursts of acidity playing nicely just like lime does. Plus, you can’t beat that color combination.

Mash together:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 3 TB finely minced red onion
  • 3 TB chopped cilantro
  • Juice of one lime
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Top with fresh Ruby Red segments

Grapefruit Breakfast

For those who prefer to keep grapefruit to their mornings, try pairing it with a toasted bagel. Mix the zest of one grapefruit into plain, light cream cheese before slathering onto your favorite bagel. Top with additional segments. Enjoy with a cappuccino on a sunny porch while catching up on Serial.

Grapefruit Breakfast

Need some grapefruit tools?

Set of 2 Grapefruit Spoons and 1 Grapefruit Knife, Stainless Steel, Serrated Edges

Friday, November 21st

Kerbey Lane Cafe

Kerbey Queso at Kerby Lane, Austin Texas

Long before Austin became the hot foodie destination it is today, Kerbey Lane was there, serving up a high quality menu that catered to vegans, dessert-lovers, and everyone in between. Now there are hundreds of newer restaurants to compete with Kerbey Lane, but they are as busy as ever, partly due to their famous Kerbey Queso, pictured above.

I was recently invited to taste some new special dishes at the South Lamar location and can report that each are worth returning for, just like that queso.

I’ve always liked that Kerbey Lane has really special dishes for those who don’t eat meat. Not just the typical salad fare, but interesting, flavorful choices that aren’t an afterthought. The Eggplant Tartine is an appetizer, but is enough for a very satisfying meal. Layers of hummus, roasted eggplant, tomato, onion, garlic, and pesto cover a crisp pita.

Eggplant Tartine at Kerbey Lane, Austin Texas

The Cuban Pork Benedict is a twist on the classic Benedict with the inclusion of Cuban-style pulled pork and a hoagie roll. This was a crowd favorite. I found the hollandaise to be better than most, with the bright lemony flavor cutting through the richness.

Cuban Port Benedict at Kerbey Lane, Austin Texas

If color = flavor, then the Huevos Motuleños has both in spades. Eggs, ranchero sauce, queso fresco, ham, are dotted with peas and other fresh vegetables. I love to see plantain at breakfast!

Huevos Motulenos at Kerbey Lane, Austin Texas

Since we’re fully in pumpkin season, it was only right to try both the fluffy Pumpkin Pancakes and the Pumpkin Bread French Toast. Both were excellent and had us swooning. The French Toast was so decadent that it could double as a dessert.

Pumpkin Pancakes at Kerbey Lane Cafe

Pumpkin Bread French Toast at Kerbey Lane, Austin Texas

Another favorite of the table was the Moroccan Beef with apricot, ginger, garbanzo beans and spices served with curried mashed potatoes and warm pita. Add this to your comfort food rotation on chilly days.

Moroccan Beef at Kerbey Lane, Austin Texas

The Pear & Bacon Grilled Cheese is a fall item that customers go crazy for every year. Crisp bacon and grilled pear are smothered in melty Antonelli’s aged white cheddar and a garlic basil aioli. Grilled cheese perfection!

Pear & Bacon Grilled Cheese at Kerbey Lane, Austin Texas

One last pumpkin item, the pumpkin mousse pie (from The Cake Plate) was lighter than traditional pumpkin pie both in texture and pumpkin flavor. This would be a good pie for people who like pumpkin but aren’t in love with pumpkin. The chocolate graham cracker crust was a nice touch. All in all, a splendid meal!

Pumpkin Mousse Pie at Kerbey Lane, Austin Texas

What are your favorites at Kerbey Lane Cafe? Have you sampled the fall menu and pumpkin dishes?

Friday, November 14th

East Austin Studio Tour

East Austin Studio Tour

East Austin Studio Tour

For the next two weekends you should check out the East Austin Studio Tour (EAST) and support Austin’s many local artists. All over East Austin galleries and art spaces open their doors to the public. Many of the artists are on hand to sell their work and answer questions; you can often witness new pieces being created on the spot.

East Austin Studio Tour

East Austin Studio Tour

You can find a catalogue at any library or get details from the website. I recommend starting at a large space like Canopy and then planning smaller stops from there. The great thing about a self-guided tour is that if you overhear someone talk about an interesting exhibit, you can head over. Go with a loose plan and the willingness to break it at a moment’s notice.

East Austin Studio Tour

A few tips:

– Dress warm. You want to be able to enjoy the outdoor art. Also, many of the places are not heated so it feels like you’re outside all day.

– Take your camera. Or make sure your phone is charged. Because you’re going to want to capture some of the amazing things you’ll see.

– Bring money. Even the cash poor can find something fantastic to bring home. There’s art for every budget. Mr. Betty and I picked up some great pieces last year, including this fun Amanda Bynes print for about ten bucks. My love for this print grows as Amanda Bynes tragic story plays out. It’s gone from whimsical to dark. 

East Austin Studio Tour

What I love most about this event is getting to meet the artists. I so admire these talented people who make a go at doing what they love and work so hard at it. It’s not always an easy life, but I find myself jealous of the dedication and guts I see all over these galleries.

And how about the guts of the woman who posed for this piece? It was a video projected into an empty bathtub and she moved around. It was compelling, absurd, and ghostlike.

East Austin Studio Tour

So fill up your car with friends and make a fun day of it. I’ll see you on the tour! Do you have any favorite spots? Leave a comment and let me know. Happy EAST, everyone!

East Austin Studio Tour

Wednesday, November 12th

Bess Bistro

In our quickly evolving restaurant environment, it’s nice to see some of our older eateries hanging in there. Now most people wouldn’t classify a business that opened in 2006 as old but given that most places we talk about in Austin came into play after 2008 or so, let’s go with it. I believe each generation of Austinites has a valid point of view in the Old Austin vs. New Austin debate, as old means something different to all of us.

Anyway, Bess Bistro has been around for about eight years, a mainstay on West 6th for locals and tourists alike. Sandra Bullock’s name brings a bit of glamour and a lot of cache, but Bess doesn’t want to ride on that indefinitely. To keep up with Austin’s changing tastes and constantly elevating standards, they’ve reinvented their New American menu, while keeping the same cozy, romantic ambiance.

In fact, it’s so dark and cozy in there that my photos didn’t come out. Luckily, I was able to snag some professional photos* of what we ordered. First—my favorite dish of the night—mussels sautéed in a rich tomato broth with lardons and crunchy ciabatta to soak it all up.

Sauteed Mussels at Bess BIstro in Austin Texas

We also had Mushroom Arancini as a starter, and they were crunchy on the outside with a dense and fragrant center.

Mushroom Arancini at Bess Bistro, Austin Texas

For our entrees we had the Diver Seared Scallops and Berkshire Pork Chop. Of the two, the chop was better cooked. But I’m a professional scallop eater and am extra particular about my sear. It should be noted that when I ate at Bess my plates looked just these, so beautiful and artfully presented.

Pan Seared Diver Scallops at Bess Bistro, Austin Texas

Berkshire Pork Chop at Bess Bistro, Austin Texas

The Chocolate Hazelnut Napoleon was a perfect finish with its comforting flavors and satisfying textures. The hazelnut mascarpone ice cream was so decadent and would be a fantastic dessert on its own.

Chocolate Hazlenut Napoleon at Bess Bistro, Austin, Texas

Have you been to the new Bess Bistro yet? What are your favorites from the fall menu? What do you think Sandra’s favorite is? Probably something light…

Sandra Bullock in Gravity

*All photos by Jody Horton