Savor The Earth

eat tastier, eat greener, eat cheaper

Texas Fig Brownies August 31, 2009

Filed under: cookies/brownies,dessert,easy,fast,figs — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 5:20 pm

gettin' figgy with it

Lately you can find Texas figs at the markets, down the block, and maybe even in your own yard.  I bought my pint from the Lightsey Farms booth at Sunset Valley Farmers Market.  Figs grow well in our part of the world.  I just wish I had more horizontal sunny real estate to grow my own.  From what I understand, bumper crops of these sweet, tender fruits are the norm.  I imagine I’d be putting figs into everything from newtons, cheese plates and canning jars, to these here brownies. Lushly cakey/fudgy, this batch of chocolaty treats didn’t even survive until evening.  Who can resist such ambrosia?

TEXAS FIG BROWNIES makes one 9″ square panful

  • 4 ounces (1 stick) butter.  Organic Valley is my choice.  Click for coupons.
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped.  Scharffenberger is on sale right now at Central Market, 9.7 ounce baking-size bar for $7.19.
  • 4 ounces de-stemmed fresh Texas figs (about 1 cup), finely chopped.  I prefer the darker varieties for this recipe (Mission, Black Turkey).
  • 150 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar.  Organic sugar is available in bulk at Whole Foods and CM for $1.49 a pound.
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, local of course.
  • 91 grams (3/4 cup) organic all-purpose flour.  I’m using WF 365 organic brand at the moment.  A best buy at $4.69 per 5# bag.
  • 1 Tablespoon natural (not Dutch-processed) cocoa powder.  I like Dagoba organic.
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Baked brownies cling tenaciously to their baking pans, so I always line mine with a sheet of aluminum foil.  I turn the pan upside down and drape and mold the foil to the underside of the pan.  This makes it a cinch to fit the foil into the pan with neat corners.  Grease your foil however you choose.  Sometimes I use a brush and softened butter or neutral-flavored oil, sometimes I use baking or cooking spray.  Use whatever’s handy for you.  The foil will do most of the work.  Preheat your oven to 350º.  This recipe works great in the toaster oven.  The figs help the batter bake up evenly moist.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat.  Stir frequently to prevent scorching and promote blending.  On my electric stove-top (pity me!), I can turn the burner off when the mixture is almost fully fluid and utilize the residual heat to complete the melting.  Stir in the figs, then the sugar, salt and vanilla.  Mix in the eggs until well blended.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.  Stir these dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake until a bamboo skewer (washable and reusable!) or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached (not clean—that’s overbaked), about 35 minutes.  In my toaster oven, I lay a piece of foil on top of the pan after 15-20 minutes to prevent overbrowning.  You probably don’t need to concern yourself with that in the big oven.

Like all brownies, these sweets are hard to resist when hot from the oven.  But lift the whole square out of the pan using the foil, and let them cool if you can.   The nectarous, floral and honeyed tones of the figs and chocolate will reward your patience with a waltz of flavors in your mouth.

And then they’ll be gone.


 

Wafflin’ August 30, 2009

Filed under: bread,breakfast,easy — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 2:41 pm

Recently Gourmet magazine published, by request, an incredible waffle recipe from Brown Sugar Kitchen in West Oakland, California.  Wow!  Light and crispy as a cicada’s wing, these butterful squares (rounds at the restaurant), are frankly irresistible.  Gourmet has not posted their adapted version of Brown Sugar Kitchen’s recipe online.  In lieu of a link, then, I offer to you my own rendition of cornmeal waffles.  Yeasty and yummy, a Sunday second breakfast worth sharing.

You’ll need to start this batter the night before your breakfasty ecstacy.

RAISED CORNMEAL WAFFLES

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, melted and cooled.  I prefer Organic Valley.  Check out their $1 OFF coupons.
  • 1 Tablespoon regular yeast (not rapid rise,instant, or “bread machine”)
  • 3/4 cup warm water–not hot
  • 1 cup yogurt, preferably local, whole milk is best.
  • 2 cups whole milk.  I use goat milk from Swede Farm Dairy
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turbinado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • 3 eggs, local of course.  Easy to find at our farmers markets, except in hottest and coldest weather.
  • 1 cup cornmeal, organic, please.  I use Arrowhead Mills yellow.
  • 182 grams (1 1/2 cups) organic all-purpose flour.  I’m using Whole Foods organic in the 5# bag.  Only $4.69!
  • 60 grams (scant 1/2 cup) organic white whole wheat flour.  I buy King Arthur brand from WF in the 5# bag.
  • 3/8 teaspoon baking soda

Pour the water into a small bowl and sprinkle with the yeast.  I never proof my yeast, as I keep it stored in the freezer and use it up regularly.  If that’s not the case in your kitchen, check your yeast/water bowl for foaming after about 15 minutes.  If you detect no foamy signs of life, begin again with fresh yeast.

In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt and the next four ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the cornmeal and flours.  Whisk the yeast mixture into the wet ingredients, then whisk in the dry ingredients until smooth.  Finally, whisk in the butter.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate the batter overnight, at least 8 hours.  In the morning, the mixture will sport an expanded mantle of bubbled-up batter. Before cooking the waffles, sprinkle the baking soda through a fine-meshed sieve onto the batter and whisk it in thoroughly.

Heat up your waffle iron.  I spray mine first with Spectrum organic high heat sunflower oil cooking spray.  Whole Foods sells this product.  Your iron may accept anywhere from 2/3 cup to 1 cup batter, depending on its size.  Read your instructions if you have them.  Or wing it until you get your waffler figured out.  My current iron uses 1 cup of batter (divided between two waffle squares) and bakes up toasty brown waffles in 4 minutes.  You’ll have to experiment and calculate the perfect time for your idea of “toasty brown”.

If there’s no army of sleepyheads occupying your kitchen to greedily gobble each waffle as it’s baked, you can keep your batch warm on a baking sheet (layer of one, please) in a preheated 250º oven.  We don’t need to go through all that around here.  I’m still lactating so I keep that stream of cooked waffles in check.  We lay them out on a cooling rack just long enough to get the plates and syrup.


Speaking of syrup, Newflower Market is still selling Shady Maple Farms organic maple syrup, grade A dark amber and grade B, 1 quart, for only $17.99.  That’s a steal!  I like local honey mixed with my syrup.  …MMMMMaple!

If you have waffles leftover (this recipe makes a generous batch), you can wrap ’em and freeze ’em.  Reheat them in the toaster oven under a watchful eye.

By the way, I haven’t bought a new (as in NIB) waffle iron in probably 20 years, since I purchased my Bugs Bunny waffle iron (the one that started all this waffle madness).  I always find waffle irons at the thrift store, sometimes vintage specimens, other times contemporary equipment.  For this recipe, and most of the other waffles I cook, I prefer the deep-divot Belgian-style waffle irons.  You may come across square irons that bake either one large or two medium-sized waffles, or the round style, which seems to be made in a fairly standard size. For probably no more than $5 to $7, you can ascend to breakfast heaven, and save yourself a trip to the west coast.

 

Greening Risotto (a la Apron Adventures) August 28, 2009

Filed under: easy,green makeovers,rice — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 7:48 pm

Austin’s Apron Adventurer recently posted a scrumptious sounding recipe for Mushroom Risotto.  If you wanna green it up, try it out with:   Hairston Creek Farm organic onions in place of the shallots, organic arborio rice (check out RiceSelect for coupons), homemade chicken stock, Kitchen Pride portobellos (available at our farmers markets and Whole Foods and Central Market), and local zucchini and tomato.  For the goat cheese, we Texans can choose from numerous local options:  Pure Luck Farm and Dairy, Swede Farm Dairy, Wateroak Farms, and more!  I use either WF365 or CM Organics organic balsamic vinegars for cooking.  They’re both tasty and good values.

A great dish, a green dish!

 

Salmon Sales and Cheap Chocolate

Filed under: easy,fast,fish,grilling — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 1:29 pm

king salmon

If you’re looking for something excellent to throw on the grill this weekend, perhaps an enviably-nutritious, sustainably procured, luscious and easily prepared protein, look no further than Central Market’s wild king salmon from the Rosario Strait in Washington state.  On sale for the low, low price of just $9.99 a pound (normally $24.99/pound), I believe CM has made me an offer I can’t refuse.

Prepping salmon for the grill is simple.  I like to leave the skin on, for moisture, and slather my slab with a mixture of mustard (organic) and honey (local) and fresh herbs like Mexican mint marigold (Texas tarragon–grows practically unassisted in my yard), lemon verbena—this bush requires some tough love pruning–and chives (my garlic chives outperform my regular chives year round).  Season with lots of black pepper and a little salt.  And don’t overcook your beautiful fish.  Medium-hot coals should cook your fillet at the rate of about 8 minutes per inch of thickness.  I like to grill one large piece of salmon w/o flipping it if the fillet’s not too thick.

For dessert, check out Whole Foods for Green & Black’s chocolate bars on special for only $1.50 each (milk chocolate and dark chocolate w/cherry varieties).  If you still have a coupon or two for G & B from the last Whole Deal issue ($1 OFF any G & B product) you can buy yourself a delicious organic 3.5 ounce chocolate bar for a mere 50¢.  That’s like 1970’s prices!

 

Stock Tips August 26, 2009

Filed under: easy,slow cooker — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 12:03 pm

In the interest of frugality, and not just some innate compulsion (someone I know might disagree), I save all kindsa scraps.  Stored in a plastic bag in the freezer, my collection can include everything from the usual meat trimmings, bones, onion ends, carrot tops and leek greens, to rejected apple and pear chunks, parsley, celery and mushroom stems, gingerroot parings, fresh fennel prunings, and the occasional fresh dill snippings.  I let my stash grow until,  much like the Blob, my bag refuses to fit into its quarters and the other frozen residents lemming out onto the floor.  Then I make homemade stock.  I’m not brewing a French mother sauce here, so my cavalier method serves our kitchen well.

SLOW COOKER STOCK yield varies

  • 6-quart or so slow cooker
  • biggish bag of scraps.  Meat scraps contribute a more savory taste to your jus.
  • bay leaf
  • water
  • a couple whole garlic cloves, maybe a sprig or two of fresh thyme.  A few peppercorns and a clove are fine.

Put all the ingredients into your slow cooker.  You’ll need enough scraps to fill your crock to the brim.  If your trimmings are frozen, keep in mind that they’ll shrink down as they thaw, so don’t be afraid to pack ’em in.  Pour in enough water to just cover your clippings, put the lid on the cooker and turn it on to High.  If the weather’s hot, don’t forget to set your stock project outside in a safe spot, to keep that heat where it belongs.  Let it cook for about an hour, then lower the heat setting to LOW, and just let it simmer about 12 hours, give or take a couple hours.  It should smell terrific!


When the time’s up, strain your stock.  If you have pets, at this point they will be keenly interested in your work.  Actually the aroma of the bubbling broth will have already driven them to following you around the house all day.  Depending on the species, they may stare at you with pleading eyes, or constantly rub against your legs. That’s love!

I use a large colander set over a bowl to first spoon out the large pieces.  Then I pour the remaining liquid through a fine mesh sieve—actually I use a splatter screen, a cheap choice you can find at most any thrift store.


Let your broth cool to close to room temperature.  The wider your bowl (or other vessel—I sometimes use a couple of aluminum roasting pans to speed things up), the quicker the cooling.  If your house isn’t frigid, get a fan blowing on your bowl.  When your distillation is ready for refrigeration, lay a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the liquid.  After chilling in the fridge, the fat that has risen to the top will adhere (mostly) to the wrap and you can peel it off.  I normally save this fat for cooking.  Poultry fat lends great taste to stir-fries.  And of course, if you’ve included some fatty ham bits in your infusion, you know what cured pork fat can do for your cooking!


You can use your broth right away, or store it for a few days in the coldest part of your refrigerator.  I usually pack my stock into containers and put them in  the freezer.  Honey, I shrunk the Blob!


 

Queen Quinoa August 25, 2009

Filed under: baby,easy,fast,grains,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 3:23 pm

quite quinoa

By all accounts quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse.  A complete protein, it’s also high in iron—good for baby.  For my palate, however, quinoa needs a little help.  I always make my own stocks and broths, even with a baby on board, but I can’t be pouring all my fluid flavor into the quinoa pot.  We eat too much of the stuff.  So I tried out some bouillon cubes from Whole Foods.  Before I had kids I shunned convenience products.  I had never so much as used canned coconut milk—my how things change!

Edward & Sons natural bouillon cubes are vegan and gluten-free.  Available in three flavors, Garden Veggie, Not-Chick’n, and Not-Beef (plus Low Sodium Veggie), just one of these squares yields a savory batch of quinoa that everyone around here loves.  Here’s how we do it:

YUMMY QUINOA

  • 1 cup raw quinoa, well rinsed.  I use a fine mesh sieve and wash the grains in running water, 1/2 cup at a time.
  • 1 natural bouillon cube of your choice.  Not-Chick’n is our favorite.
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric.  I fell in love with this spice when I fell for Indian food.  One of seven McCormick-christened “Super Spices” (as part of their curry powder blend), turmeric boasts high antioxidant levels.  In scientific studies, turmeric is showing anti-cancer, anti-inflammation, and anti-dementia potential.  Plus it colors your food a cheerful and enticing shade of yellow.  I almost always, for any preparation, toss cut-up eggplant with turmeric and a bit of salt before frying/sauteing, by the way.
  • a spot of olive oil.  You know, a teaspoon or so.
  • about 2 cups plus 3 Tablespoons water.  The amount of liquid required can vary depending on the brand of quinoa.  Lately I’ve been cooking up WF’s bulk offering.

Put everything in your pan.  I like to use a skillet (10″  is good) with a well-fitting glass lid (so I can spy on the cookin’s a goin’ on in there).  I find many grains, and most rice pilafs, cook more evenly in a wide, shallow vessel, than in a saucepan.  When cooking larger quantities this is especially helpful.  Bring it all to a full boil over high heat, put the lid on, turn the heat down to low and cook for 20 minutes.

After I turn the heat off, I like to remove the lid and check for doneness and moisture level.  If there’s a little excess liquid, I leave the pan on the burner (electric, so still hot), and give the mix a few stirs to dry the grain some.  On the other hand, if I find the quinoa to be slightly underdone—I like a little “pop”, but no crunch–I shake the water clinging to the underside of the lid back into the pan and set the whole thing on the cooling rack.  You’ll figure out your preferences and your brand’s cooking requirements soon enough.

My family loves to eat bowls of this “ancient grain” sprinkled with almost any kind of cheese and spiked with lots of fresh ground black pepper (for the grown-ups).  Quinoa also goes great with scrambled eggs (local!).  For the baby, these days I concoct:

BABY QUINOA

  • about 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • about 1/2 can of liquid from WF 365 organic green beans (or 1/3 -1/2 cup water).  I buy these for the baby.  It’s easy, cheap nutrition that I can feel good about and baby loves those beans!
  • 4 ounce jar organic carrot baby food.  I’ve been using Earth’s Best because I had a coupon.  Clink the link to get $1 OFF ten jars.  I find carrot baby food to be the handiest variety and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not cooking carrots yourself for baby, because of possible high nitrate levels.   Until Texas carrot season starts back up again (come on autumn!!), my little one’s enjoying this preparation.
  • 1 small sweet yellow onion, halved and sliced kinda thin.  Hairston Creek Farm is still selling organic bagged onions at SVFM.
  • 1 large clove garlic, slivered.  organic or local, if you can find it now.
  • 1/8 teaspoon garam masala.  I make my own.  This recipe looks good.  Or you can purchase some from WF’s or CM’s bulk spices.  Smell before you buy.  You want a warm, savory aroma.  This enhancement is optional.  My baby loves the flavor.

Simmer your quinoa, green bean liquid, onion, and garlic until the mixture is nearly dry.  I do recommend a non-stick pan here.  Add the baby food and continue to simmer until the mess is thick enough to mound on itself.  You’re looking for a texture that baby can pick up and feed himself with.  That’s what we’re after around this house, anyway.  Infant-led feeding for the second baby has revolutionized mealtimes for us.  Thanks for the tip, austinfrugalmom!  Lastly, stir in the garam masala, if using.  My little guy gets several servings out of this healthy recipe.

I’m enjoying the heck out of all this scribbling.  Thanks for checking me out!


 

Texas Apple Cake August 22, 2009

Filed under: apples,cake,dessert — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 11:34 am

Love Creek Orchards is back with their delicious Texas apples.  Mollies, Jonathans, Crispins, Jonagolds, and Galas…………Try them all and pick your favorites (for now).  The timing is just right for apple cake with Toasted Pecan Cajeta Ice Cream.

For prepping your apples, set out a bowl of water fortified with a shot of lemon juice.  As you peel, quarter and core your fruit, drop the pieces into the water.  Dry off the pieces a bit before shredding.

APPLE CAKE makes one 9” round cake

  • 480-510 grams (1 ½ to almost 2 cups) medium to medium-fine shredded apple.  Texas apples, of course.  The crispins are perfect here because they’re large and tart.  But you can use the varieties that you have.
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice

  • 121 grams (1 cup) organic all-purpose flour.  Whole Foods bulk is the best deal right now @ 99¢ a pound.  Bring your own bag.
  • 60 grams (scant ½ cup) organic white whole wheat flour.  WF sells King Arthur brand in the 5# bag.
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ cup oil.  Use an organic neutral-flavored oil or nut oil.  Organic coconut oil is acceptable, but yields a slightly heavier texture.
  • 2 Tablespoons yogurt, preferably local or organic.  Try homemade!
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly. Organic Valley is my top choice here. Click the link to get a $1 OFF coupon.
  • ½ cup sugar, organic, please.  Available in bulk at WF and Central Market.
  • 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar.  CM’s organic brand is the best buy.
  • 1 egg, local of course
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Homemade vanilla bourbon—I like Maker’s Mark—is a fine choice.
  • ½ cup chopped toasted Texas pecans

You’ll need a preheated 350º oven to bake this cake and the toaster oven works just fine.  You may need to place a piece of aluminum foil on top of the pan after about 15 minutes or so to prevent overbrowning.  In the big oven you shouldn’t have to worry about that.  Grease up and flour your 9” X 2” round cake pan.

Toss the shredded apples with the lemon juice.  Combine the dry ingredients, through the ginger, in a bowl and whisk together. In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly whisk together the remaining ingredients, except the pecans.  Whisk the apples into the wet ingredients, then pour on the dry ingredients and pecans and stir until well combined.  Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake until cake tests done, about 35 minutes.  A skewer or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean or with moist crumbs attached, but not raw batter.  Cool in the pan on a rack and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Don’t forget the ice cream!