thirsty thursday: the wine margarita at austin's mean-eyed cat

If you're a fan of the Man in Black, you owe it to yourself to get to The Mean-Eyed Cat. It's open everyday, I hear.

On a most excellent get-away-for-the-day with my friend, Christy Horton of Epicuriosities, we found ourselves capping an Austin-perfect adventure with a stop at The Mean-Eyed Cat, 1621 5th Street, Downtown.

Christy graciously invited me to drag myself out of the country to be her 'plus one' for a local media tour, a 4-hour jaunt designed to hit the most-cool high spots of Austin natives.  We'll be reviewing the whole afternoon, courtesy of Sherpalux, soon.  Meanwhile, we're back at the Cat.

The concept is all Cash, all the time. 

First-timer here, and I was starry-eyed.  There were fantastic photo-ops around, above, below, inside, and maybe underneath, every corner. Camera to face, I was not to be heard from for the following hour. And anyone will tell you, that's a rare occurrence, my friend.

Titles and lyrics from Mr. Cash's songs, both popular and rare, are scattered upon benches, over tables, along the walls, and any other blank spot to be found. Even the most ardent fan will be challenged, and often amused, by even the most obscure references.

On the path from front door, to back, and all points in between, just walking through promises to be the best tour-on-foot in Austin.

You can belly up to the weathered bar, or find a dimly-lit, quiet, or not so, corner or table, perfect for solitary libations, or a raucous group of memory-seekers.  

Pull out your tattered copy of Kerouac, shoot some pool, tap your foot to some live music, look like a local, or shed the burden of cool and just be the 'turist' you might be.

The Mean-Eyed Cat serves beer and wine--no hard stuff--but they get pretty creative in the mixology.  I had their wine-based margarita, and while I may lose my cred amongst my tequila aficionado friends (I'm looking at you, Tequila Bob), I have to say I liked it!  While it wasn't exactly the standard-bearer for the local favorite, it was light and refreshing, no funky artificial flavors to throw things off, and just what the doctor ordered to cool off on a hot, late afternoon.

So I made one at home. Having no idea how to do so. That's the convoluted way in which I roll. I just substituted a favorite dry white wine for the tequila, and proceeded thusly......

The Fly-By-The-Seat-Of-Your-Pants Wine Margarita

In a cocktail shaker, I combined

  • 2 ounces of dry white wine
  • 1 ounce of Triple Sec (yeah, I was going for cheap and easy, here.  Grand Marnier would be the top shelf much-less-cheap, and still easy choice for those whose budgets allow)
  • the juice of 3 limes
  • a squeeze of a lemon wedge 
  • and crushed ice to fill.  

I tossed in a pinch of salt--I like how the salt enhances the sweetness, but I'm not a fan of the salted rim for health reasons. Certainly juice and salt a rim if you are. Transfer well-shaken contents to your favorite glass, and enjoy.

I had two. I think I found my mojo and didn't even know it was lost.

Now, I'm a woman of a certain age and occupation that no longer considers time or money well-spent in the bars, but an interesting place to whittle away an afternoon, that's neither packed with high-heeled twenty-somethings, nor rife with thirty, forty, or fifty-something trustfund smooth operators, well, that's more my style.  Tucked into a corner that looks like it could have been the home away from home for John Steinbeck and his Grapes of Wrath?  That's even better.  And surrounded by memories of the myth and the Man in Black?  Fascinating.  

I just love this place. Love it. Love, love, love it. I knew I had to tell you about it.  Because....

words for wednesday: the library of congress' poetry 180

I used to lie on the floor for hours after
school with the phone cradled between
my shoulder and my ear, a plate of cold
rice to my left, my school books to my right.
Twirling the cord between my fingers
I spoke to friends who recognized the
language of our realm. Throats and lungs
swollen, we talked into the heart of the night,
toying with the idea of hair dye and suicide,
about the boys who didn’t love us, 
who we loved too much, the pang
of the nights. Each sentence was
new territory, like a door someone was
rushing into, the glass shattering
with delirium, with knowledge and fear.
My Mother never complained about the phone bill,
what it cost for her daughter to disappear
behind a door, watching the cord
stretching its muscle away from her.
Perhaps she thought it was the only way
she could reach me, sending me away
to speak in the underworld.
As long as I was speaking
she could put my ear to the tenuous earth
and allow me to listen, to decipher.
And these were the elements of my Mother,
the earthed wire, the burning cable,
as if she flowed into the room with
me to somehow say, Stay where I can reach you,
the dim room, the dark earth. Speak of this
and when you feel removed from it
I will pull the cord and take you
back towards me.

From Waiting for My Clothes, 2004
Bloodaxe Books

Poetry 180 is a Library of Congress program designed to expose high school students to poetry by having one poem read aloud in high schools across the country each school day.  Poems are curated by Billy Collins, former poet laureate of the United States.  
Learn More...

tips for tuesday: the why and how of whole grains


A few weeks ago, I received a bounty of goodness in the mail, courtesy of Hodgson Mill, through the generous giveaway hosted by my friend, the uber-talented Mary Helen of Mary Makes Dinner.  

Contained therein, enough whole-grain pasta to keep my family in wholesome eating for months!  It really was quite a haul.  Also included, the Hodgson Mill Whole Grain Baking Cookbook that is chockful of hundreds of recipes for savory and sweet, traditional breads, and not-so traditional treats, too.  The recipe for savory whole grain blue cheese sesame muffins with rosemary, featured on our recent post, Muffin, Friend?, was based upon an easy recipe that I discovered among pages of I'm-going-to-try-that!s that I played around with a bit, and look forward to calling on, again.  

I've long been a fan of Hodgson Mill, as they offer the best variety of whole grains, and are a company I have come to trust. They are my go-to source for flours, cereals, whole grains, and even gluten free products. 

We have switched from plain to whole grain in all of our pasta-based meals--at first for the health benefits, and now because we love the toothy, hearty bite that the more processed refined pastas leave behind.

But why whole grain?

"Whole grains are chock-full of nutrients and complex carbohydrates that speed up metabolism by stabilizing our insulin levels. Slow-release carbs, such as oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa offer long-lasting energy, without the spikes associated with other sugar-rich foods. We want to keep our insulin levels low, as spikes in this chemical tell the body that it needs to begin storing extra fat." --  Global Healing Center

And that's the skinny, in a nutshell.  Or, rather, in an outer bran, as the case may be.

"In addition to regulating blood sugar levels, the fiber in whole grains improves cholesterol ratios and aids the digestive system. A recent government study even linked the fiber found in whole grains specifically to longer life (a lower risk of death at any age from common fatal conditions such as cardiovascular, respiratory and infectious diseases and possibly even cancer)." -- Dr. Andrew Weil

General tips on cooking with whole grains

For most grains, rinse prior to cooking to remove any debris (rolled oats and kasha are exceptions). It's particularly important to rinse quinoa, which has soap-like components called saponins that can taste bitter and have a laxative effect. To rinse, place in a bowl of cold water and swish around with your fingers, refilling the water once or twice. Drain in a fine-meshed strainer.

The instructions given for each grain here are for stovetop preparation. But you can also use a rice or pressure cooker for any whole grain instead of a pot on the burner; just know that the cooking times and liquid ratios provided may need to be adjusted.

To reduce cooking time for longer-cooking grains, pre-soak them for a few hours or overnight (with the exception of quinoa, which has a bitter coating that can be absorbed if soaked; rinse quinoa briefly instead).

Except where stirring or uncovering is suggested, don’t remove the lid while cooking grains, as it disrupts the steaming process.

If you are watching your sodium intake, feel free to cook your grains in unsalted water. Otherwise, one-fourth teaspoon of sea salt goes a long way (add salt when you combine grain and water in the pot). Alternatively, try using vegetable broth as the cooking liquid, or for a more exotic flavor, a 50/50 mixture of water and juice. You can even add a splash of wine or dried herbs.

It’s generally a good idea to purchase grains in bulk, except where otherwise noted. Some grains such as rice and oats are found at typical supermarkets, but you will have better luck finding more obscure grains, such as teff and amaranth, at your local natural foods store. For all grains, opt for organic varieties from the bulk bins of health food stores whenever possible - they have higher turnover rates, which improves the likelihood of freshness.

Store in tightly sealed containers in the pantry (or another cool, dry, dark place). Even better: store in the refrigerator if you have room. Unless otherwise noted, properly stored grains can last up to one year.  (Courtesy of Dr. Andrew Weil.)

For more information about whole grains, be sure to stop by

Hodgsons Mill
Dr Weil's Healthy Kitchen
Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Optimum Health: Dr. Oz & Dr. Andrew Weil
and for healthy, and fun, eating, don't miss my very clever friend at Mary Makes Dinner

if a blade of grass springing up...

notes from maggie's farm

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive. 

Eleonora Duse 

they sit together on the porch...

saturday simplicity
notes from maggie's farm

The porch, at Springdale Farm.

They Sit Together on the Porch

They sit together on the porch, the dark
Almost fallen, the house behind them dark.
Their supper done with, they have washed and dried
The dishes–only two plates now, two glasses,
Two knives, two forks, two spoons–small work for two.
She sits with her hands folded in her lap,
At rest. He smokes his pipe. They do not speak,
And when they speak at last it is to say
What each one knows the other knows. They have
One mind between them, now, that finally
For all its knowing will not exactly know
Which one goes first through the dark doorway, bidding
Goodnight, and which sits on a while alone.

From "A Timbered Choir", by Wendell Berry.

On the Road: Austin Food Blogger Alliance at Springdale Farms

on the road 
notes from maggie's farm

We're going to be PUBLISHED, y'all.

Well, let me clarify.  We're going to have some food, and some pictures, published in a community cookbook, if all pass muster.

We are absolutely over the moon at the prospect. And we're proud as punch to be a part of the community of Austin Food Blogger Alliance, which is producing the collection, and provided the opportunity for us to all get together for a sampling of many of the dishes included in the book, recipes for which were tested by fellow members.  

We were hosted by the lovely Springdale Farm, who graciously handed over their personal space, along with the gorgeous grounds, for us to use in photographing dishes, and gnoshing together amid the pastoral setting. All of the farm-lovely nooks and crannies left us swooning.  I had to get a few shots of non-dishes, too, natch.

If you're in the area, do make a trip to Springdale Farms for the public farm stand they operate every Wednesday and Saturday, from 9-1pm, for  They offer the very best seasonal vegetables and eggs for purchase. If you're lucky, you might just catch Fatback Boucherie, which provides delectable creole fare from a food trailer on the grounds. 

And do stay tuned for what's sure to be a diverse and delicious glimpse of Austin's diverse food blogger world, with the publication of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance cookbook, out soon! You might just see a little bit of this, and this, if we're lucky!

Have a lovely weekend!

savory whole grain blue cheese & sesame muffins with rosemary

meatless monday
notes from maggie's farm

We have new neighbors, I'm told.

The home on the property next to ours has been vacant for over a year.  The grass grew higher than the fence, and we had taken to tethering the goats along the property line to take advantage of the overgrowth, and keep the brush, thus the snake population, down.  
But it's looked awfully sad over there for some time.  The high winds did its fair share of damage to the house, and it had become quite an eyesore.  

A few weeks ago we came home to find the entire property mowed, and repairs made to the home.  A few weeks later, we saw that someone had hauled away refuse, and torn down a half-built shed on the property.  Things were looking up.

There had never been any indication that the property was for sale, nor sold, so we could only guess what the signs indicated.  

This Sunday afternoon, while I napped, a big shiny white minivan arrived, and a perfectly respectable family spilled out in front of the home.  Reports held that they appeared to be unloading some things.  By the time I awoke, there was no shiny white minivan or family, but I'm holding out hope that they'll be back.

I whipped up a housewarming batch just in case.  It'll be so nice to see a golden glow in their windows, and signs and sounds of happy life filling the property that's been so lonely, so long.

Perfect with a bowl of steamy soup, these savory muffin bites are chockful of flavor with their creamy, pungent blue cheese nip complemented by the pep of red chile pepper and herbal freshness of earthy rosemary.  Sesame in, and on, paired with whole grains, give these elegant little jewels a moist and almost chewy texture that stands up well to the heartiest of soups or stews you set them aside, and make a lovely little snack accompanied by nothing more than a smidgen of butter.  

Adapted from Hodgson Mill Whole Grain Baking cookbook, Insta-Bake Easy Bake Muffins (p352), we added fresh rosemary, chopped fresh red chiles, sesame seed, and blue cheese.  You could vary these additions to suit your taste.  You could even keep their original sweeter version's ingredient proportions, and add a sweet touch of raisins or berries. Our plans for the next batch include fresh thyme and swiss cheese. Don't you just love a recipe you can tweak to make all kinds of flavors? The basic recipe calls for

We added the love.  I bet you will, too

2 and 1/4 cups Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Insta-Bake Mix
1 T sugar
1 t kosher salt
2 medium eggs
1 and 1/4 cup whole milk
2 and 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup sesame seeds, plus a few tablespoons for topping
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
4 T chopped fresh red chiles (we left in the seeds, but if you'd prefer a milder pepper kick, seed and remove ribs of chiles before chopping.)
4 T chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, Fahrenheit. Line 12 medium, or about 2 dozen mini muffin cups with paper liners. 

Combine mix, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl.  Add remaining ingredients until just moistened. Fill muffin cups about two-thirds full. Sprinkle tops with remaining sesame seeds.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes for medium-sized muffins, or 12-15 minutes for mini muffins, or until tops are golden, and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Now, I'm going to wrap these up with a quart of home-canned tomato soup and set out to make some new neighbor friends.  I'm hoping to pay it forward for those days when our dog might just sneak under the fence to stop in for a visit. She's friendly that way. 

Wish me luck!

This post featured on

running with the 'in crowd': momofuku's chicken and octo vinaigrette

freestyle friday
notes from maggie's farm

I've always eschewed the 'big thing'. If it's the trendy thing to do, it's the thing I wouldn't do. If stacked bobs were in fashion, I was growing my hair out. When long hair was in fashion, I wore a short shag. If country blue was the color-of-the-moment with which to decorate, I went powdery pink. Rustic?  I went victorian. Vampire novels in?  Im reading the classics. Macarena? Foxtrot. Earth shoes? Mules. Mules? Earth shoes.  You get the idea. Pretty much my 'style' was to not be 'in style'. Nothing's really changed.

So when the whole Momofuku buzz started up around the food blogs, I was not hopping on that train.  Hmph, i thought. A Japanese restaurant really had this fabulous fried chicken? And they dip it in this vinaigrette? Wha?? My sweet grandmother must be rolling over. I am a loyalist. My Gana had the best fried chicken. period. Nobody is changing my mind about that. 
But I must admit, Gana's fried chicken, just like most traditional fried chicken, is a tad labor intensive. And, okay, a little um, well, indulgent. (oh it pains me to type that.) And messy. I generally emerge from the kitchen with a beautiful plate of golden fried, but battered head to toe, and leaving a fine layer of flour over most surfaces. I've never gotten to the point where I could present it as 'company food'. It's usually a most-of-the day proposition, too.  I'm going to keep working on that. In the meantime…….
After all of the hullabaloo, I caved to peer pressure, and decided I had to try it out, expecting fully that this post would be about how crazy the idea that Momofuku's chicken was so delicious that some people favored it over the real deal. And friends, what I came to realize, is...... that there is a place at the table for traditional and trendy.  Shut my mouth!  I'm not about to say it's better than my sweet grandmother's--those words simply cannot form themselves. However, come to find out, like the stacked bob and the updo, there's room enough at our table for both.

So, my sweet babydolls, let's make some Momofuku Fried Chicken.
From Leite's Culinaria*, and straight from the chef's mouth….

Momofuku’s Fried Chicken Recipe
4 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
One 3- to 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 4 or 8 pieces
4 cups grapeseed or other neutral cooking oil
1. Combine the water, sugar, and salt in a large container with a lid or a large freezer bag, and stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Pat the chicken dry. Add the chicken pieces to the brine, cover or seal, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and no more than 6 hours.
2. Set up a steamer on the stove. Drain the chicken and discard the brine. Put the chicken in the steamer basket (if you are using a stacking Chinese- style bamboo steamer, put the legs in the bottom level and the breast on the top). Turn the heat to medium and set the lid of the steamer ever so slightly ajar. Steam the chicken for 40 minutes, then remove it from the steamer and place it on a cooling rack to cool. Chill it in the refrigerator, preferably on the rack, for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

3. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you fry it.
4. Pour enough oil for the chicken to be submerged into a deep skillet. Heat it to 350°F (175°C). Fry the chicken in batches, turning once, until the skin is deep brown and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove to a paper towel–lined plate or a cut up brown paper bag to drain.

5. If you haven’t already, cut the wing from the breast, cut the breast in half, and cut through the “knee” to separate the thigh from the drumstick. Place the chicken in a large bowl, toss with the vinaigrette, and serve hot.
Momofuku’s Octo Vinaigrette Recipe

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 fresh bird’s eye or Serrano chile, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup usukuchi (light soy sauce)
2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
1/4 teaspoon Asian (toasted) sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Fresh ground black pepper

To make the octo vinaigrette, combine the garlic, ginger, chile, vinegar, soy, grapeseed oil, sesame oil, sugar, and a few turns of black pepper in a lidded container and shake well to mix. That’s it.

(This will keep in the fridge for 4 to 5 days, and is good on everything except ostrich eggs, which is really more the ostrich’s fault than the vinaigrette’s.)

We served this luscious platter-full with a simple, lightly steamed slaw of broccoli, with stems peeled and sliced, yellow squash, and red cabbage, sliced thinly, roasted peanuts, ground, and tossed with the same vinaigrette, above. Perfect accompaniment.

So, you ask, how is this healthy? It is fried, after all. Well, lemme show you how much oil this non-battered fried chicken retains ---------------->;                                                                                                               Yep, that is the oil, drained, and rebottled after frying.  It's less than an eighth of an inch lower than it's original level. And that's for the entire chicken. I think that's a winner.

*Upon the date of this recipe's first blog posting, I was quite green regarding proper 'blog etiquette'.  Although I did have a modest amount of wherewithal, and attributed Leite's Culinaria, above, I posted without asking, or even contacting David Leite, or his gracious team.  However, to show you what nice people produce the work that I have followed since my first days on social media, never a word was said.  In fact, it was with great honor that I received the very nicest email from David's editor, Renee, asking if they might use a picture of the Octo Vinaigrette, from above. I am absolutely over the moon to be represented by photo on the site that I've so admired.  Please do visit the site, connect on social media--heck, send them a pie!  Name your new puppy 'Leite'!  David and his team are so lovely, and beyond that, smart, informative, and funny, funny, funny.  Thank you, David and Renee!

cocktails 101: juicing

thirsty thursday
notes from maggie's farm

Something about glamour interested me. All my schoolbooks had drawings of women on terraces with a cocktail and a cigarette.--Bill Blass
Well, my terrace may be the front porch, and that cigarette is replaced by a shovel, but at the end of the day, a special kind of farm glamour is often celebrated, and punctuated, with a cocktail.

Alcohol or none, it does feel so glamorous to sip on a sweet or sour, herbal or unctuous balm from a pretty little glass.

And it seems glamour, and ease, go hand in hand. So let's make easy work of those tasty, fruity little liquid jewels-in-a-glass.

Beyond the easy squeeze of citrus, juicing fruit and some vegetables requires a little more ingenuity.

If you have a fancy schmancy juicer, no need to read further.

But, yikes, those things can be pretty complicated to clean, and occasionally, I'd just like to get the job done without calling in the custodial team. (Okay, I don't have a custodial team.  It just sounded so good in my mind.)

But the blender?  The food processor?  They're right at hand.  So say I want a little kiwi juice for some exotic cocktail I've never had?  Well, the steps are the same with almost any fruit--even tomatoes*.  Yes, tomatoes are a fruit.  Crazy, huh?

  1. Peel the any fruits that don't have soft skins.  Kiwi, pineapple, melons?  Peel.  Peaches, Nectarines, Berries, Tomatoes?  Don't peel.
  2. Cut it all up.  Doesn't have to be perfect, but the smaller the better--more juice.
  3. Fill the blender carafe or processor bowl about half-full.  
  4. Whip it real good.  (I was thinking of an 80's song.  Thank you, Devo. Now I'll be singing it all weekend.)
  5. Dump the contents into a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl.  Press the contents a little, but not too hard, or you'll have a cloudy juice.  Unless, of course, you're aiming for cloudy juice.

The remaining pulp is great for baked goods, muffins, chickens, or mixologists.  That's you.  You're the mixologist.

A very glamorous mixologist.

*If you're working with tomatoes, salt them lightly, and let sit for about 30 minutes.  You'll yield scads more juice.  Juice for something like, um, oh, one of these, or these?

sidekicks: poetry 180

(almost) wordless wednesday
notes from maggie's farm


Ronald Koertge 

They were never handsome and often came
with a hormone imbalance manifested by corpulence,
a yodel of a voice or ears big as kidneys.

But each was brave. More than once a sidekick
has thrown himself in front of our hero in order
to receive the bullet or blow meant for that
perfect face and body.

Thankfully, heroes never die in movies and leave
the sidekick alone. He would not stand for it.
Gabby or Pat, Pancho or Andy remind us of a part
of ourselves,

the dependent part that can never grow up,
the part that is painfully eager to please,
always wants a hug and never gets enough.

Who could sit in a darkened theatre, listen
to the organ music and watch the best
of ourselves lowered into the ground while
the rest stood up there, tears pouring off
that enormous nose.

from Life on the Edge of the Continent: Selected Poems, 1982
University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Ark.

Poetry 180 is a Library of Congress program designed to expose high school students to poetry by having one poem read aloud in high schools across the country each school day.  Poems are curated by Billy Collins, former poet laureate of the United States.  

Learn More...

On Disabilities: The World According to Mister Rogers

notes from maggie's farm

Part of the problem with the word 'disabilities' is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can't feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren't able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities. ― Fred RogersThe World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

Note on Photo: The image above was posted on Facebook, with no attribution.  If you are aware of the source, please comment below, so that I might give proper credit.  Thank you.

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