Four days in Texas

I made my first trip to Texas for a long weekend with the boy. And being the foodie that I am, I had to photograph all my food and the places we went to eat. Now, before we left Chicago for Houston, I had already decided that I needed to eat some BBQ. When I think Southern cooking, BBQ is usually one of the first things that comes to mind. But I was also open to trying new things.

The first stop on the trip was to No Name BBQ:

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It’s a small place with good food. I was told the restaurant was made out of shipping containers, which is appropriate cause it’s near the ports.

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I had a ham sandwich with fries. The sauce was a bit too smokey for me. But the ham is cut super thin and I loved the bread it was served on.

Next stop, Top Water Grill:

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This place reminded me of Jimmy Buffet’s Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurants, which was definitely one of my fave places to eat. We went to Top Water at night. I wish we had been able to go during the day because you can actually pull boats right up to the pier.

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Had the fried catfish. It was flakey and the fries were really good. I also used my salad dressing (honey mustard) as my dipping sauce.

TexMex time at Armenta’s Mexican Restaurant:

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There aren’t many TexMex places up here in Chicago, or at least I’m told there aren’t any “real” TexMex places. I’m not much of a Mexican food eater though, mainly because I can’t really handle spicy foods and I don’t eat peppers or onions. Chipotle is usually the closest I get to Mexican food although I have been to Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo, which is fancy Mexican food.

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I ate cheese enchiladas with refried beans and Spanish rice. I wish I had more of these. The sauce was delish and I love a good bowl full of refried beans.

Breakfast food at the hotel:

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A BBLTC … broken egg, bacon, lettuce, tomato and cheese sandwich. Tasty and filling breakfast. I gotta make this at home. I always think about putting eggs on sandwiches, but I’ve never actually done it.

Dessert, Three Brothers Bakery:

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We went to the bakery to visit a friend. The name, Three Brothers Bakery, sounded familiar to me. Probably from a Food Network appearance or something. If only you could have seen the cases full of treats! I apologize for the lack of photos. We also got a tour of the kitchen. There are some really big mixers in a commercial kitchen. Make my 5 qt. Kitchenaid look puny.

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We ended up with a box of goodies. The pecan bar in the bottom left was amazing, although I only got a bite. The bottom right Hamantaschen was raspberry. Also really good. It reminded me of a Kolaczki cookie. The cheesecake slice at the top was also amazing. There’s a gingerbread man buried under there too.

Now for my favorite meal of the trip, BBQ from Rudy’s BBQ:

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I went here at the suggestion of my best friends. We have pretty much the same tastebuds, so I knew if they were recommending it, it was the place I had to go.

You stand in line before heading up to the counter to make your order. It’s a sit wherever sort of place. We just took our meal back to the hotel. But this place was hopping. We went to the NASA location in Webster. Slightly disappointed we didn’t get to try the new potatoes though, because they were in the midst of making more. But the manager was awesome and gave us free drinks and comp’ed the potato salad as a replacement side.

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Brisket, pulled pork, potato salad and creamed corn.

And then there’s Rudy’s signature sause. However, this was the Sissy version. Yes, Sissy Sause. Spelled with the extra S in sause. The boy said it was too spice heavy. I liked that you got a little kick. But I wasn’t dousing everything. The brisket was too smokey for me. Not a smoked BBQ fan. I am more of a sweet BBQ lover.

I ate the pulled pork with the sauce. OMG it was so good. And I ate all the creamed corn. I wish I had ordered a medium sized cream corn. But it’s a good thing I didn’t I did regret eating so much right after I finished. But it was so good!

And that would be my short trip to Texas in food form. I didn’t include the Caesar salad I ate at NASA or the basically plain breakfast I had at the hotel one day.

We mainly ate in the Houston burbs. I think next time we need to travel into the city to try some other restaurants. Anyone have any suggestions?



Top 5 posts of the year

This blog has only existed six months, but I wanted to round up my five favorite posts of the year.

I first started this blog, originally on Tumblr, as a way to keep track of some of my favorite recipes. I was going to create a cookbook of family recipes and other recipes I enjoyed making. Then I started creating the things I was pinning on Pinterest and my work took on a more crafty turn. It’s been great so far. I can’t wait to continue all my projects in the new year.

And here are my Top 5:

tape painted coffee mugs 5

These tape painted coffee mugs are actually not just my favorite post, but it’s the most clicked post on this blog. I’m writing this post while drinking coffee out of the yellow one right now. I had seen all these amazing mugs on Pinterest and Etsy and I had been determined to make some of my own. The tape painted mugs were born from frustration with other designs not coming out right. And I love them.

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The salted caramel butter bars have been such a crowd pleaser. (hat tip to for the original recipe). I introduced one of my friends to them and she’s been making them for her friends and family. And they keep referring to them as my “salty bars.” Which I find hilarious and slightly wrong. But seriously, it’s so hard not to just eat a ton of these at once. They’re rich and sweet and buttery. So good.

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I love this ornament. Oh, the poor melted snowman. He’s provided me with such joy. He’s made the perfect gift and brought a little bit of joy to other people.

scrapbook paper coasters 6

The scrapbook coasters, my very first post and craft for Crafting and Cooking. I’ve made them as gifts, I have them all over my apartment and I use them religiously. I bought a whole box of tiles to try different patterns and over the last few months, I’ve revamped the ways I’ve been making them — longer drying times, felt rounds on the backs… I wasn’t a coaster person until I made them. I only wish I could find the paper I used in the coasters in the photo.

bacon wrapped, blue cheese stuffed dates 6

It’s a bit of a mouthful to say bacon wrapped, blue cheese stuffed dates, but man are they good. I’ve made them for a game night, Thanksgiving and Christmas. At Christmas, the plate full of dates disappeared within half an hour. People are skeptical when they first look at these little treats, but then they have a pile of toothpicks in front of them in no time.

If you like my posts, please give Crafting and Cooking a like on Facebook. You can also follow all my pins on Pinterest.

Homemade snack pack

I have had an addiction to Reese’s Pieces lately. Not good, especially when I’m eating them by the bag! In order to try and snack a bit healthier during the day — and avoid the $1.25 bag of sweet peanut buttery goodness from the vending machine — I’m trying out my own snack packs.

I tried finding the tuperware containers that are divided already, but I came up empty. I found these deep rectangles that have a dressing cup that snaps to the top of the lid and I filled them with snacks I like:

I’m a little weird. I’ll admit it. I don’t like a lot of crunchy vegetables. Some of them, like carrots, I’ll only eat cooked. I don’t eat celery or peppers of any sort at any time.

So my snack pack includes grape tomatoes, snap peas, six cubes of cheese and five crackers.

The dressing is Kraft Three Cheese Ranch Lite. I am in love with this dressing, btw. Too bad it’s so hard to find! I was able to find it at Jewel for awhile and I stocked up, but now I may have to order from Amazon. Sigh. I will too because it’s my the creamy dressing of choice. If you like a vinaigrette though, I highly suggest Kraft’s Sun Dried Tomato.

I bought six blocks of cheese on sale and then I chopped them up. Colby jack, sharp cheddar and swiss. Yum.

The crackers are reduced fat. Five crackers are 70 calories, not that I count calories. But I decided to stick to the serving size listed on the side of the box.

I packed them all up and put them in the fridge. Easy to grab in the morning. Simple to pack at the beginning of the week. I might try baby corn and olives in the future.

Anyone else have any ideas for my snack packs? Would love to hear some suggestions.

Mandy‘s Recipe Box Inside BruCrew Life

Thanksgiving vs. Christmas

I really believe that Thanksgiving has been given the shaft. Everyone gears up for Halloween and then right away all the Christmas decorations and sales start. Where’s the love for Thanksgiving?

I make a point to avoid Christmas until Black Friday. No Christmas songs. No Christmas decorations. No Christmas cookies. Nothing until Black Friday.

Although, now, running a blog and doing crafts, it’s more difficult. I have been making all sorts of Christmas crafts for the last two months. You haven’t seen any here yet because I’m sticking to my Black Friday rule, even though I already celebrated Thanksgiving with the family this past Saturday.

Check out my dinner plate (sans baked sweet potato which was next to my plate on aluminum foil):

Clockwise from the bottom: Caesar salad, brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, creamed corn casserole, ham and turkey. So good.

I declared that Saturday was actually fake Thanksgiving even though it was my real Thanksgiving. It was the first time I remember we didn’t celebrate on the Thursday. We played a few games, including Cards Against Humanity (how perfect for Thanksgiving right? lol) and Dixit. Awesome.

Now, you won’t get anything Christmas from me until Friday. Then I promise a month’s worth of holiday stuff including decorations, gifts, cookies and more.

In the mean time, here are two recipes you can add to your Thanksgiving dinner and Don’t forget to like Crafting and Cooking on Facebook!

Creamed Corn Casserole

Bacon wrapped, blue cheese stuffed dates — I made these Saturday and everyone loved them

Craft fair recap

I know this post is pretty late! It’s been more than a week since my first craft fair, the Bizarre Bazaar, at a local church. My best friend, Teri, and I partnered up for the event. I sold three different kinds of ornaments, homemade coasters and paintings. She sold some of her personalized wood work and some holiday floral arrangements.

Check out our table:

I spent the last few weeks making more than 100 ornaments, tape paintings and the coasters.

I loved all the scrapbook coasters I made. I did a mixture of drink themed coasters, holiday coasters and then some patterns that I thought were really cute. I also took the time to experiment with different types of table protectors. I had found some cute cork circles, but I learned that if you stack the newly finished coasters too soon after sealing them, the cork is likely to stick and leave a residue. A certain felt kind that I found at Home Depot worked best.

I also finished off my ornaments with a ribbon. I thought it finished off my ornaments perfectly. Loved the pattern. I ran out, so I need to figure out if I can find more of when everything Christmas goes on sale.

Box of ornaments! I did glitter ornaments, melted snowmen and pom-poms. Super cute. I’ll have full directions on all of these coming up for you, I promise!

So things I learned at the craft fair:
– If you have access to Square, to run credit cards, do it! Great for big items or people who just don’t bring a lot of cash. We also put up little signs saying we took credit cards.
– Presentation is everything, but even a nice presentation doesn’t mean sales. We had a lot of people stop by, but they were just browsers. An early November craft fair, not everyone was ready for Christmas items. Plus I think we were aiming for a younger crowd and got an older crowd instead.
– Be ready to experiment with pricing. I had to change the price of the coasters a couple times until I found the right price. I wish I had upped the price of the ornaments slightly.
– Come prepared. Notepad, pens, newspaper to wrap things, tape, scissors, plastic bags, tablecloth, ways to prop things up on your table, price holders. Our mini tree was great to display the different ornaments.
– Say hi to people as they browse your table and also explain things if they’re not sure what they are. Point things out.
– Things on the floor also don’t really work. People just walk by or kick them by accident.


My friend and I want to do more craft shows in the future, but we realize we still need to plan. We need a name too. That’s the hardest part. We know what we want to sell, but we have no idea what really describes us. We also need to gauge the audience. I had a lot of fun and can’t wait to do more.

If you have any craft fair advice, please share in the comments, it would be much appreciated!

C.R.A.F.T. Package Pals

Have you been to C.R.A.F.T. (Creating Really Awesome Free Things) before? Since starting my whole DIY/Cooking project and blog, C.R.A.F.T. has become one of my favorite blogs to check out daily.

Jamie over at C.R.A.F.T. hosts something called Package Pals four times a year. By the end of the month, you send a fellow crafter a package full of fun things and you get one in return.

I participated in October! I was paired with the lovely Amanda from eleven19 and here’s what she sent me:

From the left and clockwise, a bunch of awesome tags for packages, a really cute apron for when I cook, little notebooks with a picture of the Chrysler Building, the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben on the over, a stamper and some washi tape!

I used the Big Ben notebook (you know I how much I love London!) and some of the tags at my first craft fair over the weekend, which I’ll be blogging about later. Super fun.

This is also my first little roll of washi tape too. I have no idea where to begin with it! I’m excited!

What about what I sent?

A yellow scarf with a safety pin print, a packet of fabric, two boxes of crayons for her kids, a set of four holiday coasters, a bag of rubber bands and the makings for a hardware necklace or bracelet.

Make sure you follow Amanda’s blog and follow her on Facebook. While you’re at it check out C.R.A.F.T. plus its Facebook. And I wouldn’t mind a like on my Facebook! 🙂

Another update

Howdy all!

Thanks to my friend James, Crafting and Cooking now has a new logo!

If you love movies, you can head over to The Gold Knight where James blogs about everything movies, from award shows to movie reviews. I also contribute there mainly during Oscar season, aka my Super Bowl.

And with the addition of the logo to this page, I’ve also launched the Crafting and Cooking Facebook page. So head over there and give us a like. All past posts are now listed there too. You can also click on the Facebook icon to the right.

And if you want to see cute logos, check out the one for

Thanks for all the support everyone!