Travels by Alice: Dallas, Parts 1 & 2

I’m combining my trips to Dallas because both were fairly short trips. My first trip to Dallas was back during spring break, and it consisted of me and Danh just leaving early in the morning and driving back at night, so less than a day there. My second trip was this past weekend, for a wedding, so we really only had Friday to explore since Saturday was the wedding, and we returned back to Austin on Sunday.

Deep Ellum

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Known as Dallas’ eccentric arts and entertainment. Walking around the Deep Ellum district, there’s unique graffiti along each wall, street performers everywhere at night, and of course my favorite, these 3 traveling man sculptures that are laid out one by one down the street. Most of the warehouses have been closed, but there are quite a large number of great food places here that are still open and definitely worth trying as well.

Bishop Arts District

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I loved the old fashioned look of this area. We didn’t get much time to walk around and look at everything sadly, but definitely a fun date place to grab a cup of coffee and just walk around and browse around the many local shops here.

Klyde Warren Park

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So during our first trip, we drove underneath this park on our way back, so we added this to our list of places to check out during our second trip. Definitely worth it. This cute small park has events happening each weekend, as well as food trucks and a great view of that lovely Dallas traffic. It’s also located next to the Dallas Museum of Art, which is probably worth checking out as well.

Margret Hunt Hill Bridge/ Trinity Skyline Trail / Trinity Groves (?)

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There’s quite a story for this photo. So I looked up quite a few places that were popular for a Dallas skyline. The Commerce bridge was our target destination. Obviously, the location didn’t exist on Google maps. Then while I tried to randomly guess directions to turn to find this bridge, I may have told Danh to turn last second like a broken GPS. We got pulled over by a cop shortly after for not signaling while turning. Then while telling this cop our story and about how we were idiot tourists just trying to find a date night spot, he instead told us the directions to this bridge instead, the Margret Hunt Hill Bridge. I think our faces still looked quite confused as he was explaining, so he offered to take us there. A police escort! Danh jokingly commented that must’ve been a really slow night for him if he was willing to do that for us. I forgot the name of the officer, but we were both extremely grateful to be shown this spot. It was definitely a terrifying and hilarious night.

White Rock Lake

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Sunday afternoon. It was 100° already, and felt like 1000°. But we really wanted to check out this lake before we headed back to Austin, so we drove around half of this huge lake, and found this quite and nice looking small dock to take this photo at before we left. (We were literally sweating and dying during the 5 minutes trying taking this photo.) Would definitely walk the trails around here instead of driving around the lake if we came during the evening. (Aka it’s cooler and the sun isn’t burning through everything.)

Overall, Dallas is such a large city it’s so difficult to pick places to see, but these were definitely my favorite spots that we’ve toured so far! Hopefully the next time we go, we will find more great spots to see. Oh, and I also have a long list of Dallas foodie spots, but I want to wait for another trip to Dallas before making a post about that. 😉

Til next time,

Alice

Matcha Cake and Matcha More!

Hey! It’s been quite awhile, and I definitely haven’t been keeping up with biweekly updates. I thought that once summer came I would be able to write alot more, but sadly not the case! I signed up for a summer class at UT, which I thought would be an easy course. Nope. Wrong. So wrong. Number theory is basically my worst nightmare: proofs. So many proofs. It was terrible. But now its over. And to celebrate that, and Danh’s birthday, I made a cake. (This may or may not have been made the night before my final).

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Dark Chocolate Cake with Matcha Swiss Buttercream

First Impressions: I wanted to make something matcha flavored, since it is one of Danh’s favorite flavors for any dessert he eats, but I wasn’t sure if it would be a popular flavor for the rest of the crowd. Then I remembered hearing about how dark chocolate and Matcha paired really well together, so I decided to make a dark chocolate cake with a Matcha buttercream. Overall, this cake a slightly healthier(?) and definitely more flavorful cake.

I’m a fan of dark chocolate, and wanted to try Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder. And what better way to try it out than to test out the recipe on the back of the container! So this is Hershey’s “Especially Dark” Chocolate Cake:

2 cups of sugar

1 3/4 cup of all purpose flour

3/4 cup of Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 cup of milk

1/2 cup of vegetable oil

2 tsp of vanilla extract

1 cup of boiling water

So this makes 1 layer of the 10-inch cake. Repeated the recipe again for a second layer. After I leveled the cakes so that they were stackable, I decided to take a taste test with my mom with the leftover pieces. It was actually really moist and the perfect amount of sweetness for me, which is a huge surprise since I’m usually not a fan of most recipes since they’re usually too sweet for me, and force me to cut the sugar by alot in future remakes. Very moist cake, though it did dry out overnight so it wasn’t as moist the day of the party. My mom really enjoyed it as well; In fact, there was no remainders of the cake for me to toss, since she finished the tops off of both cakes!

Now for the frosting: I hate american buttercream. It is absolutely too sweet and impossible to use on anything since it’s so thick. Asian cakes (specifically korean) have this amazing light, fluffy, cloud icing on most of their cakes that is a very light and sweet version of whipped cream. But Americans. This buttercream like a giant slab of fat and death. So I decided to try making Matcha Swiss meringue buttercream: (Here is a great tutorial that I used to get started.)

6 egg whites

1 1/4 cup of granulated sugar

1 3/4 cup of softened butter (but not melted!)

1 tsp of salt

2 tsp of vanilla extract

2 tbsp culinary grade matcha powder

I was very nervous that the meringue wouldn’t rise, since I had such an issue with my first batch of macarons I made. But luckily it did! And as everyone else in the comments stated, once you start adding in the butter, it’ll start looking very, very curdled and look really scary… but don’t lose hope! Just switch to high speed on your mixer and mix for a couple more minutes and it’ll return to the soft and light frosting it should be. Also feel free to add more matcha powder if you want stronger flavors.

Last but not least, assembling the cake! Stacked the two leveled cakes and coated it with the frosting. Definitely still learning how to frost a cake because there were so many uneven parts and the frosting wouldn’t smooth out completely. Then to cover all my cake’s ugly spots, I poured over some dark chocolate ganache made from heavy cream and dark chocolate chips, and topped it with oreos, green tea pocky, and green tea kitkats. Bringing it to the party, everyone was super surprised at how well the cake turned out, and it was quite a big hit with everyone! If you try the recipe out, feel free to provide your feedback  and post/tag me @treatsbyalice on instagram, or comment down below!

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Now for the “matcha more”:

What am I up to now?

Now that class is over, I’ll be resting for the remainder of the summer. I decided to follow the hive and participate in this summer’s Steam Summer Sale and bought Overcooked to try out. I’ve been addicted to the game ever since and have been spending the past few days screaming with Danh and setting kitchens on fire. Highly recommend you try playing this game with a friend or significant other and test the strength of your relationship. Feel free to buy it and try it out, though it isn’t on sale anymore sadly. If you have any other favorite Steam games similar to this cute little cooking game, definitely let me know.

When will I post again?

Next weekend Danh’s housemate will be getting married. (Oh my gosh, I feel so old, everyone around me is getting engaged and married) But we will be traveling to Dallas, so the next post should be another travel post about my trip to Dallas. Fingers crossed I find some really great sights to see and food to eat…

That’s all for now!

Alice

Table for Two: Healthy Date Night

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So, I’ve been recently trying to lose weight. Not a lot of weight, but I had several weddings that were coming up, and I hated how I looked in my dress. I also had signed up for the Longhorn Run with Danh, and I wanted to do well in it and not walk the entire course. Also, every time I go home for the weekend, I end up eating the most greasy food and not being able to really work out because I’m busy with family events. Hence, after getting back to the apartment Sunday night, Danh and I decided to make a clean meal that can also double as my meal prep for the week!

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Zucchini Pasta with Turkey Meatballs:

I’ve never used a spiralizer before, but it was pretty fun spiralizing a zucchini. I was pretty bad at it though, and most of my zucchini noodles ended up pretty short. Danh however, seemed to get the hang of it easily and made a noodle that basically took up the entire zucchini.

Turkey Meatballs! These were extremely juicy and tasty surprisingly, despite how dry and bland ground turkey usually is. So I usually wing recipes after reading several other recipes and combine them all together in the end. Also the recipe I’m about to provide makes a lot of meatballs because this is my meal prep for the week.

Lastly, to tie it all together I added a basic Alfredo sauce (butter, cream, cheese, garlic) and sauteed mushrooms to make the dish less dry and more creamy!

Meatball Recipe:

1 1/2 lb ground lean turkey

1/2 onion, diced finely

3/4 cup of garlic-seasoned panko bread crumbs

1 egg

3 cloves of garlic, finely diced

2 tablespoons fresh chopped scallions/green onions

1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

Salt/pepper to taste

Optional: We were worried about the meatballs not having enough flavor, so we extracted the meat of 1 Italian sausage and mixed it in. I actually thing it will taste fine without it, but it’s up to you!

Directions: Mix all ingredients in a bowl and mold the meatballs using your hands or a cookie dough scoop. Set in fridge to firm for about 10-15 minutes, and pan fry in olive oil. Cook on med-high heat while rotating the meatballs until outside is dark brown, then switch to med-low heat to let the insides cook slowly. This lets the outside cook quickly to trap the juices inside, and lets the inside of the meatball cook slowly so it is soft and moist.

Serving: Makes about 25 – 30 meatballs depending on the size you mold them to.

I know that there’s a huge debate on whether ground turkey or ground beef is healthier, but just read the labels when you buy your meat and you can decide what’s the best option for you! I hope you’ll try out these delicious turkey meatballs in your next dish. Tag me at @treatsbyalice if you did follow this recipe, and let me know if you have any other tricks and treats to help me lose some weight 😉

3 Unique Places for Photos in Austin

So you live in Austin and it’s time for your senior portraits or you’re just in the mood to take some nice photos of yourself. There’s the usual spots that are automatically recommended to every Austinite: The Capitol, Mt. Bonnell, 360 bridge (though those photos are now being limited by new parking enforcement), and (for UT students especially) in front of the clock tower. All these places are beautiful and capture the Austin hot spots well, but very over used. So I thought I’d share some less well known places that I like, but less common than the usual places. Also much thanks to the lovely Danh for letting me take photos of you as always 😉

Mueller Lake Park

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I stumbled into this amazing park almost about 2 years ago when I first got into the phase of trying to go to every park in Austin. I had a list of parks and every weekend would ask Danh to join me in walking each park (this may have been right before the PokemonGo craze). As soon as we drove into this park and saw the beautiful scenery and ducks, I knew this was going to be my favorite park. It’s a huge park that has everything you could want; endless trails, interactive playscapes, large green fields, surrounded by modern homes/duplexes. The Mueller community is on the rise though, as in just the short span of a year and a half, the Thinkery museum has been joined by several new local businesses/restaurants and a theater, with much more on the way. So get out and check this place out and take a couple of shots in the peaceful area before it gets chaotic!

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RH Austin

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All of the new and still developing Rock Rose area of the Domain is perfect for photos, but if you’re looking for a singular location, the RH gallery is the place. In fact, while walking in to take some personal photos of my own, I walked past a professional photo shoot happening right in front of the doors. This gallery has four stories of various styles of upscale furniture, and that means endless photos where you won’t be sitting in the same room just in different positions. My favorite part of this building would be the rooftop gallery, where the patio furniture is perfectly arranged and you’re overlooking the new buildings of the domain.

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The Factory

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No, this isn’t some rustic, abandoned warehouse location, this is a cafe with a soul. This place is all for socializing, with a sign right outside the door saying that laptops are a banned item here. There are plenty of tables with unique decor, and their menu is actually quite tasty as well. But despite laptops being a forbidden item, cameras are not. And there are quite a few photo worthy spots in this small cafe and I couldn’t even capture all of them, since there were people sitting at those areas. All in all, come for the decor, stay for the happy hour menu.

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I hope this post inspired you to explore these new places. Let me know or tag me on instagram  at @picsbyalice if you do use any of these beautiful locations!

Til next time,

Alice

Travels by Alice: San Antonio, Texas

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So last weekend, I went to San Antonio for a friend’s birthday party. I was busy traveling to and from Austin on Friday and Sunday, so Saturday was my free day to explore San Antonio. It was forcasted to be pouring throughout the day, but luckily for Danh and I, it didn’t rain that often.

Danh and I didn’t want to stop by the overcrowded, cliche tourist spots of San Antonio, aka the Alamo and the Rivercenter Mall, but we still did want to explore while learning San Antonio’s history. So that was the goal of our day in SA.

The Pearl Brewery 

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This was a perfect stop, and I would highly recommend it to anyone going to San Antonio. The entire area is themed around the once thriving brewery, with construction of more brewery themed buildings in progress. There are so many local shops and restaurants (though they were a bit too highly priced for us to dine at), and if you want a break from the crowds, the Riverwalk is situated right around the corner for a lovely view of the river.

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Hotel Emma. We were just walking in and out of different buildings to tour around, and we found a back door to the lounge of the hotel. This place is so beautiful in its old styled rooms, perfect for any photoshoot. Along the walls of the hotel are also little snippets about the history of the Pearl Brewery as well, which was a really great read. We found that the hotel is also connected to the Southerleigh brewery where we got a cup of beer to walk around with, thanks to the recommendation of the bartender there.

We stopped at Bakery Lorraine for a snack, sadly I didn’t take any good photos of their food there since we ran into friends and I forgot about taking photos. But their treats are beautiful and they tasted amazing as well, which is a huge thing for me since I find most desserts to be too overly sweet.

Our experience at this place was so much fun, and whenever we get the chance to explore San Antonio again, I will definitely come back to try out one of the restaurants there!

The Guenther House

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Imagine the Riverwalk taking a sharp bend. And then imagine a giant towering castle-like brick building that is the Pioneer Flour mill. Then imagine a quaint little house situated right between that bend and the factory. That is the Guenther House.

This place is not only a popular breakfast/brunch place, but it is also a museum, and a shop for their cooking products. The house belonged to the Guenther family that monopolized the flour industry in the 1800-1900s. The outside of the house also has plaques around the yard describing the history and growth of the Guenther’s mill. The museum consists of several rooms that allow guests to see the living room and halls frozen in time, along with artifacts of their success. The shop was filled with cookware, as well as cute flour bags of their sweet cream waffle, pancake, and cake mixes. I would’ve bought one for their sweet cream waffle, but I have a feeling that I would’ve messed it up somehow.

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Guenther House is known for their long wait, but their breakfast is definitely worth it. We got their Strawberry Sweet Cream Waffles and their 1851 Breakfast Platter, and our waiter also gave us a complimentary bread basket that let us sample their rolls, blueberry muffins, and cornbread.

Their waffles are amazing. I couldn’t stop talking about it throughout the meal. They are the fluffiest clouds of this gentle, sweet cream that’s similar to sweetened condensed milk. The strawberries and whipped cream were so fresh that it made the flavors of the waffle taste even better. I was stuffed after that waffle, but I had the urge to go order several more before my trip back to Austin.

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Though we only got to really go to two places, they were packed with so much. Years of history and yet San Antonio has managed to revitalize them into the modern day of San Antonio’s downtown. Highly recommend you add both of these places to your to go to list if you’re ever down in SA!

Til next time,

Alice

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

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So I’ve been insanely bombarded with life recently. I recently recovered from a pretty bad flu… or so I think it was. I had a week of fever, headaches, and sore muscles. I’m not sure what it was, but I’ve been slowly recovering. I also went through some more personal issues the past two weeks as well, and that is also slowly recovering. And in addition to recovering physically and mentally, I’ve been trying to catch up on schoolwork as well, which has been a pain. So while I’m on a rest period right before spring break, here’s some new resources I’ve been trying to catch up on. This is kind of my plug to my other social media, sorry 😉

Flickr: My photo feed has been the unedited photos I’ve been taking on my DSLR. I’ve been trying to figure out how to edit my photos using gimp, but I actually enjoy the photos I’ve been taking unedited. Follow my Flickr

Yelp: Yup, as a foodie, this is a app I use frequently when trying to decide where to eat. I’ve been trying to post more food reviews and photos as we go along. I think the hardest part of keeping up with Yelp is finding followers or having people notice your reviews over others, but I don’t mind. Follow my Yelp

Google Local Guides: A recent thing that I started, but my GPS hasn’t been on so it doesn’t update my visited place as much, but it does have quite a few rewards if you do update frequently, such as exclusive events and early releases of their products. Definitely need to start updating this more often. There’s no link to my Google guides page, but I highly recommend that you try out the Google Guide program for yourself here.

Instagram: I’ve started to update my food Instagram more often with recent food I’ve been making, so definitely check that out! My personal Instagram has a been a bit more quiet since I’ve been busy with school and dealing with the flu. Follow my food instagram or follow my personal instagram

I definitely will be writing a full post later on, probably during Spring break, but for now, I just wanted to update with why I haven’t been posting. Thanks!

Table for Two: Valentine’s Day

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So for Valentines, Danh and I have started a tradition of a home cooked meal. It saves a lot of hassle of dealing with restaurant reservations, long wait times, and rushed food and service that are all caused by this frantic holiday. Also cooking is also a fun way to spend your evening, especially when you’re trying out a new recipe together. Win or lose, it’s an experience that I would highly recommend to any couple.

Danh and I celebrated Valentines over the weekend since we go to school in different cities and won’t be able to see each other on the actual day of the holiday. Here was 3 course meal for the Sunday evening:

Appetizer: BBQ Chicken Pizza

Main Course: Crab Ravioli

Dessert: Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cake

Wine: Pizzolato Cabernet Sauvignon

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BBQ Chicken Pizza:

I’m not the biggest fan of pizza, which usually causes me to get hate from a lot of people, but for me I think it’s because marina/tomato sauce is the worst tasting thing for me. But don’t let me stop you from eating one of America’s favorite food. Pizza is definitely a fun dish that you can customize easily when making your own from scratch. For this flatbread pizza, we layered the dough with BBQ sauce, and then topped it off with shredded Mozzarella cheese, shredded baked chicken breast, diced red onions, and cilantro. I definitely recommend adding cilantro to pizza since it adds so much freshness to the pizza.

Crab Ravioli:

So Danh and I have always wanted to try to make our own ravioli. We didn’t really plan on it to be a difficult dish. We just imagined it as going to buy some pasta sheets, some ingredients for the filling, then wrapping it up. Turns out there’s not really any ravioli pasta sheets in the stores near us. We thought a lasagna sheet would work just as well. We were very wrong. This was one of our not so successful dishes. The stuffing was perfect, and the pasta as well, except the 2 lasagna sheets wouldn’t stick together when we cut them into squares after boiling the pasta. It was essentially lasagna squares and some stuffing in our bowls for dinner.  I found another post online suggesting using wonton wrappers was a better solution, but if you have any tips and tricks for ravioli, let me know! If you would like to try out the stuffing, it was seasoned and sauteed garlic, onions, scallions, and crab meat mixed with ricotta cheese. The sauce we used was one part tomato sauce, 2 parts heavy cream, seasoned with salt and pepper, and mixed with leftover crab meat.

Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cake:

Saving the best for last! This was definitely my favorite cake that I’ve made so far, and I’m so glad I found the recipe. I’ve never really made mousse before, but it was a really fun experience of layering a cake. I also love the look of the cake and how it reminds me of eating a giant bowl of Neapolitan ice cream with its chocolate, raspberry, and vanilla layers. The brownie base was also perfect for this type of very light filling. The raspberry mousse was my favorite layer of the entire cake. If you do follow the recipe, I would suggest doubling the amount of raspberry puree to get more of that raspberry flavor instead of chocolate. I’m not a fan of white chocolate, but the vanilla mousse was still okay with the rest of the cake, though I might skip that layer altogether next time. I usually eat one slice of cake, and share the rest with my friends at the apartment, but I enjoyed this cake so much that I might just make another one again for myself soon!

Wine: Pizzolato Cabernet Sauvignon

I’m not sure if I should even include this in the post, since I barely have any experience with alcohol in general. This was my first tasting of red wine, and I definitely enjoyed it. I think red wine is my favorite type of alcohol so far. I’ve tried several beers that had too much of a strong alcohol taste for me. Peach soju is also one of my favorite drinks as it tastes like gummy candy and I can hardly taste the alcohol as well. Let me know if you have any recommendations on wine or drinks in general, I would love to learn more!

I hope you become inspired by this post and create a new menu for yourself this Valentine’s day! ♥