Monday, November 30, 2015

Juniper-Rye Christmas IPA


Yesterday was do-or-die time!  As usual, I have way too many projects going.  I have a self-imposed taco recipe creation project.  I'm training for a marathon in February.  I have a job, and this coming week is crunch-time.  (We have a major concert this coming Sunday - not that I'm complaining - I'm lucky to have such an insanely cool job!)  Anyway, yeah.  Lots of stuff.

Over the last few years, I have become disillusioned with the shop-'til-you-drop mentality of Christmas.  Along with other members of my family, I have discovered the fun of exchanging homemade Christmas gifts.  I still do a bit of shopping (just to say I did it), but lately I've been making most of my Christmas gifts.  Though I did start quilting this year (check out this crazy, so-almost-finished project,) the things I do best revolve around food and alcohol.  Yep.  I've make pickles, beer, peanut brittle, granola, and various other items to give as gifts.

I've been brewing off-and-on for about 3 and-a-half years.  I am not an expert by any means, but I enjoy it.  I've learned a lot over the last few years.  For the most part, I've followed recipes.  Not this time, though.  Creating recipes?  Yeah - NBD - have you seen all these tacos???  O.O  So, I made up a beer recipe this time.  Whatever.

Anyway . . . back to do-or-die time!  It takes about 4 weeks to make beer from start to finish.  That's a minimum - not really ideal.  Yesterday, I had three weeks and five days until Christmas.  It was my LAST chance to make a Christmas beer.  I already got a big fail for my non-existent Thanksgiving beer.  I was just too busy!  This time, though?  I so wanted a homemade beer to give to my family on Christmas morning!  We like IPAs, so I decided to go with mostly pale malt and lots of piney and grapefruity hops.  To give it a bit of a holiday flair, I added some crushed juniper berries, spicy rye, and brown sugar.  I can see it working out well.  Ha ha.

This is a bit off-topic, but yesterday was also do-or-die time for the marathon.  I missed a couple of long runs over the last few weeks.  I knew I had to get in a decent run or throw in the towel.  So . . . I ran almost 14 miles and then I brewed this beer.

. . .

Don't ever do that.  No joke!

Here's the recipe:

Juniper-Rye Christmas IPA

For a 5-gallon batch (about 50 bottles)


For the mash:

10 lbs. pale 2-row malt
2 lbs. malted rye
1 lb. 30L 2-row crystal malt
8 oz. carapils malt
8 oz. rice hulls

For the boil:

1 lb. brown cane sugar

1 oz. Centennial hops (at 60 minutes out)
1 oz. Chinook hops (at 15 minutes out)
1 tsp. Irish moss (at 5 minutes out)
1/2 oz. Centennial hops (at 5 minutes out)
1/2 oz. Centennial hops (at flameout)
1 oz. dried juniper berries, crushed with a mortar and pestle (at flameout)


I used a Wyeast smack-pack (1056 American Ale Yeast)

1 oz. each of Centennial and Chinook hops for dry-hopping

1. Mash all grains for one hour at about 152 degrees.  (With all that grain, I used about 5 gallons of water.  As you can see, mine started at about 156, but went down to around 150 over the course of an hour, so I'm hoping that'll do it!)

2. Sparge at 170 degrees.  (I sparged with an additional 2 gallons of water.)

3. Add the sugar to the wort and do a one-hour boil adding the hops, Irish moss, and juniper berries as indicated.

4. Cool the wort as quickly as possible.  I added about 4 bottles (16 oz. each) of cold water to raise the volume to a little over 5 gallons as some of the liquid had boiled off.

Here's my setup.  Don't laugh!  I have a copper wort-chiller, and I siphon ice water through it using my bottling bucket.

5. Pitch the yeast at about 70 degrees.

6. Ferment at 63 to 68 degrees.

OG - 1.063
FG - ??? - (We shall see.)
Potential ABV - mid to high 7% (ish)

Well, that's as far as I got!  My plan is to let it ferment until Saturday (12/5).  Then, I'll rack it into a glass carboy and dry-hop it with the 1 oz. each of Centennial and Chinook hops.  I've never dry-hopped a beer before.  I'll have to read up on that - of course, it's a given that I'll do a short post about it!  :)

I'm also going to taste it.  If the juniper is not coming through, I may add another 1/2 oz. of crushed juniper berries.  We'll see.  I'm all for piney flavor, but I don't want it to taste like . . . a gin-soaked pinecone.  Hmm.

I'm planning to bottle it on Friday, December 11th.  That's rushing it, but I think it'll be drinkable on Christmas.  I'll chill a 6-pack of it on Christmas Eve so we can all sample it on Christmas Day.

(Note:  Obviously, this is not a complete process for brewing beer.  If you've never done it, I would check out How to Brew or Radical Brewing.  The first is a great overview of the basics.  The second is an interesting read about lots of different beer styles!) 

Well, I did it.  For better or worse.  Parents and siblings, if you're reading this, here's part of your Christmas gift.  I hope it's tasty.  I have high hopes for this brew!

Wow.  I paid for it this morning.  What a Monday.  Almost 14 miles.  Juniper-hoppy goodness.  Sigh.

I am so thankful for coffee.  It sustains my hopes and dreams.

Ha ha.  Well, please feel free to comment.  Be kind - I'm not a master brewer!  I'm more like a hipster-taco-chef.  :)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Stitch Fix #14 Review - November 2015


This latest fix ended up being a Thanksgiving fix!  I received the box on Wednesday afternoon.  I tried everything on (of course), but decided to wait until morning to take photos, because it was already getting dark!

I took these photos on Thanksgiving morning!  How did I have time to do that, you ask?  Well, I got off easy this year.  We went down to Tucson and had Thanksgiving dinner with my parents, some of my siblings, and my nephews.  I kept asking them if I could bring anything, but the only answer I got was "cranberry sauce".  All right.  I can do that.  (It was awesome, by the way.  Follow the directions on the Ocean Spray cranberry bag, but add two peeled/chopped green apples, a 1/4 tsp. of allspice, a large bay leaf, and a tablespoon of cider vinegar.  Just do it.  You're welcome.)

Anyway, this was a slightly rushed photo session (ignore the slightly damp hair), but I just couldn't wait to share everything!  My stylist, Melanie, came through again!  I got some great things!

If you're reading this, there's a good chance you're familiar with Stitch Fix.  If not, check out any of my previous reviews for a more detailed explanation of this awesome service!

November 2015 - #13

October 2015 - #12

September 2015 - #11

Stitch Fix Keepers

September 2015 - #10

August 2015 - #9

If you're not currently a member and are interested in trying it out, here's my referral link:

If you sign up using my link, I'll get a small credit.  Just in case you were wondering, I pay for all my own fixes.  My only relationship with Stitch Fix is as a customer.  I signed up this past January and I've really been enjoying it!

Well . . . without further ado . . . here is my Thanksgiving fix!  :)

1.  Street Level Kina Fringe Clutch - $48.00

Wow!  This bag makes a statement!  The fringe?  The gold chain shoulder strap?  I had to keep this!  It's an edgy/boho dream!  It coordinated perfectly with my Thanksgiving outfit (pictured later in this post)!  There is a faux leather strap at the top of the chain to make it more comfortable.  Here's a picture of that:

I have to admit - I felt a little strange wearing it during my Black Friday morning run to the store in Tucson (we needed extra maple syrup for multiple batches of blueberry pancakes!)  It doesn't quite go with running pants and my NYC marathon shirt.  I'll spare you the sight of that photo.  Ha ha.  Oh, well.

I love the bag.  It's MINE!

Verdict:  KEEP

2.  Kut From The Kloth Jonathan (or Diana?) Skinny Corduroy - Price - $68.00

I have to admit, I peeked at what I was getting in this fix!  Yes, I did!  I  knew I was getting some skinny corduroy pants, but I didn't know what color they would be.  I was so happy when I opened the box and saw that they were teal!  I don't love a lot of the "in" colors right now.  Mustard?  Olive?  No thanks!  But . . . teal?  Yes, please!  :)

Note - this is the second time that I have received a Kut From The Kloth item that has had conflicting item information on the packing slip and the item itself.  The packing slip said "Jonathan".  The tag on the pants said "Diana" . . . ???  Let's call them Jonathan-Diana pants, maybe?
I thought I was in love with these pants.  Seriously.  They fit like a glove.  They were long enough.  I'm starting to appreciate ankle-length pants, but come on.  Not all the time.  :)

Well, they stretch.  A lot.  Like most of my other skinny pants, they were starting to fall down within fifteen or twenty minutes.  Fortunately, I have discovered a solution.  I recently ordered an invisible belt (Beltaway brand) on Amazon and it has greatly reduced my frustration with skinny pants - as long as they have belt loops!  It's not a perfect solution - it's not really meant to look stylish, but as long as it's covered by a shirt, it improves the situation immensely!  Here's a link if you want to try it:

I love this product!  It's saved some of my favorite pants from the give-away pile!  :)

Anyway, here's my Thanksgiving outfit - I paired the teal skinnies with a cute top that I got from another service that I enjoy, Golden Tote!

Golden Tote is a little different than Stitch Fix, but it's equally fun!  I've only ordered two totes so far, but I've enjoyed both very much!  Here are my reviews of those experiences if you're interested:

Golden Tote #2 Review - November 2015

Golden Tote #1 Review - October 2015

Anyway, back to Stitch Fix!  I love the pants.  I wish they didn't stretch.  I have a Beltaway.  I'll live.  :)

By the way, I wimped out on the leopard flats before we left for Tucson.  I went with black instead.  Now that I look at these photos, I think that was a mistake.  Life is too short.  Wear the leopard flats!

Verdict:  KEEP

3.  Fate Fes Faux Suede Moto Jacket - Price - $84.00

I finally got a moto jacket!  It's so soft!  The arms are so long!  I love it!  It's a bit snug in the shoulders (and doesn't really zip comfortably), but it's also stretchy!  It fits like my Kut From the Kloth denim jacket from my October fix, and I wear that all the time!

Unfortunately, it has a broken snap.  I really wanted to keep it, so I emailed Stitch Fix's customer service.  On Thanksgiving Eve.  Ha ha.  I thought I might not hear back from them until Monday - imagine my surprise when I received a reply only an hour or two later!

They are sending me a replacement jacket, so I will be returning this one along with the other items that I'm sending back.  I should have a new jacket soon and I can't wait to wear it!  Here's a view from the back!  So many cute details!  :)

I was quite impressed with the customer service that I received on a holiday weekend!  Great job, Stitch Fix!

Verdict:  KEEP (exchange for jacket with intact snap)

4.  Brixon Ivy Jarred Lace Detail Cap-Sleeve Blouse - $68.00

This is a beautiful shirt!  The color is awesome - blue is my favorite!  The fit/cut just didn't work for me.  It's a flowy top, but it was very fitted in the top/shoulder area.  It looked a bit too small, and just wasn't very flattering.  The armholes were smaller than I would prefer.  I got the feeling that they would have gotten irritating after a few hours.  A top this expensive needs to be perfect . . . and it wasn't.

Sigh.  Look at the pretty lace detail on the back!

Oh, well.  It was a good choice!  It is my style - it just didn't work!

Verdict:  RETURN

5. RD Style Jessika Cowl Neck Poncho - $64.00

When I saw that I was getting a poncho, I tried to keep an open mind.  In general, I prefer fitted clothing.  Ponchos are usually . . . not fitted.  However, I do have fun trying things out of my comfort zone now and then.  Stitch Fix is great for that!  I have several things that I have purchased from Stitch Fix that I probably never would have tried on in a store.  I always keep an open mind and try on everything in the box!

Well . . . meh.  I don't know.  I liked the color.  It's wasn't as baggy as I expected.  The short sleeves, though!  Hmmm.  I think it would look silly without a shirt underneath it - especially with that cowl neck.  The sleeves are on the tight side, as well.  A fitted long-sleeved t-shirt would have been perfect to layer underneath it, but I don't really have any.  I finally came up with one Lucky brand waffle knit shirt to put under it.  Seriously, that's all I have!

If I had some other options to wear under it, I might have considered keeping it.  My husband thought it was cute.

It just wasn't my thing.  I decided to return it, and I updated my note to my stylist to indicate that I'm not a fan of cowl neck and turtleneck tops.  I think it's important to do that - I've never said anything either way about ponchos, cowl necks, or turtlenecks, so why would I be surprised to receive something like this?

Verdict:  RETURN

I really thought this fix was a good one!  I got to try something different (which I appreciated, even though it didn't work out,) and I loved the overall color profile.  I received some colors in my last fix that I wasn't crazy about - I thought this one suited me much better!

Well, my next fix will be coming on December 19th, just in time for Christmas!  We're also planning a New Year's Eve trip with my parents, so I'm hoping to get some fun things to wear for those events.  I can't wait to see what Melanie will choose for me!  :)

By the way, you can check some other awesome Stitch Fix Reviews at this link:

It's hosted by Maria of Crazy Together and Kinder Craze.  She received some great items this month as well!  Check it out!  :)

Please comment?  Did I make the right calls?  Have you received any of these items?  What did you think?  Thanks again for reading!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

29. Chickpea and Eggplant Tacos with Dandelion Greens and Harissa-Yogurt Sauce


This is another recipe that I came up with on my way to and while shopping at the grocery store.  As I've said before, necessity is the mother of invention!

My first impulse was to create a chickpea taco.  I thought that roughly chopping the chickpeas would create an interesting texture (and a more taco-like filling).  The next step was to decide on a flavor profile.  Chickpeas are very versatile.  They are present in many international cuisines, such as Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern, and African.  Since I had some preserved lemons and prepared harissa sauce at home, I decided to go in a Moroccan/North African direction.  Keep in mind, these are fairly inauthentic, as usual.  I'm pretty sure they don't actually serve these in Casablanca!

As much as I love chickpeas, a mouthful of chickpea taco did sound kind of . . . fibrous.  Ha ha.  I decided to mellow it out with something a little smoother and milder.  I thought roasted eggplant would be the perfect pairing!

There are a few specialty ingredients in this recipe.  The harissa should be pretty easy to find.  I bought mine at Cost Plus World Market.  It should be available at various specialty grocery stores, or you can buy it here.

Preserved lemons have a unique taste for which there is no possible replacement.  Like the harissa, you may need to seek them out from a gourmet grocer.  You can also order them online here.

If don't want to get the harissa or preserved lemons, you could substitute a hot sauce of your choice and a small amount of grated lemon zest (not a whole tablespoon), but the result will be slightly different.  It will still be good, though.  :)

I also used dandelion greens.  They are a sturdy, slightly bitter green.  I enjoy them now and then in a salad and I thought they would provide some variety to my array of recipes.  If you don't like dandelion greens or can't find them, you could certainly use another raw green, such as spinach!

Here's the recipe:

Chickpea and Eggplant Tacos with Dandelion Greens and Yogurt-Lemon Dressing

Serves about 4 (8 generous tacos)


For the chickpea-eggplant mixture:

1 small to medium Italian eggplant (mine was about 14 oz.)
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more for salting the eggplant
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 medium sweet onion
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
One 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 tbsp. finely chopped preserved lemon (rind only)

For the yogurt sauce:

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp. prepared harissa
1 tbsp. lemon juice
A few pinches of salt, to taste

For the dandelion greens:

2 cups thinly sliced dandelion greens (or spinach)
1/2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar (or another vinegar of your choice)
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

8 multi-grain corn and wheat tortillas (I used Mission Corn & Whole Wheat Blend.)

A couple of small Roma tomatoes, chopped, for garnish

1. Start the chickpea-eggplant mixture.  Peel and trim the eggplant.  Cut into about 1/2 to 3/4 inch chunks.  Place in a colander and toss with several large pinches of salt (to taste).  Let the eggplant sit for about 20 to 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line a baking sheet with foil.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Toss the eggplant with one tbsp. of the olive oil and spread out in a single layer on the foil.

Roast the eggplant until just tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

3. While the eggplant is roasting, make the yogurt sauce:  Combine the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

4.  Complete the chickpea-eggplant mixture:  Heat the remaining 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, lower the heat a bit, and cook until softened and slightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, cinnamon, coriander, and cumin and 1/2 tsp. salt and cook for another minute.  Add the chickpeas and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are combined and the chickpeas are hot, about 5 minutes.  Add the roasted eggplant chunks.  Cook and stir for another minute.  Add the walnuts, parsley, and preserved lemon and remove from the heat.  Keep warm.

5. While the chickpea mixture is cooking, prepare the dandelion greens:  Wash the greens and spin them dry.  If the ribs are fairly thick, as mine were, cut them out with a sharp knife.  Thinly slice and measure two heaping cups, packed.  Toss with the vinegar and oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6.  Prepare the tortillas.  I heated my tortillas in a dry skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or so on each side, just like I have done in the past with corn or flour tortillas.  Since this is basically the last step, you don't really need to keep them warm.  Just stack them on a plate or sheet of foil until it's time to assemble the tacos!

7.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  Spoon a small amount of the chickpea-eggplant mixture in the center of the tortilla.  Top with some of the dandelion greens.  Add some of the chopped tomatoes.  Finish with a generous amount of the harissa-yogurt sauce.  Enjoy!

My husband said these were one of my most "creative" so far.  Ummmm . . . ha ha.  Is that good or bad?  Well, he assured me that it was good!

These tacos were definitely unusual, but I enjoyed them as well.  I think the filling had a great texture.  I loved the creaminess of the roasted eggplant, the heartiness of the chickpeas, and the crunch of the walnuts.  The dandelion greens were a good choice - they had enough flavor to stand up to the spicy, aromatic filling.  The harissa taste in the sauce was mild.  It definitely provided some heat, but you could certainly use more harissa to taste!

At first, I wasn't sure it was worth the effort to chop the chickpeas, but I loved the way that this short step made identifying the filling a slightly more elusive process!  It doesn't scream "CHICKPEAS!!!"  I didn't tell my husband what we were having, and he honestly had no idea what was in the tacos.  He just said they were good.  After a few minutes, he correctly identified chickpeas and walnuts.  He didn't catch the eggplant.  I think that was probably a good thing.  If I told him we were having chickpea and eggplant tacos, he might have cried a little.

I might have been exaggerating just a bit at the end of that last paragraph.  :)

Well, tomorrow is Thanksgiving!  I hope you all enjoy it!  I made my thirtieth taco recipe this evening (bison with guajillo sauce), but I have not had time to document it yet, so stay tuned . . .

I'm still in catch-up mode - I'm shooting for two more recipes (in addition to the bison tacos) before the start of my school day on Monday!  :)

Did you try these tacos?  What did you think?  I'm all ears!

Thanks for reading!  

Monday, November 23, 2015

28. Crispy Shrimp Tacos with Sriracha Sauce, Roasted Red Pepper, and Red Cabbage-Apple Slaw


It seems like forever since I've posted a taco recipe!  Well, it's only been about a week and a half, but that means I'm a bit behind!  What can I say?

If I'm actually going to reach my goal of 100 recipes in a year, I have to average about two per week.  I've done quite well so far, if I do say so myself.  One musical direction down.  One semester almost down.  One marathon training experience in progress . . . well, I'm a little behind on that one, too.  It's all good, though.  It's going to happen.  A couple of weeks with three recipes each and I'll be (roughly) back on track.

At first, I really had no idea what to do for this one.  It was Friday.  I was tired.  I wasn't really in the mood.  Steve suggested shrimp.  Hmm . . . OK.  I went to the store and started throwing things in the basket.  I used the same wild-caught, peeled, deveined shrimp that I used in recipe eleven!  They worked quite well last time - they're a perfect size for tacos.  Hey, if it's not broken . . .

Then, I happened to remember some really tasty shrimp tacos at a restaurant down in Tucson called Sir Veza's.  Ha ha.  Get it?

I've ordered some great shrimp tacos from Sir Veza's a couple of times.  As I remember, they were crispy (fried) and topped with a sweet-hot sauce that definitely contained Sriracha.  Yes.  I decided to go with that.  Isn't Sriracha super-trendy and on everything these days?  By all means, then, let's make some TACOS with it!

I started with a creamy, tangy, spicy, aioli-inspired sauce that featured the Sriracha.  I decided to create a thin beer batter for the shrimp and roll them in panko.  I also thought that a crunchy, slightly spicy-sweet slaw would be the perfect complement to the other ingredients!  In the end, they were not exactly like the tacos I ate at Sir Veza's, but they were fairly mind-blowing.  I'm not even exaggerating . . . very much!

Well, since I'm in catch-up mode, I'll stay focused.  Here's the recipe!  :)

Crispy Shrimp Tacos with Sriracha Sauce, Roasted Red Pepper, and Red Cabbage-Apple Slaw

Serves 4-6 (about 12 tacos)


For the Sriracha sauce:

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Sriracha sauce
1 clove garlic, pressed in a garlic press
juice of half a lime
2 tbsp. honey

For the red cabbage-apple slaw:

2 cups sliced red cabbage
One green apple, peeled and grated
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 Fresno chile pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the shrimp:

1/2 cup flour
1 egg
1 tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 cup beer (not dark, unless that's your thing - it might work . . .)
1 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
About 20 oz. medium shrimp, peeled, deveined (if desired) and tails removed
2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
Canola oil for frying

2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into strips

12 to 24 corn tortillas, depending on whether you want to double them up

Roasted sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

Lime slices, for garnish (optional)

1.  Make the sauce:  Stir all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl until well blended.  Cover and set aside.

2.  Make the slaw:  Combine all of the slaw ingredients in a medium bowl.  Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.  Cover and set aside.

3.  Prepare the shrimp:  Combine the flour, egg, tamari, garlic powder, onion powder, beer, and ginger in a small bowl.  Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.  (Alternately, you can blend the mixture in a regular blender.)

Spread the panko out on a large plate ( a serving plate would be great).  Pat the shrimp dry.  Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

4. Fry the shrimp in batches:  Add canola oil to a large saucepan until a depth of about 2 to 3 inches is reached.  Heat the oil to about 360 to 375 degrees.  Add a medium handful of shrimp to the batter mixture.  Allow the excess to drip off.  Place on the plate and toss in panko until well coated.  Add to the hot oil and fry until the coating is light golden brown and the shrimp is just done, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.  After draining, transfer to a baking sheet lined with clean paper towels.  Repeat this process as needed.  Keep the baking sheet in the warm oven and transfer more shrimp as they are ready.  (It took about four small to medium batches to finish my shrimp.)    

5.  While the shrimp are cooking, (or after, if you don't want to multi-task,) prepare the tortillas:  Heat the tortillas in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, one by one, until browned but still soft, about 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side.  As the tortillas are done, stack them on a sheet of foil.  When they are all finished, wrap them in the foil.  Since the oven is already on anyway, throw the whole packet in there along with the shrimp!

6.  When all the components are ready, assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  (If your tortillas are thin, as mine were, double them up!)  Top with a few strips of roasted red pepper.  Place three or four shrimp on top of the pepper.  Drizzle with some of the sauce.  Spoon on some of the slaw.  Top with more sauce.  Garnish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a squeeze or two of lime.  Enjoy!

I have nothing but good things to say about these tacos!  They were everything I hoped they would be.  The sauce was awesome (and simple), and the slaw had a great texture.  I have to say, I'm really starting to be a Fresno pepper fan.  I usually gravitate to jalapeƱos or serranos (or maybe Thai chiles) when I want hot peppers, but Fresnos provide a nice amount of heat and beautiful color.  If you haven't tried them, give them a shot!

Another fun thing about this recipe was that our friend and neighbor, Pam, happened to be over and she tried them as well!  During all of this taco testing, it's usually just the two of us - it was so much fun to have another person to share my recipe with and get feedback!  She gave them a thumbs-up as well!

I will definitely be making these again.  The recipe makes quite a bit.  As written, you could probably serve four hungry people or six slightly less hungry people.  We only ate two each and were more than satisfied!

Yes!  Go for it!  Make them!  :)

Feel free to comment on this recipe!  Do you think Sriracha is still a good choice to include in a recipe or is it too overdone?  Did you try the tacos?  What did you think?

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Golden Tote #2 Review - November 2015


I just got my second Golden Tote shipment this week and I'm really excited to share it.  I loved EVERYTHING!  It was so much fun!  It took me a few days to get all the photos together, but I'm finally ready to do my big reveal!

Golden Tote is a new service for me.  I received my first tote in October - you can check that one out here.  I've got much more experience with Stitch Fix, another clothing-by-mail service.  I hesitate to call either of them a "subscription" service, because they are both very flexible.  You can order or not order as you wish!

Anyway, the situation in my closet is definitely looking up these days!  If you'd like to check out Stitch Fix, here are some links to my previous reviews:

November 2015 - #13

October 2015 - #12

September 2015 - #11

Stitch Fix Keepers

September 2015 - #10

August 2015 - #9

All right - back to Golden Tote!

When you sign up for Golden Tote, you fill out an online style profile.  It's pretty short - you answer some questions about your measurements, typical sizes, and how you like your clothes to fit.  Here are a couple of pages from my profile:

As you can see, they show you a few different style types.  You can check/uncheck as you wish - it's easy to update if you want to try something different for the next tote.

You are also able to specify certain colors and prints that you would like to avoid, which is helpful if you are not a fan of something that is "in".  You can also attach an image to further depict your own personal style.  From what I understand, most people create collages (as I did).

You can order a tote at any time.  A lot of people buy multiple totes per month!  You can choose a small or large tote.  The small tote is $49 and includes 1 item that you choose and another "surprise" item.  The large tote is $149 and includes 2 items that you choose and 3 to 4 surprise items.  There is also an option to add on additional pieces from their online boutique for a reduced price.

The one drawback is that, if you want the bargain prices (around $25 per item), you have to keep it all.  You can send the whole thing back for a full refund (though you do have to pay for return shipping).  You don't get a prepaid envelope/box.  Basically you have to box it up yourself and ship it back with the packing slip.  If you just can't part with an item, you can keep it and send back the rest, but you will be charged the full boutique price, which is often quite a bit higher than the $25 average.

There is a great Golden Tote trading group on Facebook.  I thought it would be a hassle, but I was able to trade most of my unwanted items from last month.  I still have one cardigan lying around that I'm trying to sell/trade, but I definitely got my money's worth!

Golden Tote has a major launch at the beginning of each month.  I have been amazed at the amount of excitement that builds up (in the FB group) when the next launch is due.  It's intense.  People set their alarms so that they can wake up and be the first to shop when the new items are available.  Some of the most popular chosen items sell out quickly!

I ordered a large tote with a couple of extra items.  Here's what I got!

1.  Mega Metallic Top (chosen item)

I'm a sucker for polka dots.  This is a Collective Concepts top.  It's pretty thin, but this is Arizona, so I can still wear it as a winter top!  :)  I love it.  Everything about it.  It's definitely a keeper!

2.  Winter Romance Blouse (chosen item)

This top is also made by Collective Concepts. I'm not usually a huge fan of floral prints, but I love the colors in this one!  I also thought the asymmetrical hem was interesting - I had to go for it!  It's definitely another keeper.  The fit is great, and I can wear it to work or for a night out!

3.  Colorblock Car Coat (add-on item)

This car coat was almost one of my chosen items, but I decided to add it on instead.  As far as I know, you can send back an add-on item if it doesn't work because, technically, it's not part of the tote.  I was pretty sure the tops would work, but I wasn't totally sure about this coat.  I paid an additional $40 to add this to my shipment.  As it turns out, I love it!  We had a cold snap last week, and I wore it to school the morning after I received it.  That turned out to be a good thing, as we had no heat in my building that day!  Here's how it looks from the back:

I will be wearing this one a lot!  It's just a bit roomy, but I'm OK with that.  I can put it over thicker tops without it being uncomfortable.  From the FB group, I have gathered that this item runs big.  A lot of people are trying to trade for a size down, but I think mine will be fine!

4.  Ezra Tab Sleeve Printed Top (secret item)

If you read my last review, you saw that I had no luck with my surprise items last month.  This month was different.  I love this top!  I wore it yesterday with skinny jeans and sandals and felt so stylish on my day off!  The white fabric is super stretchy and a bit sheer.  If I wore this to school, I'd probably wear a white camisole underneath, but yesterday I didn't care.  :)  I love the colors and pattern - a perfect casual boho top!

5. Potters Pot Diamond Jacquard Skinny Trouser (secret item)

I was sad that these pants didn't fit quite right.  I think they're cute!  As you can see, they are VERY short!  I'm trying to get behind the whole ankle pants thing, but these are just beyond my comfort level.  They'd have to be an inch or two longer.  Here's a shot that shows the print a bit better (more light).

These pants are a medium.  That usually works for me, but I think these run small.  They were super tight.  I was able to try them on for the photos, but they were not comfortable.  They would work much better on a slightly smaller, shorter person.  Fortunately, I was already able to sell them through the GT trading group!  They are in the mail and on their way to their new home!  Too bad . . . they are totally my style!

6. Fantastic Fawn Geo Print A-Line Dress (secret item)

I love this dress!  It's a beautiful blue color with a light yellow geometric pattern.  The material is soft and stretchy.  Unfortunately, it doesn't love me - at least not to the same degree!  Ha ha.  I have a long torso, and the waistline is just high enough to bug me.  Also, it's a bit snug on the top.  It looks OK from the front and side, but there are some bulges in the back.  :/  I'm tempted to go on a juice fast so I can lose 6 or 7 pounds and wear this dress, but life is too short for that, you know?  There will be other dresses!

I've already posted this to the FB group, and I've had some interest.  I'm pretty sure I'll be able to sell or trade it!

7. Skies Are Blue Sheer Sleeve Bow Blouse (secret item)

My last surprise item was this top.  Sometimes I get burned out on plain black items, but they are so versatile!  Also, I usually wear black to our concerts at school, so it's nice to have another dressy top that will work for those occasions.  I wasn't sure about the bow at first.  Is it supposed to be tied above the v-neck?  It's only attached at the shoulders, so it can be tied loose or tight.  I decided to leave it loose so it blends into the neckline.  I've already worn this to work.  I love the sheer sleeves!

8. Brimming With Style Hat (boutique item) 

About a week after I bought my tote (but before it had shipped), I bought this hat from the boutique.  I'm trying to be a bona-fide hat person!  They just threw it in with my other items, so I didn't have to pay shipping!  The hat was $36.

I really like it and I'm going to make an effort to wear it!  I still have to remind myself that wearing hats is a thing, but I'm much better about it than I used to be!

So, that's that!  I was thrilled with this tote, even though two of the items didn't fit quite right.  Everything was my style!  My tote was styled by AC, and I thought she did a great job!

I still love Stitch Fix, but I have found that Golden Tote is just as much fun, but in a slightly different way!  Per item, it is definitely cheaper.  However, Stitch Fix feels a bit more personalized.  I'm having fun with both services.  In fact, I'm almost getting to the point of having TOO MANY cute things in my closet!  O.O  I'm going to have to start changing clothes at lunchtime to make sure everything gets into the rotation.  Ha ha.

Well, if my blog post has inspired you to try Golden Tote, please use this referral link to sign up.  If you do, I'll get a small credit.  (In case you're wondering, I was not compensated by Golden Tote in any way for this post.  My only relationship with them is as a customer and I have paid for all of my own items.)

Please comment?  What do you think about the items I received?  Have you received any of these items?  What did you think?  Which do you prefer - Golden Tote or Stitch Fix?  Thanks again for reading!