Lunch at Cafe Ginger

Monday, December 30, 2013
I have returned from Christmas Insanity Land!

And if by "Christmas Insanity Land," you are assuming that what I actually mean is Christmas, followed by watching all of seasons one and two of Scandal on Netflix while drinking approximately 4 bottles of wine, then you would be correct.

Ringing in the new year with a bang! 

But it really has been super nice having some time off from work to just chill. Oh and to continue running 8,000 miles in preparation for this marathon next month. Like you do.

Besides my trash TV marathons and actual marathons, another awesome thing about the holidays is that my sister Emily is home! And now that she's all graduated, she's temporarily living with me! And she enjoys trash TV just as much as i do, and THE BACHELOR starts next month! All the excitement!!!!

On one of Emily's first days back home I met up with her for lunch at Cafe Ginger in River Oaks. If there's anyone who loves sushi more than I do, it's Emily (By the way, I have challenged her to a sushi eat-off, which I will be sure to report back to you all on...No? That's gross? Got it).

Located in the River Oaks shopping center, Cafe Ginger is a "Chinese food and sushi restaurant," that is BEAUTIFUL inside. It is large, and grandiose, and fancy, and seriously not at all what I had expected. Olivia Pope would totally approve! 

Oh, she's just a fictional character on an ABC drama? Got it.

In an attempt to intimidate one another before our TBD Sushi Eat-Off, we both ordered Sushi Combo B (6 pieces sushi: tuna, salmon, white fish, crab, shrimp, and eel. One California roll) with Miso Soup, substituting the California Roll with a Philly Roll. 

And we both ate. every. bite.

The Miso Soup was phenomenal. It was perfectly salty, incredibly flavorful, and borderline hearty, which I consider an unusual characteristic of Miso Soup. 

Following suit, the sushi was ridiculous. It was some of the freshest sushi I've ever had. Not only was the sushi completely colorful and absolutely beautiful, it all pretty much melted in your mouth. Double-Thumbs Ups from the Ogonosky Sisters!

I wish you all a safe, healthy, and happy 2014 - See you next year! 

And yes, I absolutely just made the "See you next year" classic Dad Joke. #yolo

Texas Recipes: Life-Changing Turkey Meatballs with Vodka Sauce and Spinach

Monday, December 23, 2013
Seriously. Life-changing.

If you're wanting to wow the crowds, wow yourself, woo a potential husband, or prove to your father that you can whip up a mean meal, MAKE THIS DISH.

My dad was already a fan of my Cajun Bouchées à la Reine and my Strawberry Pizza Christmas Cookies, but I think this recipe is what made him a true believer. And folks. It's ridiculously easy to make. And it's healthy! Win/win! Especially because if you're anything like me during this holiday season, you probably need a break from All of the Fatty Foods and Chocolate.

First, preheat your oven to 350. Then get your old fashioned oats, and process them until you've got you some fiiiine lookin' oats....


And if you don't have any oats around, you can substitute them for a 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs. I just happen to have like 4,000 tubs of oats lying around my kitchen, soooo....

Then you chop up (or process if you're lazy like me/sob like an idiot any time you are within 2 feet of an onion) your onion until you've got you some fiiiine lookin'....


Then combine the aforementioned oats and onions, along with the ground turkey, egg, salt, pepper, parsley, and oregano. And I don't care what your political affiliation is, go totally liberal with those seasonings.

Seriously, who gave this girl a blog?

Get your hands in there. Mix that stuff like there's no tomorrow. And form the cutest little meatballs this side of the Mississippi.

Give your non-stick pan a little spray of oil (listen, sometimes it's best to play it safe), and fry those puppies up over medium-high heat, until they're good and brown on each side, roughly 5-10 minutes.

Pop those beautiful little meatballs into your finest casserole dish that may or may not have a giant chunk missing from one of the handles because you may or may not have accidentally smashed it against a subway pillar in New York a year ago.

I cropped the handle in question out of all of these photos so you'll never know....

Pour the entire jar of your favorite vodka sauce all over those ground turkey delights. I used store-bought, but if you're fancy and ambitious, by all means, make your own!

Pop 'em into the oven, and let them cook for roughly 40 minutes, or until their internal temperature reaches 165.

While they are cooking, feel free take a nap under your favorite chair and manage to look equal parts adorable and ridiculous:

Or you can whip up some snazzy sides:

Pictured: Sauteed asparagus with seasoned salt
Get out your spinach.

Top your meatballs with said spinach, and pop them back in the oven for a few more minutes. You may even want to broil them (I know I did). Do this until the spinach wilts. Allow yourself time to take an "artsy" picture.

And wow the crowds!

Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays everyone!

Padthai Thai Restaurant

Friday, December 20, 2013
"I need to know how committed we are to this."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, I just got here, and there's a line down the street already, and I know we said we were going to have a nice leisurely dinner beforehand, committed are we to having our 13 year-old selves high-five our 28 year-old selves because we finally got to stand up front at a Backstreet Boys concert?"


"Oh...We are SO committed."

And that's how my good friend Melinda and I ended up eating Thai takeout (chopsticks and all) while standing outside in line for two hours at Bayou Center before attending a 90s hit boy band concert.

Because this is what it means to be legitimate. To give your proverbial Teenage Inner Self a break. To say, "I don't care if I have to be on my feet for a total of 5 hours, despite twitching knees and achy back, and be out well past my bedtime of 9:00 - er, I mean 10:00 - on a Wednesday night. I don't care. Darn you adulthood, and responsibility, and significantly less amount of energy! You, my Teenage Inner Self, deserve this. You, who wore out numerous CDs from countless listens, as you feverishly professed your love for Nick Carter in pages upon pages of your diary. You, who studied their dances for hours upon end and subjected everyone around you to attending your 'performances' of their numbers. You, who went to four concerts, and sat so far away you couldn't even make out their faces, but didn't care because just being in their presence (albeit 800 MILLION yards away) was magical. You, my sensitive, unabashed, bright-eyed, heartsick Teenage Inner Self? You deserve this."

But you're also pushing 30, and if you're about to do this marathon of a concert, good God, you can't skip dinner.

Downtown's Padthai Thai Restaurant is perfectly located just a few blocks away from Bayou Place. The inside is minimalist, light, and bright, and the employees are incredibly friendly and accommodating.

Melinda and I both ordered the Pad Se Ew - Hers with chicken, and mine with mock duck. Which, I must tell you, I was beyond elated about. I've had trouble finding Thai places in Houston that offer vegetarian duck. Often when I ask for it, I'll get a blank stare and a "Do you mean tofu?" response (No. I NEVER mean tofu). So even though Padthai Thai's menu does not indicate that they offer mock duck, they do! And I was so happy!

Side note: They also were very concerned with my vegetarian eating habits. When I ordered the Pad Se Ew with mock duck, the woman I spoke with said, "You know the dish has egg in it, right?" "Oh, that's fine - I'm not a vegetarian, I just like vegetarian duck!"

I'm weird.

But it was absolutely  delicious.

I cannot imagine a better "Standing in Line for Hours with one of Your High School Besties, Anxiously Waiting to see Your Childhood Heartthrobs" meal. The noodle dish was so flavorful and filling, and the delightful mock duck (seriously, you gotta try it) filled a void that had been growing within me since I left NYC (which is abundant with mock duck).

So one day when you find yourself in a similar situation (because, come on, you will), I definitely recommend Padthai Thai. But this would be a good meal regardless. It has definitely been my favorite Thai experience in Houston so far!

You are my fire, the one desire. Believe when I say, I want it thaaaaat way....

Lights in the Heights

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
I love Christmas.

Everything about it - The food, the family, the not-at-all-annoying incessant loop of carols, the decorations, the parties, the gifts, the movies...I even temporarily love the cold weather (well, when it's actually cold, that is). The list could go on!

I also love the lights. Last weekend my friends Lenny and Christy threw a Christmas/housewarming party at their new beautiful home in the Heights. After an hour or so of eating, drinking, and merriment, the party attendees ventured out into the streets to attend the annual event Lights in the Heights. Armed with wassail and a few super fun ladies (Megan and Kay I'm looking at you), we were ready!

Now. I will say, the thought of large crowds jam-packed into one area makes me itch, so I was unsure as to how this would all pan out. And although there were a lot of people there, you could definitely move, and it never seemed too overwhelming.

And there was so much to see!

There were live bands on the porches of private parties!

Santa Clauses that you could visit!

Rolling beer kegs!

And of course, beautiful lights!

A giant yuletide party in the streets of Houston's beautiful Heights neighborhood? Sold. I might have to make this an annual tradition.

And I might have to figure out a way to get invited to the owl party...

Happy Hour at Mr. Peeples

Monday, December 16, 2013
You know I love a good Happy Hour.

I mean, who doesn't?

But more than just loving a good Happy Hour, I scope out fancy restaurants I normally wouldn't be able to splurge on during a regular night out that offer amazingly affordable food and drink happy hours.

I've been hearing about Mr. Peeples for the past few months since before it opened. The loud and, well, PURPLE interior sent tongues a-wagging throughout the city. A high dollar steakhouse that looks more like a dance club (yes, I just said "dance club"), than a Ruth's Chris?!?! The NERVE!

While the interior of the place is definitely different, I dug it. My friend Meredith and I went there for dinner (Happy Hour) last Friday, and everything was great. Definitely a place to see and be seen, the bar area was packed with young professionals dressed to the nines.

"Dressed to the nines"? "Dance club"? 1942 called....

Did I mention the graffiti?

Mr. Peeples is chock full of vibrant artwork at every turn. But while the interior gives off a fun, edgy vibe, the food was sheer transcendent elegance.

We started off with the Pork Belly.

On its own, pork belly is one of my new favorite things in the world (seriously, did pork belly exist before 2013? I sincerely doubt it). But Mr. Peeples gave it a whole new complex twist with peanuts and sriracha. Man, was it phenomenal.

After that we shared the Lobster and Crab Tostada.

This dish was funky and great, but it was not nearly as awesome as the other three dishes. It definitely offered a lighter pause before the much heartier appetizers we had after it.

Next up were the Mushroom Crepes. Our server thought Meredith (who was talking a little funny due to a cold) said "Crab Cakes." - So she brought the crab cakes out. On any other day, I would have loved a crab cake, but those crepes were really calling to me. So our friendly, bubbly server apologized (while Meredith apologized for her current speaking issues) and brought out the crepes for us.

AND THEY WERE THE GREATEST THINGS EVER. I mean, deliriously good. Creamy, smooth, and packed with flavor. WOW.

The final dish we had was the Butternut Squash Ravioli.

A TIE FOR THE GREATEST THINGS EVER. Rich, decadent...It's not even noon, and I'm drooling just thinking about them. The sweetness of the butternut squash filling versus the savory of the sauce, LORDY.

Oh, and did I mention the drinks?

This "Apple Pie" cocktail was delicious and dangerous. Meredith and I saw "The Nutcracker" at the Wortham after dinner that night, and I was fearful I was going to be That Drunk Girl at the ballet because of this potent drink. Fortunately for me, I was not That Drunk Girl. In fact, That Drunk Girl was sitting right next to me, making me look like a saint. (That Drunk Girl, loudly during the show: "The Nutcracker is dancing AGAIN?!" Listen, Drunk Girl, we may all be thinking it, but...)

Mr. Peeples is a super trendy, fun place with outrageously good food - perfect for a downtown pre-show Happy Hour. I couldn't recommend it enough, and I can't wait to go back!

Purple is the new black.

Texas Recipes: Strawberry Pizza Christmas Cookies

Saturday, December 14, 2013
I'm not a competitive person.

Truly. I'd say I'm more a participatory person. Which is why I'm running the Houston marathon in January - In no bizarre alternate universe do I truly believe I'll finish victorious with a phenomenal time. My only goal is to merely finish and live. But the reason I'm doing it is because my mom is. Hence, participation!

So when they said that there would be a dessert contest at our office holiday party this year, I of course couldn't resist.

Now. I can confidently say that I'm a decent cook. I can whip up a pretty tasty filet, and my turkey meatballs are a force to be reckoned with (recipe to come!), but baker I am not.

So I had no delusions of actually winning (especially when I found out that last year a guy made flan. FREAKING FLAN. Dear Santa: All I want for Christmas is a FLAN-MAKING husband.), but of course I wanted to participate!

I will forewarn you though that this is also a cautionary tale. But we'll get to that later.

In high school, my good friend Alex's mother used to always make strawberry pizza for our "wild" (they weren't wild) parties.

Fun Fact: Alex and I were boyfriend and girlfriend for 3 months. And part of it was in secret as we were rehearsing for "Little Shop of Horrors," and - you guessed it - I played the Audrey to his Seymour. S c a n d a l o u s .

Not-so Fun Fact: Alex, I owe you a call from like two months ago, GAH. I love you, don't hate me.

Any-HOO, I have such fond memories of this delectable dessert pizza, and it seemed pretty Kim-proof, so I decided to give it a whirl for the previously mentioned holiday office party! Instead of making it pizza-like, I actually made cookies using tree-shaped cookie cutters (though don't judge me because the trees came out looking less like trees and more like llamas.)

So let's break it down:

To start, use your very favorite sugar cookie recipe.

Or that.

Then you roll the sugar cookie dough out with your awesome rolling pin.

Or your fingers, if you don't have a rolling pin (Yeah, that was me).

But make sure you put flour down first! Everybody knows that!

(I didn't).

Then cut out your trees and put them on an un-greased pan. But don't put them too close together, because they'll come out looking like this:

And you'd rather they look like this:

(Sort of).

After they cool, spread cream cheese onto each one generously.

Then top them with your sliced up strawberries.

Sprinkle on a little (a lot) of powdered sugar.

Drop a few cookies on the floor to thank your little helper.

And voila!

It's just that easy! Seriously, if I can bake it, your toddler can. This recipe is Toddler-Proof. (Well, if your toddler is good with a stove and a knife.)

Rest assured though, I didn't make them because I'm lazy (though my Pillsbury cookie dough and mono-shaped cookie cutters beg to differ...), I made them because despite their simplicity, they're DUH-LICIOUS. Seriously, give them a whirl. Your precious theatre kids will thank me later.

But heed my warning (here's the cautionary part) - These do have to be served immediately. Otherwise, you'll take them to work in the morning, and by time the dessert contest happens in the afternoon you'll take one look at your cookies only to discover that they have turned into a pudding-esque mush. BUT! They'll still win the 3rd place prize! Because even though they took on some unknown ameoba-like form, they're still ridiculously delicious and people will be raving all day about your great strawberry shortcake!

These are so quick to make, after you're done you'll have plenty of time to finish off a bottle of wine and a bag of salt and vinegar kettle chips while watching an episode of Scandal on your Netflix! I mean, if you're into that sort of thing…
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