more than one monday can handle

monday.  just monday.
notes from maggie's farm

Occasionally, Monday is more than I can handle.  And this Monday met me with a to-do list that was more than any Monday can handle. You know those days, weeks, seasons, I bet.  

Spring is full of life on this little farm. Life that does not wait on blogposts, tweets, facebook updates, social networking and more.  It does not care that the Austin Food and Wine Festival kept me busy all day, every day from Thursday through Sunday.  It doesn't know that the first season of Downton Abbey was at the Redbox, or that sparkling moscato was on sale.  It does not care that two recipes are due for submission for a community cookbook.  

It does not care how busy I've been.  It has never heard of an alliance, or a festival, or Iron Chef, or Food Network.

It wants to know where I am.  I wants me to get OUT THERE, without a camera, and get down to farming.  

So forgive me for the next few days, while I do what it is that this is all about.  I've got to go be a farmer. 

This is gonna get dirty.

But before I go.......

I do love a good bargain.  The facial cleanser this former Lancome/Clinique representative used in a life prior to the farm costs upwards of 30 bucks.  That's quite a lot of chicken scratch.  And without giving any of those old trade secrets away, let me just say I think the natural options work their magic just as well.  Like this one, from MaryJane's Farm

Homemade Facial Cleanser

homemade facial cleanser
image credit: maryjane's farm
I love homemade beauty recipes. I make up my own yogurt cleanser to wash my face with daily.
The ingredients are simple and fresh: 1 cup yogurt, ¼ t apple cider vinegar, and ½ t extra-virgin olive oil.
Mix the ingredients thoroughly, then smooth a handful over your face for about a minute before rinsing with cool water.
The mixture will keep in the fridge for a week. It makes my skin feel silky smooth!
Dawn in Illinois 
The Farmgirl Connection

salmon in orange thyme glaze en papillote

fish on friday
notes from maggie's farm

For a lot of people, there really are too many fish in the sea. I used to be one of those people.  I was certain I could never like fish. As a child, I'd had fish, lots of times, in fact.  In sticks.  From a box.  Mrs. Paul's.  And forgive me Mrs. Paul, but I'm not wild about what you do with fish.  

Yet I really wanted to like fish.  It was so good for you. Good for your heart, your joints, your skin. Good for your eyes, good for your mood, and more.  So, with the desire to find a way to incorporate more fish into our diets, but without the holding-our-noses, drowning the offenders in ketchup, and gulping down our glass of milk after each bite which was, for my brother and I, the standard routine upon being presented with a plate of sticks, I tried fish prepared differently.  Like crunchy, breaded or battered fried fish.  Or baked, topped with butter and bacon.  Sauteed, with almonds, or a cream sauce, or both.  All very, very good.  What isn't good with batter, butter, bacon or cream?  But I faced a dilemma.  I wanted to eat fish because it was good for me.  Batter, butter, bacon, and cream?  Not so good for me.  So I played around, as I am wont to do, with steaming, and healthy omissions and additions, and landed upon the charm.  I cooked it in.........paper!

Cooking en papillote, is a classic french technique for preparing food wrapped in parchment paper to retain moisture without added fat, and to infuse with added flavor.  It's a very healthy cooking method, and encourages the items sealed in the parchment packet to lend their flavors to each other. You can cook with added herbs, garlic, onions, leeks, glazes, splashes of wine or broth, tomatoes, peppers, spices and seasonings, as well as vegetables.  Bonus: preparing an entire meal in a single packet is fast, convenient and easy on cleanup.

Par-cooking (steaming, sauteing or parboiling) firm vegetables, and/or slicing them thinly, ensures complete cooking, as the time it takes to properly cook fish en papillote is often brief; too brief to cook some vegetables, like beets, squash, fennel, and onions, thoroughly. Tender vegetables, such as asparagus, peas, tomatoes, thinly sliced peppers and mushrooms, can be included without par-cooking. Previously considered a specialty item, parchment is now found in most supermarkets.

salmon in orange thyme glaze en papillote
 with baby fennel and summer squashes

for each individual packet,

2 sheets of parchment paper, about 10 inches square
one four to six ounce fish steak or fillet (we've used 1and 1/2 inch fresh wild sockeye salmon steaks, bone in, however boneless fillets work just as well.  Reduce the cooking time accordingly, due to the difference in thicknesses, allowing approximately 10 minutes per inch of thickness)

1 cup thinly sliced mixed summer squashes

1 baby fennel bulb, shaved

2T from maggie's farm orange thyme glaze, or glaze or your choosing
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
optional garnish-- chopped fennel frond leaves, orange slices
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Upon square bottom sheet of parchment, scatter squash and shaved fennel.  Lay fish fillet or steak atop.  Season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle glaze over fish and vegetables. Cover with top layer of parchment, folding each bottom and top side together to create a packet.

Bake for 14 minutes (adjusting for thickness, if necessary). Remove from oven, clip top of packet with scissors, and tear open to release steam.  Carefully transfer to plate, (or perhaps eat it right out of the packet if you're dining al fresco) Correct seasonings, and serve.


Superfoods we've used

Wild Salmon
High in inflammation-fighting omega-3s, wild red or sockeye salmon (canned or fillet) is an excellent low-mercury alternative to canned solid tuna, which can be high in the toxic metal. For more information, including how salmon lowers diabetes risk, benefits cardiovascular health, improves mood and cognition, and more visit The World's Healthiest Foods
Thyme has a long history of use in natural medicine in connection with chest and respiratory problems including coughs, bronchitis, and chest congestion. Thymol, which is named after the herb itself, has been found to protect and significantly increase the percentage of healthy fats found in cell membranes and other cell structures. In particular, the amount of dha (docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid) in brain, kidney, and heart cell membranes was increased after dietary supplementation with thyme. Thyme also contains a variety of flavonoids, and increase thyme's antioxidant capacity. An excellent source of iron and manganese, a very good source of calcium and a good source of dietary fiber.
Fennel is a low calorie source of vitamins, minerals and fiber, and a powerful antioxidant. Notes for its beneficial effects on digestion, it is always used to treat coughs, especially in children. Fennel boasts high levels of vitamin c, and powerful antioxidants that help maintain a healthy immune system. High in fiber that is essential for digestive health, fennel is also rich in potassium, a mineral which is essential in lowering blood pressure.
Although all fruits and vegetables contain some amount of vitamin c, oranges offer the most readily available of supply. At only 60 calories, the orange also boasts some 170 cancer-fighting phytochemicals and 60 flavonoids, as well as its ability to reduce inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and asthma. One orange daily will also help combat diabetes and obesity, and its flavonoid, hesperetin, and the compound herperidin lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Try zesting the orange's peel over roasted vegetables to enhance flavor-- the peel contains limonene, which may ward off skin cancer.

This post was featured in

Source: United States Department of Agriculture,

lonestar libations: about beer

thirsty thursday
notes from maggie's farm

As for the rare old vintages with which we wash down our meals - they too simply do not exist. There is a carafe of red wine on our table, filled with a simple discreet wine which we buy by the gallon in the local liquor store. Occasionally there may be a bottle of chilled dry white wine. And always there is a quart bottle of good beer in the icebox.  M.F.K. Fisher

I'm not sure why it thrilled me so, but being allowed a sip from my father's can of beer was one of those deliciously pseudo-forbidden delights of childhood the memory of which still elicits a naughty giggle. Surely it wasn't the taste that enchanted me. Lukewarm bitter yuck, if I remember correctly. But I'd never let on. It had to be because it was what adults drank. And in my day, it was mostly what adult men drank. I was being let into, if for just a brief moment, the secret order of beer drinkers.  

I wonder when it dawned on me that the lawn mowing could be accomplished sans hops. I, for years, thought the two hand-in-hand.  Of course the thought of that ice-cold can, the sliiIIIck-pop-sssssss of the pulltab, and first small guggle-guggle-guggles, must certainly have made the task more palatable. So it comes as no surprise that the tsk-tsk-tsk-ssssssssssssskkkkkkkkkkk of evening sprinklers makes me just a tad thirsty for ice cold ahhhhhhhhh.

Still, it took quite some time for this taste to be fully acquired. And bottle upon bottle, especially as it becomes lukewarm, is distasteful to me. I'm not given to overindulging in beer. Moderation is key.  One (okay, maybe two) perfectly ice-cold, favorite brew is a little bit of heaven given the right circumstance--weather, particular meal, company, event, time of day.  

And barbecue.

Which brings us to the reason that beer is on my mind,

Live Fire! Beef Supremacy & Flame Mastery

I have the distinct honor of pouring libations, today, for the Austin Food and Wine Alliance's Live Fire! Beef Supremacy and Flame Mastery event, held at the Salt Lick Pavilion in Driftwood, Texas.  (Check out the menu here, and drool.  Seriously.) You know that barbecue is not just a food in Texas. Barbecue is a religion. And beer fits barbecue like salt fits pepper.  

The event will see esteemed chefs, wineries, breweries, and distilleries from all over the state, and a few from beyond. And me. I'll be there. That's worth at least 50 cents of the admission price, alone.  It's a steal.  

So given the task at hand, I decided to bone up a bit on beer basics (being a tad bit (embarrassingly) more familiar with the wine and hootch....).  Here are some of the interesting tidbits, and informative websites, about beer, that I found:

Beginners Guide To......
Beer, Luke Porter
Ordering Beer, Shine
Craft Beer, The Art of Manliness
Beer Grains,, and
Beer Tasting,

History, including...
The Historic Roots of 7 Styles of Beer, from Mental Floss, via What Are You Drinking?

Some amusing infographics like...
One Nation Under Hops, The U.S. Independent Beer Movement
How Beer Saved the World
Battle of the Beers: Guinness, and the Rest and,
The Boston Bruins $156, 679.74 Bar Tab

And I always get a lot of good info from my fellow members of Austin Food Blogger Alliance:
Matt Abendschein of You Stay Hoppy Austin, and
Matt McGinnis of What Are You Drinking?

Finally, a favorite passage from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis,

'So you've come at last!" she said, holding out both her wrinkled old paws. 'At last! To think that ever I should live to see this day! The potatoes are boiling and the kettle's singing and I daresay, Mr Beaver, you'll get us some fish.'
'That I will,' said Mr Beaver, and he went out of the house (Peter went with him), and across the ice of the deep pool to where he had a little hole in the ice which he kept open every day with his hatchet. They took a pail with them. Mr Beaver sat down quietly at the edge of the hole (he didn't seem to mind it being so chilly), looked hard into it, then suddenly shot in his paw, and before you could say Jack Robinson had whisked out a beautiful trout.
Then he did it all over again until they had a fine catch.
Meanwhile the girls were helping Mrs Beaver to fill the kettle and lay the table and cut the bread and put the plates in the oven to heat and draw a huge jug of beer for Mr Beaver from a barrel which stood in one corner of the house...
Just as the frying pan was nicely hissing, Peter and Mr Beaver came in with the fish which Mr Beaver had already opened with his knife and cleaned out in the open air. You can think how good the new-caught fish smelled while they were frying and how the hungry children longed for them to be done and how very much hungrier still they had become before Mr Beaver said, 'Now we're ready.' Susan drained the potatoes and then put them all back into the empty pot to dry on the side of the range while Lucy was helping Mrs Beaver to dish up the trout, so that in a very few minutes everyone was drawing up their stools (it was all three-legged stools in the Beavers' house except for Mrs Beaver's own special rocking-chair beside the fire) and preparing to enjoy themselves. There was a jug of creamy milk for the children (Mr Beaver stuck to beer) and a great big lump of deep yellow butter in the middle of the table from which everyone took as much as he wanted to go with his potatoes, and all the children thought - and I agree with them - that there's nothing to beat good freshwater fish if you eat it when it has been alive half an hour ago and has come out of the pan half a minute ago. And when they had finished the fish Mrs Beaver brought unexpectedly out of the oven a great and gloriously sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot, and at the same time moved the kettle onto the fire, so that when they finished the marmalade roll the tea was made and ready to be poured out. And when each person had got his (or her) cup of tea, each person shoved his (or her) stool so as to be able to lean against the wall, and gave a long sigh of contentment...


road trip!: austin funky chicken coop tour 2012

(almost) wordless wednesday
notes from maggie's farm

austin funky chicken coop tour {link}                2012

 Please click on the photos to enlarge and catch all the nifty details.

Buck Moore Feed and Supply, sponsor {link}

budding photographer.

budding farmer.

private home, north austin.

private home, north central austin.

urban patchwork neighborhood farms {link}

springdale farm {link}

private home, south austin

Thank you for allowing us into your lovely, fun, and funky backyards.

morning stretch: plunge into the sublime seas

tips for tuesday 
notes from maggie's farm

Let's not make any bones about it.  I am not a morning person.

Oh yes, farmers are all supposed to be morning people, rising before dawn at the rooster's crow, and skipping along, happily through the morning chores.
Stretching 101: The Benefits of Stretching
Well, good for them.  I am not one of those farmers.  I am a city-bred farmer.  I trained my last rooster to crow around ten-ish.  It was all "COCK-A-DOO-oh?-you've heard this already?".  
Stretching is the deliberate lengthening of muscles in order to increase muscle flexibility and joint range of motion. Stretching activities are an important part of any exercise or rehabilitation program. They help warm the body up prior to activity thus decreasing the risk of injury as well as muscle soreness.
But, try as I might, I can't make the sun stay below the horizon.  And getting those chores done in the early cool of the day is a might easier than it is when the sun beats down.  And there's the matter of the writing.  I enjoy writing most when the day is new, and busy has not made it's stamp upon it.  
The benefits of stretching are many and have been proven through various studies over time. Stretching benefits people of all ages, and is intended for the young as well as the elderly population.
So.......I like to move into the day slowwwwwly.  When I am away, and my routine is all out of whack, all bets are off.  Moving into the day slowwwwwwly may mean I've finally fallen asleep around 4am, and I'm not getting up until late morning.  I've always had 'issues'.  But when I'm at home, and back in my element, I have a routine that suits me well.  Up early, my bones and muscles all creaky like those of us a certain age are familiar with, I enjoy a series of stretches, much like these, before I even make it out of bed. 
Morning Bedside Stretch
Then off to the kitchen to put on water for tea, or coffee, which gives me just enough time to roll through a few rounds of sun salutations.  
Sun Salutation Practice: Yoga Journal
Even just a few stretches like these, while not intended as a full workout, have the effect of a double dose of ibuprofen, and help center me for a busy day.  And, frankly, exercise is about as attractive to me as mornings, so I'll likely get my workout in in the gardens, and with the animals.  I'll let your conscious decide how to fit exercise into the rest of your day.  But, this, this one thing, makes such a difference in my day, I'm often motivated to do all kinds of things I'd usually avoid.  

Like more exercise.  Or cleaning my husband's bathroom.  Okay, maybe I'll exercise.

“Be not the slave of your own past ... plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience, that shall explain and overlook the old.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

cracklins cornbread and coming home

every day a journey
notes from maggie's farm

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”                                    -- Matsuo Basho

Cracklins Cornbread

As with so many things cajun, there is some debate as to the correct spelling of cracklins.  It would seem, grammatically, that cracklings would be the proper spelling.  And that's likely why it isn't spelled that way in most of the family-owned groceries, where they are most often sold.  They don't stand on ceremony much in those parts.  It's usually just cracklins.  


1 cup white stone ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon lard
1 cup pork cracklin's (purchased, or homemade.)
1 egg
a pinch or two of cayenne pepper, garlic powder
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat an oven to 425 degrees. Stir together meal, salt, and baking soda in a bowl; set aside. Place the lard into a 9 inch cast iron skillet, and place into the preheated oven until the skillet is hot and the lard has melted.
Meanwhile, beat the egg in a bowl with buttermilk; stir in the cracklin's. Add cornmeal mixture, combining until moistened, then pour the batter into the preheated skillet.
Bake in the preheated oven until the top of the cornbread is brown, and it feels firm to the touch, about 30. Cut into wedges; butter and serve.

Now if that doesn't just taste like home...

"Hey, sweetheart.  I'm coming home."

I'd left town without any firm date upon which I'd return.  It indulges a bit of a rebellious streak in me to be somewhat vague about my plans.  My partner encourages this in me.  I don't get away too often, and he agrees that since everything is taken care of at home, might as well take as much time as I can, want, need.  So, I do.

When you're relying on the kindness of others as your host, sometimes it's best just to feel things out, you know? Things pop up-- someone doesn't feel so good, plans change, opportunities arise.  Being rigid regarding how long I would stay might make things uncomfortable. I didn't want to overstay my welcome. But I also wanted to wring every ounce of adventure I could from my travels. I would be in Louisiana, where I likely picked up such laid back attitudes, so it was a natural fit.  Besides, I thought, I was going on retreat, and retreat should end when one felt fully 'retreated'.

So it was, that I arrived in rolling green of southern Mississippi for the retreat proper, taking a 4 days and night deep breath, disconnecting from the digital world, catching up with precious friends, and enjoying the peaceful haven of the former convent's grounds.  It is a yearly thing, with familiar faces, and a few new ones that all manage to become familiar faces soon, because, beyond the spiritual benefit of the retreat, well, we just adore one another.  Everyone should have people like that in their lives.  I hope you do.  

Afterwards, my journey would wind along back roads for a few days, sharing time in decade's old stomping grounds of my own, with my daughter, who's adopted the same as hers.  I made it into New Orleans for a rain-soaked afternoon, and then back on the highways to Baton Rouge, for another stop along the pilgrimage.  Precious time with one of my best friends, a woman who is like a sister/mother/teacher/comedy act partner all-in-one for me, and her son, also a great friend. We marveled at how long it had been since I lived there, and how it just seemed like yesterday, too.  We cooked for each other, visited a few spots around town, gabbed about movies and music and sports, and politics, agreeing on almost every front.  It's a special kind of love, feeling at home in your own skin among those so dear.  

Why yes, that IS an alligator.  Seen an alligator on your travels lately?  Just pulled to the side of the road and shot a picture of it?  Louisiana, you are a crazy soup of fabulous.
And when everyone was busy, I drove. I drove all over the city, and a little beyond, too. For hours I just drove--the shortcuts I'd take to jobs, to high school friend's houses, to churches I'd spent so much time in, by several of the places I'd lived, by favorite coffee shops, by my beloved high school (which is no longer). I've been back to Baton Rouge several times since I moved almost 15 years ago, and each time I seem to have a yen for a different kind of reminiscing.  I drove through the campus this time, but mostly just frustratingly, as the traffic snarl that meant 45 minutes for a 5 minute drive impeded my flow.  I'd been to those special spots around my alma mater that were particularly meaningful for one reason or another on several former trips.  This time, I was simply connecting the dots between one personal landmark and another.  

It is said that you can never go home again.  And that's not all true.  You can go home again.  It's just that it's never the same.  And neither are you.  And in the time you were away, you made, for yourself, a new home.  

Baton Rouge has changed since Hurricane Katrina (they refer to the days before as Pre-K), helped it grow roughly twice it's size overnight.  The burgeoning infrastructure of a city unprepared for a migratory onslaught is still wrestling with problems of overpopulation, including traffic, crime and health care issues the bulk of which not previously experienced. But, happily, there are still signs of the city I called home for many years.  And I soaked them all in until I felt full.  Until it felt familiar again.  Until I remembered.  And then it was time to go home.

Because the perfect ending for a vacation is having spent enough time, but not too much, to complete the adventure, and then being happy that you're heading home.  It's that sweet spot of bliss, right there, having been with people you love, having been loved, and going home to the one you love.

Perhaps the 3 hours I was trapped in traffic in the middle of the day in order to get out of town fueled the relief that was palpable in my voice, but once over the Mississippi River Bridge (upon which one of those hours was spent), I called to let my partner know....

"Hey, sweetheart.  I'm coming home."

Of course there would still be stops along the way home, although my loose plans had turned into, whatever, wherever, whenever due to the harrowing journey by car that a Friday afternoon in South Louisiana looks like these days.  Many of the stops I'd planned will wait for another day, but one place was not to be overlooked.

And it was there that I procured what many in the area still believe is the best to be had, boudin balls, and cracklin's.  Six boudin balls, (they weren't all that big and I'd been craving them for weeks!) and when asked how many cracklin's, I replied 'enough to get me home'.  Cause that's how we roll through those parts, we expatriates that learned to eat in Louisiana, but now call all manner of points beyond, home:  We load our coolers and tote boudin balls and cracklin's and hope beyond all hope for good coffee along the road back home, and the good sense to stop eating before we get sick.  

Luckily, I did.  I stopped just in time to have cracklin's left to fulfill the purpose for which I'd bought them in the first place. The boudin balls had no such purpose so they were ghost food by the time I reached the Austin city limits, headed back to the place I now call home.

road trip: heavenly day at hausbar farms

road trip!
notes from maggie's farm

This month's Slow Food Austin Happy Hour was held at the farm and home of Susan Hausmann and Dorsey Barger, Hausbar Farms.  I was lucky enough to steal away a little bit of time from my own farm to join the party, meet my fellow blogger/friend Christy Horton, mingle with a few acquaintances, and be inspired by Dorsey and Susan's little piece of urban heaven.

Located in the hippest of spots on the East Side of Austin, the farm is a source of local vegetables, eggs, and meat for Eastside Cafe, co-owned by Barger, and located on Manor Road.  

The weather was perfect, the food, sourced directly from the farm and prepared by Chef Matt Taylor of BC Tavern, was fresh and tasty, and the cocktails by Tipsy Texans, David Alan and Joe Eiflerwere, were freely flowing. Softly wafting musical strains filled the air, provided by Jerry Hagins and Crew. The guests, and their hosting animals, all decked out in their best farm-finery. It was an idyllic evening.  Hats off to Slow Food, and Hausbar Farms for sharing with us a storybook gathering.  I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story...

Read More about Hausbar Farms:

Also, find more information about Slow Food Austin,  and its parent organizations, Slow Food USA, and Slow Food International, at the links provided.

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