(Almost) Wordless Wednesday
Get Lost

Panna Maria, Texas

“...but I preferred reading the American landscape as we went along. Every bump, rise, and stretch in it mystified my longing.” 
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Halloween Treat (No Trick, Promise.)
A Sweet, Maybe Salty, Maybe Spicy, Nutty, Fruity, Chocolaty-drizzled Popcorn Treat

Why should the kids have all the fun?!  

Whether handing out treats to the wee ones a'knocking, or hitting the streets for raucous, costumed celebration, the big kids about this 'hood will be munching on something a tad more creative, and less sugar-soaked than what fills the ubiquitous plastic pumpkin. 

Play around with the components to suit your fancy. I like it a bit salty, a bit sweet, a bit spicy, and I prefer my chocolate drizzle as delightfully dark as I can find (Because memory, y'all), but any easy-to-find chocolaty meltable bark will work as well. 

Note: To make it an even healthier snack, eschew the candy bark coating, and toss in some semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips. 

It's addictive, friends! You'll find yourself sneaking in from the doorstep duty for nibbles....then perhaps give in to your cravings and bring the entire batch back to your post. Maybe hide it with a towel. Pretend you just have that cheapo taffy you got ten minutes ago at half price you're handing out. 

It really has no name, so let's just go with what it is--

A Sweet, Maybe Salty, Maybe Spicy, Nutty, Fruity, Chocolaty-drizzled Popcorn Treat.

There. Isn't that catchy? 

Prepare popcorn according to package directions. Try kettle corn, it really is perfect for this.  

Strew on Silpat-lined baking sheet. (Alternatively,  spray sheet pan down with silicone cooking spray.) Let it mingle with whatever treats your heart desires-- we used almonds, pistachios, and dried mixed fruits. 

Season with your favorites-- we used a little cayenne on one batch, a little chat masala, a popular salt-bomb of an Indian snack spice mixture, so goooood, on another, and simply a little sea salt on a third batch.

Melt chocolate candy coating according to package directions.  I found mine to be thicker than would easily drizzle (glop!) so I transferred it to a handy-dandy squeeze bottle, and went to town.  Drizzle chocolate over the top, as shown.  Pop the tray into the fridge for a few minutes (Really. It only takes a few minutes to harden.)

Now, I talk a mean game, but I'll break down and share it with the neighborhood kids-- the ones I know (because strange neighbors with unwrapped candy are s-c-a-r-y). This year, and this neighborhood, well it will likely be University of Texas co-eds that gather, and hey, co-eds need treats, too, right? To soak off all that liquor they consume? To have a nutritious snack?

I'll gently break off chunks to share in baking treat bags, and maybe a few in cupcake liners for the kids who hang around to pet the dog. (Jack loves Halloween, but wonders why he can't go door to door with the others, and for research purposes, only, where are the houses with the doggie treats?)

Really, the sharing-- that's important. If I don't, I'll likely eat the whole batch (or 2 or 3) for dinner.  

And maybe breakfast the next day, stealing the show from my usual healthy, adult, Saturday morning meal of cold pizza.  I may never grow up.

Now spill the beans!  What's YOUR costume going to be this year?  

I want to go as Edie....but I'm afraid I look more like Andy.

Meatless Monday
Healthy Eats in Austin

It's been quite the change, moving back to the city after six years on a farm. My vocation keeps me hopping, and somewhat erratically--in fits and starts, often with schedule scattered, and on more days than I care to admit, insufficient preparation for insistent hunger.

What I mean is.....

I eat out. A lot

I work for Austin Eats Food Tours. I work with the Texas Farmers Markets. I am a personal chef. I write about, report of, and photograph food. I blog about food. I tweet, I post, I Instagram that stuff every day. Y'all. My days can be some pretty high-calorie affairs. I'm a lucky girl.

Until it catches up with me, and I need to get back to culinary basics as penance for my wild-dining ways. Fortuitously, Austin boasts an embarrassment of healthy-eating riches, and I'm on a quest to discover the best. The healthy, plant-based, pescatarian, ovo-lacto, vegetarian, vegan, paleo, gluten-free, tasty, satisfying, economical.

In an ongoing series, I'll be sharing my favorite healthy eats in Austin, I'd love to hear your favorites, too! Please leave a comment and help me in my search for the best. 

I recently visited the Danish modern funky Eastside coffee shop and cafe, Counter Culture, the emerged-from-the-ashes Hyde Park healthy eats anchor, Mother's Cafe and Garden, and the tranquil oasis of zen-like calm, community, and culinary care, Casa de Luz. My favorite meals included ...

PAC MAN + Garbanzo Mock Tuna 

Counter Culture Cafe

2337 East Cesar Chavez
Austin, TX  78702

Tues-Fri: 11 AM-10 PM                
Sat & Sun: Brunch 11 AM-3 PM    Reg Menu: 3-10 PM

This vibrant kale, carrot & chia seed salad, with a creamy garlic dressing and the addition of garbanzo mock tuna salad, is gluten-free, economical (the side salad plus scoop only set this vegan-seeker back a mere six bucks), fiber-rich, and satisfying. For a dinner entree, opt for the full size, with scoop, for $10.00.

Counter Culture is a great place to hunker down over a steaming cup of dark joe with your favorite thrift-store pilled and worn-soft sweater and an engrossing novel. Maybe a beret, you beatnik, you.

Szechuan Stir Fry 

Mother's Cafe & Garden

4215 Duval Street 
Austin, TX 78751

Mon-Fri 11:15 AM-10 PM
Sat-Sun 10 AM-10 PM
Sat-Sun Brunch 10 AM-3 PM

Fresh vegetables stir-fried in canola oil with tofu, green onions and mushrooms. Finished with a sauce of fresh ginger, garlic, toasted sesame oil and Szechuan spices and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Served over organic brown rice with black beans. $10.50

Mother's is laudable in catering to special dietary needs, and this dish was satisfactorily adjusted to meet the requirements of a detox diet, with the omission of brown rice and black beans, however when served as described, the full entree is enough for one, and a take-home parcel for the next day's lunch, (or perhaps a midnight snack. No judging.)

Mother's Cafe is just a goldmine for people-watching. Get a two-top to the left of the door, and sit back and enjoy everyone under the sun.  Discreetly, of course, Hedda Hopper.

Mixed Vegetable Taco with Guacamole and Salad of Garden Greens with Fresh Basil, Walnut, & Pecan Dressing.
Casa de Luz

1701 Toomey Road 
Austin, TX 78704

Breakfast: 7:00 to 10:00 AM
Lunch Menu: 11:00 to 2:30 PM
Dinner Menu: 5:30 to 8:30 PM

Casa de Luz offers a set menu of macrobiotic, vegan, organic and gluten-free meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner in it's zen-like 'campus', an oasis amid the encroaching development boom of Barton Springs Road.

Prix Fixe Meals which vary by day (check the website for daily offerings) are $9.00 for Breakfast, and $12.00 for lunch and dinner. A favorite meal of this diner is served weekly on Thursday, and with some variations, might feature Vegetable and Yellow Split Pea Soup, Salad of Garden Greens with Basil, Walnut & Pecan Dressing, Mixed Vegetable Taco with Guacamole on homemade corn tortilla, Black Beans with Sun Cheese, Blanched Greens with Lemon, Rice Pilaf (or other grains), and Pickled Vegetables. Includes Beverage.

Though a family-style dining room accommodates gatherings of all types and sizes, I love to dine alone at the southwest shore's urban ahhhh of a dining retreat. Don't go in a hurry. Breathe. Take it all in. Indulge in gratitude for a peaceful and well-prepared meal.

These meals, and more, are featured in Full and Content's guide, Eight Tasty Vegetarian Meals to Enjoy in Austin.  Check out more of what my friends find to be their beloved nutritious meatless meals in the city. And if you're vegan, don't miss Lazy Smurf's Austin Vegan Guide.

Whether in Austin, or points beyond, I'd love to hear about your favorite healthy meals and restaurants. Please share your best-kept delicious dining out secrets!

Farmers Market Favorite
Okra Fritters with Sweet Pepper Tomato Saute

Pumpkins, pears, pomegranates, apples, Brussels sprouts..... It must be fall.

BUT WAIT A COTTON-PICKIN' minute, you guys.  It's still Indian summer down south and our fields, and markets, are still full of late summer-season favorites, like fall tomatoes, eggplant, sweet and hot peppers, squash, and OKRA.

My early distaste for okra is well-documented. I was stubborn about the stuff. No matter the preparation, I was just not interested.

Until, that is, I grew my own. Okra loves this dry, intense Texas heat, and I began to love anything that would flourish in the hell heat of a Texas summer. Or late summer. Or early fall. Or mid-fall. (Y'all, it's hot down here). And if I was going to put my money where my mouth was, or put my mouth where my money was, or whatever, I was going to have to eat some okra.

It may be poor for eating chips with,
It may be hard to come to grips with,
But okra's such a wholesome food
It straightens out your attitude
Song of Okra Roy Blunt, Jr.

I pickled it. I stewed it. I canned it. I sold it. I roasted it. I grilled it. And today....I frittered it!

I'ma be honest with you. This, right here, is how this recipe was developed:

Once a month, I have the honor of being the guest chef for a cooking demonstration for fresh, seasonal, local produce at the Cedar Park Farmers' Market and the Mueller Farmers' Market. The idea behind my appearance is to prepare a seasonal dish, using the market's bounty and little of anything else. It's about helping real, live, home cooks to come up with ideas and dishes around the fresh fare they see at the market that day. I arrive at the market without even knowing, for certain, what will be offered by the farmers and vendors that day. Just like most market-shoppers arrive. So I'm often doing some fast pedaling in my head, coming up with the day's meal, dish, bite, demo of the day.

Now I have some help in this department. As they say, what GROWS together GOES together, so with the help of  Mother Nature, and gluten-free cornbread mix and farm eggs from Organicare Farms, whole milk and cheeses from Mill-King and Dos Lunas, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Texas Hill Country Olive Company, all market vendors, I gathered what was most in abundance at the market this weekend:

Okra-- from Tecolote Farm and Bernhardt Farm
Mixed Peppers & Onions--from Johnson's Backyard Garden
Tomatoes-- from Engel Farms
Elephant Garlic-- from Hairston Creek Farm

This was an impromptu, casual dish, just like the impromptu, casual meals I might make for dinner. Depending upon the number of diners in your world, adjust quantities to best fit your needs. For our demonstration, the following casual measurements were employed:

Pepper Tomato Saute

Approximately 1 bulb elephant garlic, 3 yellow onions, 1 pound of mixed sweet peppers, 5 large tomatoes, 1-2 Tablespoons coriander seeds, (I crush, slightly, with the help of a mortar and pestle. They can be left whole, as well.), 1-2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Okra Fritters

Approximately 1 pound of okra to yield 30 small fritters, one package gluten-free cornbread mix from Organicare Farms, 3 whole eggs, 1 pint whole milk, 2-3Tablespoons of your favorite seasonings (I used a leek garlic dried seasoning mix with celery salt and a little dill. Herbes de Provence would work, as well as anything with cinnamon and ginger, like, perhaps, a 5-spice powder blend).

About a cup of cooking oil (grapeseed oil would be ideal for the high heat of fritter-frying).


Pepper Tomato Saute

Warm 2T cooking oil in a heavy skillet until shimmering. Add garlic, sliced thinly, and stir frequently to avoid scorching. Remove from oil. Add onions and peppers, coriander and thyme,and saute until limp. Add chopped tomatoes (I tossed in skins, seeds, and all. No fussy preparation for market demos, weekday meals, or Meatless Mondays, whatever the case may be.)  Continue to saute until tomatoes release juice, return reserved garlic to the mix, add vinegar, and continue to simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes over medium heat. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

Okra Fritters

Prepare fritter batter: To make a thin fritter batter without a lot of fuss, I added 3 whole eggs and 1 pint of whole milk to one package of Organicare gluten-free cornbread mix(which instructed 1 whole egg and 1/4 cup milk for cornbread preparation.) Season batter, as suggested, above.

Clean and dry okra with paper toweling. Slice crosswise, thinly, and add to prepared batter. Stir to coat, avoiding 'over-stirring', which will make the batter dense and a bit soggy-- a waste of the leavening ingredients. We want light and airy, here, so don't overwork the batter. Leave. Well. Enough. ALONE.

Heat approximately 1 cup grapeseed oil over medium to high heat in a heavy skillet.  When a little drizzled batter begins to sizzle in the heated oil, it's time to make quick work of these little babies. Using a small ladle, drop approximately 1/8 cup batter into oil, without crowding the skillet. Allow to firm about a minute, then flip, frying for about a minute or two more, or until golden brown.

Remove from heat and allow to drain on paper toweling.


Top Okra fritter with warm Pepper Tomato Saute, garnish with crumbled cheese. Serve warm.

Once a month, I have the honor of being the guest chef for demonstrations at the Texas Farmers' Markets, Cedar Park and Mueller locations. If you find yourself in the Austin area, looking for a market nearby, chances are these markets are close! And if you'd like to drop by for a visit with me, I'd love to see you and I'll save you the best samples!

Thirsty Thursday
Top Spots to Catch A Buzz in Austin: Rio Rita

Rio Rita Cafe y Cantina
"Mild mannered coffee shop by day, swanky lounge by night."

1308 E. Sixth Street
Austin 78702


Open Monday-Friday  8am-2am.
Saturday-Sunday 10 am-2am

What a funky place.

An original among a growing number of Austin coffee shops by day, cocktail bars by night, Rio Rita is a laid-back faded rose, experiencing a revival while dressed in her best thrift store chic.

The renaissance of the East Side has encouraged new foot traffic in this area that my parents always warned me away from, but having attained a certain, shall we say, maturity, my inner rebel child ventured into the mean streets, and found a jewel-in-the-rough in Rio Rita.

Boasting the Bloody Mary most-mentioned in the area, the Rita also offers a serviceable menu of caffeinated favorites--coffee and espresso drinks all based on the fair trade beans of Texas Coffee Traders.  Pick up a bag of their signature 'Victory Blend', a custom combination of Ethiopian, Sumatran, Guatemalan, Peruvian and Nicaraguan Certified Organic Fair Trade Coffee  ($10/pound or $5/half pound).

And about that Bloody Mary-- billed as their Breakfast of Champions, a hangover salad in a glass, the pepperheads among us will not be disappointed. Vodka, horseradish, Tapatio, Zing Zang, celery, lime, olives, pickled okra & banana peppers? Well that oughta put a little pep in your morning-after step. $8.50, or $10 with infused vodka.

Rio Rita offers a full bar, with wine, beer, house-infused vodkas, and cocktails which run 5 to 10 bucks a piece. Should you catch a case of the munchies, enjoy $3.50 slices of East Side Pie, house-made hummus with pita, chips and salsa, and my local favorite Rockstar Bagels. Check out their menu, here.

Rita hosts regular weekly events Love and a 45, Irish and Old Time Music Collective, and Arts and Drafts. Find details, here.

As for seating...well choose the spot that best suits your mood. I like the dinette set right by the front door, so I can see what's passing by on E. Sixth. If you need a smoke, or want a breath of (often not all that) fresh air, take advantage of their large patio out back. If opium den is the vibe you're looking for, try the curtained corners and their various second-hand couches--there's a crazy little spot for all of Austin's weirdest finest.

And hey, where else can you go from work to party with nothing more than a change of chair, and attitude.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday
Fresh from the Market

What makes the farmers market such a special place is that you’re actually creating community around food. -Bryant Terry

Thank you to the vendors of the Mueller Farmers Market for providing their ridiculously photogenic farm fare for photographing. The Mueller Farmers Market is open from 10am to 2pm, Sundays, under the Browning Hangar, in Austin, Texas

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...