Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa Stop Here!

As kids we left Santa cookies but maybe all he wanted was some crispy bacon and a terrific twist on french least that is what I'm hoping because maybe this will be the secret key to getting my list answered : ) While I feel french toast in all it's forms should definitely not be left to a certain time of year (or day really) the Portugese and Brazilians will typically be feasting on it around Yule time while the Brazilians enjoy it on Easter.

No matter when you like your french toast it's best made with day old french bread so it can soak up all the eggy-goodness.

Chocolate French Toast

For every 3 pieces of toast you will need:
1 Egg, Slightly Beaten
2 Tsp Dutch Processed Cocoa
1 1/2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Milk
1 Tsp Vanilla
Caramel Sauce, for topping, my favorite is Martha's

1. Mix all ingredients together. Let bread soak in mixture on both sides.
2. Heat a griddle with a small amount of butter on it, once heated toast bread on both sides until egg mixture is no longer runny and a crispy crust has formed.
3. Before serving drizzle with caramel sauce.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Not so shameless self promotion....

I say not so shameless because it's not really self promotion (ok maybe a little), just wanted to point you all in the direction of a really cool blog that just did a feature on Mom and I making cheese :)

Check us out on Cheesemaking Help, News and Information. Earlier this fall I got interested in making mozzarella cheese and found a fantastic kit, from there the rest is history (or read-able on the blog!)

Short post but wanted to share!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Baby it's COLD outside!

Sorry, been inspired by some of my favorite Christmas tunes lately : ) In all seriousness the cold weather makes me want two things: warmth and comfort. So why not encapsulate those into one dish, and one that's not soup because as much as I love soup I'm just not one of those folks who can eat soup 24/7.

Southern Seafood Mac 'n Cheese
1 cup Celery, chopped
1 cup Bell Pepper (green and red), chopped
1/4 cup Parsley
1 clove minced Garlic
1/4 cup Onion
2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Tabasco
1 tsp Black Pepper, freshly ground
6 tbsp Lemon Juice
2 lb Crab Meat
1/2 lb shredded Fontina Cheese
1/2 lb shredded Swiss Cheese
1 cup Panko
3 strips bacon, cooked and chopped
1lb pasta shells

3 cups milk
1 1/2 sticks of Butter
1/2 cup Flour
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 tsp Nutmeg, freshly ground
2 tsp White Pepper

1. Saute onion, celery and bell pepper and garlic in a tsp of olive oil in a small skillet until onion is tender, remove from skillet then set aside.
2. Heat milk over medium high in a sauce pan. While milk is heating, heat butter in a large skillet. When butter begins to bubble, add flour, whisk until well incorporated.
3. Pour milk into butter, whisk until thick.
4. Remove from heat and season with black pepper, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, tabasco and salt. Add 1.2 of cheese and set aside.
5. While mixing up sauce, cook pasta to al dente. Strain pasta and toss the seafood, parsley and sauteed veggies with the pasta.
6. Prepare a 13x9 pan by spraying/greasing it then pour pasta/seafood mixture into pan. Slowly pour the cheese sauce over the pasta so it is even then layer the top with bacon, bread crumbs and remaining cheese.
7. Bake in an oven at 350F until the top is bubbling and browned.

While many folks have pushed this summers Gulf Oil spill out of their minds those of us on the Gulf have not. As the commercials say, oil hasn't been spotted in a while but unfortunately people aren't flocking to the tourist locations and even less are buying Gulf seafood, so I will make my plea to those of you who can, go buy some, it's delicious (and safe)! As a good Gulf coast girl I have to make my plea here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Need a glimmer of summer as the really cold weather sets in?

I know I do, as much as I truly adore the changing of the seasons (all seasons) and as much as I try to cook seasonally sometimes I can't help it and I just crave things...these Eggplant Napoleons are a perfect example of something I just outright craved no matter what the season.

These were super easy to put together, they are basically layered in whatever order you prefer (as noted in the photo above).

To make these lovely (and healthy) treats:

Eggplant Napoleons
1 Large Eggplant
2 Roma Tomatoes, diced
2 Yellow Tomatoes, diced
Fresh Basil
Fresh Mozzarella
8-12oz Fresh Pesto
Salt & Pepper
Vegetable Oil
1 Cup Panko or other bread crumbs
1 Egg, beaten

1. Slice the eggplant into rounds, you don't want them too thick but don't cut them paper thin either, these will be the base so you want them to have enough size to hold up all the other ingredients. Once they are all sliced, salt them and lay them on paper towels to drain, leave 10 minutes.

2. Pat eggplant dry then dip in egg and bread crumbs then fry until golden brown in vegetable oil. Allow eggplant to cool on papertowels.

3. After they are sufficiently cooled, stack with alternating layers of tomato, mozzarella, pesto and basil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tailgating, it's not just for football

While many tailgate I venture to say none compare to the frequency or voracity of Texas tailgaters, for example, at any given Longhorn sporting even you are likely to see many RVs decked out (I know that's normal), a school bus or two that have been purchased and converted to classic cars be-decked with Horns, it's Texas, everything is bigger. However, tailgating is not simply limited to football, baseball, basketball, volleyball and just about every other sporting event imaginable can be celebrated at a tailgate. Frankly anything can be celebrated at a tailgate, one of the funniest (and scariest) things I've read lately on Wikipedia "(tailgating) is also used at non-sporting events such as weddings and other non-sports-related barbecue gatherings."

While I'm not about to propose wedding tailgating, to illustrate my point, we recently tailgated a regatta my boyfriend participated in! While that was celebrated at a local restaurant, we did tailgate the Longhorn football game this past weekend, while the Horns came out a little worse for the wear we at least enjoyed some tasty food and nice cold beer.

Our tailgate was an amazing combination of foods, some of which I have Hormel and Foodbuzz to thank for! In mid October Hormel and Foodbuzz sent out an invitation to participate in the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program by sharing Hormel products with friends and family (I know I get all the tough jobs!) so tasty pork dishes were my contribution to the Tailgate fare!

First, using the Hormel Always Tender Original Pork Tenderloin, Jalapeno-Honey Glazed Pork Kebabs.

Jalapeno-Honey Glazed Pork Kebabs

1 12-ounces pork tenderloin
1/3 cup honey
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 fresh jalapeno chile peppers, seeded and finely chopped*
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
2 Medium Red Onions, Cut into Chunks
1 Cored, Cubed Pineapple

1. Trim fat from pork. Place pork in a resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish. For marinade, in a small bowl, combine honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, the chopped jalapeno peppers, the ginger, and crushed red pepper. Pour marinade over pork. Seal bag; turn to coat pork. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours, turning bag occasionally.
2. Drain pork, reserving marinade. Cube pork and place place on skewers interspersed with pineapple and red onion.
3. Grill until pork is cooked through, brushing with marinade periodically.
4. Oven Directions: Prepare as directed in steps 1 and 2. Place pork on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast in a 425 degree F oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until juices run clear (160 degree F), brushing once with reserved marinade after 10 minutes of roasting. Discard any remaining marinade.

In addition, with some of the bite-sized Hormel Turkey Pepperoni's some Mini-Pepperoni Rolls, you might recognize the dough as the same dough my Mom and I used in our Foccacia:

Bite-Sized Pepperoni Rolls

1/2 Batch of Olive Oil Dough (recipe below)
2 Packages Hormel Turkey Pepperoni bite-sized
1/2 Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 Tbsp Dried Oregano
1 Tbsp Dried Basil

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Using 1/2 of Olive Oil Dough, roll out a large rectangle, cover rectangle with a mixture of cheese, pepperoni and spices, roll dough carefully keeping all ingredients inside of the roll.
3. Cut roll into hand-sized pieces, brush top with egg wash.
4. Grease a cookie sheet with olive oil or line with parchment paper. Bake 20 minutes (or until golden brown). Brush tops of rolls with melted butter or olive oil if desired.

Olive Oil Dough
Makes 4-1lb loaves.

2-3/4 cups lukewarm water
1-1/2 tablespoon granulated yeast
1-1/2 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1. Mix the yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
2. Mix in the flour without kneading.
3. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 12 days.

For this crowd I doubled up both recipes, serving two tenderloins worth of kebabs and a double batch of pepperoni rolls it was a tasty treat for our tailgate!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Oktoberfest Braised Pork Chops with Apple Gravy

One last German recipe, no real story here it was just really tasty so I wanted to share!

Oktoberfest Braised Pork Chops with Apple Gravy
4 Center Cut Boneless Pork Chops
2 Tbsp Butter
Salt & Pepper
1 12oz Bottle Shiner Oktoberfest
1 1/2 Cup Apple Cider
1 Large Braeburn Apple, Sliced
1/2 Medium Sweet Onion, Sliced

1. Heat large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat with butter. Salt and pepper both sides of pork chops and then sear in skillet.
2. Remove pork chops from skillet, saute onions and apple until browned then return pork chops to skillet.
3. Pour cider and beer in skillet and allow pork chops to cook approximately 30 minutes (or until done).
4. After pork is done remove it from the skillet and allow it to rest. Reduce braising liquid by 1/2.
5. Serve pork over apple and onion and dressed with reduced sauce.

Roasted Butternut Squash
1 Small (1lb) Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
2 Tbsp Sage, Chopped

1. Preheat oven to 425. Toss squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 40 minutes.
2. Remove from oven, toss sage over the top and then return to oven for another 15 minutes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gypsy Food Trailer Picnic 2010

Living in Austin is always an adventure, we've got a wide variety of activities and eating options available to us but we're becoming well known for two things: food trailers and live music. Given this, it should come as no surprise that on November 6 the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM) put together the first annual Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival. HAAM is a very cool organization that puts together a few large events each year to help support their mission which is to assist local professional musicians who are uninsured, receive for low-cost primary health care services, basic dental care and mental health counseling, a very worthy cause. HAAM pulled together 30+ food trailers/vendors who came from all over the city along with a great line up of live music at Auditorium Shores.

The weather was stunning, cloudless, sunny and in the 70s but the lines were insane! This event had no admission fees, couple that with a $3 tasting portion available at all of the trailers (as well as select items from their regular menus) and you get TONS of people! One local news station reported thousands of people were in attendance with people waiting 20 minutes or more in line and vendors running out of food! I can attest to the wait times, 30 minutes to get BBQ and the people, we had a terrible time finding parking and then navigating the park was a bit dicey as there were people, dogs, kids and food everywhere you turned. No complaints here though because overall this event was very cool and I can't wait until next year's to see what kind of improvements they make and great things they'll have in store.

My boyfriend and I took the dog out with us, he managed to taste more things than we did I think!

Our first line was by far the longest, we hit the Sugar Shack for a little bite of BBQ (ok, little is an understatement, the "tasting" menus were pretty much full-sized meals). We got to taste the Notorious P.I.G. Wrap from Sugar Shack which was delicious, slaw and all!

Then later we snacked on a Flying Pig donut (yes it's a heart attack but it was so worth it!!) from Gourdoughs. Yes that's a maple donut with bacon covering it!

All in all, the music, food and festivities made battling the crowds worth it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Oktoberfest, Ja!

I routinely mention my Texan heritage (something I'm fiercely proud of) but that's not the whole story, behind my Texas roots lies a history of immigrants from many places, a large part of that is German (you'll find them on both the maternal and fraternal family trees). I first started to explore my German heritage as a bit of a rebellion in high school, everyone took Spanish, why would I want to be like everyone else? So I took German...for many years in fact, it bled into my college courses as well! It's taken a little time, mainly because my cooking continues to evolve, but finally the German roots are starting to bleed into my cooking as well, first among my January 09 posts with spatzle and red cabbage and now with rouladen.

Rouladen is a classic German staple usually consisting of bacon, onions, mustard and pickles wrapped in thinly sliced beef, then cooked to perfection. What, may I ask, about that combination isn't to love? Oh, and did I mention a pan gravy, that's right, it can get better! Now, my post may be a little late for Oktoberfest but you'll enjoy this all fall long, it's got a delicious flavor and is perfect for a chilly fall night.

1 1/2 lbs Thinly Sliced Top Round Beef (if you have beef milanese available it's perfect for this)
Salt and Fresh Pepper to taste
2 Tsp Dried Marjoram
2 Tsp Dried Thyme
Whole Grain Mustard
1/4 lb Thick Sliced Bacon, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 Large Onion, finely chopped
1/4 Cup Parsley, finely chopped
1/4 Cup Chives, finely chopped
Six 1/2 inch dill pickle strips
4 Tbsp Butter
1 Carrot, finely diced
1/2 Cup Beef Broth
1 Cup Dry Red Wine
1/2 Tsp All Purpose Flour
1 Tsp water

1. Sprinkle salt, pepper, marjoram and thyme over beef, spread mustard over the tops as well.
2. Combine 1 Cup bacon, half the onion, all of the chives and parsley and toss. Lay even amounts on each beef slice. Place a pickle slice over the top of each, roll and secure with toothpicks.
3. In a sauce pan, melt 1 tbsp of butter over moderate heat, add carrot and remaining onions and bacon, allow veggies to brown for about 10 minutes.
4. In a large, heavy skillet, melt remaining butter over moderate heat and add meat, brown on all sides, remove from skillet. Add broth and wine to skillet and stir to loosen the bits. In a small bowl, blend flour and water then add to skillet and mix well. Return meat and vegetable/bacon mixture to the skillet, cover and reduce heat slightly. Cook for an hour, turn rolls once.

So the same way I whole-heatedly embrace my Texas-roots I proudly salute my German ones too with a Shiner Oktoberfest and a plate of spatzle alongside the rouladen. Prost!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fresh Express: Fresh Pizza Fast!

As a Foodbuzz Featured Publisher I get occasional offers to test out delicious products, recently I was given the chance to test out Fresh Express Salads, among the usual delicious salad I was searching for some creative ways to use some of these terrific ingredients and decided to turn my favorite sandwich into a pizza.

I lucked into getting mom into making the crust, which she did a terrific job on! With her help the pizzas came together in a flash!. We pulled together the crust and then covered it with a simple and tasty spinach-walnut pesto (featuring a bag of Fresh Express Baby Spinach) and then layered sliced tomato, mozarella cheese and of course, chopped bacon atop the crust and popped it in the oven!

Spinch-Walnut Pesto
1 Bag Fresh Express Baby Spinach
1 Cup Walnuts
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Parmesean
2 Cloves Garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor (yes, I took the easy way out), mix until desired consistency.

In addition to the BLT pizza I served a Roasted Veggie and Goat Cheese pizza, we pan fried a fresh eggplant and roasted a red bell pepper then layered them atop a pizza covered with a mixture of 1 4oz container of whipped softened cream cheese, 1 3oz roll of goat cheese, softened and then over the fresh vegetables we layered additional parmesean cheese, after the pizzas came out of the oven we topped this one with freshly chopped basil.

Family pizza night for grown ups - or a sneaky way to get some veggies for your sophisticated kiddos!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nothin Says Fall Like Pumpkin

At least not to me, I adore pumpkins in their many varieties, shapes and the point of spray painting them after Thanksgiving (yes sometimes I still have them then) and putting gold or silver pumpkins under my Christmas tree....I might be crazy, I freely admit that. Needless to say as we round out the middle of October I feel it's now appropriate for me to start posting pumpkin related recipes so that I can fully celebrate one of my favorite vegetables.

The current issue of Bon Appetit has a beautiful recipe for Butternut Squash Gnocchi, I was enthusastic about it, grabbed all the ingredients and then stupidly (because I didn't read the steps in the recipe) thought it could be a Friday night dinner....well when the recipe says overall cook/prep time is 4 hours it's not a Friday night dinner! So, craving the gnocchi and trying to be creative I subbed a can of pumpkin for the squash and voila! Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter emerged!

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter
Based on Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter by Bon Appetit

1 cup pureed pumpkin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 12- to 14-ounce russet potato, peeled, quartered
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups (or more) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
Additional grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cook potato in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until very tender, about 20 minutes. Drain. While potato is warm, press through potato ricer into medium bowl; cool completely. Measure 2 cups (loosely packed) riced potato (reserve remaining potato for another use).

2. Mix pumpkin, potato, 1/2 cup Parmesan, egg, nutmeg, and salt in large bowl. Gradually add 1 3/4 cups flour, kneading gently into mixture in bowl until dough holds together and is almost smooth. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls.

3. Turn dough out onto floured surface; knead gently but briefly just until smooth. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces.

4. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Sprinkle parchment lightly with flour. Working with 1 dough piece at a time, roll dough out on floured surface to about 1/2-inch-thick rope. Cut rope crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time, roll gnocchi along back of fork tines dipped in flour, making ridges on 1 side. Transfer gnocchi to baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough.

5. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.

6. Working in 2 batches, cook gnocchi in large pot of boiling salted water until very tender, 15 to 17 minutes (gnocchi will float to surface but may come to surface before being fully cooked). Using slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to same parchment-lined baking sheets.

7. Cook butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat just until golden, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes. Add sage; stir 1 minute. Add gnocchi; cook until heated through and coated with butter, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Serve with additional Parmesan.

While I don't doubt that the original butternut squash was delicious, the pumpking was a great substitute and really allowed a much more savory flavor to the gnocchi than I suspec thte sqaush would have. The recipe was delicious but made far too much for three people, I froze half the pasta for a later use and the half we had easily would've fed four maybe even five people. Needless to say, served alongside a roasted pork loin it was a perfect fall meal.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Please, if you have a second, head over to the Project Food Bog site and vote for my entry!

Thanks - that's enough shameless self promotion for one day :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Project Food Blog: Challenge One

As I warned you recently, I am competing in the Project Food Blog Challenge by Foodbuzz, for our first challenge, each competitor was asked to create a post that defines us as a food blogger.

How do I define myself, channeling my inner zen I think the best way to tackle this is to describe why I started blogging, in a nut shell it encapsulates a lot about me and helps describe what matters to me both personally and as a food blogger.

In May 2004 my father began commuting between Austin, TX and Torreon Mexico for work, eventually moving down there and taking my mother with him. Over the next few years it was a sort of withdrawal for me, sure I spent time away from my parents but not like this, these two people who I love whole-heartedly also are two of my closest confidants, to have both of them so far away was tough to say the least.

In 2006 my mother started blogging, it was her way of sharing the ex-pat experience, first with our immediate family and not long after with many other people out in cyber-space. I have never considered myself much of a writer but she began encouraging me, to take photos and document the things around me. At the time I was starting to truly explore cooking and the boundaries of what I knew in terms of cuisine. Quickly I realized that food was what I could write about, what I cooked, what I shared with family and friends and of course, a sprinkling of my favorite team's football successes (with much less finesse than the cooking since I'm pretty amateur at football commentary). Thus began my journey, what I hope you draw from it is that for me, the important things about this blog are a combination of those who are closest to me (family and friends) and how I express myself for them, in cooking and sharing the fruits of my labor.

In honor of that theme, I would like to share a recipe that I recently made for a Friday-night dinner with my family, a spin on the classic, Mac 'n Cheese.

Italian Mac 'n Cheese

2 Large Sprigs Rosemary
2 Large Sprigs Oregano
2 Tbsp Fresh Parsley
1/2 Cup Panko
6 Slices Pancetta
2 Lbs Pasta
1 Cup Halved Grape Tomatoes
1 Bell Pepper, Sliced
1/2 Cup + 4 Tbsp Butter
3 Cups Milk
1/2 Cup Flour
2 Cloves Minced Garlic
1 Tsp Salt
2 Tsp Dried Oregano
2 Tsp White Pepper
2 Tsp Nutmeg
1 Tsp Cayenne
1 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 1/2 Cup Shredded Mozzarella
1 1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan

1. Crisp the pancetta and saute garlic in a tsp of olive oil in a small skillet, remove pancetta and set aside. Once the pancetta is cool, coarsely chop it.
2. Heat milk over medium high in a sauce pan. While milk is heating, heat butter in a large skillet. When butter begins to bubble, add flour and garlic, whisk until well incorporated.
3. Pour milk into butter, whisk until thick.
4. Remove from heat and season with white pepper, cayenne pepper, pepper flakes, nutmeg and salt. Add 5 1/2 cups cheese (evenly split between the two types) and the chopped, crisp pancetta and mix well.
5. Boil pasta until al dente. Preheat oven to 375.
6. Spray 9x13 casserole pan with vegetable oil. Place drained pasta in pan then pour cheese sauce over the top.
7. Sprinkle pasta mix with panko and remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.
8. Bake until brown and bubbling, approx. 30 minutes.

I hope that you have a better picture of who I am and what I believe. The most important thing I can do is to bring my loved ones together and enjoy their company, the easiest way to do that is with a good meal, beyond that I just want to share my finds and experiences with others.

These are the people I cook for, and the people who exert the greatest influence over me.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Brunch is for Birthdays

Instead of England's early Sunday dinner, a postchurch ordeal of heavy meats and savory pies, why not a new meal, served around noon, that starts with tea or coffee, marmalade and other breakfast fixtures before moving along to the heavier fare? By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers. It would promote human happiness in other ways as well. Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.
- Guy Beringer, "Brunch: A Plea," Hunter's Weekly, 1895
What is brunch? Is it simply a portmanteau of breakfast and lunch, like linner (sorry had to throw that in there)? Is it merely a synonym for buffet, as the Office québécois de la langue française suggests? I prefer the definition wikipedia gives, "A meal cannot be considered brunch if it is started before 10 am, such meals would still be considered breakfast. Typically brunch is had at around 11 am, close to lunch time but still before." Simply stated, brunch is what you make of it...there are no rules surrounding what kind of food must be served at brunch nor is there a prescription for what drinks should be served, only that it should be served sometime after typical breakfast hours and still before lunch.

Brunch is such a great meal for socializing to me, it falls at a time that isn't obscene during the weekends (well for those who can sleep late, of which I'm not one) and it is socially acceptable to have alcoholic beverages with breakfast if you call it lunch....that sounded worse that I meant it to but oh well. No matter how you slice it, brunch is one of my favorite things to host, I regularly have brunch at my house with two of my closest girlfriends. While the particular brunch that I am going to share photos from happened in late August, we regularly have brunch to share our birthdays as my birthday (today, September 16) and my friend Mickey's birthday (September 9) are so close it works out well.

The particulars of brunch change from event to event, but this particular brunch had an elegant flair, with Eggs Florentine in Prosciutto, Roasted and Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Caps and a Dragon Fruit Melon Salad.

Dragon Fruit is something I had never tried before but that I found at our local Asian market, it is actually not just a single fruit but there are many varieties that are the fruit of certain cactus species. Dragon Fruit is native to Mexico, Central and South America and is also cultivated in Asian countries like Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. They bloom only at night, the plant produces a large white flower that is called a 'moonflower' or 'Queen of the Night.' The specific Dragon Fruit I purchased had pink skin (not to be eaten) and a white flesh with tiny black seeds inside.

With the Dragon Fruit cut open and on display I decided it would meld nicely with a simple melon salad.

Dragon Fruit Melon Salad

1 Thai Melon
1 Dragon Fruit
Juice and Zest of One Orange
2 Tbsp Chopped Mint Leaves

Combine all ingredients, stir and allow to chill for at least one hour before serving.

With the fruit ready to go I set to work on the remainder of our brunch. The mushroom recipe that follows is from a cookbook I picked up this summer, Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone.

Portobello Mushrooms with Ricotta, Tomatoes and Basil

3 Medium Heirloom Tomatoes, halved and cored
1 Cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved
3 Tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
3-4 Springs of Thyme
4 Portobello Mushrooms, stems removed
4 oz Fresh Ricotta Cheese
2 Tbsp Small Fresh Basil Leaves

1. Position an oven rack about 8 inches below the heating element and preheat the broiler to low heat. Arrange the tomatoes cut side up on a large heavy baking sheet. Drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil over the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme. Broil for 5-7 minutes.
2. Arrange the mushrooms, grill side down, on the same baking sheet with the tomatoes, and drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Broil the mushrooms and tomatoes for 5 minutes.
3. Turn the mushrooms gill side up and spoon ricotta onto the mushrooms. Continue broiling for another 5 minutes, or until the ricotta is heated through and beginning to brown on the top. At the point the tomatoes and mushrooms should be just tender and the tomatoes should be lightly browned on top. Transfer them to a platter, sprinkle with basil and serve.

Baked Eggs Florentine in Prosciutto Cups

16 Slices Prosciutto
8 Large Eggs
6 Cups Fresh Spinach Leaves
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
1/8 Tsp Freshly Ground Nutmeg
1/8 Tsp White Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Layering two pieces of prosciutto per cup, lay prosciutto into a muffin tin so that cups are formed. Once oven is hot, bake cups for 18 minutes.
2. Remove cups from oven, turn heat up to 450F. In a small bowl mix spices and parmesan cheese, set aside.
3. Distribute spinach equally among the cups and then place one egg inside of each cup. Sprinkle spice/cheese mixture over eggs and put in oven.
4. Bake 10-15 minutes, until eggs are just set. Serve hot.

As an aside (and to explain posts you may see soon), I have entered the Foodbuzz Project Food Blog competition, there will be a series of ten challenges I will need to complete (read as: there will be ten posts will be focused on challenge topics) running from September 19 through December 13. During this time I plan to continue to post my typical posts but I wanted to make sure to call attention to the other items as a special thing that will not last forever nor will they detract (hopefully) from the normal topics I write about. In advance I'd like to point anyone who is interested in reading about the contest, checking out the participants and hopefully voting for me ;) to the contest homepage.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fishing for the end of summer

As I heartily welcome Fall I also have to bid Summer adieu, during the last part of August I stumbled across some beautiful Amberjack tenderloins in the ice chests at the San Miguel Seafood stand in our local Farmers Market. My mother has extolled the virtues of the purveyors of San Miguel Seafood on our other blog, Fresh from the Heart of Texas, but I can't tell you enough how fabulous these guys are. Every ounce of product that comes from the gentlemen of San Miguel is delicious! So, I gladly took their recommendation, bought the Amberjack and then had to come up with a fantastic way to use it. Towards the end of July my boyfriend was sent to Malaysia for a business trip, three weeks later his homecoming meal was the tasty Amberjack tenderloin :)

Taking advantage of not just the beautiful fish I found but the other delights of our local Farmers Market, butternut squash, peaches, onions, bell peppers and jalapenos to make a great welcome home meal.

AmberJack with Peach Salsa and Butternut Squash Fritters

2 6oz AmberJack tenderloins
1/2 Tsp Cumin
1/2 Tsp Ancho Chile Powder
1/4 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 Tsp Coarse Sea Salt
1 Tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
3 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
Mixed Salad Greens

Butternut Squash Fritters
1 Small Butternut Squash, peeled, shredded and drained
1/4 Cup Flour
1 Small White Onion, diced
Salt & Pepper to taste
Vegetable Oil

Peach Salsa
2 White Flesh Peaches, cubed
1 Blush Peach, cubed
2 Tbsp Cilantro, chopped
1 Small Red Onion, diced
1 Large Jalapeno, seeded, diced
1 Tsp Adobo Chile Powder
1/2 Tsp Coarse Salt
2 Tbsp Fresh Lime Juice

1. Mix all salsa ingredients together, let sit at least 30 minutes ahead of beginning cooking.
2. Prepare fritter mixture.
3. Season fish with all seasonings, melt butter in a large skillet and add oil.
4. Sear the fish on both sides, spooning oil/butter over the side not touching the skillet.
5. After fish is seared, place in oven at 250F for 20 minutes.
6. Once fish is in the oven, heat enough vegetable oil in a large skillet to come up about 1 inch in the skillet. Once the oil is heated and ready, drop rounded fritters into pan (only a few, maybe three max at a time). Cook so that both sides are browned, 3-4 minutes total.

After fritters and fish are done, plate, place fish atop mixed greens and top with salsa.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Missing an Ingredient? No Problem!

Ingredient substitution, it's something we all do, but is it really always a good idea? In my family the phrase "I didn't I used...." is infamous, my maternal great-grandmother (who was a home-ec teacher for many years) was notorious for her substitutions. I have childhood memories of our family sitting around the table at her house and my grandfather (her son) saying, "Mother, what is this?" about dinner, her response was something to the effect that we were eating a tuna salad, although she wanted to use mayo in it and didn't have mayo so she used Cool Whip! Or, one of my mom's least favorite substitutions, if something called for tomato and she was out, it might have been topped with katsup instead.

While these are definitely extreme examples, and hopefully one no one can identify with :) it illustrates just how confusing things can get when you start searching for a substitute for an ingredient. Some of us do it because we lack a specific ingredient (who doesn't get home from the grocery store without a key item occasionally?) or we do it because we want a healthier recipe (maybe subbing apple sauce into a baked good?), either way if you aren't extremely good at it, your recipe may be ruined. Because of the family jokes I am usually pretty leery of substituting things, the older I get the more adventurous I am but something about being ridiculed by the family makes me look for only the best substitutions. The internet offers a wealth of options, one of my favorite substitution charts can be found on the, maybe it will help you too, or if you have a better resource please share! Well for all of you substitute-rs out there, good luck!

In the spirit of substitutions, my recipe for Lemon-Raspberry Muffins with sour cream instead of all that butter!

Lemon-Raspberry Muffins
2 Eggs
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
1/2 Tsp Vanilla
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Cup Sour Cream
1 Cup Raspberries
Juice and Zest of 1 Large Lemon

1. Beat eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla
2. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
3. Slowly add dry ingredients to the egg mixture alternately with the sour cream.
4. Fold lemon juice, zest and raspberries into mixture.
5. Bake 20 minutes in a 400F oven.

Makes 12 regular sized muffins

Friday, September 10, 2010

To Can or Not To Can...

For the record I had never touched canning equipment or even had a clue how to can until this past summer, thanks for my mom (and my own interest in some more traditional cooking concepts) I learned exactly how to can this summer. The produce available all summer long made the task so simple, everything from onion relish, onion marmalade, spicy tomato chutney, peach preserves, vanilla peach jam to tomatillo jam, strawberry rhubarb jam and of course many veggies that ended up in pickling brine! For a glimpse at the many things we canned, check out this set of pictures on mom's Flickr stream. By no means will this be the end of my canning adventures, merely the beginning, I think there might be some canning coming up for Xmas gifts too :)

Canning used to feel like something that maybe my great grandmother would have undertaken, it didn't interest me all that much because to me there were so many options for cooking with the fresh products available to me, why can them? Part of the allure for me comes from the fact that it's one of those lost arts (in my mind), something that historically speaking everyone used to do but it kind of fell from popularity. It seems the current economic situation has brought preservation of food back into vogue as this summer canning supplies were easy to find and canning was easy to see on TV cooking shows and in magazines. So how did it come about?

The canning process dates back to the late 18th century where the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, concerned about keeping his armies fed, offered a cash prize to whoever could develop a reliable method of food preservation. Nicholas Appert envisioned preserving food in bottles, like wine. After 15 years of experimentation, he realized if food is sufficiently heated and sealed in an airtight container, it will not spoil.

Nicolas Appert, developer of the canning process.

Oh the French, well thanks to Appert for his experimentation and development of the method, as all good things do, canning went through many iterations with the British using tin cans beginning in 1813 and some of our own American countrymen developing wholesale canning operations for commercial canning around the same time.

So the basic process here is that you cook/create the substance you plan to can (brine the pickles, make the jam, etc.) then you tightly put the lids on the jars and you boil them for a set amount of time. I have oversimplified things a bit but the idea is the same regardless of what you are canning. Canning can be done in one of two ways, first via a pressure cooker (those foods that must be canned this way include most veggies, meats, seafood, poultry and dairy products), or second, with a boiling water bath (foods that can be canned this way are highly acidic ones with a pH below 4.6,[1] such as fruits, pickled vegetables, or other foods to which acidic additives have been added).

While we canned lots of things and will likely be reprising our canning fiesta later in the year, for now we're just enjoying the fruits of our labor. To that end, I wanted to share a tomatillo jam that has been the dark horse of the canned goods here, it was the unexpected and yet very well liked recipe. It's delicious on warm cornbread, pork or poultry (not the fanciest picture here but it's sitting on a tasty pork tenderloin).

Tomatillo (or Ground Cherry) Jam
From The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and other Sweet Preserves by Linda Ziedrich

3 lbs Tomtillos
4 Cups White Sugar

1. Remove the husks from the fruit, quarter or half them (depending on how large they are).
2. Place fruit in a large sauce pot, set pan over low heat and cover the pan. Cook the fruit, stirring occasionally, until it is soft. Mash it briefly with a potato masher. Remove the pan from the heat.
3. Stir in the sugar. Over medium heat, heat the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Raise the heat to medium-high and boil the jam until a drop mounds in a chilled dish.
4. Ladle the jam into pint or half-pint mason jars. Add lids and rings, and process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 bread

College football, hatch chiles, school starting, what does this all mean....FALL! Funny thing, I would say fall is my favorite season but that wouldn't be true, any season is my favorite season, they all hold promise and beauty, I think it's just the changing of the seasons that makes me happy. It seems to reinvigorate me, the changing of the seasons reminds me that nothing ever stays the same and yet there's always beautiful familiarity in it. Not to get too zen there but I could wax poetic about my love of the turning of the seasons for quite some time. While the weather hasn't exactly changed around here (except for some serious rain) fall has started, ither way I'm pretending it feels like fall, hence the previous post being a stew! To go along with that warm, yummy stew I had to make some bread that showcased two of my favorite ingredients, Texas beer (Shiner!) and hatch peppers. I have to share that my inspiration for the bread was a post/bread that Girlichef did earlier in August. So late last week I set out to mix up these things I love into something else I love...bread, yup no Atkins diet here!

Hatch 'n Hef Bread
1 12oz bottle Shiner Hefewisen (or comparable beer), room temperature
2 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1 Lb (appx 4 cups) all purpose flour
1/2-1 cup hatch chile peppers, roasted, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1. Mix all dry ingredients together.
2. Stir in beer and chiles.
3. Knead until all is mixed well and bread has smooth consistency.
4. Let rise, covered in a warm place for at least 1 hour.
5. Punch down, let rise again for 2-4 hours.
6. In an oven pre-heated to 450 F, bake for 30-35 minutes. Slash the top of the bread and place a handful of ice cubes in the bottom of the oven (the steam from the ice will help create a crispy crust on the bread).

Oh yea, and for those of you who care (which might only be me), the Longhorns won their season opener against Rice and are looking forward to a great season:

09/04 at Rice (Reliant Stadium)
09/11 Wyoming (Austin)
09/18 at Texas Tech
09/25 UCLA (Austin)
10/02 at Oklahoma (Cottonbowl, Dallas)
10/16 at Nebraska
10/23 Iowa State (Austin)
10/30 Baylor (Austin)
11/06 at Kansas State
11/13 Oklahoma State (Austin)
11/20 Florida Atlantic (Austin)
11/25 Texas A&M (Austin)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Heavenly Hatch Chile Stew

I love the changing of the seasons, and no season comes soon enough for me, especially when it's August turning into September. As a kid it always meant school, which had it's good/bad points but generally was a very social/fun time for me, as an adult it means back-to-school traffic and hatch chile peppers! Hatch chiles are a long-standing favorite of mine (see Hatch Week 09), the aroma of the roasting peppers outside our local HEB Grocery store is overwhelming to me, it puts me into a dazed state of mind whereby I somehow end up leaving the store with far more chiles than one person could reasonably need...ok well one normal person, I on the other hand find many a use for these delicious green beauties!

This year I'll kick off my hatch-loving festivities with a delicious 'stew' - I'm not sure stew is the right word for it but hey, stew it is.

Poblano & Hatch Chile Stew
From Farm to Fork, Emeril Lagasse

6 Poblano Chiles
4 Hatch Chiles
3 Tbsp Canola Oil
1 Cup Chopped Red Bell Peppers
1 Cup Chopped Onions
1 Clove Garlic, Minced
3 Qts, Cold Water, Chicken Stock or Canned Chicken Broth
2 Cups Cubed Peeled Potatoes
2 Tsp Kosher Salt
1 Bay Leaf
1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Cilantro
Sour Cream for garnishing

1. Roast the peppers over an open flame, once they are charred, place inside a plastic grocery bag and let sit for 15 minutes (steam will help the skins come off), peel the skins off and de-seed the peppers.
2. Coarsely chop the peppers. You should have about 2 Cups chopped roasted poblano chiles and 1 cup chopped roasted hatch chiles. Set them aside.
3. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and when it is hot, add the onions, and garlic. Saute until the onions are golden brown, after about 4 minutes. Add the water, potatoes, salt and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes.
4. Add the chopped roasted chiles and cook for another 20 minutes.
5. Stir in the cilantro. Ladle the stew into individual serving bowls and top with sour cream.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Job, New Blog and New Homeowner??

Times they are a changing for me...mid-July I started down a course of making a job change and am happy to say that as of August I am employed with a new tech company here in Austin. I was not originally in start-up land, starting my career out of college in big (massive) companies but now that I'm here I have no plans to leave. The last job I held as well as my current position are with start-up companies, the creativity, collective intellect and hardworking folks that fill these companies inspire and challenge me with the new place being no exception.

Around the same time I signed on with the new gig I received a note from the company that manages the house I rent offering that the investor was looking to sell the home, so while I began the transition to a new job I also began investigating home-ownership...a little bit of life change? Yep! This process is a little more involved than the job change but over the next few months I'll see how it plays out, maybe becoming a permanent resident of my current abode.

Now, for the last bit of news...well it's news for me :) My Mom, Texas-to-Mexico, who has been integral to my culinary education (as well as a driving force forcing me to blog!) and I have joined forces to undertake a new endeavor, a joint blog exploring the best of the fresh, delicious treats available in our beloved Texas. Our intent is to use the new blog, Fresh from the Heart of Texas, to share the results of our wandering, market exploration and just general love of the fresh and amazing items available here in Tejas! Please stop by and take a look!

Friday, July 23, 2010

City-Girl Shepherds Pie

As a kid I was never all that fond of the bottom of the shepherds pie, I liked the crunchy part on top and the mashed potatoes (crunchy being where the potatoes browned a little) but something about the veggie/meat mix never quite appealed to me. Generally I'm a casserole skeptic, I know many people probably are tuning out right about now but hold out, I may not be a completely lost cause. In the last few years I've actually started to appreciate the finer points of some tasty casserole, but it has to be on my terms. Strangely my terms don't make a lot of sense as I seem to make them not when it's cool outside and a nice warm dish sounds good or when I'm short on time, nope I make them in the summer...or on a Saturday when I have all the time in the world to cook. Oh well, I never claimed to be normal : )

In the last year or so I've actually started to enjoy a Shepherds Pie through to the entire dish, here's my take on the classic:

A City-Girl's Shepherds Pie

3 Medium Red Potatoes
3 Medium Purple Potatoes
1lb Ground Lamb
1 Tbsp Minced Garlic
1 Tsp Finely Chopped Rosemary
1 1/2 Tsp Worcestershire Sauce
4 Tsp Flour
1/2 Cup Minced Onion
1/2 Cup Diced Carrot
1/2 Cup Red Wine
1/2 Cup Beef Stock
Olive Oil

1. Par boil potatoes. Allow them to cool enough to touch, then slice into thin rounds (maybe 1/4-1/2 inch thick)
2. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over moderate heat. Add garlic and ground lamb, cook stirring frequently until lamb is well browned. Season with salt, rosemary and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well, sprinkle 2 teaspoons of flour over mixture, stir again and cook another 5 minutes. Remove meat from pan and set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 350.
4. Add onion and carrot to pan, cook over moderate heat for 5-7 minutes or until onion begins to take on brown, caramelized color. Add remaining flour and stir. Increase heat slightly and add wine and stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any bits. Cook until liquid is reduced by half.
5. Add lamb and stir another 5 minutes.
6. Grease a casserole dish well and spread lamb/veggie mix on the bottom. Layer potatoes in rows over the top then very lightly drizzle with olive oil. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes (or until potatoes are golden brown).

Seeking Vegetables...

Summer to me is usually signaled by a bountiful harvest of tomato, zucchini, peppers and sometimes eggplant. While all of this beautiful produce is easily found at my grocery store and favorite farmers market, none is readily available in the garden I painstakingly put together in the earlier part of the year! Ok, more like I made my boyfriend put together the frame, help me pour all the dirt in, but I did put in my veggies and lovingly water them daily (still do)....square-foot garden why have you forsaken me? If you could only see...oh wait, here's a pic:

By all accounts there is plenty of growth in there for loads of something, apparently only a fist-full of small (sweet and tasty) tomatoes, not nearly enough for me to cook with as I had hoped. Alas, I must purchase produce from my usual sources and hope that some late-summer haul awaits me in my garden one of these days. In the interim the succulent produce from the farmers market makes a farmers market potato salad (thanks Cooking Light!) that was a terrific accompaniment to good old fashioned fried chicken:


* 1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
* 2 pounds fingerling potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
* 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
* 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
* 2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
* 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* Cooking spray
* 3/4 cup vertically sliced red onion
* 3/4 cup diced zucchini
* 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved


1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Place corn and potatoes on a jelly-roll pan. Drizzle vegetables with 1 tablespoon oil; toss to coat. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Place mixture in a large bowl. Combine tarragon and next 5 ingredients (through pepper) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Drizzle potato mixture with dressing; toss gently to coat.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and zucchini to pan; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini mixture and tomatoes to potato mixture; toss gently to combine.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Going to the Dogs

As many of my photos and post suggest, I'm a big animal lover and keep good company with my sweet yellow lab/whippet mix Jack, however in my family there are three well loved puppies who frequently come to visit, Jack, Molly (an Australian Shepherd) and the newest to the pack, Bella (a Yellow Lab).

Jack, enjoying a siesta on freshly folded laundry...bad dog!

Molly, engaging in her favorite pastime, watching people eat.

Baby Bella (she's much bigger these days) being given a stern talking to by her cousin Jack, he's a little possessive of his toys, including the blue bone Bella's lounging next to.

In honor of my four-legged family members I decided to bake some tasty treats just for them. Jack has always had a very sensitive stomach and I wanted to seek out treats that were low-cost and also that had easily recognizable ingredients that I knew were healthy and wholesome, so away my fingers flew on the keyboard searching for treats that fit the bill.

A few of the finalists were found online:

The Daily Drool Recipe Collection

Bark! Magazine

But eventually I settled on a recipe I found in a bargain of a cookbook (scavenged from my favorite website,, The Ultimate Dog Treat Cookbook by Liz Palika.

Sunflower Sensations

2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 Cup Ground, Roasted Unsalted Sunflower Seeds
3/4 Cup Cornmeal
1 Tsp Salt
2 Large Eggs
1/4 Cup Evaporated Low Fat Milk
1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
1/4 Cup Molasses

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients. Knead with your hands until the dough is smooth and easy to work.
3. Form the dough into a ball and place it on a floured breadboard. Roll it out to 1/4 inch thick.
4. Use a 30inch dog bone-shaped cookie cutter to cut the rolled dough into shapes.
5. Place the cookies onto a greased cookie sheet.
6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until bottoms of the cookies are golden brown.
7. Remove from the oven, let cool thoroughly, and store in an airtight container.

For crispier treats, when all the cookies have been baked, turn off the oven. Put all the cookies back on a cookie sheet and return them to the oven. Leave them in the oven for several hours (while the oven cools) or overnight to harden.

I also was sans sunflower seeds and so I substituted 1 cup of oatmeal and it worked perfectly!

Previously I've made the Gingerbones recipe found on the Bark website, I wasn't able to take any photos (ok I forgot) but they were a big hit around here and they smelled like heaven while they baked! I haven't been brave enough to make any of the treats that have meat in them, I'm a little concerne they'll make my little house stinky but these meat-free cookies are big hits with the pooches!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Peaches for me...Millions of Peaches, Peaches for Free (I wish!)

Days pass, then weeks pass and somehow I have lost the ability to post regularly, I swear one of these days I'll reclaim some time and actually write on a weekly (or more) basis, for now I'll try again and hope it takes.

Summer has been really great thus far here in Texas, we've had some rain and the temperatures haven't been as scorching as they were last year (record breaking number of days over 100 degrees!). Farmers market trips have been bountiful and as an aspiring gardener I've been dutifully watching my veggies and awaiting the harvest (thus far only a handful of small tomatoes and two yellow squash).

One of the most refreshing (and anticipated) things that abounds early summer in Texas are peaches and a few weeks ago (mid-June) my boyfriend and I went down to Fredericksburg to sample the wares and enjoy perusing the shops (ok I loved the shops, he was a good trooper and was happiest when we found the brewery, which lets you buy by the cup and then, amazingly, you can walk around downtown with your beer!).

Fredericksburg is about an hour and a half west of Austin, the drive out on Hwy 290 is a glorious sampling of Hill Country views and once you arrive the town itself is full of amazing old homes, churches and a neat downtown shopping district full of boutique shops both old and new. As we made our way into Stonewall (a very tiny city just outside of Frederickburg) the song 'Peaches' by the Presidents of the United States started playing on repeat in my head, unfortunately for me no one was actually playing it in Fredericksburg so it stayed stuck! Each year Stonewall and Fredericksburg have their annual Peach festival, you haven't tasted peaches until you've eaten the sweet juicy fruit from this area! Every orchard has their own recipes for jam, ice cream, cobbler and other yummy items that they sell along with their peaches and every local you talk to will direct you to their own favorite orchard. So hard to choose! We ended up stopping at a few stands but far and away our favorite peaches were found at Engel's, the peaches were a beautiful shade of reddish peach and had such fragrant, juicy fruit we couldn't help but snack on one before driving off back to Austin.

Gillespie Count Courthouse (at the edge of Downtown Fredericksburg) at Christmas time.

In honor of these sweet jewels I have a few peach recipes that I'd like to share, the first of which is a Peach Quick Bread, so tasty!

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup fresh cut peaches, cubed into about 1 inch slices
1 cup pecan halves

1. Preheat oven to 350F; spray 4 mini loaf pans with a light spray of nonstick cooking spray (or use 1 9x5 loaf pan, if you wish, but you'll need to bake the one loaf longer, likely about 50 minutes) and set aside.
2. Sift, through a sieve, the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a mixing bowl; set aside.
3. In another mixing bowl, blend together the brown sugar, ricotta, oil, eggs and vanilla; set aside.
4. Dice peach slices to make one cup. If your diced peaches seem wet (they likely will), pat dry with paper towel.
6. Add flour mixture to ricotta mixture all at once and stir just until flour is incorporated; do not over-stir.
7. Stir diced peaches and pecan halves into mixture.
8. Divide mixture between the 4 mini loaf pans and smooth tops.
9. Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, until tops are golden brown and a tester inserted in center of loaves comes out clean.
10. Let cool in pans for 20 minutes, then remove loaves from pans and let cool completely on a rack.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thai Crab and Green Mango Salad

We're a little more than a month away from the official start of summer (June 21) but it's already starting to feel a little toasty here in Texas. 90 degree days in May, boy do I envy those who have cooler weather! In the interest of decreasing the amount of heat the stove/oven is putting out during the evenings I've started looking for tasty summery recipes, this was the first for the year.

Thai Crab and Green Mango Salad

1 Cup Rice Vinegar
1/4 Cup plus 1 Tbsp Palm Sugar
2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
2 Thai Red Chilies, Minced
3 Julienned Carrots or Equivalent Amount of Matchstick Carrots
1/4 Cup Fresh Lime Juice
1/4 Cup Fresh Orange Juice
1 Shallot, Minced
2 Tbsp Fish Sauce
1/2 Tsp Sambal Oelek
1 Large English Cucumber, Peeled, Seeded and Julienned
16 oz Bean Sprouts
2 Large Green Mangos, Peeled and Julienned
8 oz Bean Thread Noodles, Cooked and Chilled
1/4 Cup Coarsely Chopped Cilantro
1 lb Jumbo Lump Crab
1/4 Cup Crushed Dry Roasted Peanuts
Lime Wedges, for Garnish

1. In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar with 1/4 cup of the palm sugar, half of the garlic and chilies. Add 1/2 the cucumber and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2. While that is sitting, combine the lime and orange juice, shallot, fish sauce and sambal oelek. Stir in remaining garlic, chilies and sugar.
3. In a large salad bowl, combine the green mango, carrots, remaining cucumber, bean sprouts and cilantro. Drain the cucumber and add to bowl. Add the orange juice mix an toss well.
4. Transfer salad to plates, top with crab, extra cilantro, lime wedge and crushed peanuts.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hunger Awareness Blog Project - Day Seven: Pinto Beans Two Ways

Today wraps up a week of low-cost, high flavor meals! My Mom, Texas-to-Mexico, and I have been busy preparing meals this week that stick to a very slim budget and that follow the lines of what the average family would receive from the Capital Area Foodbank. At first I was finding it a little tough to be creative with this list:

2 cans spaghetti sauce
4 canned veggies
4 canned fruits
1 meat selection example: 1 lb. of ground beef (the Capital Area Food Bank said they receive everything from hams, chickens to pig trotters)
3 drink items (choice of lg. bottle of cranberry apple juice & or powdered milk
1 bag spaghetti or egg noodles
1 bag of beans
1 bag of white rice
1 package of jalapeno slices
1 ready-made dinner (example: Hamburger Helper)
1 bag/container of oats
1 bag of cheerios
5 lb. bag of potatoes

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hunger Awareness Blog Project - Day Three: Healthy Dinner ala Leftovers

Last night I surveyed the fridge and decided there was little need to make meal out of raw ingredients when I already had the makings of a good meal tucked away in my fridge and pantry. With a fresh tomato (purchased at the Farmers Market...hothouse tomatoes, yea!), some lettuce, ground turkey (which will be re-purposed in another meal later this week), the seasoning packet from a Hamburger Helper Crunchy Taco package (or taco seasoning), leftover mashed potatoes and a can of black beans, dinner was served!

Meat & Potato Pancakes
1 LB Ground Turkey
1 LB Mashed Potatoes*
1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Egg
Taco Seasoning/Hamburger Helper Crunchy Taco Seasoning Pack*
Vegetable Oil, enough to fill about 1/2 inch of the pan you use to fry the pancakes

1. Brown the turkey, after it is browned, pour seasoning packet over meat, mix thoroughly.
2. Mix mashed potatoes and egg, once egg and potato are incorporated, slowly add flour until mixture is slightly sticky.
3. Mix in 1/2-1 cup of the cooked turkey.
4. Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed skillet, once oil is sufficiently hot, drop large spoonfuls of potato mixture into the oil. Allow it to brown on both sides (approximately 3 minutes per side).
5. Remove from oil after cooked and allow pancakes to drain on paper towels.

*Hamburger Helper and Potatoes are on the list of items from the Foodbank.

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