Tag Archives: texas

Becoming a Book Worm (again)

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It has been TWO weeks since my last blog post, which has been way to long, so my apologies for that! Let me give you a quick update on what I’ve been doing in that time and then we’ll get to the real reason for this post.

CAUTION: This post is wordy, so get ready for a long read.

So after being home for 5 days at Easter, I turned right back around 3 days later and spent the weekend of the 13th at home. The whole point of me wanting to go back to Texas that weekend was to run the Blue Bell Fun Run on Saturday morning! I must admit that waking up at 5:30am after getting in Texas at 10pm the night before was quite hard to do, but it was well worth it.  If you’re from Texas, or even the South for that matter, then you know what Blue Bell Ice Cream is and even calling it amazing, is an extreme understatement! Blue Bell is made in Brenham, Texas, which is about 1 1/2 hours from Houston, so it’s pretty accessible. My friend, Jessica, did the race with me this year.

Last year was the first year I did the Blue Bell Fun Run and I’m determined to do it every year now because at the end of the race, you get all-you-can-eat ice cream bars and sandwiches. As an ice cream fanatic, those words are sweet music to my ears! Needless to say I wasn’t going to miss this run even if I live in NY now! Oh and if you read my Easter post, then you know when I was home that I found out I had bronchitis, which I was still recovering from when I ran this race. Like last year, I did the 10K and due to my bronchitis, this was probably one of the worst races I have ever run. I could not stop coughing which then made it hard to catch my breath. Brenham is so hilly, so if you can’t catch you’re breath, it’s going to be a rough race. It was definitely my slowest race time, which was a bit frustrating, but considering I was sick and towards the end walked quite a bit of it, then I guess I can’t be too upset with a 1 hour and 9 minute run! All I know is next year, I’ll have to get back on track with a much more ‘normal’ race time. Even though the race has unlimited ice cream at the end, I don’t want to eat my weight in ice cream, so I limit myself to 2 things. This year I had a Strawberry Fruit bar and a Great Divide bar (it’s made with vanilla and chocolate ice cream covered with both white and milk chocolate) . Both were great and hit the spot!

Me and Jessica with our Blue Bell!  🙂

On Sunday before coming back to New York, I went to church, then brunch with a few friends and finished off my afternoon by going to the end of the picnic for the bible study class both my parents and I attend at church. The class we go to is called Biblical Literacy and it is taught by Mark Lanier. If you’re interested in the historical aspect of the Bible, then definitely check this class out. It’s really quite fascinating and Mark is an excellent teacher. At the picnic, I was able to catch up with at lot of people I had not seen for a few months!

Mark and I 

One of the people I got to see was my friend, Michelle. She went with my last summer to Israel where we both volunteered on an archaeological dig in the Elah Valley. Now that’s an experience I’ll never forget. If you’re most people, then when you think of an archaeological dig, you’ll think of using little brushes and tiny picks to wipe away the dirt and discover history. Well, as I soon discovered, that was not the case at all! It’s more like volunteering for back-breaking manual labor…think pick axes being thrown into the solid, packed dirt, carrying 100’s of buckets of dirt/rocks, and shoveling for hours on end. After days of that, then you might get a day of using the little tools, if you’re lucky!  Regardless, it was a great experience and something I actually want to do again.

Michelle and I at Khibet Qeiyafa with some pottery!

Me, my mom and Michelle  (10 months and no tan later) at the picnic.

Also I got to spend two nights snuggling with my Sophie…my French Bulldog who is living with my parents in Texas. Although I probably shouldn’t I’m contemplating bringing her to NY for a month or two during the fall when the weather is nice. I miss her so much so I’m always happy to spend time with her and a trip home isn’t complete without at least a few pictures of my baby!

Look at that cutie sleeping!

In the past week, I have just been spending a lot of time working (which I still love my new job) and attempting to get back into a normal running routine. The latter has been difficult considering it has rained the last few days, but I’m hoping that it will clear up this week and I can get at least 3 or 4 runs in at Central Park! Ok, enough catching up, time to get down to business and the whole point of this blog.

Becoming a Book Worm (again)

In the last 6 weeks or so I’ve gotten on quite a reading kick. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but I’ve never been much of a daily reader. Throughout college and in the last few years since graduating, I’ve gone through spurts where I read non-stop for a few months, followed by a much longer hiatus of no reading. Even during those times, I buy books with the intent of reading them, but they just collect dust in the corner of my room or on my nightstand. For example, I bought the book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West almost 2 years ago because I have wanted to read it since it first came out, but even as of today, it has yet to be opened and is still in a Barnes and Noble bag. Ridiculous, I know.

This newfound desire to read was indeed started by The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. I like so many others out there I wanted to read the books before watching the movie because that is all everyone was talking about. I must admit though, that if it had not been for the making of the movie and all the hype surrounding it, then I would have never read the series. When THG first came out, I was still teaching high school and all my students were reading the book, so I thought it was a kids book. As a YA book, it essentially is a kids book, and I had no desire to read the same book that my sophomore students were reading.

Anyway, I finished The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay in a week because I was literally addicted to them. For 7 days all I did was breathe, eat and sleep The Hunger Games. I would stay up until 1:30am reading and then would dream about the books once asleep. It was crazy.  Since I don’t want to spoil the books for anyone who hasn’t read them, let me just say that there were a few things I was unhappy with in the series – cue Mockingjay. That book drove me insane with so many unanswered questions and what I thought were a few unnecessary deaths. For me it was a toss-up between The Hunger Games and Catching Fire holding the coveted spot of being my favorite book in the series. I’m a romantic at heart, so I loved the Katniss/Peeta romance in book one, but there were so many twists and turns during book two that it was hard not to love it as well. If you haven’t read the series, then I strongly suggest you do; you won’t be sorry that you did!

A few days after ending the series, I kicked my current book-worm status into high gear by buying one book after another. Since THG, below is a list of what I’ve read.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

    My first impression upon receiving the book was ‘Wow, this is a much thicker book than I thought it would be!’ At over 500 pages and much smaller print than THG series, I knew this one was going to take longer than a few days to read and it did. After two weeks of reading, I finally finished the book and I absolutely loved it. I had seen the movie when it came out last summer so I already knew the story line. Throughout reading the book, I was actually surprised at how accurate the movie portrayed the book, as this is typically not the case. Movies always change the ending or some key parts of the book (i.e. My Sister’s Keeper or The Hunger Games for that matter). I thought Kathryn Stockett did a fantastic job writing this. The book was written from the point of view of three characters: Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny, all three of which were the protagonists of the book. Between Skeeter’s homely looks, over-critical mother and the way she became an outcast with her friends, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. And what was there not to love about Minny’s boisterous, back-talking character or her “Terrible Awful.” Or Aibileen with her courage to talk to Skeeter or her sweet words to Mae Mobley: “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.” You wanted all of them to win and to triumph over every obstacle they faced. Which brings us then to Hilly Holbrook, your antagonist, who controlled the women in the Junior League and was determined to get the Home Health Sanitation Initiative passed. Her character was almost comical due to how ridiculous her demands were and the way everyone was scared of her. Overall, I highly recommend this book. It was comical yet from a historical aspect it painted a good picture of the South during the Civil Rights movement.

Life without Limits by Nick Vujicic

    I first heard Nick speak the year after I graduated college at Second Baptist Church in Houston. I went to that Sunday morning service not knowing that he was our guest speaker and was astounded by his speaking abilities and testimony. Nick was born with a condition known as Phocamelia where you are born with malformed or missing limbs. He was missing both arms and both legs at birth, which is almost impossible to imagine as this is not that common. Nick, who is in his late 20s, is a public speaker who travels around the world inspiring others. This book is about his life. For many years Nick questioned why God allowed him to be born this way and he finally discovered his purpose: to inspire others and help them find their own purpose in life. You cannot read this book and not be humbled and learn something from Nick. Although Nick went through some rough patches early on, he has handled his condition far better than most people in his shoes would. There were a few quotes in his book that really resonated with me. “Life without meaning has no hope. Life without hope has no faith. If you find a way to contribute, you will find your meaning, and hope and faith will naturally follow and accompany you into your future.”  I also really like this one. “Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark your life seems to be, raise your sights and see the possibilities. Always see them, for they are always there.” And to think that these words are coming from someone born without any limbs…someone who still sees the possibilities and doesn’t let the odds that are against him determine his life. If you’re looking for something inspiring, then this is a must read.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

    If this isn’t the quintessential coming of age book for women, then I don’t know what is. I mean, who hasn’t read Little Women and felt that they have a little bit of each of the March girls in them? I bought this copy while home in Texas this past fall, but shortly after purchasing it I became really busy with work and was never able to finish reading the book. I just rediscovered this copy and am attempting to finally finish it. I’ve got about 1/3 of the book left and am hoping to finish it within the next week. It has become my new train book…it’s perfect for reading on my way to and from work. I can’t read this book without thinking of the 1994 movie with Susan Sarandon and Winona Ryder. It is definitely one of my favorites! Little Women is set during the Civil War and tells the story of the four March sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Their father is off fighting in the war and the book chronicles their lives after they have lost their wealth. Although the girls fight with each other quite often, they prove that love and family inevitably conquers all.  If you haven’t read this book, then you should pick it up because it’s a classic and very well written. Also, the story is supposed to be loosely based off of the life Louisa May Alcott and her three sisters.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

    Apart from finishing up Little Women, I am starting to read Water for Elephants. Ever since seeing this book a few years ago in Target I have wanted to read it. I must admit that until the movie came out though that I had no idea what this book was even about, but there was something about the cover that intrigued me. Just recently I broke down and bought it from Barnes and Noble.  I’ve read mixed reviews about this book, so I’m not really sure what to think about it, but regardless I’m still going to read it! Also, I saw this movie with my mom when it was in the theaters and overall I really enjoyed it, minus the scenes where Rosie the elephant gets brutally beaten…that was too sad and I couldn’t watch it without crying. I’ll have to give y’all an update after I read the book and let you know what I think, but I’m hoping I enjoy it. It will also be interesting to see how different the book is from the movie.

I’ve decided that after finishing up these last few books that I am going to make myself a summer reading list. I probably haven’t had a summer reading list since middle school, but there are just so many books that I want to read that this will be the easiest way for me to accomplish that. On that note, I’ve started making a preliminary list, but I’m for suggestions. So, if there is a book that you think I should add to my list, then let me know!

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Easter in Texas

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For the past FIVE days, I was in Texas visiting my family and celebrating Easter! If you know my family, then you know that as Christians, that Christmas and Easter are the two most important holidays in my family, So, it was definitely important that I come home to celebrate the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, with my family.

This is the first time in my 26 years that I have not lived within reasonable driving distance of my parents, thus it was my first time traveling on Easter weekend. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I was quite frustrated and shocked at not only how many people fly the Friday before Easter, but also at the amount of people at the airport who act live they’ve never flown before. For a 26-year-old, I consider myself to be a pretty seasoned traveler having visited about 20 countries and racking up enough frequent flyer miles to gain elite status with Continental (now United) the last couple years, but this last Friday was unlike anything I’ve ever seen: people trying to walk through the metal detectors with their shoes and jackets on, others literally trying to rush the gate to board the plane before the door was even open, and so on… Needless to say, I was glad when I finally landed in Texas at 7:30pm!

Within the first 24 hours of being home, I did two very important things. I ate a kid’s meal from Chick-fil-a (since we don’t have them in the city, I must have it at least once every time I’m in town) and I got my hair done. It might be hard to understand, but I do not cheat on my hair dresser, so I plan my hair appointments around my trips home. Even in college I would drive home to get my hair done. The one time I did try a new hair dresser, my hair was butchered, so I vowed never again to go elsewhere. Kara, my hair dresser, never gives me a bad hair cut and always gets my highlights right! She always knows what looks best with my face!

After doing these two things, I spent the rest of my weekend getting a tan and spending time with my family and my dog, Sophie, who is staying with my parents in Texas. Sophie is a french bulldog and I love her so much, but it’s better for her to stay in Texas because she would get lonely in NY with me being at work all day. When I am home, Sophie sleeps with me in my bed which she NEVER would do when I actually lived in town. It’s funny how she only cuddles with me now because she doesn’t see me on a regular basis anymore. Regardless, I love her. She’s my little pig…literally she snorts, eats like a pig and snores!

Isn’t she the cutest?

Sophie’s looking for crumbs after Easter dinner…

I spent Saturday afternoon in my parent’s backyard laying out and Monday afternoon my parents and I went to the beach to get some sun. As my family is originally from California, we are avid sun lovers. We LOVE sitting in the sun and getting a tan! Since moving to NY, this is the palest I have ever been, so I was glad to come back with some color because I definitely needed it. I’m just crossing my fingers it will last…

The Beach

Sunday was spent going to church and spending time with my family celebrating Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. Apart from my immediate family, some of my extended family on my dad’s side came to our house to celebrate. My mom prepared quite a feast for us to eat, but I was responsible for the dessert! I made a triple berry cobbler for dessert. I came up with this recipe by combining two recipes that I had for cobbler.

Triple Berry Cobbler

Filling:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cup water
  • 2 cup fresh raspberries
  • 2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 2 cup fresh blackberries

Topping:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/6 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup heavy cream, plus additional for brushing

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and water until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in berries. Transfer to 9 x 13 baking dish coated with cooking spray.

For the topping, in a food processor or large bowl, pulse or whisk together the 1 2/3 cups flour, the sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pulse or cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Slowly add the 2/3 cup cream, mixing until the dough just comes together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat together. Form the dough into 2-inch balls. Flatten balls gently with the palm of your hand.

Before putting it into the oven

Evenly arrange the dough rounds on top of the filling. Brush a little cream over the rounds. (This step I left out…I sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on the top instead.) Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the biscuits are golden and the filling is bubbling.

After it came out of the oven!

Eat it warm with some ice cream and you’re good to go!

The berries in this dish were so good! I wasn’t a big fan of the crust though. We all decided that the berries would be a good topping for the ice cream during the summer! Or, they would be really good in a pie. If I make a cobbler again, I’ll definitely use these berries, but I’ll switch up the recipe for the topping.

Apart from my cobbler, we had ham, scalloped potatoes, spinach casserole, beans and 3 different types of salads. My mom’s scalloped potatoes are amazing…they use Gruyère cheese and its strong taste meshes well with the potatoes. In college my parents and I went to Europe and we visited the town of Gruyère in Switzerland. We had some of the best cheese fondue and quiches there that we have ever had. It’s definitely worth visiting the town if you’re in the country.

My mom’s scalloped potatoes. It was cooked to perfection with that golden top!

The spinach casserole that she made was really good as well and very simple. It only had a few toppings in it and it was really easy to make.

Spinach Casserole

Unfortunately I don’t have either of these recipes on me, but I will have to ask my mom for them because they are great dishes! Don’t you just want to eat up those pictures?!?! I know I do!

My mom and I on Easter

Three generations: me, my grandma and my mom

I had a lot of fun spending time with my family during my long weekend. It was definitely a great trip and I’m glad I was able to spend so much time with my parents. The only bad thing that happened was that I went to the doctor while home because I had been coughing and found out I had bronchitis! Luckily the doctor gave me a zpack and told me to take mucinex md, so I’m hoping it kicks in soon because I’m supposed to go back to Houston this weekend to run in the Blue Bell Fun Run and that is something I don’t want to miss!  Expect a blog about the run next week! On that note, I’ll leave you with a few Easter verses. Regardless of the time of year, it’s always important to remember Christ’s sacrifice for us.

John 3:16-17

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.

Luke 24:1-12

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened that while they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling apparel; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? “He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. And these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at that which had happened.

Day 11: Spaghetti with Sauteed Chicken and Grape Tomatoes

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It’s the start of a new week and a beautiful week at that. Although the first day of spring is still 8 days away (March 20th) today is finally a gorgeous day in NYC. It’s partly cloudy and in the 60’s, which reminds me of the few nice days you get in Texas. Even yesterday the weather was finally warm enough to enjoy going outside and trust me, the streets were packed! I’m praying that this weather holds up because it’s the first nice weather we’ve had since the fall. No lie, for the past 4 1/2-5 months it’s been cold, overcast and non-stop rainy! In other words, it’s been miserable outside! I’ll be glad to finally be able to get back out to Central Park for a run!

For Day 11 of the Pinterest Project, I’m making Spaghetti with sautéed Chicken and Grape Tomatoes for dinner! This recipe was pinned from the blog ‘Skinny Taste’ which I’m sure you’ve heard of because their recipes are all over Pinterest! This will be the first Skinny Taste recipe I’ve tried and it doesn’t look too bad. It’s a basic pasta with fresh tomatoes in lieu of a rich tomato sauce, which I’m looking forward to trying. It also helps that one serving of this pasta is only about 330 calories, which is way less than most pastas!

Spaghetti with sautéed Chicken and Grape Tomatoes – serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 skinless chicken breast halves, diced in 1 inch cubes
  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 tsp each of dried oregano and dries basil
  • kosher salt and fresh pepper
  • 8 oz spaghetti (the recipe recommends high fiber or low carb noodles)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
  • 4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh basil

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

Season chicken with salt, pepper, oregano and basil. Heat a large frying pan on high. Spray with cooking spray and add chicken. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink inside. Remove chicken and set aside.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to packaging, making sure to stir occasionally. Reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water before draining.

While the pasta cooks, heat same frying pan on high heat. Add olive oil to skillet and saute garlic until golden brown. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and reduce heat to medium-low. Saute for 4-5 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft, but not falling apart. When pasta is drained, add pasta to tomatoes and toss well. If pasta is too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water. Add fresh basil and chicken and toss well. Serve and top with grated parmesan cheese.

Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures while I was making this meal because I got a really late start to dinner and my phone was about to die so I need to charge it! So, the only picture I have is of the finished dish.

For a low-calorie, light dish this was actually pretty good. If you’re looking for pasta that isn’t too heavy and has a subtle taste, then this is a good dish for you. The strongest flavors I could taste were the fresh basil, garlic and parmesan cheese. For my pasta, I didn’t need to add any of the reserved pasta water as my pasta wasn’t dry. Everything was thoroughly coated in the olive oil and garlic.

As a side, I made some garlic bread to go along with this dish. I sautéed some french bread in a skillet with a little olive oil and then rubbed the top of the bread with a garlic clove to give it a subtle garlic taste. Eat a helping of this dish with a piece of garlic bread and you’ll be set for the night.

Day 1: Ranch Turkey Burgers and Oven Baked Parmesan Seasoned Fries

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Today is officially day 1 of the Pinterest Project! For my first official project, I am making Ranch Turkey Burgers with Oven Baked Parmesan Seasoned Fries courtesy of the blogs ‘laaloosh’ and ‘playing with sugar.’  I’ve got my girl, Adele, playing on my itunes in the background, so let the cooking begin.

Ranch Turkey Burgers – For all you healthy eaters or weight watcher participants, this buger is only 3 points.  If you add a bun, then obviously you add more points. Although I’m not a point counter myself, 3 points doesn’t seem that bad, right? Below is the original recipe.

Ingredients:

As you can see, everything I used I got from Trader Joes except for the Hidden Valley Ranch Mix. TJ’s is the best store on the face of the earth – the prices there are ridiculously cheap and everything is fresh and amazing.

 Once you have all your ingredients, combine everything into a bowl. The only thing I did differently is I used a garlic press and pressed the garlic as opposed to mincing it. I LOVE garlic and wanted to have a stronger garlic taste in my burgers.

Directions:

Once the ingredients are mixed, form four patties. Spray a frying pan with cooking spray or use olive oil to coat the pan. Cook the patties until they are completely done. It took about 20 minutes total to cook the patties. I had the burner on low as I did not want to burn the patties.

Oven Baked Parmesan Seasoned Fries – Since you typically eat fries or onion ring with burgers, I figured I would try these baked fries. They were really simple and easy to prepare, but they took a little while to cook.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of medium russet potatoes (approx 3 medium potatoes)
  • 1 1/2 TBSP of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 tsp Dried Thyme
  • 1/4 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1/8 tsp Dried Rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp of Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 tsp of Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 TBSP of Kraft Parmesan Style Grated Cheese

I changed up this recipe a little bit. First off, I did not have Rosemary and honestly I don’t really like it in food unless I’m eating italian, so I omitted it completely. Instead of Old Bay Seasoning I used Don’s speciality meats seasoning from Louisianna! My good friend, Amy introduced me to this. For those of you from the south, Don’s is a cajun seasoning, kind of like Tony Chachere’s, but better! I also used 4 potatoes, instead of 3. I don’t have a peeler, so I cut the skin off the potatoes and added an extra potato since I knew I would be wasting some of it. Also, I tried to find potatos that were relatively flat and rectangular like to make it easier to cut the skin off.

Directions:
Preheat the oven 425 degrees. Wash, peel and cut the potatoes into 1/8ths and place them on a cookie sheet that has been lined with aluminum foil. Mix all the spices and parmesan cheese together in a bowl. Take a large, freezer size ziploc bag and put all the potatoes in it. Add the spices mix and the oil to the bag. Seal the bag tightly and shake all the ingredients up, making sure that everything is distributed evenly. Dump the potatoes onto the cookie sheet and spread them out in a single layer. Bake for 30-45 minutes. I baked them for 20 minutes and then flipped them and baked them for 20 more minutes. I did not have aluminum foil, so I coated the cookie sheet with cooking spray and my fries turned out a little darker because of that, but they were still really good. Also, after they were done, I sprinkled a little more Don’s on top of them.
For the burger I used Martin’s potato bread buns and I topped my burger with avocado slices, grilled onions and bar-b-que sauce! Being from Texas, I can’t have a burger without some good old fashioned bar-b-que sauce.
The burger and fries were amazing – especially the burger. That recipe will definitely become a staple in my recipe book. Day was a success! Stay tuned for what tomorrow brings…