Kitchen Concoctions

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Fish Tacos on a Stick with Taco Ranch Dipping Sauce

 These Fish Tacos on a Stick are not only fun but will have kiddos everywhere begging to help with dinner and asking for more! Just in time for #TacoTuesday


I had carefully planned out a summer's worth of kids in the kitchen recipes, activities and fun. I wanted to share recipes for rock candy and puddin' pops and all sorts of other cool stuff.

But then real life and work got in the way.

I had worked so hard to plan and prepare for my annual kids in the kitchen series, so this wouldn't happen, but despite my best efforts (I have a whole back log of photographed recipes on my computer) I haven't had time to actually sit down and edit all the pics and write the blog posts.


So here I am finally sharing one of said “kids in the kitchen” recipes!

These fish tacos on a stick are cute and fun. Not only that, they are so easy to make the kids could practically make them on their own! If you have real young kids, simply set out all the ingredients in bowls a and let them go to town assembling and dipping!


Fish Tacos on a Stick with Taco Ranch Dipping Sauce
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes Serves: 4

A fun and easy kid friendly twist on weekly taco night!

Ingredients:
Fish Tacos on a Stick:
8 wooden skewers
4 breaded frozen fish fillets
4 flour tortillas
24 cherry or grape tomatoes
1 cup chopped iceberg lettuce
1 cup cubed cheddar cheese

Taco Ranch Dipping Sauce:
½ cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
½ cup ranch dressing
2 teaspoons taco seasoning

Directions:
For fish tacos on a stick: Bake fish fillets according to package directions. Once thoroughly cooked, allow fish to cool slightly then chop into bite sized pieces.

Cut tortillas into 4-6 even strips. Fold tortilla strips in half.

Thread cubed fish, cut tortilla strips, tomatoes, lettuce and cheese in an alternating pattern onto skewers. Serve immediately with Taco Ranch Dipping Sauce.

For taco ranch dipping sauce: Stir together all ingredients in a small bowl. Serve immediately with fish tacos on a stick, or store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Tacos inspired by Giveaway Overload, as seen on Pinterest 
Dipping sauce, Kitchen Concoctions


Monday, July 27, 2015

How To Host a Summer Pie Social

Disclosure: This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and EDWARDS®, but all my opinions are my own. #ad #pmedia #EdwardsPies http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV 

Bring friends and family together to celebrate summer with an adorable and classic summer pie social! Sharing my tips, tricks and ideas to make sure your pie social is a smashing success! 


Several years ago I attended a seminar about the history of food writing and women in the food and beverage industry. This seminar had several different speakers with various backgrounds... from a local chef and restaurateur, to a woman who ran her family's cattle ranch, to a restaurant critic and several cookbook authors and reporters.


These women came from such different backgrounds yet had one thing in common, food. It was so interesting listening to them speak and share their personal stories and explain what part of the food industry they were passionate about. One of the speakers, an author, shared how she hosts a pie social once a year to raise money and awareness for a charity close to her heart. As this woman spoke, I could not only feel her energy and passion, I could see it on her face. She not only cared about the charity she was trying to raise money for, but she explained that pie socials have been happening for decades as a way for communities to bond. That it was amazing to watch someone's face light up as they gathered around a table full of pies, carefully choosing the flavor they liked best, then sitting down to have happy, peaceful conversations... bonding over a simple thing like pie.


As the words escaped her lips, I was instantly taken back to a time I have never known, but could only imagine. A time before computers. A time when people barely watched TV. A time when neighborhood block parties still existed. A time when people knew their neighbors. Right then and there I knew I wanted to have a good ole fashioned summer pie social!

It seems like everyone I know is under a lot of stress right now. If not one thing with one friend, it is another thing with someone else. That is why I decided this summer was the perfect time to finally have that pie social I have always dreamed of. A time where we could all kick back and relax!


I have mentioned several times that I love to entertain. I love the planning, the prep and the ear to ear smiles of all my guests. So a pie social was a no brainer, despite the fact that it took me years to make it happen. However, just like everyone else, my life has been pretty hectic lately. But, I didn't want this to be an excuse! So I kept things classic and simple and took a few short cuts here and there. In the end, we had a pie social that was a smashing success!


Below are some of my tips and tricks that helped me throw together a pie social in no time! I hope this inspires you to bring together your friends, family, neighbors and community to have your own pie social!

The Pies and Other Food: Lets start with the obvious shall we! When I envisioned my pie social, I knew I wanted a lot of pies. I mean, it is a pie social after all! And sure, I could have made homemade pies, but that was just something I didn't have time to do. So I headed to my local Walmart and I picked up some EDWARDS® Whole Pies from the frozen food aisle. Not only was this super convenient, since Edwards pies are frozen, they just have to be thawed before serving, no baking necessary (this is huge for me, since it is SUPER hot outside)! I also love that Edwards pies comes in a ton of different flavors, from Key Lime to Lemon Meringue, to several for all those chocolate lovers, like Cookies and Crème and Turtle; meaning there is something for everyone! And not only did these pies save me time, in the long run it saved me a lot of money on buying ingredients for homemade pies too. While you could certainly have a pie social with just dessert pies, since the only time we had available to host our party was at dinner time, I did whip up a few savory pies (a Tomato Basil Pie and Sausage and Pepper Quiche) and a garden salad to serve as well. This not only kept with our pie theme, but by only making the savory pies, didn't require too much extra work! Other food you might want to have is drinks like coffee, water and milk.


Pie Garnishes: I knew I wanted the pies to be the star of the night, so I wanted to make sure they all looked fantastic. Even though I took the shortcut and used the Edwards frozen pies for my pie social, I didn't just want to throw the boxes on the serving table. I carefully removed the pies not only from their boxes, but removed most of them, while still partially frozen, from their aluminum pie plates to put on cake stands. I then added a little extra garnish to several of the pies. For the Strawberry Crème, Key Lime and Lemon Meringue Pies, adding some fresh strawberries or sliced lime/lemons adds a lovely pop of color to  each pie. For the Cookies and Cream, some whole or mini chocolate sandwich cookies pressed into to whip cream border also adds a special touch. I also had extra whip cream, chocolate and caramel sauce and maraschino cherries on hand for serving during the festivities!



The Display: I originally imagined placing all the pies on different sized cake stands, however the cake stands I have weren't big enough and I didn't have much room in my party budget to buy more. So what did I do... a tiny kitchen hack! For an instant cake stand, simply flip a bowl over (so the open side faces down) and stack a plate on top. This worked beautifully and no one knew the difference! Just don't forget to take the plate off the bowl to slice! Since this was a pie party and we had all kinds of pies, I also included as part of the display, little chalkboards where I wrote the name of each pie. This made for easy reference as guests served themselves.


The Decor: Since I wanted a classic 1950's/picnic style pie social, I kept the décor really simple. I went with a red, blue and tan/burlap color scheme. I started with a red gingham tablecloth on my wooden table and then picked pieces from my home, like a few wooden rolling pins, a metal bucket filled with wooden spoons and wire whisks; and paired them with a few kitchen knickknacks from my Mother-In-Law's house and bright fresh flowers!

Serving Utensils: Make sure and have plenty of pie servers/spatulas and knives on hand to easily serve all the pies. Paper plates, cups, napkins and wooden forks (for a special, unique look) in the party colors, kept things simple and clean! I had also wanted to get cute little single slice pie to go boxes, to send guests home with any leftovers, but could not find what I was looking for, hopefully for the next pie party!


There you have it my friends... a good ole fashion summer pie social! This was so fun to organize and plan and was such a hit that I think I'll make it an annual tradition!

I think we could all use a slice of pie in our life! What flavor pies would you serve at a pie social?? Please share in the comments below!


And for a limited time you can save even more on your next purchase of EDWARDS® Whole Pies at Walmart! Save $1.00 on any ONE (1) EDWARDS® Whole Pie by taking advantage of the Walmart EDWARDS®  Ibotta digital rebate (while supplies last). For more information about EDWARDS® Pies and for other fun ideas, visit EDWARDS® Pies online and follow them on Facebook!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sausage and Pepper Quiche

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ad #QuakerRealMedleys #CollectiveBias

Entertaining house guests or just busy and on the go? Whip up a hearty Sausage and Pepper Quiche and serve it with some fresh fruit or granola and yogurt for a satisfying breakfast or brunch!


I don't know about you but this summer has been go, go, go! It started as soon as school let out, when we left for our summer beach vacation, and hasn't stopped since! In fact, this past weekend was the first full weekend I have been home since May, and it was spent running errands all.weekend.long!

But I am not complaining! I am totally one of those people that have to be on the go. Not only do I find it super satisfying to work hard at a job I love, for me I strongly believe that life is about adventure, endless possibilities and sharing the fun with friends and family!



Several of our adventures this summer have included vacations and get togethers with friends and family. Spending time with family and friends, especially a family as large as mine, is fun but can be challenging as well. Earlier this summer all of my family got together for a family reunion and to celebrate my grandmother's birthday. This was no small task considering there are nearly 50 family members (and counting) with all my aunts, uncles, cousins, their significant others and kids! (Whew! Just thinking about it makes me exhausted!)

To make things easy, we had dinner catered each night and then did breakfast and brunch buffets. Serving brunch buffets is my “go to” way to entertain house guests or for any large or small gathering. It is easy to whip up things like hard boiled eggs, coffee cake, breakfast casseroles and quiches ahead of time to make the morning of the gathering a breeze and to satisfy several different tastes and preferences. To make things even easier and to add more of a variety, we also always have an assortment of fruit and store bought goodies like bagels and lox, muffins, juice, cereal and yogurt.



When planning and shopping for our recent family reunion, I stumbled upon these new Quaker® Real Medleys® Yogurt Cups on the cold cereal aisle of my local Walmart. I was instantly intrigued, because I had never seen anything like this before. These Quaker® Real Medleys® Yogurt Cups are a delicious blend of yogurt, multigrain granola, real fruit and crunchy nuts in a shelf-stable single serve cup. Since these granola and yogurt blend cups don't have to be refrigerated (Just add cold milk, stir, and eat!) they are perfect to set out on a breakfast buffet for a large crowd like ours, when everyone comes and goes. I don't have to worry about keeping the yogurt chilled for hours (guests can help themselves to milk in the fridge) and since we held our reunion on the lake, my family members could grab an individual cup and take it with them to enjoy while they sat out by the water. Winning!




Another winning breakfast/brunch item? This Sausage and Pepper Quiche! I first threw this quiche together awhile back when we had last minute out of town house guests and I needed to something in a pinch to feed them. This quiche was such a hit that I have continued to make it for various gatherings. While making a traditional full sized quiche is quick and easy, if doing a brunch buffet, like we had at our family reunion, I like making individual mini quiches for guests to easily grab and go!

I've shared my favorite “go to” brunch buffet items, now I want to hear yours! Please share in the comments below!



Sausage and Pepper Quiche
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 60 minutes Serves: 6

A hearty quiche filled with sausage, caramelized onions, sweet bell peppers and sharp cheddar cheese, all nestled into a buttery, flaky crust.

Ingredients:
1 store bought 9-inch pie crust 
1 pound regular or hot breakfast sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
½ large red bell pepper, diced
½ large green bell, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
4 large eggs 
1 cup milk 
1/3 cup heavy cream or half and half
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan with nonstick spray. 

Roll out the pie crust and press into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim away any excess dough and flute or crimp the edges of the crust. Set aside.

Heat ½ tablespoon oil a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

Add remaining oil and butter to skillet. Add onions and cook until they are caramelized, approximately 10-12 minutes. Add bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally for an additional 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove peppers and onions from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and heavy cream; whisking until well combined. Stir in cooked sausage, vegetables, cheese, sage, salt and black pepper. Pour egg and sausage mixture into the prepared pie crust.

Bake in preheated 375 degree F oven for 40-45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is set. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold garnished with fresh sage, if desired.

For Mini Quiches: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Unroll 2 (9-inch) pie crusts and place flat on a cutting board. Using a 3-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter (or cup) cut 6 rounds from each 9-inch crust. Press 1 (3-inch round) pie crust into the bottom and up the sides of each muffin cup. Continue with recipe as directed above to make quiche filling. Once egg and sausage mixture is made, pour approximately ¼ cup quiche mixture into crusts in muffin tin, filling to within ¼-inch from the top. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cool in muffin tin for 2-3 minutes, then using the tip of knife, lift quiches from pan. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold with fresh sage, if desired, for a garnish. Alternately, you can omit the pie crust and create mini “crust-less” quiches. Prepare as directed above and reduce baking time by 5 minutes.

Serving Suggestion: Serve with fresh fruit or a simple spinach salad and Quaker® Real Medleys® Yogurt Cups.


Quaker® Real Medleys® Yogurt Cups is filled with quality ingredients and comes in three tasty flavors like, Apple Cinnamon, Raspberry Pecan, and Strawberry Almond. They are satisfying with 25 grams of whole grains and 10 grams of protein when prepared with 1/2 cup of cold Skim Milk. Just add cold milk, stir, and eat!


Looking for more breakfast ideas that are “Crunchy. Cool. Yum.”? Download the Blippar app from your Apple or Android store to scan your package and receive information tutorials on Quaker® Real Medleys® Yogurt Cups. You can also find more delicious recipes with Quaker® Real Medleys® Yogurt Cups at QuakerLove.com and by following Quaker® online on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Best Dog Parks in Austin, Texas

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ad #PetsLoveBeyond #CollectiveBias 

Love pampering your four-legged babies with long walks and dog food made with natural ingredients? If the answer is yes!!, then check out this Texas style way to pamper your pouch by visiting one of these Austin area dog parks! 


I often joke that Eric had to work hard to win me over when we first starting dating a decade ago. At the time I was super busy finishing school, starting an internship and working full time to pay my bills. But Eric worked hard (at the time I even thought he was being somewhat annoying) to win me over! He took me on fun unique dates, where he listened to me ramble nervously on about my self and then surprised me at work with some of my favorite things.

Slowly he won me over, with his constant jokes and kindness. But I also joke, what sealed the deal wasn't the days spent on the lake that summer or him remembering my favorite summertime treat, but when I met Eric's dog Mojo. Yes, I feel in love with Mojo at first sight! LOL!


Not only did Mo win my heart over, he quickly went from Eric's dog to my dog. If we walk in the front door, who is it that Mo first runs to... me! At the end of the day when we are trying to watch a little TV who does Mo go to rest his head on... me!

Unless you are another pet lover, it is hard to image how much love you can have for a pet, especially a loyal dog like Mo, but I love that dog sooooo much! Because I love him, I try to pamper Mo as much as I can. This means the occasional toy (although he usually doesn't play with them much), special treats, evening walks and carefully selected dog food.



Several years ago we started to be more conscious of what we feed Mo. We have never allowed him to eat table scraps, but started carefully reading the labels of the food we bought. I always purchase our pet needs at H-E-B because it is so convenient since I am in there almost daily. On a recent H-E-B run for dog food, I noticed the Purina® Beyond® Grain Free Dry Dog Food on the pet aisle. Not only does this food have natural premium ingredients, like white meat chicken and eggs, it is has no added artificial flavors, colors or preservatives; and has no corn, wheat or soy (which are common allergies in dogs). This not only made me happy, but Mo was pretty happy with his new food too!


In addition to feeding Mojo carefully selected dog food, like the Purina® Beyond® Dog Grain Free Chicken and Egg, I love spending time with him at the dog park. I love that Austin is such a dog friendly city, with not only many local restaurants being dog friendly, but Austin is also home to a ton of beautiful dog parks! Since we love to head to the dog park at least once or twice a week, I thought I would share a round up of some of the best Austin area dog parks, you know, so you can pamper your pooch too!

Austin Area Dog Parks:



1. Georgetown Bark Park- While this dog park is a bit of a trek for most, it is totally worth it! This is a gorgeous, fenced in six acre dog park with a ton of trees and shade! Not only does this park have separate areas for large and small dogs, there is plenty of benches for “Mom and Dad,” an agility course and drinking fountains for both dogs and people.
  • Location: 151 S Holly St, Georgetown, TX 78626 
  •  Parking: Plenty 
2. Round Rock Dog Depot- This is a very popular dog park and there is lways at least 4-5 other dogs running around. Even though this is a popular park it is a smaller park with only 1.85 acres of fenced in “off leash” area. This dog park has an assortment of agility elements and is divided into three parts, a large area for large dogs and two smaller areas for smaller dogs. Depending on the time of year and day of the week, one or two of the small dog areas may be closed for general upkeep and maintenance. While this is a favorite dog park, there is only a few benches/picnic tables and very little shade (no big trees, just a small wooden awning over several picnic tables that provides a little shade). This park has watering stations for pets only.
  • Location: 800 Deerfoot Drive, Round Rock, TX 78664 (Behind Lake Creek Pool) 
  • Parking: Some 
  • Hours: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 1 – Oct. 1 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 2 to March 31 

3. Harris Ridge Off Leash Dog Park at Stoney Creek Park- The Harris Ridge Off Leash Dog Park is part of the massive 50 acre park in Pflugerville, Texas. While the park as a whole is large and offers things like playscapes, barbeque pits, picnic tables, a sand volleyball court, and hike and bike trails; the fenced-in off leash dog area is rather small. The dog park is divided into two areas, one for large dogs and one for small, and there are a few benches and some trees to help provide shade. While there is some agility equipment, we like this dog park for all the hills it has which the dogs have fun exploring. It is within walking distance of many homes and neighborhoods in the area.
  • Location: 14400 Harris Ridge Blvd, Pflugerville, TX, US 78660 
  •  Parking: Some 
  • Hours: Dawn to Dusk 


4. Red Bud Isle- This dog park is very popular with local Austinites! This unfenced, leash free park, is over 13 acres and is a peninsula that lies on Town Lake, just below the Lake Austin dam. While there is only a handful of benches and only a half mile of trail, there is plenty of room for dogs to run and swim in the water! This park is heavily wooded which provides a ton of shade. Since this is a very popular park, with limited parking, you may need to have a backup plan and visit another local park, if parking is unavailable.
  • Location: 3401 Redbud Trail, Austin, TX 78703 
  • Parking: Limited 
  • Hours: 5:00 am – 10:00 pm 


5. Auditorium Shores- Auditorium Shores is another local Austin favorite! This unfenced, off leash dog park is in the heart of downtown Austin and has perfect views of the Austin skyline! The leash free area (carefully marked by signs) boarders Lady Bird Lake, giving dogs the opportunity to play in the water. If planning to visit the other areas of the park, dogs must be kept on a leash. There is quite a bit of parking in the area, however, since this is a popular park and part of town for special events, parking may be limited at certain times.
  • Location: 900 W. Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78704 
  • Parking: Limited free parking available near the park, as well as a parking garage (for a small fee) across the street at the Palmer Event Center. 
6. Bull Creek District Dog Park- This is a gorgeous park in northwest Austin that covers 48 acres and is full of unique terrain, including limestone rocks, cliffs, trees, waterfalls and trails. This unfenced park is a great area for dogs to swim, play and explore, but dogs must be kept on leashes.
  • Location: 6701 Lakewood Dr, Austin, TX 78731 
  • Parking: some 
  • Hours: 5:00 am – 10:00 pm 
7. Shoal Creek Greenbelt/Pease Park- Deep in the heart of Austin is the Shoal Creek Greenbelt. The beautiful tree filled park, is filled with splash pads, walking trails, and plenty of scenic spots for a picnic. The off leash dog area of the park/trail, runs from from 24th Street to 29th Street.
  • Location: 
    • Pease Park: 100 Kingsbury St, Austin, TX, US  
    • Shoal Creek: 2631 Shoal Creek Boulevard, Austin, TX 78705 
  • Parking: There are a very limited number of parking spots located near Pease Park, however, most likely you will have to park on the street. 

I've shared how I love to pamper my pup, now I want to hear how you connect with and pamper your pooch! Share your favorite ways in the comments below!


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Key Lime Pie Green Smoothie

Kids and adults will love this nutrient packed green smoothie that is tart and creamy, just like a Key Lime Pie!! 


I don't ever remember having smoothies as a kid. It wasn't until one day, not too long ago, when I was drinking one of my beloved smoothies, that I realized this was odd, I mean EVERY kid that I know, LOVES smoothies!

Maybe we didn't grow up on smoothies because smoothies weren't all the rage in the 80's and 90's?? Or maybe it was because, smoothies can be a bit expensive to make?? I don't know, I just don't remember ever having one until I was like a senior in high school.

Then a few months ago, I was visiting my Mom and we were running errands at the mall. A smoothie shop was handing out free smoothies that day and I had to have one, I mean it was free AND I needed fuel to get me through the mall (random fact: I loath malls and only go to them 2-3 times a year!). I ordered up my tasty, fruity smoothie and asked my Mom what flavor she wanted and she said she would pass. I was like WHAT?? And she was like... I don't like smoothies. I was stopped in my tracks right then and there and then I realized the reason why we never had smoothies as kids, is that my Mom didn't like them!


I still can't get over this astonishing fact (I mean, like for real, who doesn't like smoothies!?!?). Luckily for me, I did not get blessed with the smoothie hating gene from my dear Mom. In fact, I love smoothies so much, I have one almost daily as a post workout snack, for my morning breakfast or a late night treat.

And while you could pretty much throw whatever into a blender and call it a smoothie, I love coming up with fun flavors inspired by my favorite foods... like key lime pie! I mean, sure I would love to shovel a whole piece of pie into my mouth each morning and call it breakfast, that just isn't healthy. However, a key lime pie flavored smoothie (with things like spinach and coconut milk) is!

One Year Ago: Kids in the Kitchen: Homemade Strawberry Milk
Two Years Ago: Homemade Pigs In A Blanket (a.k.a Hogs in a Quilt)
Three Years Ago: Halibut with Zesty Peach Salsa
Four Years Ago: Grilled Paradise Pork Chops and In Season: Mangoes 
Five Years Ago: 'Angry' Sausage and Pepper Pasta 
Six Years Ago: Restaurant Review: Sugar Mama's Bakeshop


Key Lime Pie Green Smoothie
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Serves: 1 

A tart and creamy green smoothie that tastes just like pie! 

Ingredients:
1 (5.3-6 ounce) container key lime Greek yogurt
1/3 cup spinach
¼ – 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut or almond milk
3 key limes, juiced and zested
1 small mango OR ½ small banana, diced
2 teaspoons honey
4-5 ice cubes
1 graham cracker, crushed (optional for garnish)

Directions:
Combine all ingredients, except graham cracker, in a blender. Blend on high until smooth, adding additional milk or ice to reach desired consistency. Pour into a large glass and top with the crushed graham cracker. Serve immediately.

Other recipes you might enjoy:
Peach Smoothie
Pineapple Crush Smoothie
Apple Pie Smoothie
Frozen Pink Lemonade Smoothie
Very Vanilla Smoothie (a.k.a Casper the Friendly Ghost Smoothie)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Free (and Cheap!) Summer Fun in Austin, Texas

Live in Austin, Texas or vacationing there this summer? Check out this guide to all the best free or cheap summer fun!


Happy July!!!

Even though Texas is super hot and humid during this time of year, I absolutely love summer time! We love to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight by taking long walks, having sunset patio dinners, lazy days by the pool and squeezing in as many fun, summery activities as possible!

Austin has so many fun (and free) activities year round, but specifically in the summer. We take full advantage of these events, and thought I would share a few local favorites... basically what to do it Austin all summer long!


Below is a guide to all of our favorite free and cheap summer events and activities that take place every year, and don't forget to visit each event's website for more information!

Always free:

1. Movies in the Park: One of our absolute favorite summer activities is watching movies in the park. I don't know what it is, the fact that they are usually popular classics, or that magical feeling you get from watching a movie under the stars, or that you can bring a picnic dinner (which is always fun!); but catching as many of these special movies every summer is a must! Luckily, there are many locations in Austin that offer this fun experience for free.

  • 101x Summer Cinema- This is always a great place to watch a movie! Nestled in the park next to Central Market on Lamar Boulevard, this movies in the park plays fan favorites (no really, you the fan vote on what you want to see each week), like The Goonies, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and The Princess Bride, just to name a few. We like this location because there is plenty of shade (while you wait for the movie to start) and you have access to Central Market to use the facilities, grab some drinks, snacks or even dinner. There is also $2.50 beer specials all night long. While parking is available in the store's parking lot, come early as this smaller location fills up quickly. 
    • What to bring: Outside coolers are allowed onto the lawn/movie area, but may be checked for outside food/beverage. If you do purchase snacks from Central Market keep your receipt handy as you may be asked for it. While there are picnic tables and chairs, they get snatched quickly, so bring blankets and folding chairs. Pets on leashes are ok!   
    •  For more information check out 101x Summer Cinema online and follow on Facebook and Twitter
    • When: Every other Wednesday all summer long for 5 to 6 weeks (click here for exact dates and movie schedule). 
    •  Time: Movie starts at dusk 8:30-9pm 
    •  Where: Central Market 40th and Lamar, 4001 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 
  • Sound and Cinema- This one is another favorite because it combines both our love of classic movies and local music! Every other Wednesday all summer long at the Long Center, you can listen to live local music before the classic movie of the night. The music and movie are paired perfectly, like The Sandlot with The Nightowls or Naked Gun with Hard Ball. There are several popular food trucks, like Peached Tortilla, Yeti Frozen Custard, and Uncle Louie G’s on site to purchase food; and the Long Center will have cocktails and craft beer available for purchase. 
    • What to bring: There are no tables or chairs on site, so bring blankets and folding chairs. Coolers with outside food and non-alcoholic drinks are allowed, but be prepared to have your cooler checked. And no pets are allowed. 
    • Tip: Be prepared to pay for parking and park in the Long Center parking garage. 
    • For more information, check out Sound and Cinema online and follow on Facebook and Twitter. 
    • When: Every other Wednesday all summer long for 6 weeks (click here for exact dates and movie schedule). 
    •  Time: Concert starts at 7pm and movies start at dusk, around 8:30pm 
    • Where: Long Center Lawn 701 W. Riverside Dr., Austin, TX 78704 

2. Concerts in the Park: Second or maybe first to movies in the park, concerts in the park is probably our favorite! Visiting with friends, summertime picnics, all while listening to local musicians sing in perfect harmony! Luckily, Austin is the music capital of the world, and home to many fine artists and concerts. Below are a few of our favorite summer freebies:


  • Blues on the Green- This summer concert series is celebrating 25 years and has a killer line up of local musicians, like Shakey Graves, Bob Schneider and more(!), to help them mark this momentous occasion! Of all the events I am sharing today this concert series brings the most locals far and wide! Because of this loyal following getting to the fun can be a bit tricky. Even though the music doesn't start until 8pm, plan to arrive early to get a spot. Also plan for traffic... lots of it! While the concert is free, to park in a convenient, designated area, you will pay a small fee; and will still have a bit of a walk. There are plenty of food trucks with concert eats available for purchase or you can pack a picnic lunch. 
    • What to bring: Lawn chairs or blankets for sitting (there are absolutely no chairs) and while I love my pup (and dogs on leashes are allowed), with crowds this size, dogs can easily get lost (I have seen it happen numerous times). Oh, and due to all the rain we have been having, check the official website for concert cancellations and updates. 
    • For more information visit Blues on the Green online and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  
    • When: One Wednesday a month, May through August 
    • Time: Music starts at 8pm 
    • Where: Zilker Park, located at 2100 Barton Spring Road. 
  • Austin Symphony Hartman Foundation Concerts in the Park- I have to admit, this is a summer activity we have yet to enjoy. Every year I put this concert series on my calendar, as I have friends that rave about it, but we never make it down. This is the year we are changing this! This concert series, put on by the Austin Symphony, features a different ensemble (strings, brass, woodwinds, etc.) each week, performing everything from jazz to film scores. Not only are these concerts free, but you can pack a picnic and enjoy those sweet sounds every week! 
    • For more information, visit the Austin Symphony online, and follow on Facebook and Twitter.    
    • When: Every Sunday, from May through August 
    • Time: 7:30pm 
    • Where: Hartman Concert Park in front of the Long Center City Terrace 
  •  Other concerts in the park around Austin: 
    • Unplugged at the Grove: Shady Grove, 1624 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704 (8pm every Thursday, April-September) 
    • City of Pflugerville Music in the Park: Pfluger Park 515 City Park Road (every Friday through the end of September, 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m) 

3. Museum Days- I am grateful that Austin is home to many museums and art galleries. While we have explored many, there are still so many we need to check out. While museum admission can be pricy (especially if you have a large family), luckily many offer free or discount days.

Cheap summer fun: 


4. Round Rock Express: If you follow my Instagram account you know we love baseball! In fact, it is probably the only sporting event that we really watch. Luckily, Austin is home to the Round Rock Express, a minor league baseball team that is under the Texas Rangers. Since summer wouldn't be complete without watching a little b-ball, it should be on everyone's summer bucket list. Luckily for you there are free or cheap nights, where you too can catch a game!
  • Every Tuesday: Half priced ticket day.
  • Every Wednesday: Bring two H-E-B branded canned goods in exchange for one lawn ticket, benefiting the Capital Area Food Bank. 
  • For more information visit them online.

5. Austin Pass Book: This is a new to us way to celebrate summer! This fun little book is filled with buy one, get one coupons to some of Austin's most popular eats, like Bananarchy, Burro Cheese Kitchen, Gourdough’s Public House, and more; plus various attractions, like the Austin Zoo, Blue Starlite Urban Drive-In, and Congress Avenue Kayaks. While you have to purchase the coupon book up front to receive the discounts, it is well worth it, with over $600 in deals! Not only is that a huge savings, we have had so much fun exploring Austin while we get our little Pass Book stamped!
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