My Love Letter to Austin and Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries

I leave Austin in five days.

This flat, hot and beautiful place has been my home for the past year +, and now it’s time to go back to Seattle. I’m returning to green trees, tall mountains, salty seas and family.  I’ve come to the conclusion that a piece of myself will stay in Texas. This town will always be a second home. It wouldn’t be an honest departure without a love letter, so Austin… this one’s for you.

My Southern Love,

I will miss your warmth. I will miss your wet heat that felt like the biggest, sweatiest hug. I will miss riding my red bicycle through your streets in my cut-offs. I will miss eating tacos for breakfast, lunch and dinner and then for breakfast again. I will miss your friendliness and open arms. I will miss whiskey on tap, two stepping with strangers and late nights with my favorite people. I will miss swimming in any body of water I could find, just as long as it got me out of the heat. I will miss being in the land of fireflies and topo chico.

Austin, I will miss your people. The ones that welcomed me without question. Those people who I would carry around in my back pocket if I could, little reminders of what it feels like to be surrounded with goodness. This town is full of folks who live. Take all of it and shape it into something worthwhile. Austin, you are a neverland. Sitting outside of barton springs in my bathing suit, watching the stars in the 85 degree heat on a summer evening, I looked at my friend and said, “this place is magic…”

Austin, you are magic. You are sunshine, pants, bike rides, food, friends and dancing. So much of my heart will be left in Austin, forever.

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I am moving on to the next adventure. I ate the Texas sun, I had year round freckles, I scuffed my boots and turned all my jeans into shorts. Now it’s time to go home. I’m bringing a bit of the south home with me. I’m determined to bring some of the warmth, some of the genuine friendliness, all of the dancing and you BETTER believe I will bring “y’all” with me…

Onward and upward y’all, onward and upward.

Black Bean & Avocado Salad with Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries & Cabbage Slaw

This is what my perfect plate looks like. Sweet potatoes are my jam, and when you add in the complete protein of rice and beans, I’m in heaven. And it wouldn’t be a well-rounded meal unless there were some greens, and the cabbage slaw fit the bill. It only seems fitting that I give y’all THREE recipes this time around, because everything is bigger in Texas. All of these dishes are great to mix together and stick into a tortilla, because EVERYTHING is better in a tortilla.

Tacos forever.

Black Bean & Avocado Salad

  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2.5 cups water
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 small shallots, diced
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • ¾ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼-½ tsp salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 large avocado, chopped into ½ inch pieces

Cook the brown rice, I use a rice cooker, but you can cook it on the stove top, do whatever tickles your fancy. Drain the beans and rinse. In a large bowl add the beans and toss with limes, cilantro leaves, diced shallots and ground cumin. Season to taste with salt & black pepper. After your rice is finished, set it aside to cool slightly before you mix it in with everything else. Peel and slice an avocado, and serve the beans at room temperature, with chopped avocado on top or mixed in throughout the salad. This salad lasts for several days in the fridge, so it makes for the perfect lunch to bring to work.

Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into ¼ inch fries
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Ground chipotle chile
  • Garlic powder

In a medium bowl, toss sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt, garlic powder and chipotle chile powder. Spread potatoes on a baking sheet. Avoid crowding so the potatoes get crisp. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn and bake an additional 10-15 minutes. Ovens may vary so keep an eye on them and be sure to cut all the potatoes the same size. It’ll ensure even cooking. Cool and try not to shove them all in your mouth at one time. These are delicious.

Cabbage Slaw

  • 1 head cabbage, cut into small pieces
  • 2 carrots, shredded (optional, I didn’t have any, so I went without… delicious either way)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • Handful of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp honey (or agave)
  • Pinch of cumin

Generous pinch of salt and pepper

Chop up your veggies and mix with jalapeno and cilantro. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice and honey. Add to the veggies and season with cumin, salt and pepper. Toss until finally coated. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for 3-5 days.

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Home.

Isn’t it funny how you can spend nearly three years in a place, call this place your home, and then in the rush of moving out forget to say goodbye?

I spent the entire weekend moving. I sorted through piles of clothes, books and memorabilia. I took a moment to pause over a box of things from my ex-boyfriend that I found by mistake. It hit me like a ton of bricks. But the moment passed, I packed everything up with a positive thought to the universe and that was that.

I gave away a majority of my possessions. These are the things that I have been lugging around for the past eight years. I had furniture from my childhood that I have always had a weird attachment to, two bookcases full of books, clothes that I hadn’t worn in years but they held some memory in the sleeves.

I am somewhat of a homebody. These things are loaded with my history. With looming change and the inevitability of growing up (sort of), it was time to let go.

I am someone who would have appreciated having some sort of séance for the house. A recognition that this place was where I built my first garden bed, shared my home with a boy for the first time, had my heart-broken completely and learned to heal through living with my best friend.

This house was the kitchen with the shiny surfaces and the shoddy craftsmanship. This house was the yard turned jungle where the pup spent hours chasing bugs. This house was the multitude of ridiculous dance parties, too much alcohol and hang-over-mornings watching bad romantic comedies. This was the house near the lake. I would  walk a few blocks and I had my solitude—just my running shoes, my music and my dog.

This house was my home.

With the hustle and bustle of moving and cleaning while working a full-time job, I didn’t have anytime to be nostalgic. A little ball of stress, I rolled through the moving process on a mission. By my seventh good will run I was just ready to be done with the place.

How sad. I feel like leaving a place you call home should involve some sort of ritual. A moment of silence for all of those things you carried, shared and loved while you were living there.

A good friend from my childhood would have taken the time. She would have created a fire in the back yard, wrote down the memories from the house, and said a proper goodbye. Back in the day we would have made fun or her for being too sentimental. Today, I wish I would have had her by my side so I took the time to have that moment of recognition.

Instead, I found myself alone after all my roommates had left eating kale slaw on the ground while my very confused hound dog stared at me through the back door. I would be a liar if I said I didn’t feel the lump in my throat (like I am feeling right now) as I stared around at the empty house. It is funny how much a place can seep into your pores and become a part of you.

So here is my proper good-bye. An ode to the old house by the lake. The house with far too many “quirks” that we grew to accept. The house with thin windows and squeaky wood floors. The house with the 1970s retro bathroom and my two walk in closets (this I will miss). The house with the kind neighbors and the sound of the freeway that became a lullaby in the evening.

Thank you house, for all that you were.

Kale Cashew & Mint Slaw

Original Shutter Bean recipe

*This slaw is AMAZING. My bestie had it posted on her Facebook, and it went viral. Everyone is making it. Also, this blog rocks my world. I heart a good food blog.* serves 4

1 bunch lacinato kale, shredded

2 cups cabbage, shredded

2 scallions, finely chopped (both white & green parts)

1/2 bunch fresh mint, roughly chopped

1/2 cup roasted cashews, chopped (peanuts can be used)

2 tablespoons agave syrup

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 inch piece ginger, grated

1 clove garlic, minced

salt & pepper

Chop the kale, cabbage, scallions & mint and set aside in a large bowl. In a small bowl add the agave syrup, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, ginger and garlic and stir. When ready to toss, add the chopped nuts to the large bowl and pour the dressing over the kale cabbage mixture. Thoroughly coat the kale, season with salt & pepper to taste.