the luxury of giving

austin bakes for bastrop
notes from maggie's farm

It's heeeere!  Tomorrow morning we're headed to 47th street in Central Austin with a basket full of sweet and savory.  Today's goodies are:

parmesan herb ciabattini

smoked pepper cheese crisps

and genoa salami and provolone stromboli

Today's baking had me thinking of what the victims of the wildfires here in Texas must be grappling with as I baked, in the comfort of my kitchen, with everything I needed at hand. 
It made me think back to a time, long ago, when I didn't...

When I was a young wife, many years ago, we had a fire, and lost everything (which was not much) that we had.  I remember some of the day vividly--driving down the street and expressing my surprise at all the fire trucks and crowds. My husband, to whom I'd been married all of ten days, remarking that it must be that place next door. Remembering then, that the vacant building had been torn down the week before. Split seconds passing as we drew closer, and seemingly in slow motion, my new husband opening his door, leaping from the moving car into the crowded nightmare of loss. I can't even recall how I managed to put the car in park from the passenger seat, and it seemed to take so long before I realized that it was our home that was under assault. 

The fire was brought to submission and I found myself standing in a smoky pit of ruin that had only a few hours before been the home I had so cheerfully been fixing up for my husband to see, the new white eyelet curtains in sooty tattered strips, the sound of the fireman's shovel as it scraped across the floor, tossing my broken pieces of wedding china out the back door.  I remember calling my mother, breaking down and sobbing into the phone, a neighbor taking over to explain the situation, long distance.  I remember sifting through the rubble, silence between the two of us because there were no words, and there would be no words for days.  

Oh, things were just fine, really, very quickly.  We stayed with my in-laws for a month, a tense situation for a newlywed couple, but they were gracious and we all made the best of it, if I recall correctly.  (it was probably awful for all of us, but memory is a kind editor)  We had little, but there was so little to replace, and friends, friends of friends, and friends of family all found an extra something, extra couch, extra chair, extra mattress, to help us out....and we made it.  We had our own, very sparse place before long, and we were back to almost new, albeit a little bruised.  The curtains, along with furniture, bedding, linens, clothing, dishes, and all, were replaced eventually.  The fear that we would find our home in flames upon our return anytime we were away lingered for many years.  And there was one loss I never got over-- I lost my mother's Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook in the fire.  The one her mother had given her when she first married.  The one with the beautifully hand-written notes (oil pastry pie crust--too salty!).  Almost thirty years later, it still brings tears to my eyes. 

It's true that there will be things that will never be replaced for the victims of the Central Texas wildfires.  Family heirlooms, personal tokens of achievement, ribbons, awards, trophies, treasured photos, baby shoes, grandmother's apron, dad's pocket watch.  But we can help ease the pain a bit by providing a little help with basic necessities, and most of all, to stand with an arm around our neighbor, literally and figuratively, as they face the ashes, and rebuild.

Thirty years after those trying days, I look at all I have, and am grateful that I can help, in some small way, ease the need of another who finds himself in a similar situation as I did so long ago.  My loss was so small in comparison to many of their's. There have been many who have helped me, in so many ways, along the years, and I am grateful.  So grateful.  As I buzz about the kitchen today, putting the finishing touches on my humble offerings, I am reminded of George Eliot's quote: 
"One must be poor to know the luxury of giving!" ~George Eliot
I am certainly not poor, neither have I ever truly been. However through the challenges like those of earlier years, I understand a little of what Eliot intended, I believe. Today, I am filled with gratitude for all of my blessings. For redemption. And for the 'luxury of giving'.

Would you like the recipes for today's treats?  Shoot us an email at and we'll hook you up!

austin bakes for bastrop

the austin bakes for bastrop
bake sale
notes from maggie's farm

We have the honor and good fortune to be baking for the Austin Bakes for Bastrop bake sale, to be held this Saturday, October 1, at locations around Austin.  Proceeds will assist victims of the Central Texas Wildfires, including Bastrop, which experienced the most devastating losses of the wildfires of Central Texas earlier this month. 

You can help!  The following locations around Austin will be participating this Saturday, October 1st, from 10am until 2pm-- 

Community Renaissance Market, 6800 Westgate Boulevard, 78745
The Flying Saucer at The Triangle, 815 W. 47th Street, 78751
Foreign & Domestic, 306 E. 53rd Street, 78751
Hotel San Jose, 1316 South Congress Avenue, 78704
Old Settler’s Park, 3300 E Palm Valley Blvd, Round Rock, 78665
Whole Foods Market Gateway, 9607 Research Boulevard #300, 78759
Whole Foods Market Lamar, 525 N. Lamar Boulevard, 78703

Stop by and pick up some home-baked goodness, (our goodies can be found at the 47th street location, but they all promise to have some delicious offerings) knowing that you've got something delicious to eat alone or share with another, accompanied by the joy that of helping those in need.  Not a sweet-eater?  Neither am I, so we'll be sending along savory treats as well to the Triangle location.  On a diet?  Not in the area?  You can still help.  Follow this link for information on giving from afar.  Thank you, in advance, for your generosity.

Today is National Coffee Day, and we're making goodies that go oh-so-lovely with a piping hot, deep, rich, cup of joe.  We'll be baking sweet cinnamon pastry twists with glaze, and sending along our from maggie's farm peach chipotle preserves with amaretto , which we've served, below, on an iced brownie, with a spoonful of creme fraiche.  Tomorrow, we'll share the savory goods we're sending to the bake sale benefit.  And you can bake along at home, too!

sweet cinnamon pastry twists
with glaze

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, or more, to taste
  • glaze 
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment or buttered waxed paper.

    Unroll the puff pastry on a work surface. Brush the pastry generously with melted butter.
    In a small bowl, toss together the sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over the pastry.
    Working lengthwise, cut the pastry in half and then cut each half into 6 even strips, each 3/4-inch wide. Twist the strips to make long twisted "straws".
    Transfer to the prepared pan, pushing the ends down with your thumb to help them stay in place on the pan and remain twisted. Bake until puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes.
    Prepare glaze by combining milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan and heat over low until warm. Sift confectioners' sugar into milk mixture. Whisk slowly, until well combined. Remove the glaze from the heat and set over a bowl of warm water.  Drizzle over twists when removed from oven.  Allow to cool on a rack.

    iced espresso brownies       served with creme fraiche and from maggie's farm peach chipotle preserves with amaretto

    adapted from Saveur Magazine

     3/4 cup medium to fine ground chocolate covered espresso beans
    1/4 cup water
    2 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
    3/4 cup sugar
    1/4 cup light brown sugar
    1/2 cup cocoa powder
    1/2 cup canola oil
    1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 eggs (beaten)
    1/2 cup flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    4 tablespoons butter
    1/4 cup milk
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 cup light brown sugar
    1/3 cup cocoa powder
    1 teaspoon
    vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon salt
    Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a 8 or 9 inch square pan with tin foil. These brownies are gooey and hard to get out of the pan – so line the pan with foil so that it comes all the way up the sides of the pan. Once baked and cool, you can simply lift the whole big brownie out of the pan, flatten the foil, and cut as desired. I might try them in mini muffin pans next time. Try if you like.
    Grind your espresso beans in a food processor. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder and set aside.
    Bring 1/4 cup water to boil and whisk in instant espresso and dissolve. Pour into a medium sized bowl. Add the ground beans, sugar, brown sugar, cocoa, oil and vanilla and mix well. Add the eggs and mix again, then add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
    Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly and bake for about 42-50 minutes. As usual check often and before. Let cool for about 10-15 minutes.
    In the meantime, make the icing. Bring the butter, milk, sugars, cocoa, vanilla and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Continue to stir and whisk as it comes to a boil.
    Pour the icing over the warm brownies.  Let cool to harden.  Slice into squares. 
    from maggie's farm
    peach chipotle preserves with amaretto

    Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche, and from maggie's farm peach chipotle preserves with amaretto atop.  Enjoy! 

    The Golden Rules of Perfect Coffee

    When it's all said, making a good cup of coffee at home is not a complicated thing. In fact, you only need to remember a small number of fundamental rules to make good coffee. How many of those rules you adhere to is up to you. The more you adhere to, the better the cup of coffee you brew. Adhere to them all, and you make the perfect cup of coffee at home.

    It's key to your whole process of making great coffee at home to plan in advance so that you cover each of your bases.

    Golden Rule #1
    Ground coffee expires at a faster rate than whole coffee beans.
    What to do
    Further to the first Golden Rule, coffee goes stale for as long as it's not kept airtight. In addition ground coffee deteriorates at a different rate than whole coffee beans. Ground coffee deteriorates at a much faster rate. This even goes for grocery store-bought ground coffee which comes airtight in a vacuum-packed packaging or tin container, but begins to go stale as soon as you break the seal. Most North Americans seem satisfied with the quality of barely air-sealed ground coffee to get them up in the morning and get them through the day. But here, we're talking about good and fresh coffee. Keep coffee beans whole until you're ready to brew them. Then, grind only what you need to grind and brew it. Invest in whole coffee beans from a local retailer. They're worth having for that perfect cup of coffee at home.

    Golden Rule #2
    Air is the enemy of coffee.
    What to do
    Coffee is perishable, and anything perishable goes stale as much as it's in contact with air. Think about investing in containers designed to be airtight, most commonly ceramic containers with latch-closes and a rubber band squeezed between the lid and container. "Tupperware" containers and sandwich bags are better than leaving coffee in open air, but don't do the same job of keeping air out and keeping coffee from going stale as a container designed to be airtight. Contrary to what many believe, freezing your coffee beans doesn't keep them from going stale. In fact, the humidity from the freshness of coffee beans will congeal and once thawed, evaporate quicker from the beans.

    Golden Rule #3
    Coffee is mostly water.
    What to do
    In fact, it's 99% water. If you don't get the water right, you might still make a decent cup of coffee, but why take chances with such an important ingredient? If you take precautions with drinking water, remember those precautions with coffee water. Purified water makes good coffee. At a minimum, keep a Brita water pitcher full in the fridge.

    Golden Rule #4
    Heat is the enemy of brewed coffee.
    What to do
    We like our coffee hot. It's a drink served hot. But, heat burns anything liquid the more that liquid is exposed to the heat. After 20 minutes of your coffee sitting on the coffee machine's heat plate, consider that coffee to be beginning to burn. After 40 minutes, the difference in taste should be noticeable. And, burnt coffee is not distinguished like blackened chicken or tuna. Burnt coffee is not good coffee.
    A Solution
    Some coffee machines have heat settings for the plate to resolve the very problem of burnt coffee. If you have such a machine, just leave the heat setting on Low and never touch it again. Even better machines have a switch to identify that a small amount of coffee is being made, say 2-4 cups. After all, the heat required for a full pot is a lot of heat to apply to only a quarter or half of a pot. The less expensive coffee machines don't tend to have these bells and whistles. They normally just have an on/off switch. As with most quality, you get what you pay for.

    Golden Rule #5
    Clean everything that comes in the coffee's path.
    What to do
    The compartment of the coffee machine that holds the grinds. Want proof? Wipe yours right now with a paper towel. You should notice coffee residue on the paper towel from multiple brewings. Your coffee pot. Your mug. Your spoon. Your spoon-holder. All of these things come into contact with brewed coffee, and like any liquid, it leaves its mark unless entirely cleaned. Most people wouldn't consider that this coffee residue is as perishable as coffee, and begins to go stale over a short period. In fact, there is a natural oil in coffee that makes its residue extra 'sticky'. Soap and water is the easiest way to clean anything.

    Golden Rule #6
    Plan for making coffee.
    Planning and Preparation
    If there's one theme connecting all of the previous five Golden Rules, it's that it takes planning and preparation to make good coffee.
    To make the perfect cup of coffee, it starts with the coffee machine. Buy a coffee machine with heat settings for the plate, a switch to identify that a small pot is being made, and a tone that sounds or beeps to identify that the coffee is finished brewing. That way, you can pour a cup as quickly as it's brewed.
    Now, you need ceramic containers designed to be airtight. These are available from kitchen stores for spices, beans, and many cooking ingredients. That have a metal latch that creates the airtight seal, which should consist of a rubber hand underneath the lid in place to seal with the container when the latch is closed.
    Whole Beans
    Next, the main event. The coffee beans themselves. Buy them whole. You should have a nearby retailer that sells whole coffee beans, and I don't mean the grocery store. The beans that most grocery stores sell in addition to ground coffee is whole, but there's no accounting for how a grocery store takes care of its coffee beans. Ideally, you want a cafe. Starbucks sells quality coffee beans, in my humble opinion, but the price premium is hard to justify. The freshest and widest variety of coffee is available online.
    When you are preparing to make a pot of coffee, make sure all the tools are clean. Measure out as many whole coffee beans as you intend to grind for this pot. After they're ground, get them in the coffee machine along with some fresh, purified water. As soon as the brewing is complete, begin serving your coffee. If your guests or yourself are having more than one cup of coffee, you might even consider making multiple pots, one for each "round" of coffee that you'll be serving.
    Those steps taken together make up the Golden Rules of Good Coffee. Follow them all, and it will be the best cup of coffee you can make. See how easy it is to turn your kitchen into a coffeehouse? 

    Join us tomorrow for our Savory Treats for
    Austin Bakes for Bastrop. 

    Have a great day!

    austin bakes for bastrop

    We'll be baking this week!

    Would you like to help the victims of the central Texas wildfires?  Find a location near you and buy some goodies this weekend.  Good for you, good for your neighbor.  Win-win.  On a diet?  Can't make it to a location?  See the link below for additional opportunities to give.
    for more info:

    heating up and cooling down

    thirsty thursday
    notes from maggie's farm

    Today we complement our Five Dollar Feast with two beloved latin american specialties, one to heat things up, and one to cool things down.

    Horchata, is one of Mexican cuisine's antidote to the spicy salsas and fiery chiles in many of their dishes.  For the lactose intolerant (which amounts to as much as 30% of Latin Americans) it is a way to indulge your thirst for milk, without milk.  I like to add it to my coffee like a creamer.  In a pinch, a carton of rice milk, some almond extract, and a sprinkle of cinnamon, over ice, is a quick way to approximate this treat.  But do yourself a favor.  Tackle the real deal.  It's head and shoulders above the shortcut, and not very difficult, actually.  Note:  For the correct pronunciation, I present to you Juan and Calixto .


    1/2 C uncooked long-grain white rice
    1 C raw almonds, skinless, or cashews
    1 cinnamon stick
    4 C water
    1/2 C sugar
    crushed ice, to serve

    In a small spice or coffee grinder, grind rice, and almonds or cashews, separately into a meal. Add to 2 cups of cold water with cinnamon stick. (Note: Optionally, toasting the cinnamon releases the oils in the stick and will enhance your finished horchata.)  Soak for at least 6 hours, or preferably, overnight.
    Transfer the water, rice, cashews to a blender and blend until it is very smooth (as long as a few minutes). Add the sugar and an additional 2 cups of water and continue to blend for another few minutes.
    Pour the mixture through a mesh sieve into a bowl or pitcher, stirring the solids to help the liquid pass through. Optionally, drain a second time through four layers of cheesecloth to achieve an even smoother beverage.
    To serve, pour over a glass full of crushed ice.  Refrigerate to store up to 3 days.

    To heat things up, pico de gallo, literally interpreted as beak of the rooster, (emblematic of the motion of finger to thumb before utensils were used in latin cultures) is fast, easy, economical, and a staple of the Mexican table.  I prefer it to salsa, if I must choose, and I will happily toss together a salad of cabbage, avocado and pico de gallo for lunch, anytime.  It's also the trick to making a good quickie guacamole.  Just add a tablespoon or so (okay, less if your wimpy) to one or two mashed avocados, add a little salt, and you've made yourself a great guac.  But before we get ahead of ourselves.......

    Our simple pico de gallo-- two small tomatoes, diced, one jalapeno, finely diced (remove the seeds and white ribs if the heat is too much for you--but you know we didn't), 1 tablespoon finely minced cilantro leaves and stems, and 1-2 tablespoons onion, minced, and rinsed.  Rinsing takes the strong sting out of onions-- I learned this from a favorite Mexican restaurant years ago and serve raw onions chopped, rinsed, and drained, anytime we want a little crunch, without the raw bite.  Combine in a bowl, and salt to taste.  (If you're going to serve this with salted chips, you'll want to use a light hand).  Allow to sit, refrigerated, for 30 minutes.  If more liquid, or 'tang' is desired, add a squeeze of fresh lime juice, to taste, but only after chilling.  (Tomatoes will release liquid when salted, so you don't want to get it too watery.)  And then, what you have......

    is just lovely.
    Yes, pico de gallo, I am talking to you.  You are beautiful, no matter what you do.....words can't bring (oh, I'm sorry, got carried away.)

    and when your beauty overwhelms me,


    Tomorrow, on freestyle friday, we're wrapping up this Five Dollar Feast with the jewel of the crown...

    You're not going to want to miss's the best part of the feast!

    our five dollar feast-- 'un'fried low, slow, black beans

    tips for tuesday
    notes from maggie's farm

    In my early college-student-salad-days (as opposed to these late college-student-salad-days) beans were a part of the meal plan, daily.  My meal plan, that is, because I did not live in a dorm.  No check magically made it's way to the sorority house.  I was a young, single mother, back in school to find a way up for my family.  I worked and attended classes, kept a home and doted on children and had little time for playing in the kitchen, or resources for fast food.  Beans were my stock and trade.  And being the kind of girl who believed the variety was the spice of life, and encouraged that in her girls, I had to discover how to dress these beans up to please.  No boring beans.  We even had a little poem: (no! not beans, beans, the magical fruit.....)

    Red beans, black beans, white beans, too
    Refried, boiled, baked, soup and stew
    If you've only got a dollar, give us a hollar
    And you can eat some beans with us, too.

    We had a lot of time on our hands.

    Now the one upshot to this beany economy was our health.  During my annual physical provided by the student health center, (of LSU, currently #2 on the AP poll, if anyone wants to know.....) my doctor was astounded to find my good cholesterol high, and the bad lower than 'normal low'.  He wanted to know my secret.  Beans!  And I hadn't even planned it.  Sometimes 'economic simplicity' works that way. There are benefits to scaling back, whether voluntary or 'suggested' by events beyond our control.

    Economical and a great source of fiber, beans are truly a superfood.  Canned or dried, no well-stocked larder should be caught without them.  It's not rocket science, and not as glamorous as, say, beef wellington, but it's a basic skill to add to one's repertoire.  Today, we're making unfried low, slow, refried beans.

    'un'fried low, slow 'refried' beans

    you will need: 2 cups of dried beans, an onion, peeled and quarter, 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced, 1 tsp each salt and cumin, and 1/2 t cayenne pepper, 8 cups of water or stock.

    Combine all ingredients in a dutch oven.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a strong simmer, covered for 6 hours, or until beans are tender, adding liquid by the cupful, as needed, to cover. Your house is going to smell amazing.  Even more amazing than that beef wellington might smell.  Invite friends to stop by,  innocently, just to subject them to the aroma. Then they will think you are a kitchen goddess.  And you are.  Revel in this.
    Oh, yeah, then, drain the beans, reserving the liquid, and plucking the onion out.  Return to dutch oven and work them over with a potato masher until the consistency you desire, adding liquid, or 'pot liquor' as they called it in the south-of-the-past, as necessary. 

    note:  you can certainly cook these in a slow cooker, as well.  cook on high setting while you sleep, overnight (unless you are Rip Van Winkle), or for roughly 8 hours. 

    So there's your very basic beany building block.  Garnish with chopped onion, or our favorite a little queso fresco from your friends at from maggie's farm, and eat alone, or on tortillas, nachos, sandwich know.

    Now you can trick these babies out any way your little heart desires.  We used black beans, but pinto beans are most traditional, and, hey! experiment with other beans, too. And the herbs and seasoning to go with them.  Even the cooking liquid.   say...white beans with sage, or mint,  garbanzo beans with rosemary, kidney beans with oregano, pinto beans cooked in ale... you get the idea.

    our five dollar feast

    meatless monday
    from maggie's farm

    On Saturday, Slow Food USA issued a challenge.  Create home-cooked meals for $5/per person.  They derived the cost based upon the average price of a fast-food 'value meal' (Hmm. who's getting a value, I wonder?).  Looking back on the meals we've cooked for this blog, it was easy to see that this was going to be a breeze.  Because we rely heavily on vegetables and grains, with protein sources being eggs and cheese produced from our own goats milk, and meat and seafood primarily as a complement, most meals here are under the five dollar mark.  The rare lobster bisque is a once-a-year indulgence.  Love all that fancy stuff, but we can afford it only if we watch our day-to-day food budget.  And we do. In fact, if you factor in the low cost of our own farm-sourced products, you'll find it quite a bit less than $5 a meal, per person.  However for our purposes today, we have valued those products as if a consumer has purchased them from a grocery store or farmers market. 

    $5 Challenge Dinner

     Roasted Corn,  3 ways
    Refried Black Beans

    Fire Roasted Salsa
    Pico De Gallo
    Roasted Corn and Hatch Chile Relish
     with Queso Fresco
    cilantro, jalapeno, cabbage, onion, avocado

    served with crispy tostada, or corn tortillas

    We started on Friday with Roasted Tomato SalsaToday, it's all about corn--Roasted Corn, 3 Ways, and Roasted Corn and Hatch Chile Relish with Queso Fresco.  Nothing captures the best of late summer like the taste of sweet, juicy corn on the cob.

    Chile-Lime Rubbed Roasted Corn
    fresh ears of corn
    from maggie's farm roasted chili rub
    lime zest

    preheat oven to 350 degrees
    Peel husks back from ears, keeping attached at base. Remove silks.  Rub cobs with softened butter.  Season with salt, lime zest, and chili rub (which we made here, or you can buy, here). Smooth husks back over cobs, tying with a length of husk to secure.
    Place directly on oven rack and roast for 30 minutes, or until tender.  Serve with husks pulled back, to use as a nifty handle.  (There is nothing wrong with the word nifty.  Even if my classmates giggle when I use it.  But if it sounds old-fashioned to you,  please feel free to replace it with awesome.)

    Cilantro Chimichurri Roasted Corn

    fresh or frozen ears of corn
    from maggie's farm cilantro chimichurri

    preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    Remove husks and silks from corn.  Slather with chimichurri.  Wrap in aluminum foil.  Place directly on oven rack.  Roast for 30 minutes, or until tender.

    Cumin Cilantro Roasted Corn

    fresh ears of corn
    olive oil
    four sprigs cilantro per ear
    whole cumin seed
    kosher salt

    preheat oven to 350 degrees
    Pull husks back from ears, keeping attached at base.  Remove silk.  Drizzle top side with oil.  Season with 1/2 teaspoon cumin seed and kosher salt to taste.  Lay 2 sprigs of cilantro atop.  Smooth top husks over, turn.  Repeat oil and seasoning on second side.  Smooth husks to cover.  Secure at top of ear.  Roast for 30 minutes, or until tender.

    Roasted Corn and Hatch Chile Relish with Queso Fresco

    4 ears roasted corn
    4 roasted mild Hatch chiles, stems and seeds removed (or mild Anaheim chiles, if not available)
    zest and juice of one lime
    1 T olive oil
    2T chopped cilantro
    1/4 crumbled queso fresco (we used from maggie's farm goat milk queso fresco)
    kosher salt, to taste

    preheat broiler

    Roast chiles as we roasted peppers, here.  Remove flesh by scraping from skin of pepper with the back of a knife.  Roasting peppers intensifies the flavor and the heat, so you'll want to remove the seeds, unless you have an iron clad mouth and stomach.  I thought I did.  But then I made this without removing the seeds.  Suffice it to say, I really think you'll want to remove the seeds. Mince flesh. (The pepper's flesh.  Not yours.)
    While chiles steam and cool in plastic bag, remove corn from cobs with a sharp knife, by laying cob horizontally on a cutting board and cutting down each side  (or whatever your favorite way to 'de-cob'). Toss with lime juice and zest, oil, cilantro, and queso fresco.  Add chile a little at a time, mixing well, tasting as you go to achieve your desired heat level.  Salt to taste.  Chill before serving.

    We like to serve this with cool, creamy avocado slices, a great accompaniment to all things spicy.

    We look forward to seeing you tomorrow, and continuing our five dollar feast throughout the week. 
    We just love this challenge.

    Have a great day!

    some like it hot

    freestyle friday
    notes from maggie's farm

    happy mexican independence day!  viva mexico!

    in texas, mexican food is where it is at.  it's delicious, it's addictive, it's inexpensive, it's imaginative, it's everything i love and then some. often people think it is overly spicy, but most dishes are not highly spiced. unless, of course, you want it to be.  and i want it to be.  there are all matter of delicious condiments to add for a little heat. if you've been reading along, i bet you may have already noticed this, but i love spicy.  if 2-4 hot peppers are called for in any recipe, i start with 6.  if the pepper grinder turns up empty, we're not eating at home.  and a pot of mild chili?  just as likely get hot ice cream, here.  i try to use a lighter hand with people who like less heat, but they will tell you, try as I might, i don't always succeed. luckily for me, some like it hot.  and the basic building block of mexican food?  spicy, bright, fabulosa salsa! some like it mild, and some like it hot.

    when i moved to texas, it is true that i missed the cuisine of louisiana.  i thought i'd never be happy eating out in austin; at the time, good creole food was not to be found.  and then i found the holy grail-- chips and salsa.  free chips and salsa.  with every mexican meal!  and mexican food is found on every block. every block,  my friends!  breakfast. lunch. dinner.  they come early and they stay late.  it's mexican food heaven here!  oh, friends, they had me at chips and salsa.  (and margaritas, too, but that's another post.)

    so, why does one even need to make their own salsa with all those restaurants out there?  because we think everything's better when you grow it, and make it, with your own two hands. we are real people out here, and we make real food for ourselves at home, a whole lot. trying to replicate the restaurant experience with off-the-shelf salsa just doesn't cut it.  the commercial canning process changes salsa--takes off the bright edges.  fresh salsa beats canned salsa every single time.  and it's quite easy to make.
    there's the traditional verde and roja, both very good, but the salsa we're creating today is my very favorite--roasted tomato salsa.   let's get crackin.

    for 2 cups salsa, you will need:
    about 3 lbs of tomatoes (we've used a combination of gold and red plum tomatoes and roma tomatoes)
    3-4 hot peppers of your choice (we use red jalapeno and serrano)
    1/2 small onion
    3 cloves garlic
    1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (we throw in about 1/2 tablespoon of chopped stems, too)
    2 tsp olive oil
    1/2-1tsp cumin (we roast and grind cumin seeds, but cumin powder is just fine, too)
    juice of 1-2 limes
    salt, to taste

    spread tomatoes, peppers, onion, and garlic on a sheet pan, drizzle with oil, and broil until skins are charred, turning once.  remove and allow to cool.  
    remove stems and cores, and skin of onion and garlic.  in food processor, preferably, (but it can be done in a blender, in small batches) pulse peppers, onions, and garlic separately, one at a time, and reserve.  process stemmed and cored tomatoes until the consistency you desire. 

    transfer to a mixing bowl.  add onions, peppers, and garlic, experimenting with quantities a little at a time, to get it just the way you like.  the quantities given here yield my favorite combination of flavors and level of spiciness, but make it your own!  season with cumin, lime juice, and salt, to taste. (if you use salted tortilla chips, you'll want to use a lighter hand salting the salsa.) chill (because it brightens the flavors so well when it's chilled for about  30 minutes, or longer).  serve with a heaping bowlful of your favorite tortilla chips, these are ours,

    or season anything (or everything) with a little sprinkling atop. try it in that chicken noodle soup or on your morning eggs.  maybe a lowfat, healthy topping for a baked potato, or smothering baked fish. a spoonful in shrimp cocktail really takes things up a notch. the uses are endless.  what is your favorite use for delicious salsa?

    are you taking the slow food $5 challenge?  we are, and we're sharing our meal (well, at least the recipes) with you.  stayed tuned for some delicious, family-friendly, economical eats, on
    notes from maggie's farm.

    ABOUT THE $5 CHALLENGE This September 17, you're invited to help take back the 'value meal' by getting together with family, friends and neighbors for a slow food meal that costs no more than $5 per person. Find an event happening near you, host a dinner, or have a potluck.

    Why? Because slow food shouldn't have to cost more than fast food. If you know how to cook, then teach others. If you want to learn, this is your chance. Together, we're sending a message that too many people live in communities where it's harder to buy fruit than Froot Loops.
    How can I get involved? Take the pledge to share a meal with family and friends, find a local meal or host your own. If the date doesn't work you, you can still take the pledge to show your support -- and we'll send you $5 cooking tips and updates on the campaign.
    What if $5 is too much for me and my family? We recognize that $5 is actually not a small amount of money -- but it is the cost of a typical fast food "value meal," so we figured that was a good starting place for cooking up a meal that reflects your values.We hope to help people find ways to make eating "slow" easier, while also acknowledging what makes it hard. Understanding the hard part and how to fix the hard part ... is the hard part. And it's where we've all got our work cut out for us.

    For more background on the day and the campaign, read
    frequently asked questions or our August 16 press release. For $5 cooking tips and other resources, click here.

    have a great weekend, friends!

    ahhhhh...guas frescas: remedy for the hot, cranky, dusty and thirsty

    thirsty thursday
    notes from maggie's farm

    y'all, it's still hot here.  oh yes, the magazine covers suggest its something they call autumn, but other than a harvest moon (which found itself in a lovely night sky of 95 degrees at 10pm last night), nothing is falling here except my hairdo.  it's hot, i'm cranky, i'm dusty, and i'm thirsty.

    the good thing about this weather, (yes there is a bright side, virginia) is that there is still loads of melons in our garden.  melons, squash, and hot peppers thrive in this heat.  a certain farmer keeps planning to till in the vines, to which a certain farmstress objects.  because there's still melons on those vines, you yankee farmer, you. and there are still melons-a-plenty in the markets, too.  so, if you, like me, find yourself thirsty and dusty and a little cranky and need some cooling off, it's a perfect time for melon agua fresca.

    aguas frescas, meaning fresh water in spanish, is a water-based drink infused with fruit, seeds, or flowers.  they are primarily consumed in mexico, but are also popular in central america and the caribbean.  the fruit is mixed in a food processor or food mill until smooth.  it is then strained through a wide wire mesh and combined with sugar, agave nectar, or simple syrup and frequently, citrus juice.  common flavorings are papaya, cucumber, hibiscus, tamarind, and barley seed.  for 4 servings of our melon agua fresca, you will need:
    • 1 small cantaloupe, peeled, seeded, and cubed
    • the juice of 4 large limes
    • 1/4 cup sugar (or roughly 2/3 of that if using agave nectar
    • fresh, filtered water 
    process or blend cantaloupe, lime juice, and sugar (or nectar).  blend a little more.  and just when it looks right, blend a minute or two longer.  you're hoping to wrangle as much liquid as possible.  strain, discarding solids (which means feed to the chickens, add to muffin mix, or compost. waste not, want not).  add water equal to liquid, or to taste.  chill or serve over ice.  that's it. it's really quite easy.  and a light, lovely thirst quencher that will make you forget how hot, and dusty, and cranky you were.  at least until your glass is empty.  

    we're excited about tomorrow.  it's mexican independence day, dia de independencia de mexico, and since saturday is slow food's 5$ challenge, we're throwing the events together.  no cuisine eats as well for as little and we are going to eat like kings on 5$ per person. that's going to be easyeasy and gooood.   see you tomorrow, on freestyle friday, for a feast!

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