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Just Give In: A Pumpkin Spice M&Ms Review

Posted by on September 18 2014 in Rants & Raves, Trends

Pumpkin Spice M&Ms Flavor Taste Test

So, the internet has collectively decided that liking pumpkin and pumpkin spiced flavored things makes you a basic white girl. There have been many online thought (well, “thought”) pieces written about this, including one fairly accurate Buzzfeed list. If you’re really interested in the history of being basic, the truth is that everyone has taken a phrase coined a few years ago and twisted it into something completely different meaning ordinary/boring. New York Mag has a pretty good piece on it, and over on The Awl they have an interesting 2013 read about the fetishization of pumpkin and pumpkin flavor. If you’re interested into delving into this weirdly specific trend/topic.

Anyway, whatever. If liking pumpkin shit and football and boots makes me basic, then basic it is. Pumpkin is delicious, football is an amazing justification for day drinking, and boots keep your feet warm and dry.

All that being said, what up with all the pumpkin-flavored stuff in stores these days! It’s getting borderline ridiculous. Apparently these limited-edition Pumpkin Spice M&Ms debuted last year, but I never experienced them in-person until this year, the year of our lord 2014. SUPPOSEDLY there are also Pumpkin Spice Oreos out there now, but I have yet to see them in stores them despite a semi-intense search at Target last week. But let’s rewind a sec to the M&Ms.

I was in said Target purchasing my new Crock Pot (one more step in my quest to be the most basic white girl in the fall, I guess) when a garish display of seasonal M&Ms caught my eye. Nestled among the Halloween-themed regular flavors were Pumpkin Spice and White Chocolate Candy Corn varieties. Clearly the powers above were sending me a message, and that message was: you must sacrifice your pre-vacation crash diet and sense of pride. You must taste test these cheap, bandwagon-y limited edition candies.

I decided to save the candy corn flavor for a later unfortunate date, but purchased the pumpkin spice kind and tore into them in the car ride home (obv, why would I delay this flavor experience longer than necessary?) To the disappointment of my friend and myself, they were barely pumpkin-tasting at all. If anything, I would describe these M&Ms as “Mexican chocolate,” that is, regular milk chocolate infused with a tiny bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, and generic “spice.”

When I got home, I introduced them to Rob in a BLIND TASTE TEST and he thought I was just feeding him regular milk chocolate M&Ms. Another failure.

But… something strange started to happen. The longer the weekend went on, the more we snacked on these little nuggets of dubious seasonality. And the more we snacked on them, the more we liked them. Soon we were saying things like “You know, maybe I CAN taste the pumpkin spice” and “Well, I actually really like these, they taste like fall” until we were full-on making conversation with each other about how we might be borderline addicted to Pumpkin Spice M&Ms.

What does this all mean? I suppose if the summary of my review is “They don’t taste that great at first, but just keep eating them and eventually you’ll think you can taste the difference, start to like them, and eat way more than you meant to in one sitting” that might not be high praise. But, this is kind of how I feel about pumpkin spice and fall in general. You resist at first, you think you’re better than it, but you’re not. Just give in.


Endless Whiskey: Hop-Flavored Whiskey (Part II)

Posted by on September 17 2014 in Drinks

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If you recall, during the ridiculous winter storms of February, I tried the 2013 SOL Hop Flavored Whiskey. Well, here comes the 2014 version. Founder and owner Mike Reppucci said that the award-winning 2014 version is more hoppy than last year’s and potentially even more mellow.  The single malt whiskey from the north continues to provide the basic flavors of an IPA style beer in the form of whiskey.  After the wash is fermented and completes the distillation process, the whiskey is dry hopped with Citra and Sirachi Ace hops (grassy and citrus hops).

While the flagship whiskeys produced by Sons of Liberty offer either a sweet or smokey taste that many of us liken to whiskey or scotch, the hop-flavored whiskey has more of an “in your face” but refreshing profile. The warming and sweet malt flavors come through at first, suddenly cut by a strong bitterness from the hops and complemented by our good friend ethanol. The citrus and grassy flavors of the hops complete the taste.

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Southwest Slow Cooker Hatch Chicken Chili

Posted by on September 16 2014 in Fowl, Recipe

Hatch Chicken Chili

I finally gave in and got a crock pot this past weekend. (I say “finally” because I feel like slow cookers are really experiencing a renaissance in my generation, thanks to Pinterest and other domestic-y sites – I’m one of the last 20-something girls I know who didn’t have one.) It was perfect timing because for the first time since, oh, March, Austin was cold (aka, in the low 70s) and wet. Pair that gloomy, stay-inside weather with a weekend full of football, and you’ve got yourself an ideal slow cooker combo situation.

This recipe is just something I threw together on Sunday morning, and it turned out so well. The bonus: unlike a lot of football snacks, it’s completely healthy. Take about 10-20 minutes to prep this in the late morning or early afternoon, leave it on high for 4-5 hours, and you’ll have a hot, spicy meal just in time for the evening game.

If you don’t have a Crock Pot or other slow cooker, guess what? You’re in luck. You can achieve the same results by cooking low and slow in a stockpot on the stove. Just make sure you’ve cooked your chicken breast most of the way through and add ingredients from there.

Note – this recipe uses hatch chiles, grown in New Mexico, which are really popular in the southwest this time of year. If you don’t have them in your neck of the woods you can feel free to use whatever chile pepper you prefer. Canned chipotles are always a favorite of mine, and they’re easy to find in practically any grocery store.

Southwest Hatch Chicken Chili
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MAPLE Gone Wild! Top 10 Ways to Use Maple

Posted by on September 15 2014 in Lists

Yes, it is fall. Try to say otherwise and somewhere out there a fall enthusiast will crucify you with a caramel apple or pumpkin flavored something. But deep down in the roots of the fall season is the poor flavor of maple. Somehow the poor guy doesn’t get the spotlight nearly as much as his apple and pumpkin counterparts. But wait, there are TONS of recipes bringing maple back to the forefront of fall. You may know that I have a special place in my heart for pumpkin, so don’t be surprised if pumpkin is included in some of these recipes. Also notice that I’ve included some cocktail treats in this roundup as well. Let us know if you have any favorites!

10. Cinnamon Maple Bourbon

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This cocktail seems to be able to get anyone into the mood of cold crisp fall nights while offering a pleasant means of “spicing up” a night cap.

Recipe: So Lets Hang Out

9. Maple Glazed Apple Doughnuts

Maple-Glazed-Apple-Doughnuts-Recipe

Ever have an apple cider doughnut? Now add a sweet and creamy maple glaze. On your way to work? Pass on the Dunkin pumpkin donuts and make these the night before to grab on the go. OR make these fresh after dinner for a nice hot treat. Really, you could have these any time.

Recipe: A Pumpkin and a Princess

8. Maple Pumpkin Cake Roll

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Who doesn’t love pumpkin roll? The moist pumpkin cake with delicious cream cheese filling is already a treat that I yearn for every fall. But this thing looks like an “amped up” version of pumpkin roll. Just look at it! I’m trying this out for sure.

Recipe: Le Creme de la Crumb

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Endless Spirits: Dogfish Head to Expand with Distillery!

Posted by on September 11 2014 in Drinks

SmallBatchSpirits

Big news from the Dogfish Head campus in Milton: they are adding a small batch distillery to that large complex I’ve spoken of. If you’ve been to the brew pub and went upstairs, you noticed the tiny distillery they have on the second floor. The distillery produced spirits that were pretty much exclusive to the brew pub and a few select places in Delaware. Well, once Dogfish Head opens up the bigger distillery, many of us will benefit from a larger distribution plan.

It only makes sense that Sam Calagione and his crazy “off-centered” partners take some of those off-centered brews and turn them into interesting spirits. We can still expect the highly touted Brown Honey Rum and hop-infused gin, but also hipe to see some new and crazy spirits to be released next spring. The distillery will be headed by Graham Hamblett, who is apparently a horticulturalist with experience running a winery and distillery. Of course, he has won various awards and I’m assuming he’s a grizzly man with an awesome beard.  continue reading…


Burns My Bacon: Secret Menus

Posted by on September 11 2014 in Breakfast, Rants & Raves

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Not sure if you’ve heard, but apparently it’s still cool to be a hipster. I thought now that being hipster is cool, being hipster is no longer cool. But anyway, I digress. I’ve noticed many of the flannel and skinny-jean fashioned patrons at restaurants ordering Starbucks drinks that weren’t listed. I admit, I am a Starbucks snob who knows that they shouldn’t be charging you for “one pump” of syrup, but that’s as far as I go. I looked up “Starbucks secret menu” and realized that Starbucks isn’t the only place that has a supposed secret menu.

Several other chains have “secret menus” published online. I have a problem. Nay, several problems. First off, the publishing of a secret no longer makes it a secret.

Second, why? Why have a secret menu? Who are you helping? Is it really generating enough revenue within that hipster or foodie crowd who really want to know something that everyone else doesn’t? Or is it that the secret menu offering items are too expensive to be on the menu? Well here’s an idea – rotate the menu!

Third, a secret menu defeats the purpose of a regular menu. Patrons look at a regular menu with the understanding that the items listed are the only items available at the time. Now, the regular menu really has little meaning if we are looking online for secret menus, coming to a restaurant, and asking for something that is NOT on the menu. I’m just not seeing the logic. Custom orders are one thing…but even so – STOP IT.

Maybe it is just for the novelty of it all. Maybe there are so many self-righteous people out there that the industry now has to make everyone feel even more special than they already do. If you need to “feel special,” there are plenty of “services” you can purchase to get that special feeling. Or, just get over yourself and realize that restaurants have a select offering of food items that they specialize in. If you are not happy with the offerings of chain restaurants, maybe try something new. We have enough snobbery going around these days; we don’t need secret menus promoting even more snobs.


Fit Foodie 5K: The Perfect Balance

Posted by on September 10 2014 in Rants & Raves

Fit Foodie 5K Austin Tweet Your Feet

I obviously love to cook and eat. I mean, I write about food, don’t I? At the same time, I care about fitness and don’t want my love of the culinary world to override my health. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I exercise just so I can eat more, or that I work out to cancel out what I eat, BUT. I mean. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a factor. If I could genuinely stick to a 1,200 calorie diet of pure vegetables and grass-fed proteins every day, I probably wouldn’t work out an hour a day.

Lucky for me, I do genuinely enjoy running and lifting. I’ve started to appreciate exercise more the older I get – I find it to be a great mental as well as physical release. That’s why I was really excited when I heard about the Fit Foodie 5K – a race series geared around people who love eating and drinking!

The concept of the Fit Foodie was born out of the idea that a healthy lifestyle and delicious culinary experiences don’t have to be separate. Calories burned, calories earned, right?? Life is about balance and working hard so that you can indulge in those things that you are passionate about. When delicious food, working out, and good friends are all combined, it is a beautiful culmination of all that life has to offer.

This event started in San Diego in 2013 but it’s making three stops this year – Fairfax, Austin, and San Diego. Hosted by Cooking Light and Health, and featuring slogans like “Run. Eat. Drink.” and “Calories Burned, Calories Earned” I knew this was a run I could get behind. Plus, they have cool events surrounding the race itself, like a VIP cocktail party the night before and a rad-sounding finisher’s village complete with celebrity chef demos and beer & wine tastings. If you’re going to reward me with early morning wine, I will DEFINITELY run for you. I was planning on registering for the Austin run no matter what, but then Fit Foodie reached out and asked if I was interested in being an ambassador for the program – heck yes!

As an ambassador, I’m just spreading the word about this awesome race series annnd I also have a small bit of power – I have a discount code to share! If you use the code “ENDLESSSUMMER” (yes, summer, not simmer) when registering for the Austin 5K, you’ll get 10% off fees! And yes, there’s still time to register. For my fellow Austinites, the race is this Saturday, September 13. Or if you’re one of our Southern California ESers, you can register for the San Diego leg, which is happening in November.

ALSO! If you want to run this upcoming Saturday, I’m giving away two free registrations, good for the 5K itself (plus the finishers village etc.) and a Sunday morning yoga or bootcamp class! Keep your eyes on @endlesssimmer on Twitter to win. I’ll choose two people on Thursday morning. Cheers!

For more healthy recipes, cocktails, food travel, and restaurant reviews, check out ES Emily’s individual blog, A Time to Kale, or tweet her @emilyteachout.


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