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Crawfish Season in Houston

When I moved to Houston, I heard about two main things that everyone looks forward to in the spring: the livestock rodeo and crawfish season. I am grateful I have gotten to cross these two things off the bucket list so far. And even luckier for me, both of these events have been incredibly delicious.

crawfish

Last weekend, I was going to visit the Houston Crawfish Festival but due to the rain, it got cancelled. Instead, my friend and I went to BB’s Cafe. The restaurant is known for what they call Tex-Orleans cooking, or in other words, New Orleans-themed food with a Texas twist. We started off with these Tex-Cajun Virgin fries, which were recommended by the waitress. Extra crispy and salty shoestring fries were topped with queso, gravy and roast beef. I would not have normally spotted these on the menu myself because they sounded so rich, but a few bites into them I was already trying to imagine how to make them myself at home. Why did I kid myself into thinking I would not like them? After seven months in Houston, I could practically eat queso like soup. Plus, the tender beef basically melted in my mouth.

fries

bbscafefries

Despite a long wait and an incredibly crowded place, we got our crawfish in record time. Three pounds of these little guys looks daunting for two people, but in reality, you only eat a little bit of meat from their tails. This was the perfect amount. There is quite an art to dissembling the creatures. It requires just the right amount of pressure to open up the shell near the belly of the crawfish and a gentle finesse to pull the tender meat out of the tail. All the work is worth it when you dip the meat in butter and lemon juice, then lick your messy cajun-stained hands clean. You mustn’t forget to roll your corn on the cob in the leftover buttery/cajun/lemon juice on your plate or dip the red potatoes straight into an extra side of seasoning.

crawfish

sweettea

My tall glass of sweet tea with lemon was refreshing when the cajun seasoning had a little kick. However, I would not disagree with the choice of ordering a cold beer or bloody Mary for an afternoon brunch. This surely will not be the last time I get my hands messy with this delicacy. Next time, though, I will avoid wearing an ivory sweater that will easily show evidence of my cajun-indulgence.

Love food. Love self. Love life.
Gabriela

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Five Freezer Essentials (Video)

The whole concept of freezer cooking is fascinating to me. Scanning recipes upon recipes on Pinterest where people make 50 meals in one day seems a little extreme, but with a busy schedule and trying to save money by not eating out, I have been utilizing my freezer much more. I made a short Gourmet Gab: On the Go video to talk about my five freezer essentials, plus one bonus just for fun.

Chicken Breast
If there was one food that every person should have in their freezer, it would be chicken breast. They can literally be used for anything. Defrosted quickly and seasoned any way to go with almost any recipe. A recent trick of mine is to sauté some chicken breast with a generous dose of salt and pepper, slice them up and store in a tupperware in the fridge. I’ll grab one to add to pre-made Trader Joe’s salads for lunch in a pinch.

Seafood
One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to experiment cooking more with seafood. I love eating it, but it seemed intimidating to me to cook. I did some reading about how easy shrimp is to cook (less than 5 minutes) and how to cook frozen fish without thawing. One of my favorite new recipes is this 20-minute Spicy Sriracha Shrimp and Zucchini Lo Mein.

Soup or Stew
Sunday soups have always been a tradition for me. I will make a big batch of soup and then divide it up into containers for ready-to-heat dinners. Sometimes I can only take a few days of the soup before it gets too repetitive. Freezing one or two of the containers ensures I have a back-up dinner ready, but don’t have to eat the same meal five nights in a row. Try this White Chicken Chili…it is the bomb.

Vegetable Medley
Frozen vegetables are one of the easiest ways to add nutritional value to your meals. While there is debate about frozen vegetables retaining their nutritional profiles, I am an advocate for eating vegetables that were frozen is better rather than not eating vegetables at all. Toss them in a stir fry or roast them in the oven. Either way, you can go wrong.

Fruit
While I don’t currently have a blender in my tiny temporary kitchen in Houston, I will be investing in a good one for my next apartment. Adding frozen bananas or a berry medley to the blender with some Greek yogurt, honey and even a few handfuls of spinach makes for an easy on-the-go breakfast smoothie packed with nutrients. There’s really no ideal recipe for smoothies – just try different combinations to find your favorite.

Bonus
Watch the Gourmet Gab: On the Go video above to find out what my #6 essential to have in the freezer is. Let me preface it with this advice: “Everything in moderation.”

Love food. Love self. Love life.
Gabriela

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Mornings with theSkimm

I am 100% a morning person. There is no doubt about it. While I could stay up dancing the night away, I love nothing more than waking up to the sunshine and knowing I have a whole day ahead of me. Over the years I have established a morning ritual. Wake up around 8:00, check social media, delete junk emails and start brewing my cup of coffee. Breakfast usually comes next, along with some time on the couch watching the Today show and answering any quick emails.

Last summer I added one thing to my morning routine that I now cannot live without. It’s called theSkimm. It’s a daily email newsletter in your inbox 6:00am Monday through Friday that can be considered your secret weapon for the day. It breaks down all the news you need to stay in the know and jump into conversation—it’s smart, witty and quick.

theskimm

Co-founders Danielle & Carly met while studying abroad in college. They reconnected as full-time NBC News producers and began to notice that their smart, successful friends were very short on time and kept asking for quick updates about the news headlines.  They saw the opportunity in front of them and left to launch theSkimm in July 2012.

Now, theSkimm is read all over the world. The hilarious references and clever writing make even foreign policy interesting. If you haven’t signed up already, I think it will be a great addition to your morning routine. Every day, while eating my breakfast I spend five minutes Skimming and catching up with what’s happening in the world. My  latest favorite breakfast combination is Trader Joe’s Maple Pecan Clusters cereal with a sliced banana and a cup of coffee. I love the crunchy granola clusters and the subtle sweetness from the maple flavor.

theSkimm

I would love to hear–what is included in your morning ritual? Happy Skimming!

Love food. Love self. Love life.
Gabriela

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Table for One: Eating by Yourself in Public

Is it just me, or when you see people eating by themselves in public do you sometimes feel sorry for them being alone? Up until this year, I thought lone diners looked rather sad and as if they were missing a companion across the table. After living in a new city by myself for the past seven months, I have actually learned to feel the opposite and value time to myself, even if that means eating a meal in peace and quiet. I will no longer look sympathetically at people flying solo, but rather congratulate them for taking some alone time and courageously dining as a party of one. With experience hanging out independently at coffee shops and treating myself to indulgent brunch, I have gained some insight about the perks being at a table for one.

tableforone

You can make up stories about the people around you. When I travel, I sometimes play the game in the airport where I make up a story in my head about where someone is going or who they are traveling with. This game gets really fun in restaurants or coffee shops because you can to spend some more quality time (subtly/accidentally) gathering observations about the people around you and crafting more imaginative stories. I sound so sketchy saying this, so please do not take this advice too seriously.

You are the only person you have to entertain. No forced first date conversations or crying babies to calm. No awkward morning after conversations or small talk with people you may not ever see again. Just you, your food and some precious peace and quiet.

You can order whatever you want. If you are the kind of person that orders something different based on the people who you are with, eating alone is going to be your saving grace. Order that bacon mac and cheese or triple chocolate French toast without feeling judged by your dining partner(s).

You can eat the whole thing. No sharing required at this table, just one fork and knife to dive wholly into the dish. Unlike when you have a dining partner requesting bites of your food, you may have enough leftover to take home for later.

You can take your time or eat-and-go. There is no right amount of time to take when you are dining by yourself. If you want to hang out, catch up on your latest read or scan Instagram for an hour, go for it! If you want to eat and then get on the move, there’s no proper etiquette stopping you.

You can relish in the awkward looks you may will get. People around you may feel the same way I did before I started dining by myself. They may smile sympathetically at you or ask you twice, “Just one?” or “It’s just you?”. Smile politely back. If anyone in that conversation is going to feel awkward, it’s not going to be you.

Dining on your own may take some getting used to, but after a few meals you will begin to appreciate the quiet time and ability to totally indulge in a dish that satisfies your craving. Order yourself that mimosa or glass of wine and savor the time as a table for one. If you have any memorable stories, I would love to read them below in the comments!

Love food. Love self. Love life.
Gabriela

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Road Trip Tips for Your Next Adventure

In the midst of chaotic work hours and overly booked calendars, we often miss the beauty of spontaneity. While I was home in Arizona during winter break, my four good friends and I spontaneously decided the night before that we were going to take a road trip to Sedona, Arizona and do wine tasting at a quaint little vineyard called Page Springs Cellars. I am sure you can imagine the memories that come with packing four girls into a tiny car with barely any phone service…not to mention our throwback music selection. I created this short video as a recap to our laughter-filled-dance-party-packed-trip.

Here are my top five tips for your next road trip:

Pack Ahead
Have your bags packed and snacks ready for the trip the night before. Waking up at the crack of dawn when it’s still dark out is so much easier when all you have to do is throw your clothes on! Snacks like trail mix, pre-sliced fruits and some crackers will give you variety incase you get hungry throughout the day.

Yo DJ
Put the music guru in charge of being DJ. The time flies by in the car when you have a great selection of music everyone can rock out to. Whether it’s from a CD mix or a custom Spotify playlist, you can’t go wrong with a few hours of karaoke.

Prevent the Hanger
Map out a few spots you have read or researched about to eat, even if you just do your research through Yelp during the car drive. Having a general idea of where you want to eat will prevent the hangry (hungry + angry) side from coming out and allow you for more time to explore.

When in Doubt…
Listen to the locals. If you’re stuck about where to go or what to eat next, ask around and trust what the people around you are recommending. They often know about the hidden gems that get overlooked by tourists.

“Can you send me that?”
Assign one person to start a iCloud Photo Stream so everyone can share their photos of the trip at the end of the day. This will allow you spend less time on your phone and more time relishing in the beauty around you.

Where are you planning your next road trip in 2015?

Love food. Love self. Love life.
Gabriela