Savor The Earth

eat tastier, eat greener, eat cheaper

Quinoa is the New Black November 19, 2009

I recently brought home a box of Alter Eco‘s organic black quinoa to play around with (work perk!).  The folks at AE work with small scale farmers and producers to maintain artisanal methods and ecological balance.  Alter Eco’s Mission Statement proclaims:

We believe that Fair Trade is a viable and successful alternative to conventional commerce. This business model will gradually close the gap between rich and poor, so-called developing countries and industrialized countries.

Sounds good and green.

My family eats quinoa regularly and I usually keep a cooked pot of this “super grain” in the fridge for quick nourishment (see Queen Quinoa).  Reheated with cheese (or not), and plenty of fresh cracked black pepper (or not—as for the minors), quinoa makes a fast, tasty and nutritious light meal.  The black variety, with its exotic color, piqued my palate so I gave it a whirl.  Plus the Quechuas of Bolivia believe black quinoa supports kidney health.

I found that this quinoa cooked up more quickly—a fast 15 minutes—and absorbed less water (less than 2 cups as opposed to a little more than 2 cups) than my usual brands of regular quinoa.  The family wasn’t pleased with the texture, however.  The black bran seems much thicker and heartier than the pale seed coat of standard quinoa.  Too chewy!  Fanciers of substantial grains, however, might like a simple breakfast pilaf of black quinoa with quality butter, good maple syrup and perhaps a splash of cream.

At my house, the black quinoa was relegated to more of a supporting role in which it could show off its striking color against contrasting backgrounds, lighter in taste as well as color.  We enjoyed this quinoa’s black speckles in both an easy, light bread machine bread and an otherwise standard pot o’ jasmine rice.

P B J & Q

Dalmatian Bread (Black Quinoa Bread)

  • ½ cup local milk plus enough water to equal 1 generous cup.  I use either Swede Farm Dairy or Wateroak Farm goat milk.
  • 1 local  egg
  • 130 grams (1 cup) cooked organic black quinoa
  • ¾ teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt
  • 1 teaspoon local honey.  I buy Good Flow in bulk at Central Market.  Bring your own container and ask an employee to tare the weight for you.
  • 1 Tablespoon organic butter.  Organic Valley‘s my choice here.  Look for the $1 OFF coupon in Whole Foods Whole Deal newsletter, available at their stores.  Or click here.
  • 200 grams organic all-purpose flour.  WF’s 365 brand 5# bag is usually the best buy.
  • 163 grams organic white whole wheat flour.  WF generally has the lowest price per pound on King Arthur’s 5# bag.
  • 1 teaspoon bread machine yeast (rapid rise or instant)

Place the ingredients into your bread machine in the order indicated by your instruction manual.  In my machine, that would be the order listed.  Program the machine on the regular cycle (not whole wheat).  If you’re not heading out to work on bread day, you can use just your machine’s dough cycle, then form a loaf (use a 9″ X 5″ pan), give it a second rise and bake it off at 350º in your oven.  The weather’s perfect for crankin’ it up!


Appaloosa Rice (Black Quinoa Rice)

  • 1 cup minus 1 Tablespoon Lowell Farms organic jasmine rice
  • 1 Tablespoon organic black quinoa, well rinsed
  • 1 2/3 cups water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt–Real Salt.  See above.
  • dab of butter. Organic Valley, see above.
  • 1 fresh bay leaf if you’re growin’ or knowin’ somebody who is.

Place all ingredients in a saucepan, place a lid on it and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to LOW and continue to cook for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and let rest 10 minutes before serving.


Tangy Texas Tangerine Chicken

Texas Tangerine, she is all they claim...

We lucky Austinites can purchase Orange Blossom Farms fragrant organic tangerines at both the Austin Farmers Market and Sunset Valley Farmers Market.  Texas citrus season is NOW (although my own mandarin tree, laden in its fourth year with at least 50 fruits, is still transforming green globes into the orange of winter’s gold) and I’m sure you’ve already been enjoying Texas ruby red grapefruit (Rio Star) and the Lone Star state’s sweet juicing oranges.  Grab yourself a $5 bag of Texas tangerines and a pack of chicken legs from one of our local and sustainable operations and whip up some Chinese-style comfort food.


  • about 1½ pounds chicken leg quarters, separated, or thighs, from local producers at our farmers markets
  • 2 Tablespoons neutral flavored high smoke point oil.  I like Spectrum‘s organic peanut oil available at Whole Foods.
  • 1 large local green onion, finely chopped, white and light green parts separated from the dark green parts.  Hairston Creek Farm has been selling lovely long-leafed scallions.
  • 3 strips of organic Texas tangerine peel, about 3″ long, white pith removed (use a sharp paring knife held parallel to the counter), minced
  • 3 or more dried red Chinese chile peppers
  • ½ teaspoon ground, roasted Szechuan peppercorns.  You can buy these, whole and untoasted, in bulk at Central Market.  Substitute fresh cracked black pepper if necessary.
  • ¼ teaspoon ground dried ginger
  • 1 cup fresh-squeezed organic Texas tangerine juice
  • ½ cup broth, preferably homemade unsalted.  See Stock Tips.
  • ¼ cup bitter (Seville) orange marmalade
  • 2 Tablespoons organic white wine vinegar.  I use Spectrum.
  • 1 Tablespoon turbinado sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoons organic soy sauce.  I like Eden or San-J.
  • 1 teaspoon organic toasted sesame oil (Spectrum again) or a generous teaspoon of best-quality butter–Organic Valley or Lucky Layla (from Texas)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon cold broth

Heat up a large heavy skillet over highest heat.  When it’s good and pipin’ hot, add your oil, swirl it around and lay in your chicken pieces, skin side down.  Brown well on both sides, then remove chicken to a plate and set aside.  Pour off all but a Tablespoon or so of the fat in the pan (reserve this flavorful grease for stir-frying tofu or veggies) and put the pan back on the stove at medium-high heat.  Bloom your aromatics—scallion whites, tangerine peel and chiles—in the hot fat for a minute then stir in the powdered spices.  Add the next six ingredients (through the soy sauce), bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add back the chicken, skin side down, cover and simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes, turning the chicken pieces over once, until the meat tests done.  Remove chicken from the sauce and raise the heat to medium-high.  Stir up a slurry of the cornstarch and cold broth and stir it and the scallion greens into the simmering sauce.  It will thicken right away.  Stir in the sesame oil or butter.

Serve the chicken and sauce with hot Lowell Farms jasmine rice.  You can either set a chicken piece atop a mound of rice and nap it with the sauce or, as is my family’s preference, debone the chicken and mix it into the sauce, to be ladled over the rice.  Don’t forget to save the skin and bones for the stock pot!


Weekly Specials and Hominy au Gratin November 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 5:51 pm
Tags: ,

sweet on sweet potatoes

HEB has got you covered this week with incredible Texas specials:  TX green beans 77¢ a pound, TX apples, cameo or fuji, $1.27 a pound, and TX sweet potatoes only 19¢ a pound!  HEB’s also selling Central Market Organic corn chips (“fritos”) for $2 a bag.

Newflower Market is gettin’ you ready for the holidays with Organic Valley sour cream $2.29 a pint, OV heavy whipping cream $2.49 a pint and Wholly Wholesome organic frozen pie shells, white or whole wheat, $2.49 for a two-pack.  Sun Harvest is offering OV heavy cream for $2.50 a pint and Sprouts kicks in with WW pie shells $2.50 per two-pack.  Whole Foods has OV heavy cream for $3, minus your Whole Deal coupon (75¢), you’ll get the pint for $2.25.  And WF has brought in organic pineapples from Costa Rica for $2.99 each.

So bake up a few Texas sweet potatoes to throw (hot or cold) into the bowl as you mash your russets next week.  And simmer up some “Hominy au Gratin” with your OV heavy cream:  Drain 2 15½ ounce cans of hominy (I like to use one can of white and one can of yellow).  Combine hominy and one pint Organic Valley heavy cream in a heavy medium-large saucepan (about a 3-quart pot) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat a bit and let boil a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until cream reduces to a medium saucy consistency.  Remove from heat and stir in 8 ounces of Full Quiver Farm’s cheddar cheese, shredded (buy the sharp if they have any).  Season with salt and pepper, et voilà!


Cake Time! November 15, 2009

Filed under: cake,glittereati — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 11:16 am


hoot! hoot!

german chocolate cake


Slow Ranch–Take it Easy (Beans!) November 12, 2009

Filed under: beans,easy,slow cooker,spice blends,thrift,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 2:53 pm
Tags: , , , ,


We love beans.  Inexpensive, nutritious and filling, legumes also take top honors for tastiness. Most every culture boasts a beloved bean dish or two.  And many plant-centric cuisines offer multitudinous manifestations of leguminous medleys, from India’s diverse dals and China’s breadth of ingeniously transformed pulse products, to the frijoles (of Three Sisters agricultural and numismatic fame) of the original Americans.

While I certainly appreciate an elaborate cassoulet or feijoada, and have amused my family’s palates with various homemade incarnations of Indian treats such as dosas, idlis, badas and badis, I usually keep my bean cookery fairly simple, as in straightforward brews of Texas field peas (see “Hoppin’ Jean“), Indian dal purees (I particularly enjoy mung dal), or often just adding a can of cooked garbanzos, kidney beans, or white beans to sautés and stews.  Here’s an easy seasonal bean dish to put your slow cooker to good use.

SLOW COOKER RANCHY BEANS makes a more than a half-gallon

  • 2 ½ cups organic dried pinto beans, picked through for pebbles.  I buy these in bulk at either Central Market or Whole Foods.
  • 3 Tablespoon tasty fat.  Bacon grease is perfect, of course, but any good animal fat will work, as will olive oil for a vegetarian version.
  • 1 large or 2 small or 1 ½ medium (you get the idea) local and/or organic onions, chopped.
  • 1 good-sized local bell pepper, whatever color’s at hand, chopped.  I just bought some shiny organic red/green marbled beauties from Milagro Farm at the Austin Farmers Market.  Or use an equivalent amount of other local sweet peppers.
  • 1 spicy chile, such as a jalapeno or serrano, halved, seeds and ribs removed if kids will be partaking.  Use more chiles and leave the innards in for the NC-17 crowd.
  • 1 bay leaf—try growing your own.  The plant will survive cozily in a pot if necessary.  Ours has thrived organically outdoors for years.
  • 2 or more cloves of garlic, minced.  I prefer more but garlic tolerance is very personal.  When I can’t find local (it’s mostly, if not all, gone for now), I purchase domestic organic.
  • 2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 2 teapoons good quality chili powder.  I mix my own.  See recipe.
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger (dried)
  • 1 28-ounce can organic crushed tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted.  You can briefly whirl canned diced or whole tomatoes in your food processor for an interchangeable texture.
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon cane syrup, sorghum syrup or molasses
  • 2 teaspoons salt.  I like Real Salt.  WF sells it in bulk.

Soak the beans overnight (at least 8 hours) in cold water.  Drain and rinse them.  If you can’t cook them right away, they’ll keep, covered, in the fridge for up to four days.  Don’t oversoak them (24 hours or more), however.  The skins will toughen and the insides will fall apart.

Heat your fat in a Dutch oven or other very large (6-quart is good), wide pot.  Saute the onions and peppers with the bay leaf until softened.  Add the drained beans and continue to saute until your ingredients pick up some brown spots.  Stir in the garlic and let the fragrance bloom.  Add your dried seasonings and stir a bit.  Add the rest of the ingredients and turn the heat off while you get your slow cooker ready.

Plug in a large (6-quart) slow cooker and set it to HIGH heat.  Carefully pour your bean mixture into the crock and add enough water to cover the beans by about one inch.  Give it stir, put a lid on it and cook it all day.  If you’re passing throught the kitchen at about half-time, go ahead and stir it again, quickly replacing the lid.

These beans can take up to 9 hours to cook through, as the acidity of the tomatoes slows softening.  Later in the cooking, if the beans appear threateningly dry, add a little more water (hot water, please!).

When your beans are tender and cooked, correct the salt if needed.  Serve with fresh-cracked black pepper and spicy chiles.  Roll ’em up in a corn tortilla or swipe at ’em with a homemade roll.


Ga Ga for Ghee November 10, 2009

Filed under: easy,Indian,thrift,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 11:34 am

solidified ghee

Ghee is Indian style fully clarified butter.  Through cooking, the butter’s moisture is removed and the milk solids are browned, transforming it into a butterscotchy-smelling, shelf stable fat with a high smoke point (485º).

Making your own ghee is simple and much cheaper than buying premade, even if you use organic butter.  I usually cook a whole pound of butter, which yields close to two cups of ghee.  I save the browned particles to use in Indian dal recipes for added flavor.  You can also add the solids to your rice or some of your breads.

GHEE yields varies

  • organic butter—Organic Valley regular unsalted butter is perfect.  Click for a promotional offer including $10 in coupons.  The current Whole Foods Whole Deal newsletter contains a coupon for $1 OFF OV one-pound butter.

Put the butter into a medium saucepan.  I prefer a pot with a light-colored interior.  My Chantal white-enameled pan (just a few bucks from the Gucci Goodwill on Lake Austin Blvd.) is perfect.  Slowly melt and cook the butter, swirling the pan occasionally for that “hands-on” feeling, until the milk solids at the bottom of the pot have browned.  The butter will gurgle and sputter to you in a chatty way as it renders, keeping you apprised of the water content.  When the butter waxes taciturn, you’ll know it’s time to monitor the imminent browning.

Butterscotchly-browned and scented, your ghee is ready for decanting.  I ladle the clear butterfat through a permanent coffee filter into a glass jar.  Try not to disturb the particulates.  After you’ve gleaned all the golden oil you can without stirring up the sediment (that is NOT a lovely word), seal your jar with an air-tight lid.  Scrape the solids into a separate container and freeze them if you won’t be using them soon.  You can store the brownings in the fridge for a week or two.

The finished, strained ghee solidifies at cool room temperature and will keep in your pantry for months.   That’s more months in the cool season and fewer moons in hot weather.  (Unless your lucky kitchen keeps its cool year-round—mine sure doesn’t!)


Ravishing Radishes November 9, 2009

Filed under: easy,fast,Indian,vegetables — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:19 pm

kalonji seeds (nigella)

totally radish-ical

It’s hard to believe another season has already passed.  I’m cutting up grapefruits and tangerines every night (unlike last year, when the husband had to wield the kitchen knife as I nursed the newborn), roasting winter squash, steaming cauliflower and stuffing myself with salad.  Last night we even ate mashed potatoes and gravy.

But I especially revel in the return of the crucifers.  I’m finding greens, cauliflower, radishes, turnips and bok choy at our farmers markets.  I love radishes and their relatives so much, I present to you a word portrait—you know, a poem.

Splendiferous Cruciferous

They offer leaves, stems, buds and roots
so we forgive their lack of fruits
try the cooler season’s crunching
while on radishes you’re munching
rutabaga and kohlrabi
thrill your taste buds with umami
cauliflower, romenesco
you won’t even miss your pesto
mustard, collard, kale and turnip
eat them all the flavor’s turned up

…to eleven

INDIAN STYLE RADISHES serves about 1½ of me, maybe more of y’all

  • 1 large bunch or two small bunches of round red (or pink or white) radishes
  • a couple of quarter sized slices of fresh ginger, slivered into shreds, or minced if desired.  By the way, I almost never peel fresh ginger (dirty girl!) and neither did Barbara Tropp in the privacy of her home kitchen.  Peel if you must!
  • one or a half a green chile (like a jalapeño or serrano), halved and sliced.  If you’re sharing with the children, cut out the seeds and ribs.  Or you can use a sweet green pepper, but I particularly like japs in this recipe.
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • scant 1/8 teaspoon kalonji seeds, also known as nigella
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds—I grind them up myself, a small jar’s worth at a time, for greater freshness than purchasing pre-ground.  Use whatever works for you.
  • scant ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • pinch of turbinado sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons ghee—see my simple instructions.
  • salt to taste (about ¼ teaspoon)
  • fresh-squeezed lemon juice to taste

Separate your radishes from their stems.  Wash the orbs and leaves, scrubbing the radishes and thrice rinsing the leafy stems.  Drain, but don’t dry, the leaves and stems.  Cut the radishes into approximately ½ inch pieces and coarsely chop the stems and greens.  If your spicy little balls are big and overgrown, the thick stems may cook up a little tough.  You can either chop them finer or discard the thickest portions.

Combine the whole spices in a small dish near your stove top.  Have your ginger and chiles close by.  Combine the ground spices and sugar in another dish and keep that handy as well.

Heat up a large (12″) heavy skillet, I like the stainless steel All-Clad vessel I found at Goodwill on Lamar, (yes, South Lamar—not Lake Austin Blvd.!) for seven or eight bucks.  Quality pan.  Cooks on a budget don’t forget to check out the housewares sections of your local resale shops.  Get your skillet hot on highest heat and add the ghee.  Quickly toss in the whole spices, stir them around and let them toast up until they smell fragrant and browned.  Add the ginger and chiles, stir and delight in the nose-tingling aroma.  Toss the radishes in and stir-fry until they’re picking up browned patches.  Turn the heat down a bit if you must to prevent smoking, but high heat delivers the best color.

Stir in the ground spices, then add the stems and leaves.  Wilt the greens, add salt, cover the pan, turn the heat down to LOW and let the mess cook for 15 minutes.  The dish should require no maintenance during this time, but I like using a glass lid so’s I can spy on the cookin’.

At the end of the cooking time the radishes should be tender and all the ingredients should be nicely browned.  Remove the pan from the heat and squeeze some lemon juice all over.  Stir to distribute, correct the seasoning if necessary and serve right away.  Actually it’s even delicious cold, so serve it whenever you want.