Saturday, March 31, 2012

Austin

One of the things on my list this year was to play at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin. Originally, both my band and my boyfriend's band Diehard hoped to tour down and play, but that turned out not to be financially feasible for either. I could have waited to see if it would work out next year, but who knows if it ever will, so the two of us decided to go this year as a vacation.

We stayed with Evan's friend Aaron, who was an amazing host. We had our own bedroom in his sunny house out in the suburbs about five miles south of downtown. It was a full house, between us and his roommate and two other visiting musician friends. The week was filled with walking around Austin, watching live music, relaxing around the house, cooking communal meals, and late night jamming.

Austin had a record amount of rain this winter, which meant that dandelions were growing high like cornstalks everywhere. They aren't used to needing to cut back their lawns because of the normally dry climate.


We did a lot of walking. We were able to get away without renting a car because Aaron was nice enough to drive us around and Austin has a decent public bus system. However, because they close off street sections and traffic is crazy during SXSW, it often made sense to park on the south side of Ladybird Lake or get off the bus early and walk all the way downtown. Luckily, there was also an abundance of pedicabs, which we took a couple times when we need to quickly cross town between shows.

The University of Texas campus makes for a beautiful stroll.

The city is planned for great views: from standing here outside the Blanton Museum of Art you can see the capital building directly down the way. The Blanton currently has an overly large Hudson Valley school exhibit, which made me homesick, and a decent modern art collection.


Barton Springs, a spring-fed pool just south of downtown, was too cold for me to do more than graze the bottoms of my feet against the surface tension of the water. I preferred to sit on the grass hill in the sun and watch my friends swim below.


Everyone raves about Texan cuisine, but I tried taco trucks, Tex Mex (from Polvos) and barbecue (from Rudy's) - and nothing blew me away. Probably because I live in New York City where I can get the best of whatever I want whenever I want. Actually, the best barbecue I had in Austin was brisket served at a potluck that had been lovingly smoked and then roasted at a low temperature for a total of something like 20 hours.

This is not Austin specific, but Aaron was gifted a huge (5 pound?) slab of bacon that we helped him slice and eat. It was probably the most bacon I've ever seen at one time. It made us wonder if it would be cheaper to buy bacon as a slab than sliced, but that is unfortunately not the case, as we learned at our Brooklyn farmers market this morning.

Even though the Daily Juice shop is conveniently located next to a bus stop and seems set up for sipping while waiting for the bus downtown, be warned that you cannot bring your expensive juice on the bus. This caused us to miss a show, but that's all part of the SXSW experience. There are so many shows that you have to accept that you can't possibly make it to all of them. More on that to come.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Year of Cocktails


This is turning out to be the year of cocktails. I was never much into cocktails before, generally dismissing them as too expensive. But lately I've learned the pleasure of sipping on something deliciously classy rather than filling myself with beer.

For the party I helped my boyfriend host last month, we set up a full bar with some quirky mixers. Evan made habanero infused tequila for margaritas following this recipe, sans grapefruit. Thank you to Rachel for inspiring a way to use the insanely spicy peppers from his grandfather's garden.


We prepared ginger simple syrup, which can be used in both whiskey gingers and moscow mules. The recipes out there for ginger syrup vary in their suggested ratios and time (Martha wants you to use A LOT of ginger, or maybe you don't need as much sugar OR ginger), so I haven't figured out the perfect proportions yet but below is a rough guideline. Peppercorns are definitely essential for a nice spicy bite.

We also made maple simple syrup to use up the crystallized dregs of a jar of maple syrup, but I'm not sure anyone took advantage of it. I myself was too busy trying out the drinks below. And of course I had an Old Fashioned again last Sunday for the Mad Men season premiere.

Yes, that is still a little Christmas tree in the background. We have been trying to keep a potted tree alive all winter until it is warm enough to go outside, but it is pretty dried out at this point, so it's unclear how it will fare.

Have any fun cocktail recipes you want to share?


Ginger Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1 knob of ginger about 3 inches long

Peel ginger and cut into several thin slices. Combine ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and steep for 30 minutes before straining out the ginger and peppercorns. Store in a jar for about up to a month.

Spicy Margarita
2 oz habanero-infused tequila
1 oz triple sec
1/2 oz lime juice

Old Fashioned
2 oz bourbon
3 dashes of bitters
1/2 tsp sugar
orange twist

Whiskey Ginger
2 oz bourbon
1/2 oz ginger simple syrup
2 oz seltzer

Moscow Mule
2 oz vodka
1 oz ginger simple syrup
1 oz lime juice
2 oz seltzer

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Savings of Biking


Now that it's been a full year since I started bike commuting, I thought I would look back to determine how much I saved. The cost of public transportation keeps rising in New York City, where an unlimited monthly pass went from $89 to $104 last year -- and there is word of another fare hike coming up in the next year. So in addition to the health and environmental benefits of biking, it can also save you some cash.

Over the past year, I averaged 6.4 subway/bus rides per week, totaling $711 for the year, and I biked an average of 26 miles per week. There were some weeks where I was able to rely completely on my bike and didn't need public transportation, but there were also a couple weeks where I didn't bike at all. It wasn't so much the winter cold that stopped me -- in fact, I could have easily biked all through the winter because we didn't get much snow and the weather never dipped cold for too long. Rather, various logistical factors kept me from riding more - like staying up late for rock shows and being too tired to bike in the morning, or health reasons, or post-work plans that I wouldn't want to bike home drunk from, or hopping back and forth between my apartment and my boyfriend's and not always having my bike with me.

I also looked at the cost of bicycle maintenance, which totaled $243 for the year. I paid for a tune-up, two fenders (since the first one was a clip-on type that sucked and kept falling off), a couple bike lights (since one was stolen and one fell off) and a flat tire repair. I included the $40 price of a Transportation Alternatives membership, since it got me discounts at bike shops and they do good advocacy work to improve bike lanes and pedestrian and biker safety in New York.

So $243 for bike maintenance + $711 for metrocard = $954. Meanwhile, if I had paid for an unlimited pass and taken the subway to work every day, like my previous years in New York City, I would have paid $1,248. This means that I saved $294 over the year by commuting by bike rather than by public transportation alone. I expected the savings to be higher, but it's definitely not an insignificant amount. And in reality, I saved even more because my metrocard was deducted pre-tax from my paycheck. Now I can challenge myself to bike more miles and save more money next year!

Have you ever tried changing the way you commute and seen how much you save?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Beet Cocoa Cupcakes


I helped my boyfriend throw a party last month and was rearing to bake some interesting cupcakes, as I hadn't made any since my birthday party in December. I decided to try my recipe for chocolate zucchini cupcakes with pureed roasted beets in place of zucchini -- since it's wintertime and beets are available seasonally but zucchini is not. I also used only 3/4 cup of cocoa powder instead of a full cup because that was all I had on hand. It turns out that missing quarter cup of cocoa powder made a big difference. Instead of having a rich chocolate flavor, they were mildly cocoa tinged, more like these beet oreo cupcakes or these cocoa applesauce muffins. The moral of the story is that beets can be great with chocolate (as with my walnut beet brownies), but make sure there is enough chocolate power to match the earthy sweetness of beets. Also, it's cool to see beets make the batter turn so pretty and jewel-toned. And finally, I topped the cupcakes with coconut frosting, but found that the coconut and beet competed for attention in a distracting way rather than tasting complementary.




Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fueled by Fries

I know I promised cupcakes next, but I come bearing hot dogs instead. My friends have started up a food truck business called Snap that serves Chicago hot dogs and avocado fries and other tasty foodstuffs. They spent the last year selling at various food and craft markets in New York, and now they've launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the last bit of money they need to get their truck on the road. They bought a truck that they are converting to biodiesel so the used frying oil can be used to power their vehicle, in a brilliant form of recycling. They're also using locally sourced ingredients and actually plan to compost their compostable cutlery (that stuff won't just break down in the landfill). So not only is it delicious, it's also responsible and smart business.

If you're in the New York area, consider helping them out! They have another $5,000 to raise by next Monday. Kickstarter pledges come with free hot dogs and other goodies once the truck is running this summer.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

5 Years

Last Saturday, this blog turned five. Over those five years, this blog saw me through the period of personal transformation that was my mid twenties, during which I figured out a lot about myself and what kind of life I want to lead. When I created it in March 2007, I was twenty-two, less than one year out of college, and feeling not quite passionate about anything. I called my blog The Wounded Chef and intended it as a place to simply store recipes as I learned the joys of cooking. My first few posts lacked both stories and photos and involved fake food ingredients like Smart Balance and Egg Beaters.

But by that summer, my focus changed to whole, unprocessed foods grown locally and made from scratch. I became a devotee to my weekly Saturday ritual of shopping at my local farmers market. I learned to bake bread. I took part in the Dark Days Challenge to eat one mostly local meal each week, even in the winter, until it became a way of life. I planted my first urban garden. I discovered my love for hosting parties. I found myself drawn more and more to the kitchen (perhaps as a way to avoid other problems in my life). Given my increasing concern over environmental
issues, I found a new job at a conservation nonprofit.

Along the way, I got bored of just writing about food, so I changed the name of the blog to Color Me Green and started incorporating other parts of my "slow food eco-friendly life in Brooklyn" -- like bikingDIY projects, explorations of Brooklyn and travels to far away places like Maine and Argentina and not so far away places like upstate NY. I see this space as a place to chronicle my interests and adventures, as well as to share my journey in lowering my environmental impact and living fully with intention.

I haven't ever written here as regularly as I've liked, although I am constantly hopeful that I can be around more often. My life for the past couple years has involved a lot of moving homes and running around. In the coming few months, I'm looking forward to getting a bit more settled into my next apartment and having more time for blogging and personal creative projects.

Thanks to my readers for sticking around over these past five years!  I've appreciated the support of the many friends I've made through blogging, some whom I have even been lucky enough to meet in person. To celebrate, my next post will offer cupcakes.